Transport: EU push for better travel planning solutions
The European Commission is renewing efforts to develop Europe-wide all-in-one journey planners, making it easier to plan and book journeys that involve several means of transport with a single online tool, even across borders. Coinciding with the 10th European ITS Congress in Helsinki — one of Europe's largest events in Intelligent Transport Systems and Services (or "ITS") — the Commission has published its analysis of the current situation of multimodal travel planners and its plans for the way forward. In particular, the Commission is tackling issues such as restricted access to the necessary data and insufficient cooperation between everyone involved.
Vice-President Siim Kallas, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: "All too often 'Brussels' is used as a synonym for 'heavy regulator'. In ITS and especially as regards journey planners we need to take a different path. We need to break down barriers. Small and innovative companies need access to travel data, so that they can develop real door-to-door solutions. And we need more and better cooperation between transport operators, industries, developers and Member States."
Multimodal journey planners in Europe
With the internet and smartphones generating growth in highly personalised services, information that spans different forms of transport — multimodal information — is a crucial factor for smart and seamless travel.
Apart from making it much easier for people to plan and book their trips, all-in-one planners that integrate real-time traffic information would also
- improve information — making users aware of all possible travel options, even if they are already on their way;
- make journeys greener — allowing travellers to easily identify the fastest and most environmentally friendly combination of different means of transport for each trip;
- reduce congestion and emissions — by providing alternatives to congested or blocked routes;
- offer new business opportunities and jobs in a very dynamic sector.
More than a hundred multimodal journey planners are already available in Europe. However, they are all limited either geographically (to individual cities or regions) or in their coverage of transport modes. Only very rarely do they offer any cross-border information.
The first Smart Mobility Challenge, an EU competition for multimodal journey planners, as well as consultations and hearings have shown that there are several hurdles to be overcome:
- More multimodal travel and traffic data needs to become available, and it needs to be made accessible;
- The quality of multimodal travel and traffic data is often insufficient;
- Data formats and protocols for their exchange are often incompatible;
- The stakeholders involved (developers, transport operators, industries, regulatory bodies, Member States) do not cooperate enough.
The Commission's objective is not to deliver the services or develop integrated ticket types itself. Rather, it is to bring down barriers, to make sure that the appropriate tools are available across the EU and to encourage their use.
Promoting more comprehensive multimodal journey planners facilitates the transition to "Mobility as a Service", where a service provider makes accessible to the end-user packages (including all necessary applications and services) under one interface. This is particularly helpful for the end-users given the diversity of existing services (e.g. journey planners); while end-users love the variety of the current offer, they might encounter difficulties to find and choose the options meeting their needs in full.
There is already a strong commitment by the actors involved to work closely with the EU and Member States. The Commission will lead this cooperation and provides funding opportunities under the Connecting Europe Facility and Horizon2020 funding programmes.
About the European ITS Congress
The European ITS Congress & Exhibition are two of Europe’s largest events in intelligent transport systems. The annual conference brings together decision makers, experts and researchers in the field. This year's topic is “ITS in your pocket – proven solutions driving user services”.
As part of the opening ceremony, Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas will award prizes to the winners of the "ITS in Your Pocket" contest for mobile applications.
Please see also: