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Clean route planning for freight transport

Utrecht

The city of Utrecht has looked into developing a route guidance system for freight road traffic to improve air quality in the city.

trucks, traffic
Implementing sustainable mobility

Clean air, an accessible city, and sustainable growth are the main objectives of the Air quality Action plan of the City of Utrecht (ALU Actieplan Luchtkwaliteit Utrecht/ December 2009). Within the CIVITAS MIMOSA measure, the city of Utrecht aims to elaborate a strategy to move a local air quality problem to a less vulnerable area where the standards for air quality are not exceeded. The measure “clean route planning for freight traffic” focused on defining a method to guide, in real-time, freight traffic along routes that are less congested, based on air quality measurement. Due to the complementary aspect, the implementation of this measure and the measure “Regional traffic control centre (URT 8.1)” has been conducted together.

How did the measure progress?

From september 2010 till april 2011 an investigation in to the feasibility and available technical possibilities for clean route planning for freight transport has been conducted. The feasibility study highlighted critical issues which justify that the concept of the measure - rerouting freight traffic in real-time according to local air quality index - contributes to reduce traffic polution on the city level. Indeed, NO2 emissions are 20 times higher by freight vehicles than by cars; heavy road freight traffic and buses emit more than double in road congestion than in fluent traffic. The results of the feasibility study were summarized in a report to provide a technical basis for the further stages of the measure.

First, the factors that had to be taken into account were selected, to be able to decide which routing for a specific freight vehicle would be most appropriate. Then, the values of these factors which could influence the choice were determined. For instance, influencing factors that have been found, are: travel time, fuel consumption (based on distance, speed and stops), the likelihood of experiencing congestion, real-time traffic disturbance in the network and overall effect of the rerouting advice on the network. What is also important is that the rerouting advice is also restricted by the physical properties of the vehicle (e.g. length, weight, etc.). As an solution, route navigation software was designed to calculate the most appropriate itinerary for a specific freight vehicle in real-time. To develop the algorithm, the objectives are to reduce the emissions due to freight transport on the city level, reduce and avoid road congestion, decrease fuel consumption.

Following a go/no go decision, work was carried out to test the standard route planner for freight traffic (the so called TLN-planner) that calculates emissions. The tests should lead to insight into how the planner performs, and if improvements are possible. The report should give the market detailed insight into how to develop an application which measures the air-quality. A navigation application for cellular phones is in production and is foreseen to be available on the market in 2013.

What were the outcomes of the measure?

As the measure consisted mainly of research and development of prototype activities, the evaluation is focused on the process which uncovered several barriers during the implementation of the measure. Besides the evaluation methodology the impact evaluation findings are not applicable, since this measure aimed at preparing the ground for the implementation of a rerouting device for freight transport at given routes in the city centre taking into account the “real time” level of congestion, and air quality. To evaluate if this goal was reached, results of the feasibility study and following research processes are of interest, which still need to be finalised.

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