Improving public transport, while also making it more sustainable, does not happen overnight.  

Let’s take Barcelona as an example. Spain’s second most populous city was recently cited as one of the world’s best in terms of smart city government, where it scored high on vision, leadership, and innovation.  

Indeed, the city sets its strategies around three priorities: economic, social, and sustainable. All aim at improving quality of life while respecting the environment with the support of technology. 

The dense metropolitan area of Barcelona, about 630 square kilometres in size and home to 3.2 inhabitants, relies heavily on a public transport network.  

The city’s strategy toward improving public transport is remarkable. Its core aim is to make mass transit sustainable, efficient, safe, inclusive, and smart.  

The cost of building and maintaining public transport infrastructure can run into billions of euros. And the infrastructure must be made to last for decades. Therefore, each investment to improve public transport is carefully considered. Planners need to collect data from local traffic analyses and forecasts, as well as demographics and other elements.  

Based on these figures, transport planners create models. Those form the basis for the planning and decision-making of future construction projects.  


Demand models to improve public transport 

One of the main agencies working to improve public transport along these principals is the Barcelona Metropolitan Transport Authority, or ATM. Since 2009, it has been using PTV Group software for improving public transport planning.  

With PTV Visum software for  strategic and operative mobility analysis, ATM creates demand models. Those are then used to test different scenarios as possibilities for public transport supply.  

One of ATM’s first studies was a demand analysis of the entire bus and tram network, compared to other public transport modes. The end aim of this study was to reduce travel time for all users, while checking the economic feasibility of existing and planned services.   

Thanks to this and several other studies, the authorities could estimate the socio-economic and environmental effects of various public transport measures. For example, the impacts of introducing an inter-city exchange for the underground, bus, and tram. 


Improving public transport in La Rambla 

Another remarkable project by ATM was in the famous La Rambla. Known to all residents and tourists, this lively avenue is the beating heart of Barcelona. At 1.2 kilometres long, La Rambla is busy day and night. It consists of a wide central pedestrian walkway of about 35 meters, bordered by two car lanes. 

A few years ago, ATM embarked on a major redesign of Barcelona’s bus network, to improve its efficiency and service. At the heart of the redesign was simplifying the network by combining a set of horizontal bus lines (parallel to the coastline) and vertical ones (between the sea and the mountains).  

The plan included making La Rambla more accessible by bus, and ATM wanted to analyse the effects of the planned measures on the popular avenue. The study analysed the introduction of a new vertical bus line, the V13, and the different options for connecting this line to the tourist area of the city.  

Using PTV Visum software, ATM created a simulation model with detailed insights on:  

  • Gains and losses of passenger numbers in urban bus lines and other modes of public transportation 
  • Effects on passenger’s travel times. 
  • Changes to the accessibility of the public transport network. 

The conclusions of the study pointed that the most appropriate solution would be to maintain the existing bus services through La Rambla.  


Strategic planning to improve public transport 

According to Vidal Roca, a PTV Manager who was involved in these activities, “ATM is a good example of how strategic planning can be combined with a citizen-oriented mobility vision. It shows how to use modelling software to support the strategy of a sustainable and efficient metropolitan transport system.”  

With PTV Visum simulations, ATM created scenarios for many of its new projects, such as high-occupancy bus lanes, bicycle lanes, and parking restrictions. The scenarios created with PTV Visum now play an important role in Barcelona’s master and infrastructure plans for the next decade, which focus on efficient, sustainable, and equal mobility. 

Tech to improve public transport 

The software helping cities adopt the right policies  

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