Smart Urban Transportation:Ulsan Intelligent Transportation System
Ulsan Metropolitan Government

The Problem

Ulsan has experienced rapid urbanization and unprecedented industrialization since the early 1960s. The social and economic changes had brought a sharp increase in both car ownership and the volume of urban transportation. In fact, Ulsan has encountered an increase of 7 percent in car ownership and 5.9 percent in traffic volume annually since its designation as a "Metropolitan City" in 1997. As a consequence, traffic congestion in urban areas was getting worse although the city government has consistently invested in road construction. With limited fiscal resources available for transportation infrastructure, the metropolitan government was forced to seek a policy alternative to improve the efficiency of the urban transportation sector under the tightened fiscal conditions.

The nature of the urban transportation sector in Ulsan is quite different from that in other major Korean cities. First, the share of traffic occupied by local mainstream industries such as petrochemical, shipbuilding and automobile is so high that the urban transportation sector is always encountering serious traffic problems such as car accidents and traffic congestions.

The second factor affecting the urban transportation service is related to the extensive size of the administrative boundary of Ulsan that is approximately twice the size of Seoul. The limited number of buses in the city mainly service core areas in the suburban center, but there are only a few buses that go to the peripheries of the city. Local bus services, the only available means of mass transportation in Ulsan, took 18% of all modal shares by 2000 and ranked the lowest among the seven largest Korean cities.

The last factor is associated with the fact that the majority of local bus companies are not competitive due to their small business structures. As a result, the quality of bus service in Ulsan has been getting worse over recent years. It is obvious that the main user groups such as students, women, and seniors are seriously affected by the poor quality of local bus services.

Given these conditions, several urban transportation-related problems emerged, ranging from ineffective urban traffic management to the poor quality of local bus services. The majority of mass transportation passengers are women, youth, and the poor. They were negatively affected by the poor quality of service in their daily commute. Therefore, the metropolitan government had to develop an innovative policy option to solve several urban transportation problems such as traffic congestion and inefficient mass transportation.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The term intelligent transportation systems (ITS) refers to information and communication technology (applied to transport infrastructure and vehicles) that improve transport outcomes such as transport safety, transport productivity, travel reliability, informed travel choices, social equity, environmental performance and network operation resilience.

Recognizing that this advanced transportation system is regarded an appropriate policy option for the city of Ulsan, where the city government is forced to meet the growing demand in the urban transportation sector with limited financial resources, the government took an ambitious initiative to tackle a variety of urban transportation problems.

In order to improve effectiveness of urban transportation system in Ulsan, the metropolitan government decided to adopt "Intelligent Transportation System" in the late 1990s. Based on the bill "Optimization of Transportation System" enacted by central government, the city government established a comprehensive ITS plan in 2000 that all local ITS programs should be completed by 2005.

The comprehensive local ITS plan designates five target areas (transportation management, electronic payment, urban traffic information, tourist information, and mass transportation) with special attention on both the increase of urban traffic efficiency and the improvement of mass transportation services.

Currently, bus service in Ulsan is the only available mass transportation means unlike other Korean cities, where various means of urban transportation such as subways and public transit are available. The heavy dependence on its bus service caused several problems with regards to service schedules, convenience, and safety. Bus Information System (BIS), a subsidiary unit of ITS, provides the arrival and departure times to all bus station information boards on a real-time basis so that bus users can reduce waiting times for buses making it a more convenient way of transportation. In particular, it greatly contributed to enhancing the convenience of bus services for the residents living at the peripheries of the city, where very limited numbers of bus lines are in operation.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Local Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) was proposed by Transportation Bureau of Ulsan Metropolitan City. The city government customizes the contents of the national ITS plan relevant to the local transportation sector and implements complete ITS programs with special attention to policy priority.

Concerning the division of works in the operation of local ITS programs, there are distinctive roles among stakeholders. The city government (Bureau of construction and transportation) is responsible for the operation of ITS, while private sectors take a leading role in management of the intelligent system. Local police are also involved in regulating traffic flow and safety if necessary, whereas a local business took a leading role in the technical design of the initiative.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The city government established a comprehensive strategic plan that consists of three main programs with special attention on target areas and policy priority; (a) Establishment of ITS facilities, (b) Optimization of Local ITS, and (c) Advancement of ITS service and vehicles.

The planning stage involved establishing the needs and objectives of the initiative, identifying an appropriate modality and assessing its feasibility. There are three aspects to consider at this stage: establishment of the related-ITS facilities, collection and processing of urban traffic information, and operation of Bus Information System (BIS).

The operational stage was completed according to the relevant benchmarks, operation target, and expectation of the users of the ITS facility. Given that the construction of ITS facility is not the end of the project, it was recognized that local ITS services derived at the operational stage need to be optimized to sustain an efficient ITS system. This stage was focused on the optimization of the whole ITS program.

Given the above phase plans, the city government utilized ITS system (a) to improve traffic flow, (b) to increase the efficiency of road traffic, (C) to prevent traffic accidents, and (d) to provide more convenient mass transportation by bus. Specifically, the optimization of traffic signal contributes not only to address the chronic traffic congestion at urban centres, but also to increase the efficiency of road traffic flow. It also helps to reduce the number of car accidents. Regarding the improved convenience of buses, local ITS processes the relevant information collected from buses in service and provides the expected arrival time to passengers through Bus Information System (BIS).

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The development of Ulsan ITS project is summarized in the following stages. The first stage was the Planning and Operation Stage in 2000- 2005, several tasks were carried out in order to build core ITS facilities relevant to its operation. The city government established Transportation Management Center (TMC), where all ITS information is collected and processed through a central control unit, and built urban ITS infrastructure (VMS, VDS, CCTV) across major transportation routes in the city. In addition, the city provided Bus Information System (BIS) and Bus Information Terminal (BIT) at the designated bus stations.

During the Extension stage in 2006 – 2011, the city government extended local ITS service area to the peripheries of the city. In order to increase the accuracy of ITS, the city installed ‘real-time’ traffic signal control and added more urban ITS infrastructures including VMS, VDS, DSRC, and CCTV. Because of these efforts to enhance local ITS, the number of Bus Information Terminals (LED Bulletin Boards) increased to 535, while Bus Passenger Information Terminals were installed in 680 buses. Furthermore, the relevant bus service information such as arrival and departure times could be sent to the passenger’s mobile phones and web-based PCs.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
As the city government embarked on its local ITS program, there were several problems at the implementation stage. The first problem was the change of the traffic flow at a few traffic congested areas. In order to overcome such problems, the city made great effort to optimize the traffic signal system by using an advanced signal sequencing technique, the change in traffic is advertised to the public in advance. As a result the majority of the automobile drivers are now utilizing traffic information released from ITS (VMS) in order to avoid traffic congestion by taking alternative routes on commuting trips. A recent survey shows that over 76.8% of total respondents are often utilizing ITS to decide on the most optimized route for their trips.

Another constraint is derived from the conflicts among stakeholders in the operation of BIS. There are several conflicts revealed including payments through smart bus cards, installation of BIS equipment, and change of registration as well as other non-legal issues. In order to address these problems, the city government organized a special task-force team consisting of local bus companies and other stakeholders. As a result, the majority of BIS-related problems have been solved.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Ulsan's ITS project requires a variety of resources in order for it to be implemented. Financial resources are mainly channeled into building the ITS-related facilities including the establishment of Transportation Management Center (TMC), building of sensing, collection and processing facilities, and the service delivery of BIS.

To establish BIS in Ulsan, the city government has invested 8.7 billion Korean Won to extend a variety of local bus services that vides all required information on local bus services which people can easily access by the existing BITs and mobile-based service.

The role of experienced experts in telecommunication and information processing is essential for the establishment of effective ITS operation. The city government is now relying on experts from the private sector to effectively run the system.

The key benefits of ITS in Ulsan are remarkable with regard to cost-effectiveness and the level of service in urban transportation sector. The performance comparison of ITS was evaluated using a few indicators. The traffic speed at peak hour was raised to 6.7Km/hour (an increase of 24.3%) between 2004 and 2010. The economic benefit inherited from the diminished travel time is estimated to be 146 billion Korean Won in Net Present Value (NPV), equivalent to 5.46 in the ratio of Benefit/Cost (B/C).

One of the several benefits of ITS is the performance of bus service after the introduction of Bus Information System (BIS) has made mass transportation much more efficient. Prior to the implementation of ITS, the number of total bus passengers was continuously decreasing.

There is also a rapid increase in access of bus service information through various kinds of modalities such as mobile phones (Short Message Service, Mobile applications, Automatic Response System) and the internet. Access increased from 501,982 in 2008, to 1,333,034 in 2011.
Furthermore, the number of complaints regarding local bus service in 2011 has drastically decreased by 71 percent compared to 2004.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
It can’t be said that the application of ITS is a relevant option for all cities over the world. Yet, it would be a good practice in the urban transportation sector for cities where the growing demand of effective transportation is urgently required with only a limited amount of financial resources available at local level. In this sense, it is already confirmed that Ulsan's ITS project attracts a great deal of attention from policy-makers at both national and international levels in terms of possible replication in the urban transportation sector.

Until recently, 535 domestic institutes relating to urban transportation have visited the city's Transportation Management Center (TMC), where the local ITS central control unit is located which manages all relevant information to be disseminated. By 2011, there were twelve field trips to Ulsan ITS from several international organizations abroad.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Ulsan’s experience in ITS provides significant implications for the urban transportation sector. The first policy implication is that it would be a more practical option in increasing the efficiency of the transportation sector rather than exhausting financial resources on the construction of urban transportation infrastructure. Building infrastructure is unlikely to be a good alternative in many developing cities that experience serious fiscal deficits. In this regard, the role of local ITS must be emphasized for developing cities where the existing infrastructure is no longer capable of absorbing rapid increase in traffic.

The other implication is that the integration of advanced information technology into the transportation section can to a significant extent contribute to increased efficiency in urban traffic. Therefore, application of ITS should be encouraged in developed and developing cities all over the world.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ulsan Metropolitan Government
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Youngsung Kim
Title:   Assistant Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   82-52-229-2140
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   201, Jungang-ro
Postal Code:   680-701
City:   Nam-gu
State/Province:   Ulsan Metropolitan City

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