Establish a public-private network for improved project efficiency.

California's experience with a regional travel information system launched by a public-private alliance.

Date Posted

TravInfo Field Operational Test Institutional Evaluation Final Results

Summary Information

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.

TravInfo's primary successes lay in developing a network of public and private professionals who collaborated on advanced traveler information system projects in a variety of settings and in providing a platform for different organizations to network and form partnerships. These networks and partnerships are the most significant and unique outcomes of the field test and promise to result in many innovative traveler information services and products beyond the telephone or Web site services.

  • Consider that local governments and transit agencies may not be able to or be willing to participate in a field test. Local governments and transit agencies had limited participation in the TravInfo field test. Active participation by local public agencies would have greatly helped TravInfo achieve its goal of improving transportation coordination across agencies, modes and geographic boundaries. However, few local government and public transit agencies participated in TravInfo's development, primarily due to limited resources allocated by local governments for the regional Intelligent Transportation Systems projects. One major challenge was to persuade local public works departments to integrate their databases into those of TravInfo. TravInfo could have greatly benefited from private party data sources (i.e., freight companies), especially with the Traffic Operations System's limitations, but none were willing to share what they considered proprietary information with TravInfo. They perceived their participation in TravInfo to be an expenditure that might not yield any tangible benefits to their business and might potentially result in losing their competitive edge.
  • Emphasize open access for partners to create interest from private firms. In spite of the shortage of reliable data generated during the field test, The Contra Costa Times, Etak and Maxwell all deployed traffic websites based on TravInfo data. In addition, Bay Area television stations KTVU and KPIX hoped to use TravInfo's closed circuit television images for their traffic Web pages. These and other service providers (among them, Daimler-Chrysler, Fastline and Digital DJ) tested their products using TravInfo data during the field test. The products included cellular telephones, personal digital assistance units and in-vehicle navigation devices.
  • Generate new ideas and new approaches for enhancement and promotion by encouraging collaboration among public agencies. A successful regional transportation system depends on a partnership involving regional and local public agencies working together to get useful information to the traveling public in order to achieve the common goal of improving the overall transportation system. One alliance born out of TravInfo is a partnership between Etak and Metro Networks, which aimed to roll out a nationwide, commercial advanced traveler information system that will reach approximately 75 cities by the year 2000. Both parties say it is a direct result of their experiences with the TravInfo field test.

TravInfo's long-term vision was that the open partnership would eventually and actively encourage growth and development of advanced traveler information technologies for data collection and dissemination along a path that leads to real-time information on modal options and routes. Unity of public support for the regional traveler information system is as important as the deployment by private partners of commercial products and services. If public agencies deploy these technologies unilaterally, it will only confuse travelers. One of TravInfo's most significant accomplishments with the completion of the field test was the establishment of a strong public-private network that allowed for improved project efficiency.

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