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EUROCITIES smart cities: A tool to improve traffic management in Birmingham

  • knowledge society
  • mobility

Through its involvement in the OPTICITIES project, Birmingham is developing and testing a ‘Decision Support Tool’ for traffic management.

Birmingham’s Decision Support Tool (DST) analyses traffic behaviour in the city in order to predict the status of the city’s traffic in the immediate future – around 30 to 60 minutes in advance.

The tool will enable the city’s traffic manager to identify any potential events or bottlenecks in the network and to communicate these with stakeholders. It will also allow the traffic manager to devise and test mitigation strategies for specific traffic-related events and to automate these where they prove successful.

The DST is currently being tested on four of the main traffic arteries around the city, and on one other road where testing is aimed specifically at freight traffic.

The DST is presented in the form of an online map where traffic incidents can be easily pinpointed. The DST analyses historic, predictive and real-time datasets in fields such as traffic flow and journey time, and identifies any anomalies within these. These anomalies are then proposed as ‘candidate events’- or suspected traffic incidents – and cross-checked by multiple sources. This allows operators to understand whether these alerts are valid or false. The alerts then need to be classified according to their severity and the type of incident.

The tool is currently undergoing a test phase to assess its effectiveness and accuracy in predicting traffic flow incidents. This analysis also allows the city’s traffic manager to gain an overview of the network’s behaviour: what kind of incidents occur where around the network. This evaluation phase takes into account feedback from users and identifies where improvements still need to be made.

This rigorous testing of the tool is enabling it to be continually improved. At this stage, very few events are going undetected – just 2% - and the margin for error is very small, with 1% of false alarms.

This tool enables the city to put in place quick and potentially automated mitigation measures, such as notifying the media, publishing information on the incident and affected journey times, setting road signs, informing key stakeholders and adjusting signals. Ultimately, the tool could help make traffic in Birmingham run more smoothly and safely.

OPTICITIES, funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme, is supporting the development and testing of interoperable intelligent transport systems (ITS) solutions in six different European cities to provide citizens with the best possible journey conditions and to optimise urban logistics. More at

The technical aspects of the Birmingham Decision Support Tool are explained in more detail in one of the OPTICITIES deployment guidelines, which are being gradually uploaded on the stakeholder forum at It will also be presented at the upcoming ITS Europe Conference in Glasgow on 7-8 June 2016, and demonstrated at an OPTICITIES study visit in Birmingham on 13 July.


From 17 May to 17 June we are showcasing our work on smart cities through EUROCITIES smart cities month. Join our Twitter campaign @EUROCITIEStweet via #smartercities. 


Photo by Daniel Gregory, Flickr

EUROCITIES staff contact

Peter Staelens