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Travel Modes

In the real world, a travel mode can be thought of intuitively as a way of getting from point A to point B. Travel modes can include non-vehicle modes (foot), vehicle modes (a bicycle or motor vehicle), and occasionally more granular details (that motor vehicle might be classified as a "high occupancy vehicle" or a "heavy goods vehicle").

Within the Overture Transportation theme's schema model, the real world intuition translates to the following definition: a travel mode is a recognized mode by which a person or thing may use a Segment feature.

Understanding travel modes

Implied travel modes

Every segment has an implied set of travel modes that are allowed to use the segment. For Road segments, this implied set derives from the road class, as well as local rules, norms, and customs operative where the road segment is situated.

Since this implied set depends on locality or jurisdiction, and is susceptible of varying over time, the Overture Transportation schema does not try to specify the implied set. Resolution of the implied set is done by the specific application in the case where this level of detail is important for its proper functioning. (An accurate routing engine may need this information, whereas a 2D map render or a geocoder likely do not.)

General definitions

Overture's recognized travel modes are defined in general terms that are broadly applicable, for example hov is a high-occupancy vehicle and hgv is a heavy goods vehicle. In most jurisdictions, these general terms map to a concept that is in use within the jurisdiction, even though the local name for the concept may vary, for example one jurisdiction may say "heavy goods vehicle" and another may say "large goods vehicle".

Despite being broadly-applicable, travel modes may have different definitions in different places and at different times.

  • In one jurisdiction, an hgv might mean any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight in excess of 3.5 tonnes (3,500 kg). In another place, an hgv might have a gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001 lbs.
  • In one jurisdiction, an hov might require a minimum of 2 passengers while in another place it might have a higher minimum passenger count, or include battery-electric vehicles, or exclude certain classes of vehicle or usage.

As a consequence of the variance in definition across place and time, Overture gives only general definitions for travel modes, leaving precise definition to those applications that require them.

When is a travel mode recognized?

A travel mode is recognized by the Overture Transportation schema when it becomes part of the mode enumeration. As of our draft schema release v0.4.0, this enumeration is relatively small and contains only travel modes which we have some confidence will be generally-applicable both across jurisdictions and over time. We expect the list to change in future schema updates, to be larger once we reach a table v1.0.0 schema, and to continue to expand as the world changes and new information arises.

Our criteria for recognizing a proposed new travel mode are:

  1. The proposed new travel mode should represent a generally-accepted concept meaning that the concept exists in many places with roughly the same definition.
  2. The proposed new travel mode should be referred to with well-known sign iconography or sign text in those jurisdictions where the concept exists; and this iconography or sign text is preferably somewhat consistent across many jurisdictions and over time.
  3. It must be possible to give a relatively precise definition to the proposed new travel mode and explain how it differs from, or intersects with, other similar travel modes which are already recognized in the Overture schema.
  4. The proposed new travel mode should preferably not be trivially expressible using another existing Scoping Property. (An example of such a trivially-expressible concept might be a "three-axle vehicle" which is more appropriately phrased as vehicle: { axleCount: { isEqualTo: 3 } }.)
  5. The proposed new travel mode must be supported by existing data in at least one of Overture's upstream data sources.

There is a risk that the above-described approach will be too slow to adapt to our users' needs in a vast, ever-changing world. One possible avenue to mitigate this risk is supporting custom extensions to the built-in list of recognized travel modes.

Travel mode schema

Scoping to travel modes

Travel modes can be used to change the scope of scoped and rule-based properties within the schema. For example, they can affect the scope of access restrictions, turn restrictions, or speed limits on road segments. Since travel modes are expressed via scoping properties, it is recommended to read the section on Scoped and Rule-Based Properties before proceeding further.

Travel mode scoping: mode and modeNot

Two scoping properties control whether a given scoped property applies to a given travel mode: mode and modeNot.

If either mode or modeNot property is specified, the property value must be a non-empty, array of travel modes, and is interpreted as a set. Values must be unique, but order is not important.

The mode and modeNot properties are not mutually exclusive: in places where scoping by travel mode is allowed, either mode or modeNot, or both, may be provided.

  1. Neither. When neither mode nor modeNot is provided, the parent property's scope includes all default travel modes implied by the road class.
  2. Only mode. When mode is provided by itself, the parent property is scoped to include only those travel modes that included in the mode set.
  3. Only modeNot. When modeNot is provided by itself, the parent property is scoped to include all those travel modes that are not included in the modeNot set.
  4. Both. When both mode and modeNot are provided, the parent property is scoped to include all those travel modes that are included in the mode set except those that are included in the modeNot set. (For example, mode: [motorVehicle], modeNot: [motorcycle] expresses the travel mode scope "all motor vehicles except motorcycles".)

Vehicle attribute scoping: vehicle

Because travel modes are an "fuzzy" concept, there are inevitably areas of overlap between with the more precise, but more limited, vehicle scoping property which is used for vehicle attributes scoping.

Where there is potential overlap, the method of scoping used in Overture data releases will depend on how the upstream data source has expressed the equivalent concept. Where there is choice, it is preferable to select the scoping method that most accurately reflects the intention expressed on local signage.

Similar scoping properties: using and recognized

The scoping properties using and recognized express concepts that are meant to be orthogonal to (completely separate from) travel modes.

  • The using property indicates purpose of use scoping, which relates to the purpose for which the person or thing travelling is using a given segment of the transportation network. Travel modes should ideally not embed a purpose of use.
  • The recognized property indicates status scoping, which relates to a recognized status given to the person or thing travelling, where the recognized status is distinct from the mode of travel itself. Travel modes should ideally not embed a status.

The travel modes taxonomy

Overture travel modes form a shallow taxonomy. Some travel modes are more general, while others are more specific, and a more general travel mode may contain a more specific one. For example, the general travel mode vehicle contains the more specific mode motorVehicle.

The taxonomy supported in our draft schema v0.4.0 can be visualized in the diagram below.

The Overture travel modes taxonomy

Legend graphic for Overture travel modes taxonomy

The Overture travel modes taxonomy.

As many of the above travel modes draw on the body of knowledge accumulated in relation to OpenStreetMap transport mode access restrictions, we would like acknowledge a intellectual debt to the OSM community in relation to travel modes as well as to other aspects of the Transportation schema.

Open questions

This section discusses some open questions are debating internally with regard to travel modes. We would love to hear your feedback on these questions (and any others that you may have).

Minimum required travel modes

We're not yet certain on the minimum set of recognized travel modes is that will make the Overture Transportation schema as usable as possible to as broad an audience as possible. What do you think we are missing?

Should we support extension travel modes?

We live in a time of rapid technological and regulatory iteration in the transportation space. The speed of change raises the possibility that no matter how quickly we extend the travel modes recognized in the Overture schema, the schema will always be behind the real world, at least in some local areas and with regard to some technologies, customs, or local rules.

One possibility to keep the Overture schema maximally usable for users who are mapping at the cutting edge is to allow custom extensions to the list of travel modes. If we did this consistently with how extension properties work for features, we could, for example, allow travel mode names with the ext* to be ignored by the schema validation rules.

What do you think?

Internal consistency

As alluded to above, there is some overlap between the fuzzy concept of travel modes and vehicle attribute scoping. We're aware of this overlap and view it as limited but inevitable.

Our intention is, however, to reduce or eliminate the overlap between travel modes and the other similar scoping properties (using and recognized). One area where we may have been unsuccessful is the emergency travel mode in the current taxonomy. Arguably, emergency should be removed from the taxonomy, and an asEmergencyResponder should be included in the status values enumeration for the recognized property.

What are your suggestions relating to keeping the travel modes and other scoping properties internally consistent and minimally overlapping?