Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) play a crucial role in the urban bus sector. They comprise applications such as traffic management systems, information and warning systems, as well as tracking systems installed in individual vehicles. These systems also include interactive applications for vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communication. The successful deployment of ITS delivers five key benefits to a transportation system: increased safety; reduced congestion and better operational performance; enhanced passenger mobility and convenience; minimal environmental damage; and higher productivity.
The implementation of ITS for the urban bus sector in India has increased over the past few years. Most city bus operators have now started deploying these systems in city buses as well as bus rapid transit system (BRTS) corridors. Nevertheless, ITS penetration is still at a nascent stage with significant potential for enhancement in the coming years.
In urban bus transport projects, ITS is used in key areas such as operations management, vehicle management, communication for passenger information and fare collection. Overall, the deployment of ITS in the country’s bus transport segment has been slow. At present, only a few city bus service providers and BRTS operators have deployed ITS systems. Operations management and fare collection systems remain the key segments for ITS deployment.
- Operations management: The deployment of ITS in operations management enhances the efficiency of bus transportation. It involves proper coordination through data collection, data processing and information dissemination, thereby leading to optimum planning and management of the public bus network. The key technologies used for operations management by bus operators include scheduling and dispatch management systems, automatic vehicle identification, automatic passenger counter and precision docking.
- Vehicle management: Location information systems such as automatic vehicle location, global positioning system (GPS), geographic information system, etc., are among the main information tools utilised for route dispatching and planning to reduce delivery time and operational costs. These technological solutions aid in improving the efficiency and productivity of vehicle operations.
- Communication systems: The communication needs of a bus system include control centre communication, fare payment processing, and passenger information system (PIS). Communication with the control centre can be helpful in providing schedule information including the timetable for a given trip, bus stop locations, schedules, and fares to passengers. Besides, information such as real-time status of the transportation system such as arrival/departure, delays and traffic status can also be communicated through the control centre.
- Fare collection systems: Being the primary interface between customers and the operator, fare collection systems are one of the most important components of ITS. Over the years, fare collection mechanisms have evolved from coins, paper tickets and token-based systems to digital payment card-based systems. Most operators are moving towards automated fare collection (AFC) systems to improve efficiency and reduce revenue loss. The key components of an AFC system are a computer system for consolidating transaction records, automatic gates, ticket vending machines, and ticket validator machines.
- Bus depot management systems: These systems provide information related to inventory of parts, bus maintenance, daily fare collection, daily reports on arrival and departure of buses, etc.
An ITS not only provides real-time information on bus operations, but is also capable of providing insights into traffic patterns such as peak-hour volumes and congestion on critical routes. The system can also influence driving route choices by providing information on traffic delays and congestion. From the point of view of civic authorities, the system helps in improving service delivery by reducing response time to incidents and providing information on departure, arrival and delays on a single platform.
The substantial benefits offered by ITS notwithstanding, it is pertinent to note that in order to fully secure these benefits, issues such as the lack of skilled personnel, inadequate funds, and poor security need to be urgently addressed.