Evaluating the environmental impacts of bus priority strategies at traffic signals.
University of Southampton, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment,
Buses, the main form of public transport in many urban areas, are considered as an efficient and environmentally friendly transport mode because of their high passenger capacity. The concept of bus priority was originally proposed to protect buses from urban traffic congestion so that buses can be perceived as a faster mode than private cars. One such measure which is expanding in extent and sophistication is bus priority at traffic signals – or Bus Signal Priority (BSP) Strategies. The previous research on BSP has mostly focused on its effectiveness on improving bus efficiency and bus regularity/punctuality, as well as the impacts on general traffic. However the potential environmental impacts that could be caused by BSP have not been studied, particularly on emissions - despite this being an increasingly important criterion in transport assessments. For bus priority implementations this could be particularly important, if the small disbenefits to a large number of the nonpriority vehicles outweigh the benefits to buses. This lack of knowledge and potential concern has been the main motivation for this research.
The thesis sets out a comprehensive review on the state-of-the-art BSP systems and evaluation approaches. It revealed that microscopic traffic simulation models are the most appropriate approach for this study with the ability to model different BSP strategies in various user-defined scenarios. The Aimsun model was selected after review and comparison. From the review on the measurement and modelling approaches for transport related emissions, instantaneous emission models were found to be able to estimate emission behaviour by relating emission rates to vehicle operation during a series of short time intervals (often one second) and for a small scale. This was required by this study as at junction areas emissions could be dominated by vehicle operational modes where the traditionally ‘average speed’ models were unable to accurately capture the emission variations. The dynamic and individual-oriented features of microsimulation models and instantaneous emission models enabled their integration at various spatial and temporal levels and at different levels of vehicle aggregation.
After calibration and validation to some critical parameters in Aimsun, a signalised junction under VA control was set up, and two BSP strategies were modelled, - one including green extension and early green recall facilities and the other one including additional compensation and inhibition facilities. These strategies were applied to 18 typical scenarios, involving variables of ‘degree of saturation’, traffic flows and bus flows.
The results illustrated the importance of strategy optimising in the more challenging conditions of junctions operating under high degrees of saturation and /or high bus flows. The worst-case scenario was in heavy traffic conditions with high bus flows and BSP on the minor road only, when emissions could increase by about 10%. Under a free flow condition implementing BSP on the main road is an environmentally friendly measure with emissions reductions of up to 6%.The thesis also describes a method to value emissions in monetary terms, so that operational and emissions impacts can be compared in common units. Application of this method indicated that the impact of emissions is much smaller than that for delay/journey time impacts, though some under-estimation in emissions valuation is suspected.
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