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Intelligent transportation systems in Dammam, Saudi Arabia

A new state-of-the-art lab for transport research in the Middle East is helping to provide better travel time information and related traffic signal controls to improve safety. By Dr Muhammad Farhan, Department of Traffic and Transportation Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Dammam, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Dr Muhammad Farhan, Dr Abdul Hameed Al-Mojil
Figure 1: Dammam CBD Study Area
Figure 2: Average Total Systemwide Delay Reductions
Figure 2: Average Total Systemwide Delay Reductions

 

Saudi Arabia’s traffic safety issues have recently reached alarming levels when compared to the rest of the world. While considerable resources are being spent by the public sector to reverse the emerging traffic safety crisis nationwide in terms of expansion of infrastructure, much research is still needed to consider the different avenues of deployment of ITS to help deter the steeply inclining traffic safety issues curve. The Saudi Aramco Chair for Traffic Safety research, with the help of stakeholders, is considering unexplored avenues to promote ready solutions based on scientific research-based practice in order to mitigate traffic safety. The resulting pilot study considers the possibility of providing drivers with better travel time information, in cohort with improving the traffic signal controls in response to flow variations (or vice versa), in a single modelling framework for an area of Dammam Central Business District. 

The investigations were conducted by quantifying the benefits in terms of system-wide travel time improvements, system-wide delay reductions, and ultimately quantifying the value of time benefits for the economy of Dammam. The analysis showed that when drivers were provided with better route choice and travel time information, and the signal controls in the selected traffic systems were improved to flow responsive traffic controls, the entire traffic system could benefit from the system-wide delay reductions of up to 35% and system-wide travel time improvement benefits of up to 20%. Further, the time-cost evaluation showed that if this improvement in controls and smart travel time information system is implemented in real life, it could save the Dammam economy up to 35 million Saudi Riyals daily (more than £7 million) just by optimising the controls; however, if the controllers are improved to flow responsive type, these benefits could exceed 90 million Riyals daily (more than £18 million) for the selected study area. 

This study is one attempt to improve the overall traffic system, and hence the improve the traffic safety in the region. Keeping in view the benefits shown by the modelling and simulation of the concept, the study team recommends a test-bed case real-life implementation of smart city ITS improvements in the same study area as a test case.

The analysis showed that when drivers were provided with better route choice and travel time information, and the signal controls in the selected traffic systems were improved to flow responsive traffic controls, the entire traffic system could benefit from the system-wide delay reductions of up to 35% and system-wide travel time improvement

The following could be concluded from the modelling results:

  • When drivers are provided with the information on better route choice options, in concert with improving traffic controls from fixed time to Optimized Fixed Time controls, the average total system wide delay reduction benefits were up to 12%
  • When drivers are provided with the information on better route choice options in concert with improving traffic controls from fixed time to vehicle actuated controls, the average total system wide delay reduction benefits were up to 38% while the same in case of Hybrid Scenario is achieved for up to 30%
  • When drivers are provided with the information on better route choice options in concert with improving traffic controls from fixed time to Optimized Fixed Time controls, the average total system wide travel time improvements were up to 8%
  • When drivers are provided with the information on better route choice options in concert with improving traffic controls from fixed time to vehicle actuated controls, the average total system wide travel time improvements were up to 15%, and the Hybrid Scenarios shows improvements for up to 10%.
  • When existing fixed time signal control setup at 18th street one way segment was replaced with green waive progression, there were additional benefits o up to 25% in terms of total travel time improvements, and 35% in terms of total delay reductions
  • From the green waive progression test, we also in that simply a change in cycle times and providing offsets could improve travel time and delays significantly.
  • Green wave could play an important role in traffic calming as users (drivers) may feel its progression along the corridor.
  • Green wave progression may avoid changes in geometry or existing condition of the selected corridor/street.
  • Emissions could be reduced as less congestion occurred during progression.

Both Dr Muhammad Farhan and Dr Abdul Hameed Al-Mojil, Department of Traffic and Transportation Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Dammam, Dammam, Saudi Arabia, worked on this study.


Traffic Safety Engineering and ITS Innovation Lab, Saudi Aramco University of Dammam

There are currently 27 traffic fatalities a day in Saudi Arabia. About 70% of the victims are under the age of 30 – unfortunately, this tragic number keeps growing. Thus, it is high time that road safety in the region becomes a top priority in the academic field as well as in the public and private sector. The University of Dammam is the only University in Saudi Arabia that offers a Bachelor’s degree with a focus on traffic engineering. This course was introduced three years ago. At present more than 100 students are enrolled in the degree programme and the popularity of the field of study is growing fast. In November 2016, the PTV Traffic Safety Engineering and ITS Innovation Lab was opened at the Saudi-Aramco University of Dammam. At this state-of-the-art lab, students will be taught how to implement PTV software in the best possible manner. Muhammad Farhan from the Saudi Aramco Chair for Traffic Safety Research has been involved in this  project from the beginning.


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