Connecting Barcelona outskirts

From August 1st Shotl will start providing dispatch services, as well as a matching platform, for a new intelligent and flexible transport system in the residential area of Vallirana, a suburb of Barcelona.

Providing frequent and cost-effective public transport in scattered residential areas is a challenge to planners, operators, and metropolitan administrations. As a consequence, car dependency is often high in these locations. Difficulties related to accessibility and topography become a major challenge in areas that have steep serpentine streets. These areas  are not ideal for alternative non-motorised modes of transport, such as walking and cycling.

The Municipality of Vallirana has several such residential areas with almost half of its 15,600 inhabitants spread out over 490 hectares. Shotl is actively working with the municipal bus operator “Soler i Sauret” to solve the challenge of providing efficient public transport services in the region. The pre-launch phase has now been successfully completed and the project will officially start on August 1st 2018. The project will see the transformation of services from the previously fixed bus routes into a flexible service that connects various residential areas with the town center of Vallirana. From its center, passengers are able to connect onto inter-urban bus lines that link Vallirana with Barcelona as well as numerous other towns.

This operation improves the first and last mile connectivity within a very low-density area of Barcelona. The project has been carefully planned and executed; relevant permits have been obtained from authorities and the detailing of operational aspects (stops, service hours, connection to other services, etc.) has been arranged. During the preparation and pre-launch period, the following three technical challenges were resolved:

  • Limited driver phone signal: this is a challenge in peripheral areas such as Vallirana’s Mas de les Fonts neighborhood where there are several network dead zones (in terms of mobile availability). Shotl has been able to guarantee the seamless functioning of its system despite these punctual drops in network coverage.
  • Limitations in vehicle weight or street gradient: not all streets in the neighborhood are accessible for the deployed minibusses. Even though local drivers know which streets to take and which to avoid, this becomes a challenge as Shotl's routing system is entirely dynamic and drivers receive instant instructions from the navigation screen. In the pre-launch phase, the concerned zones were singled out so as to complement and align our system’s prediction of travel and arrival times with this “human experience”.
  • The closest stop is not always the most accessible: in deployment neighbourhoods, the closest pick-up/drop-off point to the passenger’s destination is not always the easiest or safest to access; it might be down a hill, on the other side of a concurred crossing, or perhaps there is a pedestrianised path where a drop-off could serve as a more convenient shortcut to other points. This possibility has now been addressed within the system, providing guidance so that users can easily find the most accessible pick-up or drop-off point. The system is also able to subsequently take further aspects of accessibility into account (safety, reduced mobility, etc.).

We at Shotl are excited to engage in this new project with our local partners. It will serve as a use case for other locations that face similar challenges and are willing to provide and/or improve mobility in order to make a difference.

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