That the city of Ghent values its mobility is no secret. It is the best performing Belgian city in terms of sustainable mobility and livability. They owe this, among other things, to the circulation plan and the low-emission zone. The city has been using digital displays along all major access roads for years to direct all car traffic to suitable car parks and reduce search traffic.
After years of good service, the system needed replacement. Traffic guidance systems that only show the occupancy of underground car parks are not flexible enough for the needs of a modern city. Moreover, the outdated LED displays were causing increasingly poor readability and the underlying software was outdated. Also, certain components for the old system were no longer available, making renewal necessary.
Through a public tender, Ghent Mobility Company decided to collaborate with Be-Mobile for the software, with Q-lite for the LED displays and with Jacops for leading the project and installing the system as a whole.
"Cities have an increasing demand for mobility and parking. At the same time, they also have to meet increasingly tough policy objectives, think improving air quality, reducing traffic and congestion, greening the city, reducing on-street parking, etc. Be-Mobile's smart mobility solutions help the city achieve those objectives and have a positive impact on the city's residents and visitors."
- Jan Cools, CEO at Be-Mobile
"Cities have an increasing demand for mobility and parking," says Jan Cools, CEO of Be-Mobile. "At the same time, they also have to meet increasingly tough policy objectives, think improving air quality, reducing traffic and congestion, greening the city, reducing on-street parking, etc. Be-Mobile's smart mobility solutions help the city achieve those objectives and have a positive impact on the city's residents and visitors," Jan continues.
A city needs reliable data sources to monitor the traffic situation (e.g., in case of a serious disruption such as accident or traffic jam). In addition to the already existing real-time sources and historical data, Ghent now gets insight into real-time travel times, incidents and receives notifications in case of serious traffic problems thanks to Be-Mobile's solution. The dynamic signs then adapt to the current traffic situation. The new system needed to be operational quickly to keep traffic in Ghent on the right track. Be-Mobile's experience in setting up systems of this kind ensured that the signs worked well immediately.
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For years, Be-Mobile has been collecting proprietary traffic data such as GPS positions of 40 million vehicles that are processed into traffic information. Reports from road users via navigation apps such as Flitsmeister, information from open data or data from Touring Mobilis' traffic center are also collected and processed. For this project, Be-Mobile's already rich traffic data was supplemented with data from the Ghent open data portal. All this information provides Be-Mobile with an almost complete picture of the current traffic situation in the city.
A new communication and data exchange was established with Q-lite to obtain more complete technical information and alerts from the displays. The new way allows for faster and more stable communication with the displays, allowing for faster detection of technical problems or defects.
All this is brought together in the FlowControl platform developed by Be-Mobile itself. It unites various traffic applications such as dynamic traffic and parking guidance under one roof. City and mobility information from Ghent is linked in a uniform and smart way in FlowControl. This allows the city to use both its own and third-party information to set up smart scenarios to distribute the most relevant parking and traffic information to road users or other stakeholders via the displays. Be-Mobile also ensured that Ghent Mobility Company has an interactive dashboard on which it can monitor both the traffic and mobility situation and the technical status of the displays.
The FlowControl platform was adapted and extended according to the customer's requirements. During frequent software meetings, the customer's requirements and expectations were clearly worked out and fine-tuned. Meanwhile, the digital LED displays were built and installed by Q-lite. After extensive testing and official approval of the platform, the installation was successfully carried out by Jacops.
"With the new displays, traffic can be better directed. Motorists are directed to the desired and available car parks. This way we avoid search traffic. In this way we also want to solve the traffic jams at the entrance to the car parks, which obstruct the flow of public transport. The displays are very flexible, we can put up messages for all road users."
- Filip Watteeuw, Ghent alderman for Mobility
A traffic guidance system makes it easier for visitors to estimate which parking garages still have enough space. Without such a system, there is much more searching behavior and additional pressure on street parking capacity. Correct information about occupancy ensures that people get to the right place faster and more efficiently, which improves livability.
Thanks to the demonstration that Be-Mobile gave beforehand, Ghent could assure itself that the required quality could be delivered. After completion, the city is happy to say that this was a correct assessment.
The City of Ghent now has the latest digital LED displays controlled by a flexible and modular control system. The current traffic situation can thus be monitored 24/7 on a map and via notifications.
"With the new displays, traffic can be better directed," says Filip Watteeuw, Ghent Alderman for Mobility. "Motorists are directed to the desired and available car parks. This way we avoid search traffic. In this way we also want to solve the traffic jams at the entrance to the car parks, which obstruct the flow of public transport. The displays are very flexible, we can put up messages for all road users," the alderman concludes.
The city is pleased with the cooperation. In the first month, the system immediately faced a lot of visitors. The entire month of December the Ghent Winter Festivities took place, one of the busiest periods of the year. Even then, traffic was well directed by the new system.
Be-Mobile also looks back on the cooperation with a positive feeling. There has always been a good relationship with the City of Ghent and it is important to be able to maintain it. Be-Mobile is happy to support its home city in achieving its policy objectives and in the transition to a greener and safer city.