With bus services being canceled, the local bank closed and the next doctor or hospital miles away, people in rural areas feel “off the radar” and “left behind”. But what needs to be done to ensure a certain level of public service provision in rural areas? A German project is to develop a digital tool allowing planners to make informed location-based decisions.
How far away do people live from public services such as doctors’ surgeries, schools or supermarkets, and how quickly can they reach them? What is the impact on health care access if a hospital has to close? Is a new kindergarten needed and if so, where would be best build? And what about recreational facilities, such as public pools or sports fields?
The new web application developed by PTV Group experts will help planners to quickly visualize the impact of planned measures and changes on the access to public services, including public transit. The digital tool will be tested in three mostly rural counties in the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg serving as a model.
Web-tool supports decision-making
“This new digital planning solution will become an effective decision-making tool. It allows to simulate various scenarios and measures in regional and traffic planning,” explained Dr.-Ing. Volker Waßmuth, who supervises the project for PTV Group. “Rural districts and local authorities will then be able to analyze locations and support them effectively. This is an important aspect, especially during the recent pandemic, which might also force stores in rural areas to shut down.”
In the first phase of the project, the project team collected data on the population structure, relevant points of interests, and the range of mobility services in the three model areas. They compiled data from over 17,000 locations in five categories: education, health, local supply, recreation and culture, and government and services. In the field of mobility, both private transportation by car, bicycle (with and without electrification) or on foot, and public transit services (bus and rail services) were taken into account.
“Of course, this sheer volume of data in itself is of tremendous value. If you then combine these large amounts of data in a model, as is the case here, the value is even higher. This so-called “digital twin” helps you address various challenges objectively and with a sound database. The challenge that our local government is currently facing is to ensure accessibility in our rural regions,” said Peter Hauk, Minister for Rural Areas and Consumer Protection and Member of the State Parliament (MdL), during a video conference on the current status of the project.
PTV Visum software was used to create such a complex accessibility model for the three model regions. And this new accessibility model now forms the basis of PTV’s latest online tool.
“Data visualization in the web application makes it possible to generate information in a straightforward manner. We recently presented the demo version of this user-friendly online tool to the Ministry of Rural Areas and Consumer Protection,” said Dr.-Ing. Volker Waßmuth. And he uses an example to explain how it works (see picture on the left):
“For example, if a high school in my county should be within a 15-minute bike ride from any town, I can see at a glance where this is not the case and can take countermeasures, if required.”
During the next phase, the PTV experts will identify and provide use cases and area-wide assessments, including forecasts for the development until 2030. These projections help planners determine at an early stage what actions are needed to address future challenges.