The iFlorida Model Deployment, which was started in May 2003, called for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5 (D5) to complete the design, build, and integration of the infrastructure required to support operations in 2 years. The required infrastructure was extensive, spanned numerous stakeholders, and included many technologies that were new to FDOT D5, such as sophisticated traffic management center (TMC) operations software, a wireless network deployed along I-4, an interface to Florida Highway Patrol Computer Aided Dispatch (FHP CAD) data, statewide traffic monitoring, and many others. The iFlorida plans also called for deployment of these technologies in ways that required coordination among more than 20 stakeholders. It was an ambitious plan that would result in dramatically different traffic management operations for FDOT D5 and other transportation stakeholders in the Orlando area.
In implementing the iFlorida plan, FDOT faced many challenges ranging from higher failure rates than expected for some field hardware to difficulties with the Condition Reporting System (CRS) and Central Florida Data Warehouse (CFDW) software. "Despite these challenges, it can be readily claimed that the overall iFlorida Model Deployment was successful," noted in the final evaluation report for the iFlorida Model Deployment, published in January 2009.
The difficulties associated with the iFlorida Model Deployment provided many opportunities to identify lessons learned from the experiences they had. The most important of these are presented below in a series of lessons learned articles.
With iFlorida Model Deployment, there was a significant increase in the number, types, and geographic distribution of field equipment that FDOT District 5 (D5) was required to maintain. In January 2004, D5 was maintaining about 240 traffic monitoring stations. In 2007, this had increased to about 650 stations. This rapid increase in maintenance responsibility resulted in some problems with maintaining the equipment. One of the maintenance problems FDOT faced was that the contracts for deploying the field devices did not include requirements related to how the equipment would be monitored. This meant that FDOT had to rely on manual methods for monitoring whether field devices were operational, which placed a higher demand on staff and contractor time. FDOT identified a number of lessons learned that might benefit other organizations planning on a significant expansion of their traffic monitoring field equipment:
- Establish a well-defined process for monitoring and maintaining field equipment before beginning a significant expansion. Consider streamlining the existing monitoring and maintenance process before expanding the base of field equipment. A simple system that works well for a small amount of deployed equipment may be less effective as the amount of deployed equipment increases.
- Ensure that the requirements for new field equipment include steps to integrate the equipment into the monitoring and maintenance process.
- These requirements should include tools and/or procedures for monitoring the equipment to identify failures that occur. In the case of the arterial toll tag readers, the deployment contractor provided no such tools and weak documentation. FDOT had to develop procedures for monitoring the equipment after it had been deployed, and it took several months before FDOT had developed an efficient process for doing so.
- Newly deployed equipment should be integrated into the monitoring and maintenance process incrementally, as soon as each piece of equipment is deployed. The arterial toll tag readers were deployed and inspected over a period of four months in early 2005, but FDOT did not begin developing procedures to monitor that equipment until the deployment project was completed in May 2005. By the time FDOT began monitoring this equipment, almost half the devices had failed. Despite the fact that the deployment contractor was responsible for the equipment during this period, it appeared that the contractor did not monitor the equipment for failures.
- These requirements should include maintaining a sufficient inventory of spare parts so that repairs can be made quickly. The contract placed requirements on the repair time for serviced parts, but the contractor failed to meet these requirements because insufficient replacement parts were available to make the necessary repairs. As a result, when FDOT discovered the large number of failures in the arterial toll tag readers, it took many months before a sufficient number of replacement parts were available to conduct repairs.
- Plan for the increased demands on maintenance staff and contractors as new systems are brought online. If possible, avoid bringing several new systems online at the same time. In the case of the arterial toll tag readers, almost half of the readers had failed before manual monitoring began. When monitoring did begin, it required a significant amount of FDOT staff time to poll each individual reader each day to identify readers that had failed. The same held true with the other deployed devices-FDOT staff was required each day to review the status of each field device and copy status information into spreadsheets used to monitor system status. Thus, even though FDOT had taken steps to reduce the demands on its maintenance staff by requiring warranties on much of the iFlorida equipment, monitoring the equipment for failures still required a significant amount of FDOT staff time. The amount of time required was larger when systems were first brought online, as FDOT developed procedures to integrate the new equipment into its monitoring and maintenance programs.
- Provide a mechanism to continue operations when field equipment fails. At FDOT, key equipment was available 80 to 90 percent of the time, with other equipment available less often.
- Decreasing the time to repair equipment is an effective approach for increasing the percent of time that equipment is available.
- Providing a mechanism to continue operations when equipment fails (e.g., redundant equipment, replacement of missing data from failed equipment with estimates based on historical data and/or operator observations) is needed.
FDOT faced significant challenges in maintaining its network of field devices, particularly when several new systems were brought online simultaneously in the summer of 2005. Noticeable drops in the availability of both new and existing field equipment occurred during that period. By the start of 2006, FDOT had reached relatively stable levels of availability for key field equipment and had developed a well-defined process for monitoring and maintaining that equipment. By 2007, the stability of FDOT's maintenance practices allowed the agency to spend more time focusing on ways to improve equipment availability in order to enhance the mobility and efficiency in its transportation network.
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