Mobitex Technology - Solutions - Case study

Is my bus on time?

Sweden’s southernmost county Skåne, also known in English as Scania, is one of the country’s most populous. With the completion in 2000 of the Öresund Link joining Skåne’s capital Malmö with Copenhagen on the other side of Öresund, the region also became one of Sweden’s most dynamic, with rapid growth and increased foreign investment. This growth and the closer ties with Denmark naturally increased demands on public transport.

As part of its efforts to improve public transport services, the county transit authority Skånetrafiken recently signed a contract with Swedish Mobitex operator Mowic for a new passenger information system. Skånetrafiken chose Mowic’s Mobitex solution over several other offers.

Skånetrafiken is responsible for all public transport in Skåne and operates buses and trains serving the entire county and linking the region’s four largest cities with each other and with Denmark via train services over the Öresund Link. Some 150,000 passengers travel with Skånetrafiken each day, and in 2001 a total of 86 million trips were made on the operator’s buses and trains, which include city, regional and express buses and commuter and regional rail-lines.

As noted in the county transit authority’s traffic service plan for the period from 2002 to 2003, traffic information is an important area for improvements and a perquisite for ensuring that public transport is easily accessible and that passengers are satisfied. This applies to information both prior and during travel regarding schedules, delays and alternative routes. The information must be easily accessible, relevant and correct.

“Today, our passengers are not particularly satisfied with information regarding delays when problems occur in our bus and train services. By introducing automatic vehicle location and real-time information on buses over the next few years, Skånetrafiken intends to improve traffic information for its customers,” says Krister Nordland, technical manager at Skånetrafiken.

Mowik supplies a solution

The service that Mowic will supply to Skånetrafiken includes wireless data communication for sending and receiving messages and for positioning with GPS (Global Postitioning System). The position of each bus is reported in real-time, thus allowing arrival times at stops further down the line to be estimated. This information is presented to passengers on displays at bus stops and on electronic signs on the buses, as well as directly to affected drivers. Drivers will also be able to receive messages from the traffic control center and be able to send messages themselves in cases of emergency, for example.

In the first phase, the Mobitex system will include city bus lines in Malmö and a regional bus route linking South Sandby and Staffanstorp with Lund, the region’s second largest city and home to its two largest universities, Lund University and Lund Institute of Technology. A total of 57 buses will be connected to the Mobitex system, which is expected to handle some 6.5 million messages per year.

Wireless data vital for real-time information

As Skånetrafiken’s system is expanded, the county transit authority also intends to present real-time traffic information on its website using an application called Is my bus on time? This application will be similar to an existing application called Is my train on time?

Real-time information for trains is already available through the National Rail Administration, which owns the tracks and is responsible for traffic control. The application on Skånetrafiken’s website displays a route map for all train services with color-coded symbols showing the current position of each train and indicating whether it is on time, no more than 10 minutes late or more than 10 minutes late. More detailed information regarding delays and estimated arrival and departure times is available by clicking on train symbols and station names.

“A wireless data service meeting high demands on quality is a vital component in a real-time passenger information system,” says Krister Nordland. “Special expertise is required for such a service. Skånetrafiken lacked such expertise and had not desire to acquire it or to master the challenges that mobile data communication would entail. In evaluating the tenders, Skånetrafiken concluded that the Mowic solution was the most economically advantageous alternative.”

Guarantees wanted

When Skånetrafiken formulated the requirements specification in its request for tender, availability and reliability were key technical requirements. Simply put, the county transit authority wanted guarantees that the wireless network would always be available and that positioning data would be transmitted under all traffic conditions.

Although one of Sweden’s GSM/GPRS operators eventually submitted a tender, customer requirements eliminated GPRS from the start. The GPRS operator, which is addressing a mass market with its services, simply could not guarantee that the network would always be available, even when many buses were transmitting from a single location, or that data would not be lost due to a dropped connection. “Because we target professional users, we always ask customers what level of service they require. Mowic’s Mobitex solution provided the guarantees that the customer wanted and was also the most cost-effective solution,” says Björn Sabel, marketing manager at Mowic AB.

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