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.
The participation of maintenance staff in the project development process is mentioned in another lesson from this same evaluation as a potential contributor to successful system implementation because it enables ease of future support and maintenance to be taken into account during planning and design. Similarly, the participation of system operators in the project development process can help ensure that ease of use and convenient functionality for both hardware and software when ATIS projects are designed.
- Consider the perspectives of system operators during project development. In one of the projects evaluated, staff noted that the planning, design and implementation processes did not include continuous contact between the original system designers and the project implementation process. As a result, the original designers and the eventual users did not participate in the system performance check until project completion. In another rural project evaluation, several observations were made related to operational issues of the ATIS systems after their deployment, focusing on their functionality and convenience for system operators. Interviews from that project noted the differences in ease of use between their software (which they stated was the oldest among state systems) and that of other regional systems. Issues mentioned included difficulties with manual initiation of dial-up communications, including communications errors, and the need to manage each device separately. This is in contrast to another regional system in the state that allows the operator to select multiple systems, enter a message, and initiate communications without requiring the operator to manually manage each step of the process.
This experience shows that feedback from the eventual users of the system enables functional limitations and other design shortcomings to be identified and addressed before implementation. This helps to reduce the number and severity of usability problems and generally helps to better satisfy user needs.