Development and Validation of Internet-Based Personalized Travel Assistance System for Mobility Management
In the Nagoya Metropolitan Area of Japan, researchers developed a personal, integrated travel assistance system to help commuters make environmentally sound decisions regarding their travel behavior. The system was designed with three subsystems: Probe-Person (PP), iMM (Mobility Management), and PRONAVI (a multi-modal route guidance system). The subsystems were designed to work with travelers to help commuters develop, implement, and evaluate travel options, and improve the performance of individualized travel plans (route, mode and timing selections).
- The PP sub-system automatically collected Global Positioning System (GPS) data from cell phones and tracked individual route choices. The authors noted that collecting location data from GPS equipped cell phones was a cost-effective method for collecting travel behavior data as it did not require participants to respond to a survey or manually input data.
- The iMM subsystem was designed to assist commuters with developing environmentally friendly travel plans. The iMM subsystem worked with the PP subsystem to track commuter travel and provide automated feedback to encourage use of environmentally optimal routes and modes.
- The PRONAVI subsystem was a multi-modal route guidance tool that enabled users to select the fastest route and mode to their destination and view traffic conditions in real-time using an interactive map display. The subsystem used real-time and historical traffic speed data collected from probe vehicles enabling travelers to monitor traffic conditions en-route and search for alternative routes and modes using a cell phone or computer connected to the Internet.
To test the feasibility of the system, a pilot program was carried out using employees from a local corporation in Japan. The system was introduced as a way to improve employee travel behavior and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Seventy-four (74) employees were provided with cell phones equipped with Internet and GPS functions. Seventy-three (73) percent of participants were men (average age 47) and 27 percent were women (average age 29.5). Using an ID and password participants were able to input their personal daily travel plan data (route, mode, and timing) into the system and receive automated feedback from a batch of 70 prepared comments that suggested improvements to optimize route and mode selections for specified travel periods.
To evaluate impacts, the system recorded travel plans developed by participants (with PRONAVI tools available), monitored the changes made to travel plans as a result of system feedback, and compared the impacts before and after the system was implemented (February 5 to February 16, 2007). Each time updates were made to individual travel plans, participants were provided with information that detailed the environmental impacts of the changes made, including graphical displays that compared total carbon dioxide emissions, carbon dioxide emissions per trip, travel time for each travel mode, and calories expended. The "calories expended" measure was intended to give participants perspective on the amount of energy consumed or saved.
By the end of the pilot program, carbon dioxide emissions generated by participants who used the system were compared to participant emissions at the beginning of the pilot.
Researchers evaluating the Nagoya pilot program offered the following lessons learned.
When implementing traveler information systems that encourage individuals to modify their travel behavior and use non-auto transport such as walking, bicycles, and public transportation:
- Minimize the amount of data that must be recorded and manually input by travelers. Cell phones with Internet and GPS functions can be used as TDM (Transportation Demand Management) devices to improve the cost-effectiveness of collecting travel behavior data. These TDM devices should not burden the user with complicated operations, a range of input items, and excessive functionality. Consider designs that can be easily used by the elderly.
- Offer personalized advice and feedback based on action. Develop an automated expert system to identify and diagnose a variety of travel behavior patterns. Feedback should include an assessment of planned versus actual travel behavior and include recommendations for multi-modal route options and timing alternatives.
- Provide users with good planning tools. Planning tools should be easy to use, identify the most efficient commuter routes, and support multi-modal travelers.
The pilot test results were positive. Participants were generating approximately 20 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions compared to participant emissions at the beginning of the pilot. In general, the reduction was attributed to changes in modal share due to users switching from cars to public transportation, walking, or bicycles. Lessons learned from the Nagoya pilot test offer guidance on achieving significant emissions reduction and, thus, on improving environmental sustainability.