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.
Some useful data may not be appropriate to share among all ITS stakeholders for reasons related to security, personal privacy, or business confidentiality. For example, security concerns may require limited distribution of a strategic emergency response route or details of the transport of certain dangerous materials. Data privacy issues can become disruptive during the process of establishing data sharing agreements unless these issues are addressed forthrightly and early on in the process. Addressing these concerns early will facilitate formal data sharing agreements among agencies.
To address privacy and security concerns early in the process, key issues that need careful consideration include:
- Facilitate specific data accessibility for each user and prevent access to confidential information by using modern database tools.
- Organize data appropriately and educate data partners about measures to protect confidentiality.
Interest in data sharing is prompted in part by growing concern about the performance of transportation systems in addition to the performance of individual facilities, and by the increased focus on system management and operations as a tool to enhance transportation systems performance. Efforts to improve travel time reliability and predictability require more detailed data than has traditionally been analyzed by planners. The system focus means that data on conditions are needed virtually everywhere on the transportation system, across jurisdictions and modes. This contrasts with the typical "hotspot" approach that has governed data collection and transportation management in the past.
There are a number of issues to consider during the early stages of the development of formal data sharing agreements, some of which include:
- Consider the cost effectiveness of software tools to help merge dissimilar data sets. As data collection and storage have become more cost effective, the capacity for transportation practitioners to make use of vast amounts of data for policy analysis has also increased. Many states are now using relational databases, GIS, and other tools to assist them in bringing together these dissimilar data sets.
- Utilize existing ITS architectures to identify data sharing opportunities. One element of the National Architecture (and regional architectures) is the information flow analysis. This is typically diagramed in a way that illustrates the appropriate information flows between each major component of the transportation system, thereby highlighting potential data sharing options.
- Understand that in light of the more complete information available from sharing data, there may be a need to (re)evaluate planning practices and operations strategies. ITS data can be very useful to transportation planners in measuring system performance, identifying deficiencies, and in improving planning analysis tools. Organizations that receive data benefit from valuable information on transportation system demand and performance, often at little or no cost. Sharing data can benefit the organization providing data by building awareness about the agency’s programs and creating a check on data accuracy. Data sharing may necessitate changes within the agencies receiving data, including a willingness to evaluate planning practices and operations strategies in light of more complete information.
There is a wealth of operations data that can be used to improve the planning process. Some regions have developed advanced data sharing arrangements, while others are beginning to recognize the benefits of sharing data. Formal data sharing agreements within a region may be necessary to take advantage of the opportunities to share data. This lesson identifies several concerns that need to be addressed when preparing these agreements as they pertain to security and privacy. To avoid a lengthy process in establishing a data sharing agreement, these issues need to be identified and addressed early in the process to minimize the impact. A well thought out data sharing agreement that addresses security, privacy and confidentiality should address any concerns an agency may have for sharing data and provide a valuable benefit to other agencies by reducing their data collection needs. Data sharing among agencies improves efficiency and productivity of data collection within the region and an agreement that addresses security and privacy protects all parties involved.
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