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York first UK city with real-time transport model

Published Tuesday, 8 June 2021

York has become the first city in the UK to introduce city-wide real-time transport modelling to help ease congestion and pollution.

City of York Council has started using the latest innovation and cutting-edge technology to manage the road network, in partnership with PTV Group, Wood Group and independent strategic modelling experts RelativeGAP,

In areas where real-time transport modelling has previously been introduced, area wide travel times have been reduced by nearly 10%.

Previously, the council has monitored the network through staff monitoring CCTV and social media feeds, with network monitoring operators and transport engineers manually implementing new signal changes to better manage the flow of traffic in busy periods.

With the new PTV Optima system installed in the control room, the council can now adopt a more pro-active approach in monitoring and changing the network live to best suit traffic conditions.

For example, if there was a road traffic collision on the York outer ring road, the new software will be able to predict the impact on the wider road network based on the current traffic conditions. This will give the council the ability to react ‘live’ by changing traffic light timings across the city (where needed) and informing people sooner of the impact and possible delays.

This is the first real-time transport model of this scale that has been used for live traffic management in the UK. Other cities outside of the UK to use similar modelling include Vienna, Abu Dhabi, Moscow and Sydney.

The introduction of the new modelling system follows a successful bid by City of York Council, as part of the Smarter Travel Evolution Program – STEP, which is funded by the Government.

Dave Atkinson, Head of Programmes and Smart Place at City of York council, said:

We’re delighted to be the first city in the UK to introduce this innovative and cutting-edge technology to improve journeys and reduce pollution in York. 

“At this early stage it’s already proving to be a success. We’re able to predict future traffic levels based on our live traffic behaviour and manage the flow of traffic better in busy periods by adjusting traffic lights to best suit traffic conditions.”

PTV UK Technical Director Michael Oliver said:

Working with City of York Council and the other project partners has been a privilege. I have seen for myself how the conflation of transport planning, traffic engineering and real-time data can deliver an impressive traffic management solution”.

The York Optima real-time model is a rolling live prediction of traffic conditions across the city. It combines offline dynamic transport models with live traffic data to provide the council’s control room with a network-wide forecast of current and forecast congestion.

The model is integrated with over 100 live traffic flow sensors, over 100 live signal controllers, live speed data across the network provided by TomTom, and up-to-date information about roadworks and other network changes.

The live model combines all this data into a single view so that the control room can then use this information to see in detail what is happening across the whole network, and not only in those locations with sensors or CCTV. PTV Optima also allows the control room to test alternative scenarios for the next hour ahead, next day, or weeks in the future.

The city therefore has an operational road modelling asset for monitoring current conditions, planning for the near future, observing how plans play out, and using this knowledge to improve future strategies.

The new technology also ties into the council’s Traffic Signal Asset Renewal Programme – introducing new, more reliable, traffic signals across the city.