Experiencing public transport in China

Emerging economies and China in particular face tremendous challenges in transporting their rapidly growing urban populations. I am however very encouraged by what I have seen during this trip to Qingdao and Beijing. Not only that the existing system operates in very high standards in all respects (design, technology, information, crowd management, transfer facilities), but I have also learn that the Chinese government set very well-thought transport development objectives. One of the five national goals is to increase the modal share of public transport in major Chinese cities to 60% by 2020, indeed a novel and ambitious goal. However, significant resources and know-how knowledge will be needed in order to realize this goal. Congestion and capacity management in public transport systems, demand management strategies, transport policies and network resilience are among the most crucial issues that need to be tackled. I had the opportunity to give a lecture on “The role of public transport planning: Lessons from the European experience” in the national Transport Planning and Research Institute, Ministry of Transport, China. My exchange with the very competent staff at TPRI is an additional reason for optimism in how transport planners in China will shape their mega-cities in this critical point of their development.

In the photo:Qingdao Train station with the high-speed train to Beijing in the center (left) and a typical sight on Beijing metro system (right)

IMG_1612 (2)Qingdao (6) - Compressed




What can history tell us about the future? About predicting public transport travel times

It is common wisdom that while man should learn from history. At the same time, another prominent wisdom is that history never repeats itself. Both assertions are also true for public transport operations. When predicting future states of the system, it is advisable to account for historical records whilst bearing in mind that it will not evolve in the exact same fashion. Instead, the underlying dynamics of the current system as well as inherent stochastic will result with different performance. This makes the task of predicting vehicle trajectories and their arrival times at downstream stops a non-trivial task. Such predictions are useful both for operators for better managing the fleet in real-time as well as for passengers that wish to reduce their travel uncertainty and enable them to take more informed decisions.

Today and yesterday I presented on IEEE Intelligent Transport System Conference (ITSC) in Qingdao, China, two studies on prediction schemes for public transport and the generation of real-time travel information.One study together with Masoud Fadaei Oshyani, who is doing his PhD under my supervision, proposes a hybrid model to integrate several sources of information on downstream travel conditions for buses. The contribution of each information source (within-day instantaneous data, day-to-day historical data and static schedule data) and related parameters are estimated using a genetic algorithm optimization. Predictions improve considerably compared with the currently-used scheme and there are good indications on the transferability of the scheme. For the presentation slides click here: Real-time Bus Departure Time Predictions

The second study investigated real-time predictions for light rail trains. Light rail trains are often characterized by mixed-operations: running partially in mixed traffic (in some cases even in pedestrian street) and in segregated right-of-way, alternately as well as with different levels of priority in crossings. A prediction scheme that is based on constructing link-specific speed profile and then computing for a given current position and speed the remaining travel time was applied for a case study in Bergen, Norway (thanks to Edouard Naye). The scheme elevates the prediction accuracy to the same levelĀ  that was reported by previous studies for metro systems. For the presentation slides click here: Real-time Predictions for Light Rail Train Systems