California's experience with a regional travel information system launched by a public-private alliance.
TravInfo is a regional traveler information system in the San Francisco Bay Area. The institutional evaluation examined TravInfo's unique concept of open-architecture and its collaborative public-private partnership to broadly disseminate traveler information and foster a commercial market for privately offered advanced traveler information services. Despite many challenges, the field test was completed, and at its conclusion TravInfo was deployed as an integral part of the Bay Area transportation infrastructure. The institutional evaluation measured the performance of TravInfo's public-private partnership at the organizational level. TravInfo meetings were conducted as open forums to encourage the entrepreneurial participation of members of the advanced traveler information system industry as well as the active participation of local public agencies. Among lessons learned is the importance of adjusting different expectations of the public and private partners, establishing reasonable goals for the field test, developing different scenarios to deal with arising problems, and understanding the value of the public-private partnership.
The public and private partners approached TravInfo with different motivations and expectations. The public side generally hoped to disseminate accurate and timely traveler information as widely as possible to help the public by improving the traffic management system. The private partners hoped primarily to use the TravInfo database to create value added information services that they could sell at a profit. Adjusting the varying expectations of the public and private partners facilitated the successful launch of TravInfo.
- Adjust the public and private partners' differing expectations in order to work toward a common goal. The public partners expected to make TravInfo available for better congestion management, while the private partners expected to test and market products that would make a profit. Although it took a long time to reconcile their differing objectives, doing so enabled the dissemination of accurate, reliable, timely and multi-modal information to Bay Area travelers.
- Ensure that conflicts within a public-private partnership are resolved by communicating concerns and compromising. As part of the field operational test, a Traveler Information Center was created. Its data were intended to be disseminated through three basic means: the Traveler Advisory Telephone System, an automated reporting service which travelers from all the area codes in the Bay Area could reach by dialing a single phone number, 817-1717; a data server that information service providers could link to over a landline connection; and a wireless broadcast that would send information to service providers and individual devices over the air. Although they originally supported the idea of TravInfo supplying the wireless link, private vendors later expressed concern that it would lead to unfair competition from the public side, so this concept was abandoned early in the TravInfo development process. The private partners expressed the concern that TravInfo might take business away from them, rather than give them more. The private sector concern was that if TravInfo pre-processed data to the point where private companies could add little value and then made it widely available through means such as the wireless Data Broadcasting System, direct modem links to individuals and a detailed automated phone reporting system, private services would be squeezed out. As a result, the Management Board eliminated the wireless system from the TravInfo design and agreed not to provide any transportation data directly to the public, other than through the 817-1717 telephone system.
The partners felt that it was necessary to lower their expectations while working toward a common goal. The public and private partners had different expectations from TravInfo. The public partners expected to make TravInfo available for better congestion management, while the private partners expected to test and market products that would make a profit. Although a consensus-based partnership can be slow at making critical decisions, the TravInfo organization was effective and efficient because it reconciled differing expectations and motivations in the public-private partnership. The experiences of these lessons can be applied to improve mobility by reducing travel delay.