Traveller Information Systems. By Kevin S. Hutchby
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In recommending development of Nottingham's traveller information services I combine elements of research with my own ideas and some degree of common sense of what would contribute to improving and enhancing our systems. They are also recommend from an ideal traveller system point of view, removing all obstacles to the thought process, including feasibility. I deliberately leave out any timescale because this can be directly linked to funding and staff resources, two areas outside of my jurisdiction and ones that can change depending on the impetus and drive of any particular Authority. Funding wise, solutions can cost anything from nothing to literally millions of pounds. One way of looking at recommending action is to qualify:

  1. What travellers would benefit from and what they would use
  2. What Nottingham Travelwise would benefit from. From these short, medium and long term projects can be evaluated.

Short Term

Ideally < 12 Months

  • Improved radio broadcasts, ideally a dedicated service, with more comprehensive information broadcast and urgent information broadcast immediately. Could also be used to promote any telephone service and Internet address. This would be developed in partnership with BBC Radio Nottingham, Radio Trent plus other interested local radio stations.
  • Develop Internet service for access via wireless devices. WAP is definitely taking off in the U.K. and feeding certain information to such devices is potentially simple. Possibly developed in partnership with applicable WAP service provider.
  • Evaluate feeding incident information as text messages to mobile phones. Developed in-house.
  • Establish / develop / nurture good communications with local academia, namely Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. Develop projects to benefit both parties. Although Nottingham City Council works with both Universities from a traffic related perspective future projects there isn't too much contact between the organisations. Traffic projects have the potential to benefit both parties and may sit in the field of software or hardware development and not necessarily be traffic dependant. E.g. traffic flow prediction software.
  • Ensure that the proposed real time passenger information system for bus passengers has Internet and wireless Internet output to maximise its effectiveness. This should ideally include real time mapping and bus positioning as well as arrival predictions. Also recommend several Gotic reports before finalising a design for any signs, variable message and static, that would be installed. Generally suggest a detailed look at the Gotic project as best practice for real time passenger information. Partnership with consultants WS Atkins plus allocated contractors for the project.

Medium Term

Ideally 1 - 3 years

  • Telephone hotlines featuring recorded and up to date information on highways frees up valuable staff time and can be done on desktop computers these days. Nottingham Travelwise is already investigating the possibility of recording information for output to the Internet and possibly a telephone hotline at critical times e.g. The recent floods witnessed in the U.K. caused the amount of calls taken to go through the roof and essentially the same advice was given over and over again. A full blown system would ideally be able to handle several calls at any one time.
  • Develop Internet service to include mapping system for County wide, car, rail and bus use. Developed in partnership with Nottinghamshire County Council, and possibly neighbouring authorities.
  • There is no doubt that travel information should be available in a comprehensive form via television. Preferably a dedicated channel. This needs to be real time information highlighting current road conditions, probably with CCTV backup, congestion mapping and textual descriptions of incidents. Other possibilities include feed from Internet pages. This would have to be a regional service as opposed to a national one although there is no reason why more channels couldn't be accessible for other areas. Development in partnership with BBC and ntl, a national cable television provider.

Future Work

3+ years

  • Develop Internet service for more interactive trip planning, journey times and eventually traffic predictions using existing CCTV and historic flow data.
  • Establish link with police highway incidents database to improve the passing and processing of incidents. This would preferably include Nottinghamshire and its neighbouring Counties.
  • Encourage overall data sharing ethics between local authorities, neighbouring authorities, police, public transport operators, road organisations such as the AA and the RAC and companies such as Trafficmaster.

Additionally: involve customers in regular perception studies and / or focus groups to ensure that services provided are valid and that the audience is maximised. This would provide feedback indicating whether or not Nottingham Travelwise information, specifically Internet and leaflet based, is required in different languages. As an equal opportunities organisation we already recognise the need to provide our services for all.

Evidently a lot of these developments are ongoing projects, either continuous or spread over several years.

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