The city of Pisa reinforces its role among the most innovative European Smart Cities with Smart Mobility and Smart Parking initiatives in collaboration with its technological partner firm Kiunsys to face a dramatic increase in congestion.
Pisa is one of Italy’s main tourist destinations: it is universally recognized worldwide for its famous Square of Miracles, declared a World Heritage Site, and especially for its renowned Leaning Tower, one of the most popular symbols of the Italian arts. However Pisa is not only one of the most visited cities of Italy. It is also the major airport hub in Tuscany, one of Italy’s centers of excellence in science and technology with three universities, a national research center and many technology businesses. Finally it is also one of the country’s main health centers thanks to an important hospital at European level.
With more than 200.000 habitants in the metropolitan area, 50.000 university students and researchers and over 300.000 monthly tourists, Pisa’s historic city centre was facing a dramatic increase in congestion. Due to the structure of the old city, increasing congestion impacted not only the immediate city center, but also major ingress and egress points.
With the goal of reducing traffic to sustainable levels without harming the local economy, Pisa has been working rigorously to implement a Smart Mobility policy and a comprehensive ITS strategy as part of its Sustainable Energy Action Plan.
The city decided to introduce several types of urban Access Regulation Schemes (ARSs), to manage the access according to type of vehicles – car, freights, trucks, tourist busses, etc. – and users – residents, citizens, disabled people, logistics operators, customers of: traders, productive activities and accommodation facilities –, with the aim to improve urban accessibility and traffic flow, reduce costs, emissions and accidents, optimise the use of existing infrastructure. The ARSs ideally divide the city urban area in concentric circles, with less stringent access rules from the centre towards the suburban areas:
- Pedestrian Area: no motor vehicle inside, except residential vehicles (accessing and transiting to/ from their own garage), delivery operators and disabled vehicles
- Limited Traffic Zones (LTZs): no vehicles can access except the categories permitted by the city norms, according to certain rules and prices
- Metered Parking Zone, surrounding the LTZs and covering the most part of city of the urban territory
- Park & Ride system, located at the border of the ARSs, in the peripheral areas
In this way, Pisa activated a congestion fee system (Pedestrian area and, above all, the limited traffic zones) for the city centre and major traffic roads. Due to the various different needs of a highly tourist focussed infrastructure, the fees for the congestion zone had to be highly variable in configuration, covering not only the regulation of basic ingress and egress traffic, but allowing to regulate even time slots for certain categories of traffic (tourist busses, city logistics, residents, disabled people, electric vehicles,…).
To properly implement all the above measures and offer better mobility services to all the stakeholders, Pisa realized that it was necessary to definitely update the way they were managing all the mobility processes and services – booking, payments, infomobility, infoparking, PCN payments and on street control, automatic control –, digitizing and making them available both online and offline. To this end, PisaMo, the city’s official urban mobility & parking company, 100% owned by the Municipality, was created to handle all the issues related to connected services to citizens and businesses.
Starting from 2006 till today, PisaMo has completely reworked the city’s mobility, taking advantage of the emerging ICT technologies — cloud computing, mobile technologies, Internet of Things devices – and ITS systems available – LTZ gates, flow sensors, traffic counters, PMVs, etc. In this demanding path, the mobility company has been supported by Kiunsys, an Italian ITS company, spin-off of the Electronic Engineering Dept. of the Pisa University.
All Pisa’s mobility services and products have been centralized on a cloud integrated platform, INES Cloud, bringing together the permit management for parking, congestion zone and city logistics on a unified platform. Pisa introduced new online self-servicing tools allowing citizens and companies to purchase parking tickets, as well as pay congestion fees and permits (pedestrian and LTZ access) via web and smartphone. All payments are associated to the Mobility Pass, an RFID card exposed on vehicles windshield replacing all the old paper based solutions, which enhanced all aspects of control and enforcement, both by hand and automatically. On street enforcement is equipped with RFID enabled handhelds allowing a fully instrumental verification of all permits (cars, freights, E.V., tourist buses, residential, disabled people, etc.) within seconds and an accelerated and more accurate process for registration of abuses. In addition, the congestion charge area was equipped with RFID gates at all ingress and egress points, extending the functionality of the existing NPR (Number Plate Recognition) video cameras, certified by the Italian Ministry of Transportation: now the access to the congestion area can be limited also according to certain time windows and durations, without any violation of the citizens privacy.
The passive RFID is a technology which joins Pisa with the Indian State. Indeed in 2007, Pisa was the first city in Italy and Europe to bet on the passive RFID as a reliable technology for the management of urban mobility, adopting it extensively over the years in several ITS for the control and monitoring of vehicles, people and goods accesing the city center. The same decision guided the implementation of the India’s first electronic toll collection system launched on Ahmedabad- Mumbai Highway in 2013, and also taken by other cities and countries worldwide, like the SINIAV – the Brazilian National Automated Vehicle Identification System.
In Pisa, the RFID technology has proven quite effective. The Smart Mobility system put in place have produced several relevant achievements for either the city’s Mobility & Parking Authority PisaMo and Pisa’s citizens:
- All mobility permits can be purchased, renewed and managed online, including congestion fees and parking permits.
- The 18 LTZ access gates monitor in real time the temporary permits for loading and unloading goods.
- The entire parking space reservation and congestion fee payment process, involving more than 50.000/year tourist busses, is now fully digitalized.
- The use of RFID Mobility Passes, handhelds/smartphone and RFID Mobility gates has improved the control activities for the on street enforcement and has dramatically reduced the controversies for inappropriate fines.
Such positive accomplishments translated into some beneficial KPIs which impact either on PisaMo and on the city:
More than 60% of all the purchases of mobility services are shifted on line, resulting on a drastic reduction of people physically going to PisaMo’s office and a consequent traffic reduction
- 420% accessibility increase of mobility services for citizens and companies, thanks to the new 24/7 online availability
- Increased productivity of PisaMo’s front office staff who can be employed in more activities
- 47% increase of the revenues coming from the on line sales of mobility services
- 25% traffic reduction in city centre, due to the introduction of Access Regulation Schemes and the ITS automatic control system (LTZ +RFID gates)
- 30% reduction of commercial traffic into the historical center
- an ordered, safe and secure management of the tourist buses accessing the city centre, with less impact on traffic congestion
The Smart Parking Project
On the basis of such successful outcomes, in 2014 Pisa decided to make a step forward and complete its Smart Urban Mobility solutions with a new Smart Parking service. The system was aimed at helping motorists in Pisa to find a free parking space easier and quicker and was integrated with the existing parking payment via their smartphone to offer a unified user experience.
Sensors on the floor of each parking bay detect whether they are available or occupied. Several Control Unit associated with the parking sensors locally collect the information and send it over the mobile network to the city’s server infrastructure. The information is then displayed on indicator panels deployed in strategic city crossroads, to guide drivers to a free space. The solution is also integrated in Pisa’s existing mobile app Tap&Park, which drivers can choose to download to take them directly to a free parking space and pay for it via the app.
The usage of parking occupation sensors, in combination with digital signage and mobile app, allowed the redirection of traffic straight to free parking spaces, so reducing the congestion related to the search for parking, the pollutants (air and noise) and the GHGs. In connection with Tap&Park mobile app, free parking spaces can be searched right from the smartphone and subsequently paid right inside the app.
The Smart Parking Pilot had a duration of six months: it provided PisaMo with valuable additional data about parking and traffic behaviour which complement all the data