LBS2ITS Newsletter No. 3

Train-the-Teachers Workshop “Transportation system planning for smart and liveable cities”

April 4, 2022

The first train-the-teachers workshop “Transportation system planning for smart and liveable cities” in the LBS2ITS project, took place from 28 March to 1 April 2022 at the University of Moratuwa (UOM) in Sri Lanka. The workshop was organized jointly by the LBS2ITS team from TU Dresden, who was, amongst others, responsible for the concept, providing material, and lecturing. The local organizing committee from KDU and UOM provided a great venue for the workshop at the green UOM campus with the best working conditions despite the economic crisis in the country and various related difficulties.

Around 20 participants from all Sri Lankan partner universities in LBS2ITS took part and formed an interdisciplinary and engaged group with backgrounds in civil engineering, surveying, geomatics, computer science, town planning and transportation. In addition, external stakeholders from ministries, public transport operators and further institutions joined selected lectures.

The workshop’s goal was to train lecturers from the Sri Lankan partner universities both in terms of domain knowledge on transportation planning and traffic engineering and on didactic concepts for teaching and particularly on problem-based learning (PBL). It was organized as a mixture of lectures given by Prof. Udo Becker and Prof. Regine Gerike from TU Dresden and interactive group work and discussions.

Prof. Regine Gerike and Prof. Udo Becker

The workshop’s opening was an official welcome from UOM, followed by a welcome from the LBS2ITS organization team and an interactive introduction round of the participants. The first lecture, “Goals, visions, challenges, emerging trends in transport”, discussed basic concepts in transportation planning, raised awareness for rebound effects and invited to discuss problems and opportunities in shaping future transportation systems. Based on this lecture, groups were formed, and issues for the group work were defined in the afternoon.

The workshop followed a similar structure for the next three days, Tuesday to Thursday: Group work was possible in the morning and afternoon, and lectures were given before and after lunch. This allowed external experts to join for selected topics and lectures and network during the lunch break. Results from the group work were presented on Friday, followed by a short feedback round and a farewell lunch. Each day, there were tea breaks in the morning and afternoon and a delicious lunch. Together with the social event on Friday, these breaks provided great opportunities for follow-up discussions.

The lectures first served to present research results and current developments in transportation planning from the European perspective and second to exchange perspectives. For each of the six lectures, one topic was chosen beforehand with the Sri Lankan partners in the preparatory video conferences. The topics ranged from strategic sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs) and functional street network classification to design principles for safe, efficient and liveable streets. Monitoring and evaluation, as well as externalities, were also covered. Throughout the lectures, there were lively discussions on challenges, opportunities and the current situation in Europe and Sri Lanka.

Three topics were chosen for the group work:
· 15-minute-city: The example of Paris inspired this group with the ambition to provide access to relevant destinations within 15 minutes of walking or cycling (see, e.g. https://www.15minutecity.com/). The group developed an interdisciplinary PBL-concept for training competencies in GIS, urban and transportation planning, and stakeholder interviews.

Next-generation public transport in Colombo: The second group developed a concept for promoting public transport and stopping the current trend of decreasing public transport ridership. The concept was based on transit-oriented development principles in pre-defined corridors that should ideally be served by rail-based public transport or alternatively by bus services. Improvements for the bus fleet were suggested and solutions to enable the shift to more attractive vehicles and services in public transport.

Street design standards: The third group worked on design principles for safe and liveable streets in Sri Lanka. Main problems and trends were identified in the first step, followed by the proposition of solutions and the suggestion of design standards.

It was a great week, and we thank our Sri Lankan partners for their hospitality and for providing a welcoming atmosphere inviting discussions and supporting a mutual understanding between the different disciplines and between Sri Lankan and European perspectives.

Regine Gerike on behalf of the TU Dresden team

LBS2ITS Newsletter No. 2

Transportation Site Visit​

March 27, 2022

One day before the start of the first train-the-teachers course on ‘Transport System Planning for Smart and Liveable Cities’ in the LBS2ITS project, the colleagues from TU Dresden and I had the opportunity to visit a transportation-related site visit led by colleagues from the University of Moratuwa.

The first stop was the Expressway control centre in Galanigama, which monitors the traffic on the southern Expressway is from Kottawa to Kathragama via Galle, Matara and Beliatta. Around 150 staff members are responsible for tasks ranging from monitoring the traffic flow to emergency response in the case of an incident.

Site visit at the Expressway control centre in Galanigama

At the following stop, the new facilities of the Kottawa Multi-modal hub south of Colombo were visited. This very modern multi-modal traffic hub serves a greater area within Sri Lanka with mainly long-distance overland buses and local buses, and other means of transportation. A train line is also connected to the bus terminal, although the train traffic is not as heavy as that of the busses except in morning and evening rush hours during the week. As we visited on a Sunday around noon, there was not much traffic going on.

At the Kottawa Multi-modal hub

The third stop was made at the Maradana Railway Station, visiting the railway control centre. This control centre is located in the historical building of the train stations. After visiting the control centre, the station building and the platforms were also visited. The train stations serve mainly local travelling within the greater Colombo area.

Visiting the Maradana railway station

This day visit gave a good insight about local travel conditions for starting the training course on the next day.

Günther Retscher

LBS2ITS Newsletter No. 1

First Sri Lankan Visit of the Project Coordinator Guenther Retscher with all Partners and their Representatives

January 31 to February 12, 2022

Already in the second year of the project’s lifetime, the LBS2ITS project coordinator Guenther Retscher had the chance to meet all partners in person during his first visit to Sri Lanka. All previous meetings had to be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The warm welcome and reception from the Vice-Chancellor Major General Milinda Peiris at the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) (link to KDU website) was the first highlight of Guenther’s visit. With the Dean of Graduate Studies Brigadier RGU Rajapakshe RSP, future collaboration with joint supervision of PhD students between TU Wien and KDU was initiated. An adjunct professorship was offered to Guenther Retscher.

With the KDU team led by Dr. Pradeep Kalansooriya, the dissemination strategies of the project results were discussed in detail. His team is responsible for the website and the social media appearance of LBS2ITS. Further improvements for the appearance and visibility of the project were initiated. Moreover, the planning of the train-the-teachers courses was followed up. At KDU the train-the-teachers course on Smartphone positioning techniques for in- and outdoor localization is scheduled for the end of August 2022.

The following partner visited by Guenther was the University of Sri Jayewardenepura (USJ) with his Faculty of Technology. This faculty now resides on a new University campus in Pitipana – North Homagama to the East of Nugegoda and was built just two years ago. New laboratories and classrooms are available for the students on this campus. Guenther had fruitful discussions with the Dean of the Faculty Prof. Nilmini Liyanage about future directions to go in the collaboration with TU Wien and all LBS2ITS project partners. 

Reception by Dean Prof. Nilmini Liyanage at USJ

The local coordinator of the USJ project team Dr. Choolaka Hewawasam, his team and Guenther finalized the preparation for the first on-site workshop on Quality assurance (QA) in teaching, which was held successfully in the following week from February 7 to 8. This workshop had to be split previously into two parts, a virtual part held from November 16 to 17 online and the on-site part mentioned before. All Sri Lankan project partners sent four participants each to attend this workshop. The Vice-Chancellor of USJ Senior Prof. Sudantha Liyanage joined also the workshop attendees during one evening for a discussion of future collaborations in education and research.

The next visit was paid to the local coordinators Amila Buddhika Jayasinghe and Loshaka Perera of the University of Moratuwa (UOM). At UOM, Guenther met with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof. PKS Mahanama and the representatives of the Departments of Town and Country Planning and Civil Engineering with the project partner of the Transportation Engineering Group. With the head of this group Prof. C. Jayasinghe, future collaboration was also explored.

Meeting the team at UOM

In addition, at UOM Guenther had the opportunity to meet the representatives of the company Prome Engineering who showcased their equipment for ‘smart classrooms’ (https://smartclassroom.lk/). With the LBS2ITS project funds, a modernization of the facilities of the four partner Universities for distance learning is foreseen towards the implementation of smart classrooms.

After the above-mentioned workshop on QA in teaching at USJ, Guenther Retscher travelled together with the European project partner from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) Prof. Vassilis Gikas to the town of Belihuloya in the mountainous inland of the island in the second week of his stay in Sri Lanka. Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka (SUSL) with its Faculty of Geomatics is located in this tranquil town. With the Dean of the Faculty Mr. Vipula Abeyratne – who is also the local coordinator of the LBS2ITS project team from SUSL – preparatory work on the train-the-teachers course on Alternative Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) technologies was intensified. This course is scheduled to be held from May 2 to 6, 2022. The site at SUSL for the practical fieldwork and laboratory facilities were inspected and selected for this course.

An important meeting was also held with Mr. Rajitha Jayasinghe from SULECO (Pvt) Ltd during Guenther’s stay in Sri Lanka. His company was previously selected to deliver new GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) equipment from the Italian manufacturer Stonex ® Slr to all four partner Universities. In this meeting, the last equipment purchase contract with KDU was also be signed. Mr. Jayasinghe indicated and offered his full support for the project which is guaranteed even beyond the lifetime of the project.

For the project coordinator Guenther Retscher the first Sri Lankan visit in the course of LBS2ITS offered a great opportunity to meet again with already known partners and for the first time in person with the new partners to discuss the project’s progress and the planning of the upcoming train-the-teachers courses and workshops. A quite ambitious and challenging schedule of all courses was developed which has to be implemented in the two remaining years of the LBS2ITS project.

Thank you for the warm welcome from all partners and the successful discussions in the amazing country Sri Lanka!

Günther Retscher