PTV’s Optima forecasts traffic flow and protects environment in historic German city


The addition of the real-time forecasting capability of PTV’s Optima software to its traffic management system has allowed the German city of Erfurt to optimize vehicle flow on its narrow and historic roads, while simultaneously reducing environmental damage and emissions.

Erfurt’s medieval center attracts over a million visitors each year; a significant amount for a city with only 210,000 residents. The tourist-increased traffic poses a challenge to the city administration and its traffic planners. The authorities needed to manage traffic on the confined and often historic roads, while at the same time reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, particulates and nitrogen oxide, in order to protect ancient stonework and achieve ambitious climate protection objectives. Although the extensive local public transport network, and the rising number of people making short journeys by bicycle, significantly eases the pressure on the city’s roads, traffic was increasing.

Erfurt was already using PTV’s Vissum product for its medium to long-term traffic planning, so when searching for a solution to their short-term traffic problems, the city administration selected the compatible Optima software, which allowed them to take the next step and to dynamically forecast the traffic situation in real time.

The initial implementation started in 2015, and a further update was then installed during late summer of 2016. The PTV Optima platform takes live data from several sources, including: traffic levels from roadside detectors; parking availability; traffic restrictions such as construction sites, events, and diversions; and real-time information from Erfurt’s local public transport network. The results from PTV Optima are combined with environmental and other data in the Traffic Management Platform, which controls data management, monitoring and analysis.

PTV Optima provides traffic forecasting for various time slots, ranging from five minutes to one hour, and the traffic management system can then intervene in multiple places to control the flow of traffic based on these numbers. Road users are kept informed via dynamic message boards (DMS), and when there is an excessive demand on inner-city parking facilities, the displays point users toward the nearest park-and-ride facility or advise them to use public transport. In order to manage traffic in the historic center, traffic lights on radial roads can be timed so that fewer vehicles are entering the city, than are exiting it.

“In our use of real-time data we have definitely broken new ground, especially in its use for environmental protection,” noted Frank Helbing of Erfurt’s department for civil engineering and traffic. “We now want to go further and establish the basis for an even more environmentally-oriented traffic management system. We are already looking at using meteorological data and figures from environmental monitoring stations in Erfurt as additional data sources. This will allow us to react quickly to increasing levels of pollutants.”

Torben Hilgers, real-time expert at PTV, said, “Optima is particularly suitable for use in smaller cities as a tool for forecasting the traffic situation in real time. The web-based system takes existing traffic models and makes them dynamic, while standardized interfaces enable easy integration into existing systems.”

Share this story:

About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).