1. The Context
Pilot site characteristics
Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece, with over a million citizens living in its greater area. Situated in Northern Greece, Thessaloniki plays an important social, financial, and commercial role in the national and greater Balkan region. Congestion and traffic are issues as a result of the developing transportation hub within the city. Total vehicles on the road exceeds 750,000, including private cars, heavy vehicles and motorcycles. The total travel demand for a typical weekday is over a million journeys with the city centre attracting 10% of all trips, while the suburbs contribute an additional 30%.
Watch the pilot video here:
2. The Challenge
Galileo set to solve local mobility issues
The elongated shape of Thessaloniki as it wraps around the bay dictates that its urban design is divided into four major axes crossing the city. Three of these pass through the city centre.
Transport is mostly covered by private vehicles because of:
- The strong car dependency of most Greeks, even if less exaggerated in cities.
- The low level of public transport services.
As a result, congestion levels in the centre are high most of the day. Authorities tried to reduce congestion by improving the traffic light system along one of the three arterial routes in 2012 with the installation of a responsive traffic light system. In addition, the police authorities mostly concentrate upon this axis aiming to reduce illegal parking, which lowers road capacity by 25% every day.
Since those two measures had limited impact, it is necessary to tackle the problem from the roots. The sharing economy represents a game changer, as has been demonstrated in other cities around the world. The city is promoting the sharing economy by improving effective use of resources, not only the existing infrastructure, but also individual transport options including vehicles themselves. At national level there are car sharing initiatives driven by users themselves – CarPooling – while at urban level, a few initiatives – HopInside – have started recently due to the continued strikes of the only public transport operator in Thessaloniki. There are also professional initiatives from commercial fleets, such as shared-taxis – TaxiWay – which is affiliated with half of the city’s taxi drivers (1200 in total). Galileo4Mobility is an opportunity to develop a proof-of-concept for shared-taxis in Thessaloniki since most elements are already in place.
The mobility eco-system in Thessaloniki is fully developed. Authorities collaborate actively with CERTH-HIT in implementing large-scale cooperative ITS pilots – COMPASS4D, CO-GISTICS, C-Mobile and SAFER-LC – in the city with the support of professional fleets such as TaxiWay. CERTH-HIT developed and maintains info-mobility services based on state-of-the-art technologies: Mobithess, Easytrip – which are largely used by citizens of Thessaloniki. A new public transport (metro) will soon be operable and the existing one based on buses will be open to new companies, so there will be more competition, which will hopefully culminate in better and cheaper services. All these elements are fundamental for a MaaS scheme in Thessaloniki, which is part of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan for the city.
3. The Technology
4. The Pilot
The Galileo For Mobility demo will aim at alleviating traffic congestion in the city centre by reducing commuting trips from two zones located to the east of the city. The mobility pilot in Thessaloniki will be based on a taxi/ride-sharing service provided by Taxiway. A fleet of 20 taxis will collect passengers from the Thessaloniki suburbs and provide a return trip to the city centre. To concentrate trips in as few vehicles as possible the origin and destination of each journey will be recorded throughout the trial period. The taxis will work on a flat rate basis, mostly funded by the project. After Galileo For Mobility, the service provision will continue and the number of taxis will increase, while the costs will be covered through MaaS credits purchased by Taxiway users.
The two target zones are composed of four municipalities in total, each with different characteristics such as the service of alternative transport modes (buses mostly) and with respect to socio-economic characteristics:
Municipality of Thermi (suburb 1):
Thermi is located on the eastern side of Thessaloniki, 15 km away from the city centre, and covers an area of 385.3 km2 from the south-eastern coast of Thermaikos gulf to the mountains of Hortiatis and Holomontas. The population of the municipality is 53.070 (2011 census) and it consists of three municipal units: Thermi, Mikra and Vasilika. The airport of Thessaloniki “Macedonia”, which serves both national and international flights, is located in Thermi making the area a commuter hub of 1.3 million visitors in 2013.
Kalamaria (suburb 2):
Kalamaria is located on the coast, 7 km southeast of the centre. It is one of the largest municipalities in terms of population both in Thessaloniki and Greece. It is the third largest municipality in Thessaloniki’s greater Metropolitan area with 91,279 inhabitants (2011 census) and covers an area of 7,2 km2. However, it is estimated that the real population of the area is more likely around 120,000 inhabitants. The neighboring municipalities are Pilea-Hortiatis to the southeast and Thessaloniki to the north while sea surrounds the northwest. Kalamaria is divided into several districts, namely: Kifisia, Karampournaki, Kouri-Katirli, Aretsou, Nea Krini, Ag.Ioannis, Bizantio, Ag. Pandeleimonas, Navarxos Votsis, Foinikas, Derkon.
The municipality has a good public transport network, which services the city centre. There are fewer connections to the other areas, so the use of public transport is lower, especially in Thermi, where only one bus connects the city centre after one change in a peripheral hub. Car ownership is high in these areas, which is why Galileo For Mobility will be introduced as an alternative.
These predominantly suburban municipalities are out of the urban core. There are also some areas within these municipalities, which belong to the exurb area of Thessaloniki. Within the suburban area, there is limited possibility to reach the city centre without using private cars, especially at night, because public transportation does not operate after midnight. The Galileo For Mobility service can provide a comfortable and cost-effective “home to work” and “home to leisure” solution for suburban residents. Furthermore, citizens from exurb locations can reach the suburbs by ride sharing and can reach their final central destination by using public transport (or continue with the shared taxi until their destination).
One major aspect for a successful Living Lab is the promotion campaign to attract users. The communication action plan should focus on convincing potential users to leave their private car and shift to a more environmentally friendly mode of transport. The power and influence of social media and the internet are indisputable. In this way, promotion through social media and the municipalities’ or other local websites will be vital to persuade private car owners. Moreover, information leaflets at the main central areas of the four municipalities, and in the central Thessaloniki, will explain the solution to potential users and encourage their use. Radio spots in particular will attract the attention of private car users.
The service will exploit the benefits provided by Galileo in order to accelerate the collection of passengers by taxi drivers (better accuracy in positioning), determine the O/D and distance of trips for users and drivers, and characterize driving behavior. Hybridization with available 802.11p Road-Side units to improve positioning will be explored.
Two partners are involved in the Thessaloniki pilot.
- CERTH/HIT provide the back-office service responsible for matching requests to available vehicles as well as adapting and integrating project components to the Thessaloniki pilot. Synergies with the public transport on demand pilot in Barcelona will be maximized, since some modules might be re-used for both pilots.
- Taxiway are responsible for integrating the service into their dispatching service as well as offering the mobility services to end-users in Thessaloniki.