Aleksandr Polyakov explains how intelligent transport systems (ITS) recently rolled out from Moscow are not only making Tula’s streets safer, but also decreasing the amount of traffic and congestion in the Russian city.
Public transport in Eastern Europe and Russia has used the heritage of Soviet transport systems for almost 20 years. The absence of modern large-scale projects and investments in public transport infrastructure renewal, along with the explosion of the private car market, has brought cities to standstill traffic and in desperate need of improvements to the transport system.
The transport infrastructure in some regions of Russia has not changed for many years. Cities grew, new districts were built, shopping centres, parks, social institutions opened, and the population grew. These factors increased the load on the road and public transport network, yet the transport infrastructure remained unchanged. It worked stably, but the moment came when it stopped managing the growing traffic flow.
A need for reform
Three years ago, in the most of the regional centres of Russia, you could see congested main streets, traffic jams and non-compliance with public transport schedules. The existing parking lots could not accommodate the cars that had increased over the years, and pop-ups hindered traffic. Minor accidents further complicated the situation. Tula was facing similar problems.
In 2018, the implementation of the global national project “Safe and High-Quality Roads” began, aimed at changing the situation in the transport sector and creating a high-quality and reliable transport infrastructure. Intelligent transport systems (ITS), similar to those implemented in Moscow, are being created in Russian cities with a population of 300,000 or more. Tula became the first of 22 pilot regions in 2020 with a road traffic automation project.
The need for reform in the transport sector was obvious and it had to start somewhere. At several crossroads in the city, smart traffic lights were installed that independently changed operating mode, but this alone did not enact noticeable change. Then MosTransProekt offered a comprehensive solution.
Based on analysis of the route network, it was proposed to remove duplicate public transport routes, increase the number of large buses, organise paid parking in the city centre, modernise outdated traffic lights and unite all traffic lights on a single digital platform that would be able to synchronise their work.
In addition, various subsystems, transmitting information from detectors, sensors, video cameras and public transport equipped with the GLONASS system, began to be connected to a single digital platform developed by the Research and Development Institute for Urban Transportation’s MosTransProekt.
Now, ITS analyses the general traffic situation and, on the basis of mathematical algorithms, select the optimal traffic light operating mode. ITS also coordinate traffic flows to ease congestion. In the event of an accident, the operator on duty can also warn motorists about difficulties on the road.
Unifying transport systems
Modern digital technologies, in many ways, help to improve road safety, but a solely local application does not lead to significant results. The real complexity of traffic appears only when all the subsystems are combined on one platform, and that makes analysis management in real time possible.
A unified transport system management platform developed by MosTransProekt coordinates data from all connected devices used to monitor traffic, record violations, etc.
In addition to solving global transport problems in the city, ITS helps to prevent and fight crime. So, with the help of video cameras installed at pedestrian crossings, it was possible to find a stolen car and bicycle. The system also detects the crossing of stop lines by cars and enables fines to be issued.
These measures have significantly improved road safety for both pedestrians and motorists. Upgraded traffic lights also play a major role in safety. In the city, at night, modernised traffic lights illuminate pedestrian crossings, and outside the city, a system for alerting drivers about pedestrians who need to cross the highway has been installed. When a person approaches a pedestrian crossing, a message reading “Attention pedestrian” appears, and the pedestrian crossing itself lights up.
Six months later, after the introduction of the ITS, an analysis of the traffic situation was carried out, with throughput growth measured at 11 per cent. ITS evenly distributes traffic flows, which prevents traffic jams from forming. Thanks to the implementation of the system, public transport in the city works on schedule as much as possible. The system passed the most difficult test in February 2021, when Tula received one and a half months of precipitation in just three days. The city was covered with snow, and traffic jams increased by eight points, yet the traffic did not stop, though it did move significantly slower.
To promptly inform the residents of Tula about the situation on the city roads, a situational information and analytical center was created. Just five employees control all traffic flows in the area: the growth and decrease of traffic, the mode of operation of traffic lights, environmental parameters, road accidents and promptly inform residents about the traffic situation.
The Situation Center also analyses traffic parameters in the city and, based on statistical data, provides analytics and suggestions for improving the traffic situation. Thus, the most problematic areas are identified, where, for example, the speed limit is exceeded and where it is necessary to install photo and video cameras. Analysis of pedestrian flows for the optimal opening times of pedestrian crossings to be determined – particularly useful for busy pedestrian routes like those at shopping centres for example.
Aleksandr Polyakov is Director of Research and Development Institute for Urban Transportation “MosTransProekt”, UITP vice-president, Chairman of the Eurasian UITP Division.
Previously, he worked in Russian Railways, in the IT Department of the Government of Moscow, in Moscow Traffic Control Centre.
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