State-of-the-art traffic centre

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The Province of North Holland has built a state-of-the-art traffic centre that will enable to actually manage traffic rather than merely monitoring it. It has become easier to analyse traffic flows, which, in turn, makes it possible to prepare more effective scenarios. The new centre has improved the accessibility of the region as a whole, which is further strengthened by the closer cooperation between municipal and provincial governments and the Directorate-General of Public Works and Water Management/

Article from Objective 19, 2013

The Province of North Holland manages a total of 650 kilometres of road and more than 250 intersections with traffic lights. Traffic management is the tool required for the optimal use of these roads. Guus Kruijssen, programme manager for traffic management for the Province of North Holland, explained how the Province employs this tool. ‘We use target values for travel time for all kinds of projects, and if we fail to meet those targets we are forced to construct roads. Between being able to drive without too many cars in front of you and complete congestion, there’s an area where things don’t run so smoothly, but where you can really make a difference through traffic management. By using road capacity more effectively, we can delay or even prevent the construction of new roads. This effect is strengthened through closer cooperation with municipal governments and the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management.’

From monitoring to management

In order to regulate traffic more effectively and be able to work together with third parties, the need arose for a provincial traffic centre: a comprehensive, coherent system to control traffic lights, information panels and cameras. ‘A total of 160 intersections with traffic control systems have been converted,’ Kruijssen said. ‘They changed from old-school dialup to a modern, permanent ADSL connection. And since we were getting a dedicated internet connection anyway, we decided to install cameras as well, so we could monitor the current traffic situation.’
All the equipment is currently connected in real-time to the traffic centre: apart from the VRIs, Dynamic Route Information Panels (DRIPs) found along the motorway have also been incorporated into the system. This integrated system has changed monitoring into traffic management and it is now possible to think in terms of traffic flows at a high level of abstraction. The system provides a large amount of measuring data that can also be analysed afterwards. Does traffic pressure increase in specific locations? What are the variations over time? If we change something in location B, how will this affect location A?

Traffic scenarios

The Greater Amsterdam Area is home to two other traffic centres, operated by the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (traffic centre for the North West of the Netherlands in Velsen), and the City of Amsterdam (near the IJ Tunnel). In order to regulate traffic in this region, the City of Amsterdam, the Greater Amsterdam Area, the provincial government and the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management are working together closely in a Regional Tactical Team. One of the team’s main responsibilities is preparing shared traffic scenarios, where the equipment of all parties can be used. A scenario involves actions and contracts for standalone traffic lights, information panels and other systems. Scenarios distribute traffic as effectively as possible among various roads. Drivers are given the most efficient route so they can reach their destination as quickly as possible. They do not notice the difference between national, provincial and municipal roads.

ArenA scenario

As an example, Kruijssen cited the ArenA scenario. ‘When a concert or football match ends, we launch a scenario to divert traffic away from the venue as quickly and as smoothly as possible. Visitors exit the ArenA via a city road, where the City of Amsterdam directs the other city traffic around the ArenA area by adjusting the traffic-light settings. Near the A2 motorway, two provincial road traffic controllers ensure that the large traffic flow is given priority in taking the A2 towards Utrecht. The Directorate-General for Public Works and Water management places a red cross above the first two lanes of the A2, so that cars can join the traffic stream without any problem.’

No interrelationships

In terms of technology, the traffic centres in Amsterdam, the province and the Directorate-General of Public Works and Water Management only work together at the highest level, with the scenario managers communicating with each other. The scenario manager represents the ‘software layer’ between the users (i.e. the road traffic controllers) and the various system components. The centres exchange abstract requests: ‘improve traffic flow’ or ‘implement this scenario’. Each centre then sets out to fulfil these requests, using automatic commands to traffic lights and information signs. ‘We deliberately did not establish any links between the other equipment of various parties. Each party has its own systems and makes its own decisions. The technology is so complex that you don’t want to have intersections at all levels between each other’s systems.

Effective cooperation

Technolution provided the systems for managing traffic lights, cameras, information panels, overlying network management system and the end user’s user interface. Kruijssen summed up Technolution’s implementation as follows: ‘Businesslike during the tender process, and based on flexible implementation. It’s give-and-take on both sides, a bit like a marriage. We stated our requirements, but not in too much detail. We then started a development process, in which our road traffic controllers worked closely with Technolution’s developers. One member of the team had a background in traffic control, and we were very much on the same wavelength. That’s how we started implementing the system, particularly in terms of user interface. It was an interactive process: our road traffic controllers were hired specifically for this project and they developed as the process went along. That’s why we didn’t need to provide separate training – people kind of learned everything on the job.

12.12.12

The project deadlines were very tight. Kruijssen: ‘When all these new technical features became available at the traffic centre in Hoofddorp, this was celebrated with a special traffic management day for regional cooperation on 12 December 2012. That’s why we set a strict deadline for the delivery of the technical systems. We managed to get everything done in just a few months’ time thanks to effective cooperation. We’re very proud of that achievement!’

Special traffic management day 12-12-12

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