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IS THE BUS COMING? AN INTRODUCTION TO PUBLIC-TRANSPORT PLANNING ON LIMITED RESOURCES

Friday, February 21, 2020

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Company: GMV

Public-transport planning allows authorities and operators to make the best possible use of their limited resources, mainly vehicles and drivers.

At the highest level, public-transport planning can be broken down into three stages; strategic planning, operational planning and a posteriori planning or re-planning.

Strategic public-transport planning is a discipline related to urban planning; it takes in the design of a transport network, route definition and scheduling.

Definition of the topology, i.e., the lines and stops making up the transport network, might be an easily revisable and reversible decision in the case of buses but harder to turn around in railed systems like BRTs, LRTs or subway lines.

Once the set of lines and stops has been defined, the next step is to define the routes to be run on these lines. In a typical linear layout there is usually one outward route and another return route.

On the whole set of lines, routes and stops, the scheduling or timetabling is defined as the times the vehicles will pass by each of the network stops. For this purpose a series of trips or expeditions is generated, understanding “trip” here as a succession of stops covered in a given order.

Operational planning takes in generation of the vehicle service and the driver service, as well as the rostering.

A vehicle service is the vehicle’s daily set of trips or expeditions. Similarly, a driver service is the set of trips or expeditions to be made by a driver on that same day.

When generating the vehicle- and driver-services, it is important to bear in mind all constraints that may have to be met, both legal (maximum working day, statutory pauses,…) and operational (location of bus garages, synchronization of bus/train changes, synchronization of different routes passing through the same stop, predictive and corrective maintenance, refueling,…).

Rostering or shift planning, for its part, allows a public-transport operator to keep track of the hours worked by its drivers and other employees, in order to ensure the various requirements are met (collective bargaining agreements, reduction of working day, holidays, permits, preferences and personal limitations,…), as well as balancing out the workload between the various employees.

Over the years, the abovementioned set of problems has represented a sizeable headache for public-transport authorities and operators. It resembles an intricate sudoku whose complexity varies in direct relation with the size of the fleet and network.

Traditionally, various more or less seat-of-the-pants methods have been used, including paper planning on the basis of unconnected data, with the following drawbacks: a very time-consuming and unwieldy planning arrangement; difficulty in recording historical data and a heavy dependence on gurus or planning experts who, after years of struggling with this problem, had become indispensable in their organizations.

To ensure efficient and effective planning and to optimize the always scarce resources, GMV offers public-transport authorities and operators the GMV Planner suite of powerful algorithm-driven tools that ensures simple and efficient planning of all the various aspects. This liberates experts from tedious tasks, allowing them to spend the freed-up time on other tasks of greater added value to the organization.

Author: Iker Estébanez


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