Tagged: GI-Forum

Active mobility at GI-Forum conference

Today, I had the honour to chair another special session that dealt with GIS and mobility research at this year’s GI-Forum conference internet. The session “Spatial Perspectives on Active Mobility” was the third in a series (see here internet for a review of the 2016 and here internet for the 2015 session).
Of course, we will have a “Spatial Perspectives on …” session in 2018 again – the call will be published in December this year. So, consider this as an option for your publishing and dissemination strategy (by the way, the GI-Forum journal internet is open access!)

This year’s special session was a paper session with four speakers, who all went through a rigorous review process. The diversity of the contributions was high, demonstrating the wide range of mobility research where GIS plays a crucial role:

  • Irene Fellner internet from Vienna University of Economics and Business opened the session at the very local scale. She presented her work internet on landmark-based indoor navigation. Although the applied ILNM (“indoor landmark navigation model”), an extended version of Duckham’s et al. (2010 internet) LNM, performed well, Irene pointed to two major challenges: first of all, the ILNM requires very detailed data, which are not always available and secondly, the visibility of landmarks from the perspective of the user is not always given or unknown.
    Irene’s paper emerged from her master thesis at the University of Salzburg, where she successfully finished the UNIGIS MSc study program. Dr. Gudrun Wallentin, UNIGIS program director, regarded this special session as perfect stage to hand over the UNIGIS International Association (UIA internet) award for excellent master theses. Congratulations!
  • Ulrich Leth internet (Vienna University of Technology) presented the findings of a recent study where they investigated the impact of a bike sharing system on public transit ridership in the city of Vienna, which is famous for its extensive and well-performing public transit system. In total, Ulrich and colleagues analysed 1 million Citybike internet trips from 2015. Different to the expectation the title provoked, they found that the bike sharing system virtually has no impact on PT ridership, simply because of the huge difference in size and capacity. However, some details in their results were interesting and probably of relevance for other BSS: a) Citybike trips primarily substitute short and inconvenient PT trips, b) most bike sharing trips are made when the travel time ratio compared to public transit is 0,5 and c) the most popular OD relations are typical student trips (between transport hubs and university and student dormitories and transport hubs or universities).
  • Tabea Fian, a student from Georg Hauger’s internet (lead author of the paper) group, also from Vienna University of Technology, presented a spatial analysis of urban bicycle crashes in Vienna. Interestingly, the data were very similar to those I’ve extensively used in my PhD (see this paper internet). In a purely exploratory study design Georg has tried to identify blackspots in the network and tested for their significance. However, as it became evident in the discussion, final conclusions are hard to draw without a statistical population.
  • The last presentation was given by Anna Butzhammer internet from RSA iSpace. She presented parts of her excellent master thesis, in which she analysed the inter-modal accessibility of central places. For this, she developed a model that facilitates door-to-door travel time calculations with different modes. Her findings are especially important for planning and optimizing public transit systems, which can be regarded as backbone for sustainable mobility.

Tomorrow, the German-speaking sister conference, AGIT internet, will host a special forum on autonomous driving internet and on Friday I will chair another session on advances in GIS-T. Well, there will be a lot to discover, learn and discuss; if you don’t have the chance to be there physically, follow me on Twitter internet and stay updated.


GI-Forum 2017: Spatial Perspectives on Active Mobility

Vienna's newly designed Mariahilfer-Straße gives priority to pedestrians and bicyclists (image source: Christian Fürthner/MA 28)

Vienna’s newly designed Mariahilfer-Straße gives priority to pedestrians and bicyclists (image source: Christian Fürthner/MA 28)

In 2015 internet we organized the first special session on GIS and transport at the GI Forum conference internet in Salzburg (Austria). Since the event was a full success in 2016 internet as well, we will prolong the series in 2017 and call for contributions.

Since the promotion of active mobility has become a central element of virtually any urban planning and development strategy, health issues force societies to get physically active again and the amount of research has skyrocketed, it is time to gain a “spatial perspective” on the topic.
Research on active mobility is of course a multi-disciplinary field and lots of, partly very specific studies contribute to the growing body of literature. However, it is interesting that a substantial share of recently published studies from non-spatial domains have geographical elements at their core. The latest series on urban design, transport and health in the medical top journal The Lancet internet is only one of several prominent examples.

Before the background of our own research (see one of my last posts internet) and the relevance of the topic, we organize another special session – hopefully with your contribution!
During the 2017 GI Forum conference internet we will collect, present and discuss spatial perspectives on active mobility. The call for papers is also available on the conference website internet:

There are many good reasons to promote active mobility: road congestions, limited space resources, public health issues, air pollution and noise emission, just to name a few. Consequently, various institutions and research domains have active mobility at the core of their activities. The geographical space can serve as common denominator that brings together the multiple approaches towards active mobility. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) hereby serve as integrative platforms that combine, model and analyze the variety of perspectives and data. The overall aim is to facilitate holistic approaches and to extract relevant information for stakeholders and decision makers.

The 2017 GI-Forum special session will be the third of a series that deals with relevant research topics at the intersection of GIS and mobility. We invite researchers from any domain to submit original research, which has spatial information at its core. Relevant topics are (but not limited to):

  • Spatial data acquisition for active mobility research (OGD, VGI etc.)
  • Spatial models and simulations for pedestrian and bicycle traffic
  • Spatial analysis of barriers for active mobility (safety, accessibility, attitudes and behavior)
  • GIS in planning and decision support systems for active mobility promotion
  • Showcases from all disciplines (sports science, environmental psychology, transport science, planning etc.) that build on spatial information

Contributions can either be submitted as full paper, extended abstract or poster. Any contribution needs to be submitted via the conference submission website and will be object to the double-blind, peer-review process. Authors of accepted full papers are going to be invited to present and discuss their paper (15’+5’) in the special session. Authors of extended abstracts and posters are going to be invited for an elevator pitch (5’). Full papers and extended abstracts will be published in the GI-Forum journal (Open Access).

Besides the special session, which will be organized as paper session, we will provide opportunities for further exchange, project drafting or discussing potential joint publications in an informal workshop format.

Further information can be found on the session’s website: http://gi-forum.org/activemobility. The special session is organized by the GI Mobility Lab (Z_GIS). Any inquiries can be sent to gimobility@sbg.ac.at.

Geography in transport & mobility research

The twin conferences AGIT internet and GI-Forum internet took place in Salzburg three weeks ago, complemented by the German language FOSSGIS internet conference. This fully packed conference week had a lot to offer (see my Twitter diary internet) and definitely was an inspiring week. With a short time lag in between I’d like to reflect on a topic that popped up at various occasions and is very relevant to my PhD project: geography’s contribution to mobility and transport (research).

To make it very short, these are my key take home messages:

  1. The geo-space is very powerful in integrating various data/information layers and facilitating holistic approaches for research, planning and operation.
  2. Technology driven arguments are annoying. It’s always about people.
  3. Geography supports system thinking, which is required in any mobility and transport topic.


Harvey Miller internet from Ohio State University opened the GI-Forum conference with his keynote on “Big Data for Healthy Places”. Referring to Pollocks article in Nature internet, Harvey made a strong case for how the built environment affects mobility and subsequently public health. In his keynote Harvey identified two major challenges in the context of healthy cities: firstly, cities, which are human systems, are complex systems and secondly, policy interventions can have unclear or even counter-intuitive outcomes. In order to tackle these challenges, Harvey proposed what he termed Geographical Information Observatories (GIO), which facilitate opportunistic GIScience. A GIO is a way to constantly monitor certain areas or phenomena and link the sensed data to other data or information sources. Here, the geographical coordinate plays a central role as common denominator for all data or information layers (‘spatial index’). So called urban dashboards (such as CURIO internet), which are fueled by GIOs, are the basis for opportunistic GIScience, a framework for spatial science which is able to adapt to spontaneous events, combine real-time with historic data and to simulate planned interventions in a virtual environment. This way, complex systems can be studied, monitored and influenced in a naturalistic setting and intended measures can be tested for their effect on the whole system prior to implementation.

Some of the keynote’s topics had already been discussed before in an interesting panel discussion on the relation between GIScience and Data Science, organized by Peter Mandl internet. Besides Harvey, Petra Staufer-Steinnocher internet and Josef Strobl internet discussed as panelists.
Peter argued for the integration of recent developement in GIScience, namely linked data, open data and semantics, into “Spatial Data Science”.

Harvey made two crucially important points: Data scientists tend to go for correlations (predicting and control paradigm) instead of focusing on causalities in complex systems; for the latter domain experts are needed who interpret correlations in the respective (spatial) context and transform data into information. Conceptually related to this observation, Harvey pointed to the fact that not all decisions should be made quick and purely data- or algorithm-based (the reference to the Jevons paradox internet is highly interesting in this context). This critical statement is often missing in Smart Cities debates!
Similar to Harvey, Josef made a few conceptual statements, which are often overlooked in “data-positivistic” discussions. In his opinion, correlations and pattern detection are only ways to make sense of massive data (streams); they have little value for themselves but act as filters and hypothesis generators. Again, he underpinned the role of domain experts, who are indispensable when exploratory studies are lifted to explanatory ones. In analogy to this conceptual difference and referring to the relation of GIScience and Data Science, Josef stated, “Data leads to explorations, science leads to findings”.
Being affiliated with the Vienna University of Economics, Petra put a focus on Business Analytics (which has, of course, a lot in common with Data Science!) and called for a tight coupling of data driven approaches to theory-based science. In her opinion, Business Analytics is currently too often only about dehumanizing people (clients) and turning them into data.

On Wednesday Anita Graser internet kicked-off the German language AGIT conference with her keynote on “OpenSource, OpenData and OpenScience”. In the afternoon I first attended a session on Urban Geoinformatics (I co-authored one of the presented papers internet), which was nicely wrapped up by Joao Porto internet. He stated very clearly that Urban Geoinformatics is the intersection of people (urban), technology (informatics) and place (geo). This rather simple definition is blanked out ways to often in current discussions!

After that, this year’s special session on GIS-T (“Spatial perspectives on transport systems” internet) took place with three excellent presentations and lots of discussion. The session was opened with a session keynote by Harvey Miller, who provided an overview of the role of GIS in transport (research). Referring to his article internet from 2015, Harvey talked about the fast changing environment of our discipline (presentations slides are available here internet):

  • Data availability and computational power have been increasing constantly over the last years.
  • Despite the predicted abolition of space through the Internet, progressive urbanization is changing the human sphere radically (urban metabolism internet).
  • The success of the smart phone, which is constantly connected to the Internet, facilitates new applications, methods for data capturing and business models; most of them are location-based.

The other two contributions to the session were rather technical: Mario Dolancic, the winner internet of this year’s student paper award, presented an approach for lane detection from floating car data. Mario’s motivation for his work, which is part of the LaneS internet project, was humorous, “I’m a student and don’t have the money. But I want a realistic road graph.”
Anita Graser provided insights in current algorithms for realistic pedestrian routing across open spaces and presented an efficient approach for OpenStreetMap data (for more information visit the PERRON internet project website).

Thursday was like a roller coaster ride. The day started and closed with sessions on authoritative spatial (transport) data. I had never expected to attend a GIP internet forum where the majority of contributions discussed how authoritative data can be made available to the public. The digital road graph can be completely downloaded via data.gv.at internet. This rich dataset can be nicely coupled with national address data that were made available internet just recently. In the afternoon OGD strategies on various administrative levels were discussed in a GeoTalk (the presentation slides have been made available on the organization’s website internet, scroll to GeoTalk #10), organized by the local GIS cluster.

Wasting time on congested roads. Is this all autonomous driving has to offer?

Wasting time on congested roads. Is this all autonomous driving has to offer?

In between these sessions I attended a special forum on autonomous driving. Although some of the contributions where innovative and relevant (for instance Benno Bock’s internet presentation on car sharing patterns internet), the forum was dominated by automotive lobbyists who demonstrated a very narrow perspective on mobility. It was a bit frustrating to see how much money is put into R&D with an exclusive focus on the car. There is little effort to completely re-think mobility as a system. Here is just one example: Graham Smathurst from VDA internet was asked how to understand BMW’s slogan “Freude am Fahren” (pleasure in driving) in times of autonomous vehicles. His answer spoke volumes: On Monday when he drives to work and roads are congested (!) he prefers the autonomous mode, while on a sunny Sunday afternoon he enjoys to drive himself. There was not a single trace of rethinking commuting patterns or mobility behavior. Nothing. Similarly, Christian Kleine from Here presented the company’s ambitions and technology, illustrated with a picture of a self driving car in a massive congestion.

The sessions I attended on Friday nicely demonstrated the potential of the spatial perspective and GIS technology in models, applications and participatory planning processes:

  • Enrico Steiger internet gave an update of the excellent OpenRouteService internet.
  • Nikolaus Krismer gave a presentation on his PhD project about multimodal isochrone internet calculation.
  • Stefan Herbst demonstrated the Mobility Optimizer internet, a multi-layer information and analysis tool for evidence-based (planning) decisions.
  • In the very last presentation of the conference, Dennis Groß presented his thesis internet where he combined bio-physical sensor data with locations and produced maps of increased stress for cyclists.

What all these contributions have in common, is the added value of an explicit consideration of spatial information. And because transport systems and mobility are spatial by their very nature, geography has a lot to contribute to a better understanding of these complex and dynamic systems. This is why we will definitely organize another GIS-T session for the GI-Forum conference next year. It would be great if you could consider this in your publication and dissemination plans for 2017 (the CfP will be published in December 2016).

P.S.: all papers are published as open access: AGIT internet, GI-Forum internet


Spatial perspectives on transport – conference preview

Last year’s GI-Forum internet special session on “Spatial Perspective on Transportation Modelling” (read a brief review here internet) was a kind of trial balloon, as we weren’t able to foresee the demand for transdisciplinary exchange at the interface of GIScience and transport research in the context of GI-Forum.
Traditionally, GIScientist gather at GIS conferences and transport researchers at transport conferences. Actually there is not as much overlap between the two domains as there could be – think of groundbreaking contributions from geographers (Hägerstrand internet) to transport research and vice versa. Maybe this is the reason for why I enjoyed the session and all the successive conversations so much. Actually, several participants from this special session worked hard to condense the contributions and discussions into a review/position paper which will be (hopefully!) published soon – the manuscript is currently under review; this is why I’ll provide more information on a later occasion.

In succession of last year’s premiere we are going to organize a GI-Forum special session dedicated to GIS and transport again. Both keynote speakers (Harvey Miller and Anita Graser), from GI-Forum and AGIT internet (German language twin conference) will contribute to the special session “Spatial Perspectives on Transport Systems” on Wednesday afternoon (July 6th, 5pm internet)! Here is what is planned for the session:

1. Harvey Miller (Ohio State University): Geographic Information Systems for Transportation in the 21st Century
The session will be opened with a session keynote by Harvey Miller internet, who currently holds the Reusche Chair in Geographic Information Science at Ohio State University. Harvey will provide a comprehensive overview of GIScience in transport research, similar to his latest paper on the topic (Miller & Shaw 2015 internet).

2. Johannes Schwer (University of Augsburg): Spatial Decision Support: Small-Scale Site Selection Model for Carsharing Services
Johannes internet, who is currently writing his dissertation at the University of Augsburg, will present a spatial decision support system for the selection of car sharing pods. In his analysis he combined demand and supply parameters, such as public transit connections, central facilities, population distribution, socio-demographic and behaviour criteria.

3. Mario Dolancic (University of Salzburg): Automatic lane level road network graph generation from Floating Car Data
Mario is on his last mile of his Master’s studies (Applied Geoinformatics internet, University of Salzburg) and works for an innovative traffic consulting company in Salzburg. He will present an approach that derives lane center lines from GNSS trajectories using KDE and distance relations. With this method, very detailed road graphs can be generated, which are a prerequist for ITS-applications and autonomous driving.

4. Anita Graser (AIT Austrian Institute of Technology): Integrating Open Spaces Into OpenStreetMap Routing Graphs for Realistic Crossing Behavior in Pedestrian Navigation
Anita internet will start and finish this conference day. After her AGIT keynote in the morning (“Offen und dynamisch – OpenSource, OpenData & OpenScience”), she will give a presentation on two more Open* aspects. Anita is going to provide a brief review of common algorithms for dealing with open spaces in routing and navigation applications, before she introduces a visibility graph approach, which is capable to model realistic routing behaviour based on OpenStreetMap data.

Of course, there will plenty of time for discussion during the session and for further exchange and networking afterwards. As this special session is the last one on this conference day, we will have the chance to smoothly fade into the AGIT Expo Night with snacks and beverages.

If you are not registered internet for the conference yet, early bird rates are available until May 25th. By the way, this special session is only one highlight for those who are interested in GIS and transport/mobility research (for instance a whole-day track on autonomous vehicles is scheduled for Thursday).
If you won’t make it to the conference, have a look at the conference’s social media channels internet to stay updated or follow me on Twitter internet. Research papers of the conference will be published in GI-Forum Journal internet for GIScience (open access) – you will find Johannes’, Mario’s and Anita’s contribution there.

Call for contributions: “Spatial Perspectives on Transport”


Last year at the end of November I’ve published internet a call for contributions to a special session on transport modelling at the GI-Forum conference internet. Back then, we were not sure about the resonance and to be honest, my expectations were not too high. All the more I was surprised by the quality of contributions (the papers are published as Open Access internet) and the number of participants in the special session.

Because of this year’s positive experiences and feedbacks, we are going to push the topic further and call for contributions for next year’s conference:

Transport systems are spatial by their very nature. They rely on physical infrastructure, they connect locations and they facilitate the mobility of goods and people. However, the spatial dimension is not always considered explicitly in research and application. We think that concepts and tools rooting in geography and GIS have a lot to offer to better understand transport systems at various spatial and temporal scale levels and to foster holistic approaches!
At the GI-Forum conference 2015 a number of emerging fields of research was identified (see here internet for some details). For the 2016 conference we aim to carry these aspects forward and thus invite researchers and practitioners to elaborate on the following or related topics:

  1. Data
    Requirements, characteristics, quality, availability and accessibility of (spatial) data for research and application in the field of transport systems.
  2. Models
    Conceptual approaches and paradigms of transport modelling, spatial and temporal levels of scale and aggregation, validation frameworks and methods.
  3. Visualizations
    The role and design of (geo-) visualizations for the exploration, interaction and communication of transport system data, models and analysis results.

Contributions can either be submitted as full paper, extended abstract or poster. Any contribution needs to be submitted via the conference submission website internet and will be object to the double-blind, peer-review process. Authors of accepted full papers are going to be invited to present and discuss their paper (15’+5’) in the special session. Authors of extended abstracts and posters are going to be invited for an elevator pitch (5’). Full papers and extended abstracts will be published in the GI-Forum journal (Open Access).

We are really looking forward to your contributions and to the session opening. Prof. Harvey Miller internet (Ohio State University) will provide a broad overview of the intersection and relation of transport research and GIScience in his session keynote.

If you have any questions or remarks, feel free to get in contact! All information concerning the conference can be found on the website internet.

A very brief AGIT & GI-Forum 2015 review

Last week the twin conferences AGIT internet and GI-Forum internet took place in Salzburg, Austria. Once again it was a very intensive but stimulating event with great conversations, new contacts, nice social events and of course the everlasting struggle to choose the right session from an extensive offer of attractive parallel tracks. Whereas the general tenor of the keynotes was the increasingly tight relation between GIS and IT, my personal conference focus lay on spatial modelling and analysis in the context of transportation.

Searching the web you’ll find lots of personal reviews (this one internet by Anita is a great example!) and social media snippets (#AGIT2015 internet #GIForum2015 internet). Nevertheless here is a list of links you might find useful:

My conference week was dominated by the impressions from two keynotes I could attend (unfortunately I missed the other ones due to overlaps in the program) and my involvement in a double-session on transportation modelling (have a look at my recent post internet), the OpenStreetMap special forum internet and the track on Austria’s harmonized road graph, GIP internet.

simonisIn Tuesday’s keynote Ingo Simonis internet from OGC talked about the role of standards in the context of smart cities. His motivation to argue for establishing geospatial intelligence (… and with this standards) in enormously fast growing urban agglomerations is the correlation between size and opportunities/challenges: “The bigger a city, the more of everything is there.” A geospatial framework of connected devices is thereby regarded as part of sustainable solutions that turn these vibrant, urban hot spots into smart cities. As in nearly every presentation on smart cities Songdo in South-Korea served as role model and poster child of Ingo’s argumentation (a reference I personally find not that convincing – but this would be an entirely different discussion on liveable vs. smart cities).
What I found really intriguing was Ingo’s elaborations on the “social” aspect of standards. Until recently standards were more a bone dry threat than anything else to me. But Ingo made a very important notion on that: he illustrated how standards are, as he put it, the distilled wisdom of people with expertise in their respective field. In other words, standards don’t necessarily define in advance how things have to be done, but are recommendations or a framework for activities that are already established … Standards are about a common understanding and language of domain knowledge and practise.

privacy_twitter_strobl The second keynote on Wednesday morning came right from the opposite spectrum of the handling of large data amounts, or better data stream. Manfred Hauswirth internet gave an inspiring overview of what is currently going on in the field of linked data and what’s the role of GIS in the never-ending stream of data, semantic relations and interdependencies. He spoke of the internet of everything where the most relevant thing (above all in terms of business models) is to extract useful information from data; something Manfred called a rather untapped resource. Four take home messages made it into my notepad:

  1. Linking is the new (Is it really new? Actually this is how our human brains have worked for millennia) paradigm in the handling of data sets/streams.
  2. Data are increasingly dynamic. This is why the whole processing needs to be designed adaptable.
  3. As geonames are central to the semantic web, geospatial data and knowhow are of great importance.
  4. Privacy is gone. The latter point was of course not revolutionary or new. But it was the first time I heard this statement explicitly and without any dilution in a keynote on a GI conference (probably because the keynote speaker has a background in computer science) – normally we hear bloomy mantras such as: “GIS helps to make the earth a better place.” blablabla. Maybe the organizers of next year’s GI-Forum could invite a philosopher as keynote speaker, talking about the responsibility we have in science and IT!

As the years before, a highlight of the German-speaking conference, the AGIT, was the OpenStreetMap special forum, organized by TraffiCon internet. This year I had the chance to contribute actively; it was a great honor to got invited for a presentation on the suitability of OSM and OGD data for network modelling and analysis. Here are the slides of my presentation (sorry, German language), which I think are self-explanatory and don’t need any further comments:


gipday2015Speaking at the OSM special forum the day before, it was a somehow exotic experience to give another presentation in a session dedicated to authoritative road data on Thursday morning. Since 6 years (with several more years with preparatory projects) all administrative bodies in Austria edit and manage their road-related data in the so called Graphenintegrationsplattform, GIP (engl. harmonized road graph). This standard allows for nationwide applications and prevents from cost-intensive data redundancies within administrations.
We’ve been working for quite a while with GIP data in the context of bicycle routing. Currently the web application http://www.radlkarte.info internet is based on authoritative road data. Over the last two years the quality of the GIP data has been significantly increased. But still, there are some critical issues that become evident when the data are used in an operative environment. This is why we have developed several quality control routines considering above all topology and attributes. The latter is important for (spatial) modelling approaches with which the data are interpreted and fitted into the specific application context. With this parallel approach – quality testing plus modelling – the reliability and robustness of the data could have been significantly increased, as I demonstrated in my presentation:


Any comments and questions? I’m looking forward to read and learn from you!

Some thoughts on GIS and transportation modelling

Transportation modelling is a well established domain with dedicated experts and sophisticated software packages. Still, we thought it could be worth to take a closer look on it from an explicit spatial perspective. This is why Gudrun internet and I have organized a special session entitled “Spatial perspective on transportation modelling” at this year’s GI-Forum conference  (http://gi-forum.org internet).
We had a session with five short presentations and an extended joint discussion and a workshop session. This very brief summary simply serves as a reminder of some of the major issues that were raised.

The paper session on Wednesday was a real personal highlight. Not only the presentations were inspiring, but the audience was big and active. We had presentations from various fields, covering quite a broad range of topics (all papers are online internet as open access):

1) Gudrun provided insights into a first version of an agent-based bicycle flow model, where she demonstrated how aggregated flows emerge from the individual behaviour of numerous agents in space and time. One of the major conclusion was that while the model as such seems to generate feasable results, the validation is rather tricky since the necessary data are hardly available.

2) Christoph internet gave an excellent presentation on how to link the abstract model space with the geographical space and the model steps with a temporal continuum. Additionally he presented his approach to speed up the model performance when it contains routing functionalities. With an intelligent network simplification he was able to run the simulation 12 times faster than with the initial network graph.

3) Somehow connected to the preceding two presentations, Johannes internet gave an introduction to cognitive agents as counterparts of selfish agents, which are assumed in most routing and navigation applications. With regard to current transportation models, Johannes estimated that those models might be more accurate and thus more meaningful when “smart” agents are incorporated.

4) Leaving the field of agent-based models, Rita internet answered the question what geographers could contribute to transportation modelling in a very beautiful (literally!) way. Working on the TAPAS internet traffic model she emphasized the role of visualization for the validation and communication of the model results. Especially the spatial context of a map helps to make sense of what the model calculates and how it actually works.

5) In the last presentation of this session the award winner of the AGEO student award, Daniel Steiner internet presented parts of his master thesis where he worked with real-time data from public transit. What became very clear in this presentation was, that it is hard to find PT companies that provide real-time data and that it is even harder to use these data in models and analyses because of quality issues.

In a second session, that was organized in a workshop format, three topics that were raised in the presentations and the joint discussion were further worked on:


workshop_groupIn the very active small working groups, it quickly turned out that we as geographers do have something to contribute to the domain of transportation modelling and that there is still a lot of work to do!
In the context of data for transportation models these points were – among others – briefly discussed:

  • There are lots of static data available, mostly following an established standard. Although the number of sensors is skyrocketing they are less likely accessible; at least in many parts of the world. Additionally there are numerous standards for all kinds of sensor data, what makes it cumbersome to integrated data from different source in one and the same model. Beside measured data there are also calculated or estimated data, such as interpolations. For such data hardly any standard exists; most often these data are a kind of black box where you don’t know how they were generated.
  • The latter factor directly leads to the urgent need of sound metadata for transportation data and derived products. It is of crucial importance to know under which circumstances and for what purpose data were captured. For the interpretation of derived data (e.g. flow volumes) it is necessary to know how they were calculated etc. Without providing such information the reliability of modelling results suffers enormously.
  • An interesting observation was that whereas most often spatial data are used as inputs for transportation models, the models themselves are non-spatial, meaning that the relation between the model objects is abstract and not geographically defined.
  • Concerning the scale and aggregation level of data a rather pragmatic rule of thumb emerged: data availability, the availability of tools, processing power and the research question decide on what data are being used.

From the group working on ABM and cognitive agents a rather straight forward research agenda was drafted. The group started from three distinct characteristica of agent-based models: exploration of cause-effect relations, non-intuitive phenomena at system level, local scale. From there, the group identifed three areas of research.

  • How to shift between scales and model types (top-down vs. bottom-up)?
  • How does ‘smart’ behaviour of cognitive agents impact traffic flows on a broader scale?
  • How can the performance issue be dealt with in a reasonable way?

The third group worked on the role of geovisualization and came up with a nice paradigmatic (in the cartography community) conclusion: maps and geovisualizations are not only for communicating (one way) results but they serve as capable interface for the exploration of and interaction with the data and the model. Besides, maps and map-related visualizations put transportation models into an explicit spatial context. Thus the model and the results can be related to the environment what on the one hand can explain results and on the other hand generates new hypothesis for further investigations. At least two issues were regarded as yet unsolved:

  • How to determine the appropriate trade-off between complexity (information load) and simplicity in geovisualizations?
  • How to design visualization environments that are flexible and adaptable to facilitate real multi-perspective approaches?

Some of the aspects we were working on are documented on these flipcharts.


Of course there is lot more to work on. And that’s exactly what we are going to do now. If you want to contribute or have comments on the few points raised here, just leave me a note. I’d be more than happy to learn from you and extend the group of geographers and GIS experts that strive to contribute their spatial know how to transportation models. Such an interdisciplinary approach is, from my point of view, especially valuable were established transportation models have fallen short so far and that is in the field of active transport.