Skip to main content

Science shop for innovative mobility solutions for mobility challenged Europeans

Final Report Summary - INMOSION (Science shop for innovative mobility solutions for mobility challenged Europeans)

The INMOSION project analysed the needs of older Europeans both in rural and urban environments, designed and developed a paratransit system that combines algorithms and GIS databases to compute the optimum mobility solutions for both passengers and system operators. The system was deployed on one location - Municipality of Philippi, Greece - and the results were disseminated through workshops on site, through the project's web, as well as through conference presentations and publications. The main objective of INMOSION has been the development of all the necessary knowhow for effectively supporting any European community to deploy a paratransit system to meet the mobility needs of their citizens (elder or in need).

It is a well-known fact that Europeans are rapidly aging, mainly due to the low birth-rate and the increase in people's lifespan. This creates pressing mobility problems, as older people are unable to drive but still prefer to live in low-density suburban locations or in rural areas with infrequent or no public transport service at all. In addition to this, the reduction in their income levels in the retirement period makes it harder for them to afford more private modes such as taxis. In Athens, Paris, Ankara and other mega-cities, older, poor and disabled people that do not live in areas well served by public transportation, are left with no viable transport options. Paratransit is a potentially attractive alternative to conventional transit. It constitutes the only transportation option for the elderly living in rural and suburban areas, where population density is too sparse to be supported by a schedule based transit system. Such paratransit systems were already in use in low density areas of the Province of Bologna and in Cyprus. Furthermore, paratransit is a flexible system that can accommodate the mobility needs of elders without having to deal with the delays of the buses and the trouble of waiting in bus stops. An advantage of a paratransit system is its similarity to a taxi, in terms of service, since it also picks up a passenger from his/her origin location and delivers him / her to his / her destination location (door-to-door transportation).

The following sub-objectives of the INMOSION science shop have been finalised within the 30-months project duration:
- analysis of the user needs for a demand-driven paratransit system in both rural and urban environments;
- development of an innovative transport system based on the paratransit concept;
- development and integration of the system regarding software, communication and hardware developments;
- deployment process design and documentation;
- model deployment in terms of mathematical formulation of the problem, algorithmic implementation and simulation;
- dissemination of project's ideas and results.

The most significant activities carried out comprised the development of the operational paratransit system, the well organised and successful implementation of the pilot project demonstrated in the Municipality of Philippi in Greece and the analysis of user's requirements.

The development of suitable algorithms for the routing and scheduling procedure, the build up of database system, the development of system interfaces and build up of communication system was the specific work performed in order to ensure the operational pilot actions of the paratransit system. Also working issues such as the system architecture the enhancement of software and hardware configurations were performed in order to ensure the success of the pilot implementation.

The first methodology involved the forecast concerning the transportation needs of a specific area of application. This methodology dealt with the problem of transportation needs estimation for the area of application. In the municipality of Philippi there was no way to retrieve historical data in order to estimate transportation needs. A solution to this problem was the use of survey. The survey was used to identify:
1. daily or weekly trip habits (origin, destination, time of transit) in order to define a trip number for every week day;
2. the user perception of the most interesting trip features for the model;
3. charging price, in relation to existing means of transport for a specific set of service quality parameters;
4. waiting time (pickup or deliver time windows);
5. maximum trip travel time in relation to the shortest path distance (taxi time) travel time.

For the first methodology concerning the transportation needs forecasting via a survey an appropriate survey for this area was conducted. The purpose of the survey was to investigate the market potential and the potential acceptance of the system in a rural community in Greece. The questionnaire was specially designed to capture the potential acceptance of the inhabitants of the area towards the proposed system. Data was collected through face-to-face interviews, carried out by trained people that had a good knowledge of the area, the available modes of transport and the population's mobility needs.

The second methodology was the estimation of the profitability concerning a proposed paratransit system. In order to achieve an economically viable DRT system, it is important to assess whether the proposed transportation system can be profitable. Basic elements of the developed methodology were: trip data, definition of service key parameters and the convergence process. In the first survey data is gathered and then analysed, in order to infer the population's transportation needs and service-quality related factors. The final step is the convergence process, where a guided search is performed, in order to define the critical point where the system becomes profitable.

For the second methodology concerning the estimation of the profitability, the following convergence process was presented, that was used in order to identify the profitability critical points. In order to reach the desirable point where the system would become profitable, an extensive guided search sequence was conducted by running multiple iterations of various dial-a-ride algorithms. The convergence algorithm has been designed to reach that point while maintaining the values of the service quality parameters unchanged.

The simple insertion algorithm that has been used is a variation of the one presented by jaw. The basic task of that algorithm is to create (specific trips assigned to specific vehicles) an initial solution that can be used as a reference by the proposed very large scale neighbourhood (VLSN) heuristic. Two exact approaches have been explored in INMOSION: a mixed integer linear program (MILP) relying on the formulation of the previous section and an implicit enumeration based on Psaraftis' dynamic programming (DP) algorithm.

The end-result of the project was an operational paratransit system, demonstrated in the Municipality of Philippi in Greece, as described previously. During the pilot actions the consortium contacted surveys (during - after) the use of the innovative transport system with the passengers, in order to indentify users preferences, needs and other important information. The evaluation of the system measures, such as performance efficiency cost and pricing, was also one of the main objectives of the consortium.

The impact of INMOSION has been twofold. In the area of scientific research, the main impacts included the production of:
1. three new dial-a-ride algorithms and the implementation of these algorithms in order to be usable by a real application;
2. the convergence process and convergence algorithm which is a scientific tool to the hands of any possible investor in order to identify the profitably of a proposed transportation system.

In the area of the related industry sectors, the main impact was the production itself of a real operational system application that is being used in the Municipality of Philippi. This application is fully operational and can be used at a fully operational environment. In comparison to other commercial products it is:
1. completely open source;
2. completely non depended of any propriety software and data;
3. completely web-based application.

Related documents