The existing tram priority system utilised pick-up loops connected to the road traffic signal controller, which modifies the traffic light sequence upon detecting the approach of a tram. The effectiveness of this was less than optimal as typically a tram stop was also at the intersection, with passenger disembarkation during the prioritisation period, forcing the TRAM to wait another traffic cycle as the presence detection was already processed. This scenario resulted in the progressive dilution of service adherence to the published timetable. The existing Tram priority system was a clear opportunity for improvement in the form of greater prioritisation intelligence and a critical project within the Tram Franchise agreement.
How Innova Helped
Innova resources provided State representation in a 2018/19, $650k project to develop and trial a free-running, Intelligent Transport System based, Tram priority system integrated with the road traffic light control system. This project was a novel, future focused initiative, that not only confronted the normal project challenges of resource, time and cost, but also unanticipated challenges with the novel deliverable of the project. The diverse team work collaboratively and constructively to overcome the encountered challenges and achieve a successful outcome.
The revised prioritisation capability was key to facilitating a free-running tram service that converts the public tram service from a timetable-based service, where performance was highly variable against the published timetable, to a road traffic optimised “turn up and go” service with real-time passenger service information through the PTV App and local passenger information displays.
The initiative utilised the Burwood Highway tram route with four trams specially fitted with the trial on-board equipment, improved detection strategy and integration with passenger stopping request on the Tram. There was also the need for integration with the on-Tram passenger information system for on-train and road-side passenger information displays and service updates to the PTV App. Communications systems required for the initiative included the fitment of 4G data reporting from the trial system and the use of Dedicated Short-Range Communications between the tram and road-side signal controller.
The project challenges included tram fitment availability that needed to be coordinated with in- service and maintenance demands. Route assignment of the fitted tram to the Burwood Highway route and the timeliness of retrieving data to be post processed and analysed. There was also a technology risk associated with a leading-edge solution. The project team included representation from Vic Roads, Yarra Trams, PTV (State), Australian Road Research Board, Melbourne University ITS domain and the ITS Australian Integrated Multimodal Eco-System (AIMES).
The role of the Innova resources in this project was to provide State public transport service and technical over-sight and input to the project including monitoring the impact on tram service delivery, adverse impact in relation to franchised service performance degradation and the benefits to be gained from free-running tram services. As well as monitoring the assessment by VicRoads and Yarra Trams of road and traffic movement improvements.
Additional benefits included passenger service and information improvements and identification of future opportunities for multi-modal dynamic coordination for a better integrated and timely public transport system. The project was successful and confirmed the long term approach to tram service operation and control.