Intermodal and demand-driven: planning for transportation transformation

Development of an intermodal planning component based on the planning system PlanB

Integrated traffic concepts consisting of scheduled services and on-demand offers are to be tested within the framework of the MaaS L.A.B.S. research project. Freiburg IT company highQ is developing an intermodal planning component based on its PlanB planning system.


The world of mobility is still clearly divided into two halves: motorised private transport on the one hand and public transport on the other. Within the next few years, however, traffic in cities is likely to look much more colourful. Line-based public transport will be supplemented by individual, demand-driven sharing components, sometimes referred to as “individual public transport” (German “IÖV”). The aim is to enable all transport users to reach their destinations as safely and conveniently using environmentally sensitive modes of travel as they are used to with travelling in their own cars.


The feasibility and acceptance of such a transport system is to be clarified by the four-year research and development project MaaS L.A.B.S. (Mobility as a Service Platform: Alive, Automated, Demand & Sharing Oriented). The project is funded by the BMBF with approximately 4.5 million euros and was officially launched on 15 May 2019. Potsdam was selected as one of three pilot cities. There, the existing public transport schedule is to be supplemented by self-driving electric microbuses as well as car, bike and ridesharing services. All offers will be brought together via a common digital platform to create a uniform, attractive overall offer for transport users.


Integration of all mobility offers

The basis of the system is an integrated mobility platform that links the transport services of the various providers and enables comprehensive and coordinated planning, control and billing functions. Transport users will be able to access the complete range of services via a routing and ticketing app, which is yet to be developed. Users will be able to compile their individual travel chains via smartphone, receive a total price for the chosen option and then book it directly.


In addition to the transport companies of the three pilot cities (Potsdam, Cottbus and Hannover), several universities and IT companies are involved in MaaS L.A.B.S. One of the ten project partners is Freiburg IT company highQ Computerlösungen GmbH, which has already gained experience in numerous research and customer projects in the field of digital mobility. Alongside its involvement in the overall MaaS architecture, highQ is significantly involved in the development of the platform’s own ticketing and clearing systems, as well as the MaaS app and the MaaS planning component.


Making planning more flexible

An integrated offer of this kind, in which scheduled and on-demand services are flexibly linked with one another, requires intermodal operational planning. This has so far not been supported by conventional public transport planning tools. As part of MaaS L.A.B.S., a planning tool of this nature will now be implemented for the first time. The basis is provided by the highQ planning software PlanB, which will be supplemented for this purpose by additional modules for preliminary planning and ad-hoc deployment planning of on-demand transportation. The supply corridors will be defined in the preliminary planning phase. The actual deployment planning of the vehicles will then take place in real time on the basis of passenger requests. These requests will be efficiently pooled onto the vehicles, and connecting services will always be taken into account to minimise waiting times for passengers. In this way, reliable travel chains can be created that offer a genuine alternative to travelling in your own car.


Because on-demand transport will be handled by electric microbuses, the specifics of electric vehicles – such as range and recharging time – will also need to be taken into account in route planning. The necessary additions to PlanB are already being implemented. The creation and optimisation of the routes will then be based on the available (remaining) ranges of the vehicles, depending on the energy requirements (e.g. elevation profile) of the respective route, as well as on the climatic conditions, which also have an impact on actual vehicle ranges.


A role model for other cities

The project results of MaaS L.A.B.S. are intended to form the basis for an ecological traffic transformation in cities – away from private transport and towards what is being called “individual public transport”. For this reason, the project will not focus solely on the technical aspects: it will also actively involve the population, urban development, transport planning and political representatives of the participating cities. If the desired project objectives are successfully implemented and achieve the hoped-for acceptance among transport users, planned intermodal transport systems will soon be introduced in other cities and municipalities.



Flexible planning for every size of operation

The PlanB planning system was originally developed for timetable, route and duty scheduling in small, regional bus companies. For this reason, the focus was on making the system as simple and intuitive as possible, as well as achieving significantly lower implementation costs than the “big” planning systems on the market. PlanB continues to offer these advantages, even though the system is now used just as much in large transport companies and associations as it is for the planning of tram services. Today, PlanB is being used by a large number of public transport companies nationwide, in rural areas (e.g. Nahverkehr Hohenlohe/NVH, Verkehrsgesellschaft Vorpommern-Greifswald/VVVM) as well as in special transportation in metropolitan regions (e.g. Verkehrsbetrieb Hamburg-Holstein/VHH, Dr. Richard Linien, Vienna).


PlanB is particularly suitable for flexible planning scenarios, such as those required for tendering. For instance, meaningful results can be generated by entering just a small amount of data. The simultaneous provision of routing and service information allows tendering participants to take into account the applicable legal and tariff regulations. Optional modules for optimising vehicle and duty rosters support planners in the best possible use of resources. Another particular strength of the system lies in the flexible planning of day-specific services, for instance in school traffic.


The latest version 11 of the programme, released in August 2019, additionally offers a functional “planning situation” extension to display alternative plans (route sequences, journeys) in specific time periods. This enables current traffic events to be prepared even more effectively and the corresponding planning data to be made available for subsequent passenger information or operations control systems (ITCS).

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