Treat maintenance staff as customers and beneficiaries of ATIS information.
Washington's experience in deploying five Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) projects and developing a standardized approach for evaluating ATIS projects.
Made Public Date

ATIS Evaluation Framework


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.

Lessons Learned

While the traveling public is often thought of as the primary consumer of the information collected and disseminated by advanced traveler information systems, ATIS information is also valuable to DOT maintenance operations and crews. In that sense, maintenance organizations are not only project clients but also recipients of the project benefits. Maintenance crew benefits ultimately manifest themselves in better road services for the public, such as more timely and effective roadway maintenance and traveler information.

  • Encourage maintenance organizations to use ATIS information to perform their tasks more efficiently and effectively. Advanced traveler information offers a potentially significant in-house maintenance benefit to transportation and other agencies. This is especially the case where information sources are limited and road conditions are critical to safety, such as with rural applications. Example of benefits to maintenance staff include the following:
    • Remote access to variable message signs: Replacement of manually updated message signs with signs that can be remotely updated enables maintenance crews to spend more of their time monitoring and improving road conditions, and less time traveling to signs and manually changing them.

      Improved communications: Improved networks and supporting infrastructure put in place to support communications to ATIS devices can sometimes be used to facilitate improved crew communications as well.

      Improved forecasting and prioritizing: Remote access to road condition data (e.g., RWIS sensors) enables crews to more efficiently forecast future weather and road conditions, make snowplowing decisions, and prioritize maintenance tasks and routes.

      Remote verification: Camera views enable personnel to remotely verify road and weather information, as well as to confirm that message transmissions to VMS were successfully received.

      Faster response: Information from ATIS devices allows crews to respond more quickly to changing road conditions, thereby reducing the impact of backups and other inconveniences for travelers.

This lesson points out that ATIS technology is not only beneficial to the traveling public, but is also valuable to the operations and maintenance crews that work with the ATIS systems. With advanced ATIS systems providing more accurate and remote information, operations and maintenance staff can be more efficient and effective with their time and thus be more economical; more accurate information also translates to improved traveler mobility and safety. This lesson also identifies the fact that some of these above-described benefits are not realized at the onset of ATIS deployment, but are learned gradually.