In the Seattle metropolitan area, demand for transportation facilities and services already exceed the supply. A growing economy, increasing population, and constrained construction of new roads are dramatically decreasing transportation system performance.
Consequently, in 1997 the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and others in the public and private sectors looked to emerging technologies to help improve the performance of the Seattle region's existing transportation system. Under the U.S. Department of Transportation's Model Deployment Initiative, WSDOT entered into a partnership with more than twenty public and private organizations to implement intelligent transportation system (ITS) solutions. This partnership was named "SmartTrek", and it built upon existing institutional relationships and ITS infrastructure in the Seattle region. The goal was to apply new technologies, including sensors, communications, and information systems, to help the region better manage traffic, inform travelers of transportation options, and quickly respond to roadway incidents and changing conditions. Smart Trek integrated new and existing data sources; established a regional, multimodal transportation information network; and greatly expanded the distribution of traveler information.
The lesson is based on findings presented in the project’s 2000 evaluation report completed by Science Application International Corporation (SAIC) and on input from WSDOT project staff.
SmartTrek was a partnership of twenty public and private organizations that implemented emerging technologies to help improve the performance of the Seattle region’s existing transportation system. This project involved the application of a diverse range of traveler information technologies. The project’s evaluation team determined that the success of the project was due, in part, to the flexibility offered by use of different procurement mechanisms as appropriate to the multiple public and private organizations involved in the project. The lesson learned was as follows:
- Use innovative procurement mechanisms to engage private sector parties. This can streamline the procurement process, which allows valuable time to be saved in the deployment life cycle.
In Smart Trek, the use of the federal procurement process as the competitive process for obtaining the help of private sector parties under sole-source contracts was a good example of applying flexible procurement methods. This tactic enabled WSDOT staff to quickly procure services from private sector participants once the project’s funding was granted.
Effective use of the procurement process requires choosing an appropriate lead agency with a flexible contracting mechanism. Also important is use of the right procurement instruments. Because time was an important factor in SmartTrek, the most desirable contracts were either ones that were already in place or that were the quickest to initiate. The need to achieve project goals in a timely manner led participants to use a variety of contracting mechanisms, including the federal competitive process, multi-party agreements, competitive contracts, sole-source contracts, and phased contracts.
Although the diverse participants in SmartTrek faced several obstacles, none of them proved to be insurmountable or drastically affected the ITS deployments. This was in part because the project team demonstrated flexibility and streamlined the procurement process.
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