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Intelligent Public Transportation Systems: A Review
of Architectures and Enabling Technologies
LOGIQ Research Unit, University of Sfax
Higher Institute of Computer Science of Mahdia
Industrial Engineering Department
College of Engineering, King SAUD University
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Abstract — Intelligent Public Transportation Systems (IPTS) are
a subsystem of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), which
aim to control public transportation networks, to maintain their
performance, and to provide users (passengers and decision
makers) with up-to-date information about trips and network
operating conditions. To reach these aims, IPTS rely on several
technologies that can be embedded within different control
architectures. This paper introduces IPTS components and
technologies, identifies the different types of data captured from
the transportation network and exchanged between IPTS
components, and shows ways to integrate technological
components and data within IPTS architectures. A section is
dedicated to review architectural design of some developed IPTS
to control public transportation networks. Finally, some
challenges are discussed and further research directions are
Keywords — Intelligent Transportation Systems; public
transportation; technologies; architectures;
City life and urbanization have introduced mobility
problems and raised issues concerning transportation of both
people and goods. Public transport (also known as public
transportation or public transit) refers to shared passenger
transport service, which is available for use by the general
public. Public transport modes include buses, trolleybuses,
trams and trains, rapid transit (metro/subways/undergrounds
etc.) and ferries. Public transport between cities is dominated
by airlines, coaches, and intercity rail. High-speed rail
networks are being developed in many parts of the world.
Despite the spread and success of implementing public
transport networks, it is becoming more and more difficult to
guarantee high levels of quality of service for users, for
example in terms of punctuality and frequency of shuttles. This
difficulty is due, on the one hand to the continuous
urbanization, which makes transportation networks grow in
size and, on the other hand, to the ever increasing complexity
of managing transportation networks. Implementing new
intelligent decision support and control systems is becoming
necessary both to manage public transportation networks, and
to assist authorities, who are investing in new means,
infrastructures, information and control systems to improve
mobility in cities.
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) have been
introduced to take full advantage of the existing public
transportation infrastructure, and to enhance its efficiency,
effectiveness and attractiveness. ITS are defined as the
application of advanced communication systems, information
processing, control and electronics technologies to improve the
transportation system and to save lives, time and money .
ITS for public transportation, also called Intelligent Public
Transportation Systems (IPTS), rely on many innovative
technologies, which fostered their development and
implementation. For example, Geographical Information
Systems (GIS) help in designing new routes and shuttles.
Automatic Vehicle Location Systems (AVLS) rely on Global
Positioning Systems (GPS) to localize transportation means
and vehicles. Traveler Information Systems (TIS) provide users
with real-time information about the state of the network. IPTS
also allow for the integration of Decision Support Systems
(DSS), which suggest regulation strategies and control
decisions to maintain the performance of the network. All of
these information systems and technologies share, process and
exchange several types of data provided by diﬀerent detection
devices, and advanced technologies, such as global positioning
satellites (GPS) and sensor networks.
Although a few works, such as  and , discussed
technologies used in the field of public transportation network
management, these works are limited to the presentation of
technical aspects and only present technologies to capture data
from the network. These works do not discuss how
technologies and information systems can be integrated within
IPTS architectures, what kind of data and how this data can be
exchanged through the different IPTS subsystems to achieve
the common and ultimate goal of controlling the transportation
network and optimizing its performance.
Therefore, the aim of our paper is to fill this gap by
presenting an updated review of innovative technologies used
in IPTS. We particularly highlight how required data is
captured. We describe how integration between IPTS data and
components is achieved within architectures that are able to
suggest suitable regulation strategies and control decisions to
reach the ultimate goal of controlling the transportation
network and optimizing its performance. Therefore, the
purpose of this paper is not to analyze existing IPTS but rather
to present its different components, architectural layers, and
enabling information and communication technologies. The
paper is organized as follows: Section 2 introduces the
intelligent public transportation systems (IPTS). Section 3
presents different communication and information technologies
integrated in IPTS. Section 4 reviews works suggesting
architectures to integrate these technologies within Intelligent
Public Transportation Systems (IPTS). We conclude by
discussing some challenges and highlighting further research
directions related to IPTS design and implementation issues.
FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
The European Union (EU) Directive 2010/40/EU defines
ITS as systems in which information and communication
technologies are applied in the field of road transport to
manage infrastructure, vehicles, users (passengers and decision
makers), traffic flows and mobility within cities, and to
interface with other modes of transport. According to this
definition, ITS are made of several subsystems including:
− Advanced Traffic Management Systems: ATMS act on
traffic signals to control traffic flows and to enhance
mobility in cities.
− Advanced Rural Transportation Systems: ARTS focus
on traffic management in rural environments.
− Commercial Vehicle Operation Systems: CVOS monitor
commercial vehicles, trucks and vans using satellite
based navigation systems.
− Advanced Public Transportation Management Systems
(APTMS), also called Intelligent Public Transportation
Systems (IPTS)  or Advanced Pubic Transportation
Systems (APTS) : these systems rely on a set of
advanced communication, information processing,
control and electronics technologies to control public
In this paper, we only focus on Intelligent Public
Transportation Systems, which we refer to as IPTS. Our
purpose is to present technologies used in IPTS and to discuss
architectural aspects to show how these technologies can be
integrated within a control system.
IPTS are intended to analyze and evaluate the status of
transportation networks, to detect disturbances (such as
accidents, technical problems, traffic congestion, etc.) that can
affect prescheduled timetables and make them deviate from
their expected performance and/or behavior, and to suggest
efficient regulation strategies and control decisions to maintain
the performance of the network. IPTS provide users with up-to-
date information about the status of transportation networks.
The development and implementation of IPTS improves the
quality of service of public transportation networks and
promotes the use of public transportation means in cities, thus
contributing to reduce congestion and pollution and to improve
mobility. Several measures of effectiveness of IPTS were
proposed and detailed in . These measures include indicators
about safety, mobility, efficiency, productivity, energy,
environment, and customer satisfaction. To reach high levels of
Quality of Service, IPTS rely on a wide variety of technologies
and applications that can be grouped in five main categories:
1. Automatic Vehicle Location Systems: AVLS provide
decision makers with real-time information about
vehicles, such as location, speed and direction of
vehicles, and information about delays due to
disturbances, such as traffic congestion, accidents, bad
weather conditions, or road repair work.
2. Traveler Information Systems: TIS provide passengers
with real-time information about the operating
conditions of the network, such as scheduled shuttles and
arrival and departure times of vehicles.
3. Automatic Passenger Counters: APC count on-board
passengers and those waiting for vehicles at stop
4. Geographic Information Systems: GIS allow an instant
mapping and follow up of the progress of vehicles on
their routes. GIS also allow for the design and
implementation of new routes and shuttles.
5. Decision Support Systems: DSS assist decision makers
in controlling the transportation network by suggesting
control decisions and regulation strategies when
unexpected events or deviations from expected
performance and/or behavior occur.
These technologies will be presented in more detail in the
Several technologies allow IPTS to retrieve data from
multiple sensor systems, to supervise and control the
transportation network. Information and communication
technologies are widely used in IPTS. Vehicles, stations,
operation centers and other transportation infrastructure are
equipped with recent technologies including tracking systems
(such as GPS or radio navigation), infrared beams, wireless
equipment and communication infrastructure (GSM and GPRS
networks). These communication systems enable vehicles,
passengers and decision makers to interact with the different
components of the IPTS as illustrated in figure 1.
These technological devices enable decision makers to
monitor the network performance and to make suitable control
decisions to insure good operating conditions. This section
identifies and presents information and communication
technologies integrated within an IPTS.
DSS :decision Support System, AVL : Automatic Vehicle Location,
TIS : Traveler Information System, VMS : Variable Message Sign,
APC: Automatic Passenger Counter, GIS : Geographic Information
System, CCTV: Closed Circuit TeleVision
Figure 1. Intelligent Transportation system
A. Automatic Vehicle Location Systems
Automatic Vehicle Location Systems (AVLS) provide
information regarding the exploitation of a transportation
network. In the scientific literature, such systems are often
referred to under several names, such as Automatic Vehicle
Monitoring Systems AVMS , Automatic Vehicle Location
AVL , Exploitation Aid System EAS [8-9] or Exploitation
Support System ESS . In this paper, we refer to these
systems as AVLS.
Such systems give a global overview of a transportation
network and provide real time information through the use of
several vehicle location and tracking technologies. Data
provided by AVLS includes updated states of timetable
execution, delays, and vehicles in advance. The
implementation of AVLS has greatly facilitated the task of
decision makers because AVLS can monitor real-time
operation of a public transportation network and process a very
large amount of network information.
One of the first forms of vehicle tracking technologies
being used was the ground based radio system (GBR). It
determines location based on the reception of signals and the
associated timings from various transceivers. As reported in
, the accuracy of this system is not consistent especially in
urban areas as they are highly susceptible to radio frequency
and electromagnetic interference from power lines and
substations in urban and industrial areas.
Signpost and Odometer were also among the primary
technologies used for vehicle tracking. With this technology,
receivers are placed on vehicles, while transmitters are placed
along vehicle routes. Vehicles transmit a low-powered signal
as they pass by these transmitters, and the mileage is noted.
AVLS based on this technology have some drawbacks. For
example, Signpost transmitters require periodic maintenance
(to replace battery for example). Furthermore, the creation of
new routes requires the placement of new transmitters.
Due to limitations of GBR and Signpost/Odometer
technologies and with the development of applications in
electronics and digital communications, Global Positioning
Systems (GPS) became the most popular systems for vehicle
tracking . GPSs are space-based satellite navigation
systems that provide location and time information in all
weather, anywhere on Earth. This system was developed by US
department of defense to serve the military need to locate
vehicles. The system uses a total of 24 satellites . In
transportation systems, vehicles are equipped with a GPS
antenna, which communicates with four or more satellites to
give the location of the vehicle.
Galileo is another global navigation satellite system
developed by the European Union to provide high-precision
positioning independently from the American GPS. Some
European IPTS use this navigation system such as CIVITAS
. Satellite based navigation systems give a good precision
only with the presence of line of sight between the receiver and
satellites. Otherwise, the signal will be attenuated and, thus,
vehicles cannot be tracked. Due to this limitation, RFID
technology is also used as vehicle tracking systems .
Other technologies are integrated in IPTS to locate vehicles
in the network. For example, Closed Circuit TeleVision
(CCTV) are coupled with image processing techniques to
monitor vehicles in the public transportation network of
London by the use of 2000 cameras installed in the routes and
B. Traveler Information Systems
ITS for public transport integrate technologies to provide
information to travelers or to operation centers. A “Traveler” is
defined as a person who changes location by any transportation
mode. Some authors also consider vehicle drivers as travelers
, while others only consider passengers as travelers .
The main goal of Traveler Information Systems (TIS), also
referred to as Real-time Passenger Information System RTPIS
, is to provide real time information to travelers about the
state and operating conditions of the network, such as vehicles
arrival time, and assist them to allow informed pre-trip and en
route decision making.
According to Adler and Blue , two generations of TIS
exist. The first one is the Variable Message Signs (VMS) that
provides information about vehicles. VMS are used in stations
to provide travelers with important information about the
network, such as vehicle waiting time or presence of incidents.
Data are sent to VMS via communication infrastructure, such
as GSM  or wireless network .
The second generation is the Advanced Traveler
Information System (ATIS), which uses recent technologies,
such as internet or mobile phones, to provide information about
traffic conditions, route guidance and en route traveler
information in a more real time manner.
Several TIS were developed to assist travelers in making
pre-trip and en route travel decisions, such as Intelligent
Traveler Information Systems ITIS by Adler and Blue ,
Path2Go by Zhang et al. , and work by Praveen et al. .
RAPID is another commercial TIS developed by Sigtec
company using SMS, web and street displays. RAPID solution
incorporates an AVLS system to send up-to-date information
about vehicle arrival times to passengers.
To provide more efficient data on vehicle travel or arrival
time estimates to passengers, TIS are based on AVLS [23. For
example, SITREPA  is an IPTS which integrates an AVLS
and TIS and tested in the city of Leiria (Portugal). As other
IPTS, SITREPA acquires data from AVLS and provides
information to satisfy the needs of different actors in the
public-transportation system as passengers or decision makers.
C. Automatic Passenger Counters
Automatic Passenger Counters (APC) are systems that
count on-board passengers and those waiting for vehicles at
stop stations. Such information can be used to analyze the
global performance of the transportation system . It can be
used to calculate average vehicle travel speeds and dwell times
. APC can interface with AVLS to provide transit agencies
with transit origin-destination data .
The first generation of APC was based on manual ride
checks to collect the necessary data on boarding and alighting
activities. Recently, communication technologies are widely
used to develop more efficient APC. Such technologies include
treadle mats and infrared beams, which recognize passengers
when the beam is broken. Computer imaging is also used,
which is based on intelligent image detection systems to
recognize and count on board passengers .  evaluated
the performance, in terms of accuracy and precision, of on-
board camera and other APC systems. They reported that
camera systems are more precise than on-board ride checkers.
D. Geographic Information Systems
Geographic Information Systems (GISs) capture, store,
manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of
geographical data related for example to vehicle route design
. The first task of a GIS is to code data collected by
tracking systems, such as GPS or Galileo systems (see
subsection A). Thus, the connection of GIS to GPS allows
instant mapping and follow up of the progress of vehicles on
their routes, and localization of disturbances on the
transportation network . In many ITS, GIS is also used for
analyzing the traffic flow , for evaluating and ranking
vehicle service  and for transportation network design .
In the last few decades, researches focused on automating the
route-planning process using GIS technology . Some
commercial GIS software, such as ArcGIS  or MapInfo
, exist and can be used to develop digital maps and to
realize basic GIS functions.
E. Decision Support Systems
Decision support systems (DSS), also called Scheduling
and Dispatching Software , have two main objectives:
timetable establishment and control strategies building.
The first common objective of DSS is the establishment of
efficient transportation timetables that satisfy passengers, who
expect high levels of quality of service, in terms of timely and
regular shuttles. Transportation timetables are initially
established taking into account information about forecasts of
traffic conditions, rush hours, demand for transportation, etc.
. Several works use either exact  or heuristic 
methods to determine timetables that optimize one or several
objectives, such as minimizing total trip time or cost ,
minimizing passenger waiting time, or minimizing passenger
in-vehicle time .
However, during the execution of pre-established
timetables, disturbances may appear that can make these
timetables deviate from their expected course, causing them
either to be delayed or to become obsolete . When they
occur, such disturbances like accidents, traffic congestion,
absence of personnel, bad weather conditions, etc., degrade the
expected performance of the transportation network, decrease
its expected quality of service, yield to passenger
dissatisfaction, and may cause the appearance of congestion at
stations or on transportation pathways. Consequently, decision
makers have to monitor the execution of pre-established
timetables, and to make reaction decisions in order to bridge
the gap between pre-established timetables and really executed
The second objective of DSS is to maintain the
performance of pre-established timetables at acceptable levels.
DSS have to analyze incoming data from Automatic Vehicle
Location systems (AVLS) and Automatic Passenger Counters
(APC) in order to detect serious delays of vehicles. When such
is the case, DSS have to suggest suitable control decisions and
regulation strategies to eliminate or at least reduce deviation
from predefined timetables. Several works suggested control
decisions; including holding strategies [37-49] and stop
skipping strategies . DSS can receive information from
special equipment, such as panic buttons. In some cities like
Washington DC in USA  or La Rochelle in France ,
stations are equipped with panic buttons that can be activated
by passengers, operators or drivers to alert passengers and
operation centers to take immediate action.
According to , DSS must integrate three main phases:
− Diagnostics phase: it consists in monitoring and
analyzing the transportation network to detect
disturbances, anomalies and deviations from expected
performance and/or behavior using AVLS.
− Decision construction phase: the system suggests
control decisions and regulation strategies for the
detected disturbances, anomalies and deviations.
− Decision evaluation phase: control decisions and
regulation strategies are evaluated using simulation
 or exact methods  to select the best alternative
to be applied.
Several studies were proposed to design DSS to control
public transportation networks, such as TRSS , MASDAT
, SMAST , and systems by Masmoudi et al. ,
and , and . Such systems receive information from
AVLS, TIS and APC via radio or other communication
technologies, such as cellular phones or modems.
Several studies were proposed to design IPTS architectures.
Davidsson et al.  pointed out that, at least until year 2005,
64% of the existing research focused mainly on design issues
and architectural aspects. These architectures integrate a
variety of information systems that receive data from sensors.
As illustrated in figure 2, these data concern vehicles (vehicle
location, routes, direction, next station, and accidents),
passengers (waiting or on-board passengers) or other incidents
(technical problems). These data are sent to IPTS subsystems
such as DSS or TIS using communication networks as GSM,
Modem or Wireless networks. The DSS analyzes received data
to monitor the execution of pre-established timetables and
make reaction decisions in order to bridge the gap between pre-
established timetables and really executed ones.
Most of developed IPTS implement Interactive Decision
Support systems, considered as the core of an IPTS, integrating
the decision maker in the decision loop (figure 2). With respect
to the integration of decision makers in the loop,  identify
two types of cooperation between decision makers and decision
support systems: horizontal and vertical. In the horizontal
cooperation, decision makers and DSS dynamically share the
tasks to be per-formed. In such architecture, traffic data
provided by AVLS and APC are only analyzed by the DSS that
generates the best decision. This kind of cooperation is used in
autonomous systems in which the only task of decision makers
consists in supervising the decision making process. However,
in a vertical cooperation, DSS can be considered as a guide to
the support decisions. In such cooperation, decision makers
assist the system. Decision makers can interact with the system
in each step of the information processing or the decision
Several public transportation agencies over the world have
implemented intelligent transportation systems to insure a high
quality of service to passengers.
For example,  reported that more than 122 agencies
have implemented an IPTS in USA. They reported also that
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Decision Support
Systems (DSS) were the most widely used technologies.
Another example, CIVITAS  is an IPTS funded by the
European Commission and implemented in 60 European cities,
including La Rochelle, London or Frankfort. Within CIVITAS,
different components of Public Transport Information systems
− TIS via boards and terminals, on and off the public
transport system, via SMS and/or e-mail
− Internet services providing public transport
− Over ground network map and mini map available
on board public transport vehicles and other
campaigns and information material to promote
− Real-time traffic and parking information for
drivers via Variable Message Signs
Intelligent Public Transportation System
Automatic Vehicle Location
Decision Support System
Vehicles position, Direction
Routes, Next station
Figure 2. Information systems for IPTS
 developed an IPTS, named TRSS, designed according
to a vertical architecture. The system integrates an AVLS
(using GPS system), which provides vehicle tracking
information to a multi agent decision support system.
SITREPA  is another IPTS tested in the city of Leiria
(Portugal). The system combines GPS and RFID technologies
to locate vehicles on the network. It integrates a TIS to provide
real time information about the network.
The main objective of this paper is to identify technologies
on which intelligent public transportation systems (IPTS) rely
to control transportation networks. We identified several
technologies, such as Traveler Information Systems,
Geographic Information Systems, Automatic Vehicle Location
Systems and Decision Support Systems, which are all based on
advanced information and communication technologies. These
systems exchange different types of data, such as vehicle
location, messages, alerts and videos. With respect to existing
works, such as  and , our survey focused on highlighting
architectural integration of data and technologies rather than
presenting technical aspects of information and communication
Our literature survey shows that several directions must be
explored to improve the integration of all advanced information
systems. Due to the number of subsystems, the diversity and
the quantity of exchanged data, IPTS must insure a high
interoperability level in existing architectures. Therefore, new
subsystems must be developed and integrated in architectures,
which have to automatically analyze all type of data and detect
events that will affect the performance of the network. Thus,
they must be as generic as possible to detect any type of
disturbing event. To the best of our knowledge, this direction is
not well explored and no generic tools were proposed.
Furthermore, such subsystems must be compatible with actual
IPTS and support existing technologies without changing
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