Establishing a management decision support system for waterborne traffic

Basic Information

Mobility solution ID






In order to manage increasing levels of boat traffic and prevent damage to buildings as a result of wake motion, the Venice city administration needed a traffic management decision support system to control boat circulation in the city.

Implementing sustainable mobility

Since the 1990s, the volume of waterborne traffic has increased enormously, worsening wake and traffic congestion problems in the historical centre. Construction and restoration work along the docks had also had a negative impact on traffic flow.

The main objective of this measure was therefore to develop a waterborne traffic management decision support system for decision makers within the city administration. The support system would have an interface permitting access in a hierarchical manner. The municipal police, for example, would have access to all information. Other targeted users, such as goods transportation firms, would also have access to useful information for route planning. Statistics concerning boat traffic circulation and its impacts on quality of life and on the physical integrity of city structures would be available to the general public.


The measure comprised the following steps:

  • An analysis of the needs of potential users and stakeholders and the design of an appropriate user interface.
  • Standardisation of the typologies and methodology for traffic data collection.
  • Collection of the data necessary to estimate the indirect impacts of traffic changes on quality of life and on the physical integrity of the infrastructure of the city, including the noise produced by various boat types at various speeds; wake heights and pressures produced by various boat types at various speeds; turbulence produced by various boat types at specific locations in the canal network; deliveries made to each island on typical weekdays.
  • The management of permanent and temporary signs and other forms of information display pertaining to permanent or temporary changes to traffic regulations or conditions.
  • The integration of existing traffic models for both the city and the lagoon into a single system.
  • The creation of the institutional agreements and bureaucratic protocols needed for integration with administrative systems that manage activities affecting traffic, such as parking permits and special circulation permits (e.g. for large cargo boats).
  • The definition of data exchange formats/standards to connect with various systems that can provide useful inputs to the system, such as the tide gauges, emergency response systems, automatic traffic counters, wake measurement devices etc.


The measure provided all the elements of a fully functioning decision support model for waterborne traffic. The dynamic decision-making support model is able to assess, for example, the effects on traffic circulation of the closure of a canal for dredging work; the effects of mooring a barge on a canal outside a building during restoration work; or the impacts of allowing private tour boat operators to transit. 

A standardised methodology for traffic field data collection was produced, along with a data collection form and handbook for field data collectors.

Based on online geographical information system interfaces and data integration tools, the system was designed in such a way as to be updateable in a sustainable and continual fashion. Visualising the real physical structure of a city feature (bridge, public transport bus station etc.) is important in order to carry out a simulation as close as possible to reality.


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