Future of public transport receives a personal touch

Monash University

Monash University researchers are exploring the concept of personalised public transport to address Melbourne’s transport and road congestion. With nearly 70 per cent of trips in Melbourne made by car, increasing road congestion and poor public transport links are impeding our economy and causing frustration for commuters. Professor Mark Wallace from Monash University’s Faculty of Information Technology is working on an innovative solution – personalised public transport.

Professor Wallace’s research looks at ways to help Melbourne commuters make more efficient use of the existing road and transport network by tailoring individual journeys. Through optimisation and simulation techniques, Professor Wallace examines how congestion can be reduced if a proportion of travellers followed the routes suggested to them – by car, bus, train or tram, or a combination of them. As Professor Wallace explains, the problem at hand is complicated. “If you’ve got 10,000 vehicles, all looking for the shortest path, then it will no longer be the shortest in time if they all end up using the same route, and this is just one of the many issues our research is tackling,” he says.

Managing multiple alternative routes so that they all achieve the minimum overall time, is a technical problem. To combat this, Professor Wallace and his team developed an algorithm, now widely used in computer games, which will be enhanced as part of the research project.

“In computer games, you have all these objects rushing around the screen, which you have to coordinate and keep them all going in real-time. The Melbourne traffic grid is much larger and more complex than any game and for a game strategy to be adapted to the transport network, it has to be scalable,” explains Professor Wallace.

This three-year project is drawing on already-gathered information about driver journeys to predict road and public transport use. The team is working with existing historical data of Melbourne to model various routing scenarios and determine what difference this makes to the commuters’ overall travel time. These simulations have the potential to reduce the average journey times by up to 15 per cent.

With 1.5 million Melbournians’ commuting to work each day, for an average journey time of 65 minutes each way, achieving a 15 per cent reduction in average journey time, would save Melburnians close to 500,000 hours per day. With a growing population, the outcomes of this research offer practical applications in transport optimisation well into the future. The findings of this project are intended to give the government the necessary data to cut traffic congestion and educate people around how they can shorten their commute times.

While adding more trains, trams and buses to the mix would help, Professor Wallace and his fellow researchers are using innovative technology to improve how people travel now.

/Public Release.

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