City Science has a tool to help optimise the process of planning transport systems. Here’s the story behind it, and how it works.
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Words/ John Challen
When planning a transport system, engineers need all the help they can get. So when it came to the job of preparing mobility hubs for rollout, decarbonisation solutions provider City Science developed a tool to assist, based around the optimum location for the site. These hubs are defined as a location where a collection of transport modes and non-transport services meet – such as park and ride locations, railway stations with bus connections or bicycle parking hubs.
City Science outlined a number of key benefits of the introduction of a mobility hub, namely: convenience; sustainable first/last mile trips; improved safety; improved accessibility and a raised profile of sustainable and shared modes. However, it maintains that these benefits can only be achieved when the ideal location has been identified – and when the mobility is properly planned and designed. The evidence-based tool developed around location is designed to help local authorities ensure their hubs succeed.
The scope of the City Science project was split into four stages. Firstly, a literary review was undertaken of the current policies, guidance and best practice involved when looking to plan mobility hubs. There then followed a period of user engagement with local authorities in order to find out how they were planning for mobility hubs and also the ideas they had for improving the process. A data collation exercise was then undertaken to establish the data that was required, what was available and where there were data gaps. Finally, with all of this information to hand, the tool was developed.
Within the development phase, the user engagement and literary review stages proved invaluable. They provided the insight that proved that that an evidence-based approach to the location of the mobility hub was required. Because local authorities are typically well-versed in service provision, the aim of the project was to provide a solution that could be rolled out seamlessly across local authorities, with the outputs published on their own websites.
In practice, the tool uses a mode-choice logistic model to calculate the potential number of users of a mobility hub, based on location and associated costs such as city centre parking, bus fares and bus waiting times. From there, the model looks at the choice between driving and using park and ride and then considered a set area around a specific region. That could be a set point – such as a town centre – or possibly a corridor, such as the route between the town centre and a residential area. Multiple locations within the assessment centre are then assessed, highlighting regularly spaced points in order to create a grid-based output. The areas on these grids are then further investigated and analysed to determine the optimum location for a mobility hub to be placed. At the same time, other factors – such as the location of existing infrastructure – is considered.
In practice, the outputs of the tool can be overlaid with additional information such as demographic data or infrastructure availability. As a result, users at the local authorities can make an informed decision on the best location of a mobility hub, considering both potential use and deliverability.
So far, the tool has been used to aid the assessment of a park and ride site and also looked at the impacts of parking demand in a city centre following increased parking charges.
Optimising Location Planning for Mobility Hub by City Science was shortlisted for the 2023 CIHT Technology and Innovation Award - Read the full case study here
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