Managing and operating ITS as a regional endeavor is a challenge. The study "Getting More by Working Together – Opportunities for Linking Planning and Operations" provides some insights to help planners and operators understand the value of working together and realize the benefits of pursuing management and operations (M&O) strategies at a regional scale. The lessons contained in the source were derived from an extensive review of literature and discussions with nearly 30 transportation professionals involved in planning and operations at all levels of government.
Lessons were formulated around the following linkage opportunities between transportation planning and operations:
- The Transportation Planning Process
- Data Sharing
- Performance Measures
- Congestion Management Systems
- Funding and Resource Sharing
- Institutional Arrangements
- Regional Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Architecture
- Regional Management and Operations Projects
- Regional Concept for Transportation Operations
Greater coordination and collaboration among planners and operators can help to focus attention on investments that more effectively and efficiently address short-term and long-term needs. Stronger linkages, therefore, help both planners and operators do their jobs better. Ultimately, greater coordination and collaboration among planners and operators improves transportation decision-making and benefits the traveling public, businesses, and communities.
Experience shows that data sharing among agencies have beneficial effects in the management and operations of regional ITS initiatives. Following suggestions are offered to encourage data sharing and improve data quality:
- Share data to improve data quality and decision-making. Sharing data often brings to light inaccuracies in data. Errors are common in electronically collected data due to systemic bias or simply from equipment malfunction. Errors may be difficult to identify within isolated data sets, but often become apparent when a set of data is used for a new purpose. For example, data collected by induction loops may normally be used to time a signal or measure service at a particular intersection. However, when these data are shared among agencies in an effort to develop an integrated corridor signalization plan or to calculate vehicle speeds, any unusual variability in data becomes apparent, which may indicate that a detector has been operating improperly. Although the discovery of data quality and consistency problems can cause frustration, the agencies should not be deterred from sharing data. Ultimately, the discovery of inaccuracy in data sets is valuable in deciding on a suitable fix for an equipment malfunction.
- Emphasize data access and coordination among stakeholders rather than shifting data ownership or creating new data pooling applications. Some transportation management officials have the perception that sharing data means losing control of data or that it will lead to loss of decision-making authority. This common perception can prevent a full exploration of data sharing options, such as pooling data in a central location versus simply establishing better connections between existing databases. Experience suggests that agencies should emphasize improving database coordination and access, not changing database ownership.
- Establish new relationships with other agencies and build mechanisms to support sustained data exchange and storage. Data sharing is often a first step toward broader coordination between planning and operations. Issues such as data format, accuracy, consistency, and appropriate use can complicate the process of establishing inter- and intra-agency data sharing programs, but these challenges can be overcome. A number of small steps can help to initiate the process. As agencies learn about resources available in their region, they are likely to be more interested in exploring the benefits of data exchange.
- Improve data quality through rigorous system maintenance. The malfunction of transportation data collection equipment is common, in part because many agencies cannot allocate resources to properly test and maintain the equipment. In regions that have experience implementing ITS solutions, stakeholders are learning the importance of incorporating rigorous equipment maintenance systems into their ITS deployment plans.
- Understand that quality data help engage the private sector in creating value-added content. Ensuring reliable transportation data sets has benefits beyond the agencies that rely on the data for analysis. Public agencies that have tried to encourage private sector use and distribution of ITS data are finding that high quality data are important for getting private sector stakeholders involved in generating and distributing value-added content such as traveler information.
Regions strive to improve the efficiency, reliability and safety of transportation systems. One way to achieve these goals is data sharing. Agencies should not be deterred from sharing data because of data quality and consistency problems. This lesson suggests that sharing data among stakeholders can be valuable for improving the quality of data that exist. Sharing data often increases the focus on data quality and transferability, while improving relationships among stakeholders. Improved data quality through data sharing among stakeholders contributes to achieving efficiency and productivity goals for transportation professionals.
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