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 different traveler information technologies. The project’s evaluation team determined that the success of the project was due, in part, to a long-range vision for the project. The lesson learned was as follows:
- Develop a long-range vision to ensure that the services provided under the project continue after the demonstration period has ended. The SmartTrek evaluation team concluded that future planning, such as developing traveler information business plans and forecasting ITS operation and maintenance costs, should be considered for all ITS deployments.
Project success can be greatly aided when commitments, goals, and expectations for the project are explicitly and unmistakably presented, or as one SmartTrek participant said, “put in writing.” One example of a highly recommended written tool is a business plan to map out questions of long-term operations and management. Smart Trek was guided by a statewide business plan that discussed appropriate roles, responsibilities, and cost allocations for both the public and private providers of advanced traveler information system services. It also described business opportunities for the private sector and the need to balance those opportunities with public sector goals.
Although the diverse participants in the Smart Trek faced several obstacles, none of them proved to be insurmountable or drastically affected the ITS deployments. The use of a long-range business plan and support for a long-term project vision contributed to the project’s success.
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