Following the disastrous traffic congestion caused by unexpectedly high spectator numbers at the 2012 Royal New Zealand Air Force Air Show, organizers of the 2017 event knew they needed to avoid a repeat performance. Fortunately, BlipTrack technology was available to assist, ensuring far smooth traffic flow.

We all know the frustration of traveling to and from major events, and how the increased travel time and lengthy queues can affect the overall mood in the car.

When the Royal New Zealand Air Force celebrated their 75th anniversary in 2012 with an air show, it turned into a gridlock nightmare, with interminable traffic queues weaving for miles, as 70,000 people flocked to the show. This year, with their 80th anniversary coming up, they wanted things to go smoothly and avoid another traffic chaos – in fact; it was an obligation for running the event again.
 
The New Zealand Defense Force acknowledges that after the 2012 event, they needed help. “They learnt from 2012 that they are great at flying planes. They are not so great at putting on large events. The plan was to put on another airshow, but they knew that they had to get it right. They knew they had to change things,” said Event Organizer, Renee Barbour.
 
Faced with the dual challenges of trying to ease traffic congestion and reduce the potential for massive gridlock, the event organizers commissioned consultancy service company Beca to provide detailed information on how traffic flowed around the Ohakea Air Base – which was also a major State Highway intersection. Together with the New Zealand Transport Agency and local councils and others, they worked out a traffic management plan.
 
To help ease the traffic flow by providing spectators with live traffic updates, Beca deployed a network of BlipTrack sensors, produced by Denmark-based BLIP Systems. The solution, already implemented in numerous road networks all over New Zealand, Thailand, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the UK, captures the point-to-point journey patterns and travel time of drivers in real-time, as they pass the sensors.
 
The resulting traffic information could be communicated directly back to motorists in their cars, allowing them to make informed travel decisions, minimize frustration and stagger the continuous arrival of visitors. Both spectators and residents in surrounding neighborhoods were advised to check the transport agency's DriveLive web page for up-to-date information on delays, travel times and even alternative routes.
 
Beca’s Project Manager, Richard Young said: “Providing the Air Tattoo, NZTA and, most importantly, spectators with live and accurate travel information is a key way that we can ensure the event runs smoothly. We had a team working the weekend ready to react to any incident and provide the Air Tattoo team with all the traffic data they needed to keep roads moving. The road network was the busiest of the summer and thanks to using the BlipTrack system we were able to demonstrate that there were minimal delays caused by the Air Tattoo.”
 
Behind the public DriveLive service, the event team had access to monitor the live traffic movements, so while spectators were enjoying the air display, the Air Tattoo team was working hard to ensure that the drive home was as stress-free as possible.
 
The information was continuously updated, in line with the actual behaviour of spectators to and from the show. So, when considering their route and time of departure, the motorists themselves were helping to reduce bottlenecks and keep the traffic moving. 

Spectators responded positively to the traffic management measures and reported smooth traffic flow to and from the show.

Ever-increasing international travel volume is having a serious impact on airports like New Zealand’s Auckland International, which saw over 19 million passengers last year. The airport is taking the increased passenger flow and logistics issues seriously, using a unique combination of traffic and passenger flow measurement technology. The result? Faster travel times, acceptable wait times, less passenger stress and a wealth of information that helps the airports and the city to plan resources more effectively.

Auckland - a growing hub for travel

Auckland Airport expects to host over 40 million passengers annually by the year 2044. To cope with this increase in passenger load, the airport embarked on a wide-ranging and world first combined passenger-flow and road-traffic measurement project, with the goal of obtaining real-time cohesive view of people movement patterns, to guide daily and long-term operational decisions, maximise capacity and improve flow.

In its build, the airport has opted to aim for sustainability, while ensuring that they will not only have the capacity to handle the extra people, but also the capability to make the passenger journey as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Keeping things flowing

Smooth passenger flow, both in the arrival and departure terminals, and the concession and transit waiting areas, as well as on the roads surrounding the airport, is critical to the successful operation of an airport.

Issues with traffic flows can result in delays for passengers, airport staff and airline crew, resulting in disruptions to airport and airline operations.

To manage both passenger and traffic flow, Auckland Airport realised they needed to have a bird’s-eye view of the entire system, as well as detailed, up-close analysis of ongoing issues. They also needed a way to quickly act when things start to bottleneck.

With several traffic monitoring projects in New Zealand, using the same technology, infrastructure consultants Beca was commissioned to extend the solution across the airport’s roading infrastructure. This now provides the airport with a seamless picture of traffic flow information between the airport and Auckland CBD (Central Business District, also called the city centre).

How it works

On the Road

Outside the airport, the solution measures traffic flow between the CBD and the airport, providing real-time data on reliability, vehicle counts and travel time.

It provides data about the mix of staff and passengers using the Park and Ride facility, enabling the airport to better understand the performance and regularly review how they can improve their facilities. This information is also analysed to help planning decisions for road network maintenance and infrastructure projects.

The insights, collected using a range of technologies, including radar and WiFi sensors, also helps the New Zealand Traffic Agency (NZTA) to make informed traffic management decisions, and has allowed for the implementation of a number of initiatives to improve the traffic flow to the airport. This includes optimising traffic signal timings, and  combined with the recent opening of the new constructed Waterview connection, has resulted in significant travel time cuts to and from the airport from the CBD and West Auckland.

In addition, the real-time and historic BlipTrack data enables NZTA, via their new app RideMate and online, to display live travel times between the CBD and airport, as well as informing about days with high risk of congestion. This enable road users to plan ahead, reducing both the risk of travellers missing their flight and airport employees coming in late for work.

Besides the benefits of real-time reporting, the historical data is used to detect driving time anomalies. Effectively, this means that the solution can pinpoint road sections and intersections where driving times deviate from the norm as a result of construction projects, incidents, roadwork, faulty traffic lights and other factors. With this information at hand, real-time traffic management can take place.

Richard Young, Senior Associate at Beca, says: “The intelligence that BlipTrack is delivering has already proved its value, by providing automated alerts on delays on vulnerable corridors, real-time counts on traffic flows and delays, and intelligence on the origin and destination of vehicle movements into the airport and to terminals and car parks.”

In the airport

Inside the airport, the solution provides metrics on passenger queue times and volume, as well as insight into passenger movement patterns throughout the international and domestic terminals´ departure and arrival processes.

This helps the airport better manage and support resources by focusing on high-demand locations and periods. Likewise, the data directly benefits passengers by displaying wait times at security checkpoints, managing passenger expectations and reducing queue-related stress.

Mark Croudace, Manager – Operations at Auckland International Airport, says: “BlipTrack was a critical investment. The data has provided valuable insight into our operational performance across both our assets and processes. Most importantly, it has enabled us to have meaningful conversations with our key operational stakeholders and vendors, as we collectively seek to improve the passenger experience.”

Changing the face of travel

Numerous other international airports, including Amsterdam Schiphol, Copenhagen, Dublin, Brussels, Bristol and Billund, are following suit. These airports have recognised that comprehensive seamless passenger flow data is indispensable in guiding physical expansion plans, and for streamlining operations to accommodate rapid passenger volume growth, without compromising the passenger experience.

“By having Auckland Airport and Beca working together, and by sharing data between multiple solutions, BlipTrack provides a solution that no other product in the industry can currently reproduce – large-scale, seamless, door-to-door movement management between different modes of transport. And because it´s not only limited to certain areas, it can be considered as one of the first real, tangible steps to true multimodal traffic management,” ends Peter Knudsen, CEO of BLIP Systems.

Besides providing airports around the world with seamless passenger flow data, the solution is employed in optimisation efforts in road traffic applications in Switzerland, Thailand, Canada, the UK, Denmark and Sweden. In recent years, it has been rolled out in ports, train stations, ski resorts, amusement parks, and at events around the world.

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Auckland Airport Take to the Streets to Boost City-to-Gate Passenger Experience.

“We know, from using the BlipTrack technology, when the busy peaks are. We use the technology also to actually see how long are the delays we´re causing, doing construction”

Chris Harmer

Traffic Manager at Higgins / M2PP

“BlipTrack helped Thai citizens to travel home faster during two major traffic events: Songkran and New Year holidays. The system allowed not only road users to decide route choices via travel time info online but also the Thai Highway Police to manage traffic in real-time.”

Dr. Songrit Chayanan

Director of Samut Sakhon Highway District.

“BlipTrack has helped us get a better understanding of the dynamic traffic system and provides quantifiable data to support the improvement measures to traffic flows. This will allow us to continue to provide a world-class service to our customers and community by efficiently managing traffic flows in and out of the port.” Read more.

Timothy Godden

General Manager of Strategy and Risk Management at Port of Dover

“The BlipTrack solution helps improve service levels for the municipality commuters. The real-time travel time and wait time information allows drivers to make informed route choices that ultimately distribute traffic and increases the operational performance of the road network.”

Anders Kruse Christiansen

Project Manager at Aarhus Municipality

“The data from the BlipTrack sensors reveals, how reliable traveling times are and how much they vary. Furthermore, they show, which routes are used for shortcuts in peak times. This information is useful for managing road traffic”.

Dr. Christian Ordon

Project Leader at the Office of Transport of the Canton of Zürich.

“The BlipTrack solution is the easiest way of collecting valid data for a travel time measurement. The data, especially when used for collecting travel times and turning ratios, are very accurate.”

Thorsten Kathmann

Project leader at DTV-Verkehrsconsult

“We consider that the ease of extracting traffic data from BlipTrack is significant to see how time savings are achieved. Selecting the required route, date, time, etc. is very straightforward and simple to understand.”

Lee Gilbert

Traffic Engineer at Portsmouth City Council

“The benefits we have gained from the BlipTrack solution since implementation are very significant. We now discover errors and irregularities that we would not have a chance to see otherwise. In addition, it is extremely educational and easy accessible to study how the incidents of various kinds influence the road network.”

Asbjørn Halskov-Sørensen

Project Manager at Aarhus Municipality