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.
During the course of the iFlorida evaluation, several approaches were discussed for reducing the overall costs of owning and operating traffic monitoring equipment. These approaches are discussed below.
- Consider life-cycle cost during the procurement process. The contract for the iFlorida field devices included the cost for deploying the field devices and providing a maintenance warranty for two years after the deployment was complete. The expected cost of maintenance after this two-year warranty period would not be reflected in the procurement cost. Because of this, a system that has a lower procurement cost could have a higher life-cycle cost. In particular, a system that was less expensive to install but had higher maintenance costs could result in a low procurement cost (because only two years of maintenance costs are included), but a high life-cycle cost. A department may want to compare the full life-cycle cost of a deployment rather than the procurement cost when evaluating deployment contracts.
- Consider participating in the ITS Benefits and Costs Databases maintained by the U.S. DOT. Considering the full life-cycle cost of a deployment requires estimating future failure rates for installed equipment and the costs of repairs. A good approach for doing so is to obtain information from other deployments of the technologies. U.S. DOT established the ITS Costs database (www.itscosts.its.dot.gov) to help departments share information about the costs of deploying and maintaining ITS field equipment. Because of limited participation by agencies deploying ITS technologies, the information in this database is limited. Agencies should consider tracking costs and submitting their costs to this database so as to benefit others deploying similar technologies.
- Consider tracking the causes of equipment failures to help decrease maintenance costs. FDOT used a spreadsheet to track failed equipment and assign work orders for repairs. FDOT's maintenance contractor was expected to identify the root cause of failures that occurred. However, they did not provide this information to FDOT. This made it difficult for FDOT to identify common causes of failures so that they could take action to reduce the prevalence of those causes. Even though FDOT was proactive in trying approaches to reduce failures, such as adding surge protectors and lightening protection. The lack of ready access to detailed failure data made it difficult to determine if these approaches were successful.
It is evident from the above experience that agencies should conduct estimates for not only the one-time procurement but also the life-cycle cost in order to estimate the yearly maintenance costs they would incur. Agencies are encouraged to submit costs data to the U.S. DOT’s ITS Costs Database so that other agencies considering similar technology deployments can benefit from the past experiences. Maintenance contractors should diligently record the equipment failures so that the root causes of repeated failures were identified and remedial measures put in place. These lessons are anticipated to help reduce maintenance costs and increase productivity of the maintenance staff.
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