The Washington State Transportation Center (TRAC) evaluated five Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) projects for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT): the Edmonds Ferry Terminal, State Route 101, State Routes 2 and 97, State Route 395, and the Tacoma TMC Enhancement. The projects involved the deployment of a range of devices in both urban and rural environments. Four of the projects provided traveler information using highway advisory radio (HAR), variable message signs (VMS), and road weather information systems (RWIS). One project involved the expansion of a traveler information communications backbone with a fiber optic link to a traffic management center (TMC). All of the projects received federal ITS funding in FY 1999 and therefore required a local self-evaluation. TRAC's first step was to develop a standardized methodology for evaluating ATIS projects. The methodology focused on technical, management, and organizational lessons learned. TRAC then used this methodology to evaluate the five projects. The methodology proved effective in producing useful information about ATIS benefits and deployment issues. On the basis of these evaluations, guidelines and lessons learned for planning and operating ATIS programs were developed to provide a better understanding of ways to approach future ATIS projects.
A review of five ATIS projects illustrated the value of DOT maintenance group input to an ATIS project. As one project staff member noted, the inputs of the maintenance group for his project were considered important throughout project planning, design, implementation, operations and maintenance; the maintenance staff was considered a key client of the project. Comments about the role of maintenance were common among most of the projects evaluated and usually focused on general issues such as the appropriate role of maintenance in the project development process, rather than unusual technical issues.
- Encourage maintenance group participation to help facilitate system compatibility. Early involvement by DOT maintenance staff in the proposal development, system design, and technology selection stages was cited by participants of several projects as important to help ensure compatibility of new devices with existing equipment. In the cases reviewed, new devices and their supporting infrastructure were implemented as a supplement to existing devices and infrastructure; it was therefore important to verify that the full planned functionality of the new devices would still be achieved once they were integrated into the existing system. The maintenance staff was cited as being in the best position to review technical device and network specifications and evaluate compatibility. A compatibility check also has implications for reducing both initial installation expenses and ongoing support expenses. A technical review can help reduce the possibility that incompatibilities will be discovered following installation of new equipment which could require additional time and expense to diagnose and remedy. Furthermore, if the design uses new devices that are compatible with or based on existing devices, the maintenance staff will be more likely to already have support for the new devices in place in the form of working experience with the devices, testing equipment and procedures, and compatible spare parts.
- Consider maintenance group participation following a project postponement. If a project bid process is prepared, postponed, then re-bid, an updated maintenance review should be considered to reflect any new equipment since the original bid review. This can help verify that the bid is current with new technology developments and compatible with updated DOT maintenance practices and equipment guidelines.
- Include maintenance group participation to support successful implementation. ATIS project staff also mentioned the value of early involvement by the DOT maintenance staff in choices related to implementation. Specifically, the selection of sites for data collection sensors and information transmitters or displays can be critical to project success. Because of the nature of their work, maintenance groups have experience with the pattern and variability of local weather and road conditions. They are often in the best position to provide specific information on problem areas that should be considered in sensor and transmitter/display placement and to suggest potential sites that make the most sense in terms of data collection (for sensors) and information access (for information transmittal devices such as VMS or HAR). Maintenance staff can also provide assistance on technical operating issues related to placement, such as power access for new devices, communications access and performance or signal coverage limitations, or environmental restrictions related to construction.
Involving maintenance staff at various stages of a project is beneficial to the overall project outcome. At an early stage, maintenance groups can help to ensure compatibility of new devices with existing equipment. In the case of project postponement, maintenance groups can help to verify that the bid is current with new technology developments and DOT maintenance practices and equipment guidelines. At the implementation stage, maintenance staff can aid in the selection of sites for data collection sensors and information transmitters.
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