Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
A guide for practitioners!

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Passenger Transport Operations

ITS applications are central to the monitoring of the performance of passenger transport fleets and operations. Most importantly, they allow the operators of public passenger transport to visualise where their vehicles are located at any particular time, both in terms of actual location and relative to their schedule. They can also generate considerable amounts of data for post-event analysis – which can result in the introduction of measures to deliver major cost savings and productivity improvements. The interface in real-time between the road network operator and the controller of bus, minibus or transit operations is also important during traffic incidents and other emergencies. (See Traffic Incidents and Emergency Response)

The various categories of operation and fleet management function supported or carried out by ITS applications are described below. A particularly useful reference is the ITS Toolkit for Intelligent Transport Systems for urban passenger transport that has been developed by the World Bank:


ITS tools in this domain relate to the individual bus routes, planned journey ‘tracks’ (specifically roads), and planned bus service timings at different locations. All provide invaluable output that can then be fed directly into applications which monitor the activity of the vehicle to provide comparisons.


Vehicle management is facilitated by systems for Computer Aided Despatch /Automatic Vehicle Monitoring (CAD/AVM). It includes not only route service performance (time and location) but also engine management system functions which may themselves link to systems for planning and scheduling the maintenance of a vehicle. Schedule adherence applications are also important - providing assistance to vehicle dispatchers in ensuring that services operate to schedule. CAD and Route Condition Monitoring are the basic tools used within CAD/AVM systems.


Payroll systems for driving staff can be facilitated by the in-vehicle capture of data on drivers’ hours from Computer Aided Despatch /Automatic Vehicle Monitoring (CAD/AVM) systems. CAD/AVM is the fundamental element of ITS for road-based public passenger transport operations.


ITS systems can be used to control traffic signals – so as to give priority to approaching buses using transponders. In some cases there may be a link to bus schedules and Computer Aided Despatch /Automatic Vehicle Monitoring (CAD/AVM) systems so that priority is only given to buses that are behind schedule or are behind schedule beyond a certain threshold. (See Bus/Tram Signal Priority)


Passenger counting systems will also be linked to from Computer Aided Despatch /Automatic Vehicle Monitoring (CAD/AVM) systems. These assist the operator in ensuring the provision of enough vehicles, at the right time and location, to meet demand. Management of passenger movements in terminals is also facilitated by ITS. Standard protocols to describe locations are particularly relevant here.


Computer Aided Despatch / Automatic Vehicle Monitoring (CAD/AVM) systems may be used to support the despatch of vehicles from the depot. The computer system determines the order in which buses are sent out. The system can also record details of vehicles that return to depot before the end of normal service (e.g. because of malfunctions), together with the details of the planned workings of replacement buses so that the most appropriate vehicle can be allocated as a replacement.


Standards organisations are particularly relevant in this area. The world standards organisation is ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation). ISO Technical Committee 204 is responsible for Transport Information and Control Systems and includes a working group, WG8 Public Transport / Emergency, for which the Secretariat is provided by the USA.

The European Committee for Standardization (CEN - Comité Européen de Normalisation) is the relevant body for Europe. It has issued standards relating to a data model for public transport information (Transmodel) and to Real Time Information (SIRI – Service Interface for Real Time Information). Currently, at the pre-standards stage, is the development of a reference data model for describing fixed objects which is necessary for access to public transport (IFOPT - Identification of Fixed Objects in Public Transport).

Some countries are very active in contributing to the standardisation process in the area of public passenger transport, particularly the USA, Germany, and the UK. The USA has a protocol, the National Transportation Communications for Intelligent Transportation System Protocol (NTCIP), a family of standards designed to achieve interoperability and interchangeability between computers and electronic traffic control equipment from different manufacturers.

The USA’s Transit Co-operative Research Program (TCRP: publishes a lot of useful material including research data and operator and agency experience. Of critical importance in this field is the work of UITP and two ground-breaking projects in which it has been involved: EBSF (, European Bus System of the Future) and associated initiatives such as 3iBS (, Intelligent, Innovative, Integrated Bus System); and ITxPT ( Information Technology for Public Transport).


One of the objectives of Road Network Operations is to provide for reliable bus, coach and taxi services on the network. The rapid detection and prompt resolution of any obstruction or other disruption to the roadway will help minimise the negative impact on passenger services and enable the resumption of normal operations as soon as possible after an incident. Good communications and close co-operation between passenger transport operators and the organisations responsible for the road network will pay dividends, especially when service diversions are necessary.

A key role for the Road Network Operator is the deployment of appropriate in-road and roadside equipment, such as transponders to control traffic signal priority for bus or transit priority. The Road Network Operator has a further interest in ensuring that public transport operations are properly provided for (e.g. the location of bus stops or the application of bus priority measures) so that general traffic is not disrupted, nor are other road users adversely affected.

Reference sources

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