Given the rapid vehicular growth and the ever-increasing population in the country, urban mass transit infrastructure is facing immense pressure. In such a scenario, intelligent transportation systems (ITS) offer a promising solution. ITS is an integration of communication systems and information technologies designed primarily for improving safety, security and efficiency of urban transit systems. Over the years, the metro and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems have gradually opened up to the adoption of ITS on account of the benefits offered in terms of passenger convenience and streamlining of operations.
Key technologies in use
Indian cities are gradually moving towards the adoption of ITS for metro rail systems. The most important advancement in this regard has been the evolution of fare collection mechanisms from coins, paper tickets and token-based systems to digital payment card-based systems. This evolution brought about by automatic fare collection (AFC) offers customers greater convenience for everyday payments and facilitates seamless travel. Further, it offers several benefits to operators in terms of lower operational costs, higher fare revenue collection, new payment sources, reliable ridership and system data, greater throughput, better capacity utilisation and improved environmental sustainability. Today, the majority of operational metro systems in the country have AFC systems in place.
Other areas of metro rail systems where ITS has been deployed are the signalling, train control and telecommunications segments. Modern signalling systems such as continuous automatic train control equipped with automatic train operation, automatic train protection and automatic train supervision features as well as communication-based train control (CBTC) signalling systems have been deployed in most of the metro networks across the country. These systems are used to direct the traffic and keep trains at a safe distance from each other, as well as to ensure that they run as per schedule. Several metro systems such as those in Hyderabad, Navi Mumbai and Delhi (Phase III) have adopted CBTC signalling with moving block technology instead of fixed block technology.
Another ITS solution which features in metro systems is platform screen doors (PSDs), which act as a barrier between the platform and the track. These help in better crowd management and prevent any untoward incidents on the metro. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has installed PSDs on the 12.64 km section of the Botanical Garden (Noida)-Janakpuri West (Delhi) corridor (Magenta Line). Further, PSDs have also been installed at Chawri Bazar and Chandni Chowk metro stations of the Yellow Line. In the future, four other stations of the Yellow Line – New Delhi, Central Secretariat, Rajiv Chowk and Kashmere Gate – will have PSDs installed. In addition, elevators with auto-rescue arrangement facilities during power shutdowns and infrared curtain-type door safety devices have also been put in place at metro stations. Further, instead of conventional lifts and escalators, variable voltage variable frequency drive and regenerative braking technology has been used in lifts and escalators for lower energy consumption. These high-tech lifts and escalators are being used at the Delhi metro’s Pink Line.
In BRT projects, ITS solutions are used to facilitate operations and management of vehicles. However, in the Indian context, ITS deployment in the BRT segment is still at a nascent stage, with only a few city bus service providers and BRT operators having taken them up. A case in point is the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation, which has 500 buses, 105 bus terminals and 45 platforms under the vehicle tracking system. Recently, the NEC Corporation, in consortium with nCode Solutions, implemented an automatic fare collection system for the BRT system in Ahmedabad.
The government is also giving ITS adoption a push. Recently, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways mandated the use of vehicle location tracking (VLT) devices and emergency buttons for all new public service vehicles (except autorickshaws and e-rickshaws) registered on or after January 1, 2019.
The application of ITS in city bus systems can help agencies improve services by enhancing the reliability and efficiency of operations. Through data analysis, agencies can provide better information to passengers, improve in-house resource productivity and take concrete decisions for operations and management.
With the development of various urban transit projects and the expected increase in ridership, ITS is expected to dominate traditional technologies as these ensure ease to commuters and improved operations of mass transit projects. By adopting ITS, Indian cities can reduce congestion, improve safety and curb pollution levels. The government, transport operators and service providers need to work together to enhance the adoption of ITS. The road is long, but close collaboration among industry players is likely to lead to innovations which can significantly enhance the urban mobility experience in India.