Headlines: March 6th, 2002

People struggling to solve transport problems and congestion might find help at hand in the form of a free online version of specially designed problem-solving software.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Biz/ed have released a free version of Metroplitan Area Transport Simulator (Mets), a sophisticated simulation model of London’s transport. Previously only available to transport professionals and researchers, Mets has been used to plan changes to London’s public transport.

It allows users to test out the potential impact of policy changes such as the introduction of car user charges, altering bus and tube fares or setting up more priority routes for buses. The software can also produce costings to show the financial impact of changes.

Mets was originally written by Professor Stephen Glaister of Imperial College, London, currently a board member of Transport for London.

The on-line version was produced by the IFS, with accompanying teaching materials by Biz/ed, University of Bristol. It forms part of the Virtual Learning Arcade (VLA), a set of interactive simulations and teaching materials funded by a grant from JISC, the main funding body for UK academic computing.

Other models in the VLA include a simulation of possible means to alleviate child poverty, as well as several small simulations designed to help students learn various points of economic theory.

Link to the Virtual Learning Arcade: www.bized.ac.uk/virtual/vla/

Link to Mets: vla.ifs.org.uk/models/mets22.html