Exploring the potential of journey planning

ITSReviewAnnual2015

journey planning ChoiceRail mixed mode planner: development report Journey planning solutions have unquestionably come a long way in the past 20 years – yet they remain fundamentally limited by the assumption that users want to plan a journey either with a private car, or with public transport solutions. In reality, most journeys can be fulfilled using a combination of the private car and public transport. Shouldn’t our public transport journey planners take this into account? That was the underlying theory that gave rise to ChoiceRail, a development co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, and delivered as a collaboration between Trapeze Group, Cotares Ltd. and the University of the West of England. With ChoiceRail now complete, this article reviews the project, reports on its findings, and ultimately aims to answer the question, what is the true potential of mixed mode journey planning? Where we are today? Journey planning solutions have existed for some twenty years. Yet, when planning a journey today, travellers are still faced with the dilemma of identifying which options are available, often from multiple sources, relying on any background knowledge and their own judgement to decide what might best suit their personal preferences. Journey planners on the market today typically offer either private car or public transport solutions. A few claim to offer both, but almost without exception this means a comparison between public and private transport. I may be over-simplifying the usage here, but I expect many modern car drivers tend to enter destination details – either into a Smartphone or in-vehicle ‘Sat Nav’ – as a matter of course when starting their car journey, and trust the planner to get them to their destination. Such devices often now include realtime traffic feeds to alert drivers of upcoming congestion and offer alternative routes without any requirement to stop and think. 56 ITS REVIEW Annual Review 2015 By contrast, public transport journey planners are still primarily used as tools for pre-trip planning – and as a result they rarely track progress during the journey. They have included real-time data for some years, but are only now beginning to offer genuine real-time planning. Social Media is becoming widespread as a means to broadcast disruption information, but rarely tells the traveller how to ‘fix’ their journey. The mixed mode journey planning premise At Trapeze, we wondered whether there is a market for a mixed mode planner – and in particular, one that integrates road with public transport. If such a market exists, what would an integrated solution offer? Which journey types are best achieved using a combination of car and public transport? We assume the car is always quicker than public transport. And cheaper too. We had already identified that there were a wide range of data, algorithm and emotive issues to answer, and that integration is a complex problem to solve. We therefore focussed on one particular use case and tried to answer the following question: If I am doing a longer distance journey, what are the optimum mixed mode (car – rail) solutions? We realised this came down to one key decision: what is the best interchange station to use? Current public transport planners can’t answer this question – for a given origin and destination they are algorithmically restricted (for reasons of reducing the response time to the query) to search for solutions that use stops close to the origin and also the destination. The consequence is that they fail to evaluate interchanges further afield. A well-known example of the problem we were trying to solve is a journey from Northampton to Newcastle. Most planners will offer solutions that include public transport routes via London – with resulting journey times an hour longer than driving. Intuitively, we believed users would expect to see a mixed mode solution that includes a drive to Peterborough. This scenario is widespread – inferior solutions because the planner forces you on to the public transport network close to your origin without considering the entire journey. Exploring the potential of Paul Everson, Industry Specialist, Information and Ticketing, Trapeze Group.


ITSReviewAnnual2015
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