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  • Seoul’s Bus Information System Dominates the Silk Road

  • Transportation SMG 3485

    Seoul’s Bus Information System Dominates the Silk Road

    • – ITS: a smart transportation information system
    •   * What is an intelligent transportation system?
    • – ITS has become a part of Seoul citizens’ lives
    • – Seoul’s ITS in Azerbaijan
    •   * Azerbaijan president expresses intention to adopt the system to “Make Baku like Seoul”
    •   * Vehicle detection system (records and analyzes segment transit time, speed, and traffic volume)
    •   * Real-time traffic situation monitoring
    •   * Construction of bus information system (BIS)
    • – Equipped with Seoul’s transport system, Baku takes its place at the beginning of the Silk Road

    ITS: a smart transportation information system

    Many people may not have noticed, but waiting times for buses are shorter than they used to be. Also, thanks to our smartphones, we are now able to easily access information on where buses are in real-time and what time buses will arrive. How is this possible? We have the development of the intelligent transportation system (ITS) to thank. So, what is an ITS?

    Intelligent transportation system (ITS) Five types of ITS


    An intelligent transportation system (ITS) is a comprehensive system developed by advanced countries to effectively respond to major traffic problems through the application of electrical, electronic, information, communications, and vehicle technologies in the collection, processing, and creation of information related to traffic, climate, road conditions, vehicles, drivers, and travelers nationwide. The information is then transmitted via wired and wireless communications systems to roadside traffic terminals, in-vehicle terminals, traffic broadcasting systems, computers, and mobile phones to increase the convenience of commuters and the efficiency of traffic flow.

    An ITS is comprised of five main systems: Advanced Traffic Management System, Advanced Travel Information System, Advanced Public Transportation System, Advanced Logistics Management System, and Advanced Vehicle and Highway Information System.

    The implementation of an ITS is one of the ways in which countries around the world are beginning to address the greenhouse effect and contribute to reversing the rise in the temperature of the Earth. In Korea, around 20 percent of annual CO2 emissions is attributed to the nation’s transportation system, including vehicles, ships, and airplanes. Seoul’s ITS combines the city’s traffic and network systems to allow the systematic management of traffic congestion and, with the application of communications technology, decreases the costs associated with traffic congestion by five to 10 percent. It can also lower about 30% of costs of using energy and purifying the air pollution in Seoul.

    ITS has become a part of Seoul citizens’ lives

    Initially an unfamiliar technology, the ITS in Seoul has now become a highly appreciated service in the daily lives of Seoul citizens. A quick look at the traffic information electronic display boards installed throughout the city allows people to easily determine the optimal route to their destination. In fact, components of the ITS were installed along major urban roads long ago, including systems for the collection of traffic information and provision of services along the Inner Circulation Road, Namsan Tunnel, Gangbyeon Expressway, and Bukbu Expressway, to name a few, as well as on the Olympic Bridge and other bridges over the Hangang River.

    Traffic Management Center Concept map for route selection using traffic information


    The Traffic Management Center, located in Majang-dong, Seongdong-gu, conducts real-time analyses on the traffic information collected along each urban highway, and transmits the results to the traffic information electronic display boards installed at major locations throughout the city. The Southern Area Traffic Information Center collects information on the traffic in Namsan Tunnels 1, 2, and 3 and nearby roads, including Sopagil, Sowolgil, and Hannam-ro. The center was established to improve the traffic conditions in and around Namsan Tunnel, a vital passage linking the southern and northern parts of Seoul. The traffic information of each region is not only transmitted to the traffic information electronic display boards, but also shared directly with citizens through various channels, including the Internet, telephone, fax, and mobile phone.

    Both Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency have installed traffic control systems, a new traffic light system featuring traffic lights that change according to traffic volume, and CCTV systems, and each operate their own traffic information center. Private companies, such as Logis and SK, also offer ITS services. By utilizing this steady flow of real-time information, citizens can choose more convenient and efficient routes, allowing them to save time and avoid getting stuck in traffic.

    Seoul’s ITS in Azerbaijan

    Between the Caspian Sea region of Russia and Iran lies Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic. The country is not well known among Koreans, and there is no direct flight from Incheon International Airport. However, Azerbaijan gained global recognition by achieving rapid economic growth based on its oil industry over the past decade, with some even dubbing it “The Next Dubai.” SMG’s “Administration Hallyu” has played a role in this rapid change. Seoul’s road information electronic display boards, CCTV (closed-circuit television), and bus information system that notifies citizens of the departure and arrival of buses have now been installed in the city of Baku, thanks to the “transplantation” of the Seoul TOPIS (Seoul Transportation Operation and Information Service) to the city by SK C&C in 2011. The export of Seoul’s transportation technology to Azerbaijan holds great significance in that it signifies the establishment of a “Silk Road” for the export of our administrative systems.

    Location of Azerbaijan Azerbaijan Traffic Information Center


    Azerbaijan president expresses intention to adopt the system to “Make Baku like Seoul”

    Azerbaijan is a country with a population of 9.6 million and a land mass that is 40 percent that of the Korean Peninsula. After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country underwent a period of political confusion, but with its rapid export of oil and gas, it achieved remarkable growth, recording an annual economic growth rate of 16.4 percent over the period from 2006 to 2010. This economic boom attracted many people in the country to the capital city, Baku, to find work, leading the city to develop the so-called “urban disease” of traffic congestion. As a result, around 48 percent of the country’s population now lives in Baku and its surrounding areas, causing numerous side effects. Frustrated at traveling at around one kilometer per hour, bus drivers often changed lanes, and commuters were irritated about having to wait for buses, without knowing when they would arrive. This led the Azerbaijan government to issue a bidding notification for the construction of a traffic management system in 2006. Several countries, especially Japan and France, showed interest in the project, but the Azerbaijan government decided to entrust the massive, KRW 100-billion project to Korea. The country’s transportation authority sent a request to the Korean Embassy in Azerbaijan, officially asking Korea to participate in the project. What prompted this request was a report by Azerbaijan’s transportation minister on his visit to Seoul, in which he praised Seoul’s excellent transportation system. After visiting Seoul to attend a summit meeting, the minister suggested that the president adopt Seoul’s system, leading the Korean company SK C&C to beat out other foreign companies and win the contract. The adoption of Seoul’s ITS by Baku began in 2008, and was completed in 2012. It was a huge project, with total costs reaching USD 138 million (approximately KRW 160 billion). Initially, the government focused on installing systems to measure traffic volume and monitor traffic conditions, but it gradually expanded the project to include the installation of CCTVs to monitor traffic incidents, provision of guidance regarding detours in the case of accidents, and monitoring of causes of traffic congestion, such as the illegal disposal of wastes on roads. SK C&C convinced the government of the need to build a comprehensive system in order to solve the traffic congestion problem, as a result of which Baku adopted and applied Seoul’s ITS to its main arteries, downtown roads, and roads between airports. It also installed a vehicle detection system, which records and analyzes segment transit time, traffic volume, and speed by automatically recognizing vehicles’ registration plates, as well as CCTVs for the real-time monitoring of traffic conditions. Furthermore, it established a bus information system (BIS), which provides information on the arrival and departure of buses.

    Traffic information electronic display board on Tebriz Road, downtown Baku, identical to the one in Seoul People checking bus arrival and departure times and waiting for buses at Nizami Station, Subway Line 1, in Baku


    This was followed by the construction of a traffic control center in Baku, responsible for controlling all related systems. This caused the cost of the project, which was USD 70 million at the time the contract was signed in 2008, to almost double. Nonetheless, Azerbaijan was extremely satisfied with the outcomes of the project. The chief of the country’s transportation bureau claims that, thanks to Seoul, Azerbaijan now boasts one of the world’s best transportation systems, and that they would welcome any further suggestions from Korea.

    Equipped with Seoul’s transportation system, Baku takes its place at the beginning of the Silk Road!

    Baku is like a small version of Seoul, because the companies that built the country’s roads (Ultra Construction), constructed the Azersu (water resources corporation) building (Halla), and installed its transportation system (SK C&C) are all Korean companies. This is why Azerbaijan calls Korea, a “brother country.”

    Azerbaijan is now working toward the establishment of a railway linking the country to Turkey and Georgia, and many projects related to the railway connecting China to Europe are currently underway. The country is also striving to build and maintain a strong, cooperative relationship with Korea. Based on its success in Azerbaijan, Seoul hosted the Intelligent Transport System Roadshow in Mexico and Colombia in 2014, aiming to export Seoul’s advanced transportation products, such as its transportation card, Hi-pass system, bus information system, and traffic information center, to countries in Central and South America. Joined by public and private companies, namely the Korea Expressway Corporation, LG CNS, SK Planet, and HuNS, the roadshow featured presentations on ITS policy and major technologies, one-on-one business meetings, and meetings with high-level executives of purchasing organizations, and achieved positive results. Now, Mexico is busy building an urban subway and expressway, and firmly believes in Seoul’s promising companies and their leading technologies for vital systems, such as the integrated public transportation card system and expressway fee collection system.