Assess what users want when developing a traffic information Web site.
The experience of several of the nation’s top traffic and transit information Web site developers.
Made Public Date
12/08/2006

326

Houston
Texas
United States

29

Georgia
United States

966

Virginia
United States

1004

Louisville
Kentucky
United States

26

Denver
Colorado
United States
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Identifier
2006-00317

Best Practices for Traveler Information Websites: Lessons Learned From Top Traffic and Transit Website Winners

Background

Section 1201 of the SAFETEA–LU requires the establishment of a Real-time System Management Information Program. This program consists of the development of systems that provide real time traffic and travel condition information on the major highways of the United States. The information provided by these systems should focus on: improvement of security of the surface transportation system, congestion issues, weather events, incident management, and to facilitate national and regional highway traveler information

In 2006 the Office of Operations of the Federal Highway Administration commissioned a report on the Best Practices for Traveler Information Web sites. The report provides information on the current state of the practice for traffic information Web sites and describes best practices highlighted by the developers of such Web sites in the United States for the past five years.

Agencies planning to upgrade their Web sites as part of the Section 1201 program have additional resources available to them, including the following sites:

Lessons Learned

The number and quality of traffic information Web sites has increased over time. The availability of additional real-time information as a result of the Real-time System Management Information Program will enable significant improvements in traveler information provision. Based on interviews with developers of top traffic and transit information Web sites, recommendations have been summarized on how developers of such Web sites should assess what their users want. These recommendations include scanning of other Web sites for what is provided, conducting surveys, performing usability testing, evaluating the feedback received through the Web site, and seeking feedback through other sources, such as the 511 system. The existing experience with traveler information Web sites should facilitate the dissemination of the information in an efficient and effective manner.

  • Check out other existing Web sites: TRIMARC (http://www.trimarc.org/) provides travelers with information for the interstate highway system within the greater Louisville/Southern Indiana urbanized area. The developers of this site accessed other good traveler information sites for ideas to ensure ease of use, and consequently designed the site with the ability to click on signs or cameras to get more detailed information.
  • Conduct surveys: Surveys allow developers to find out what potential users want before developing a site or updating an existing one. The Georgia Department of Transportation seeks input from the public by surveying users about what features they use, how often and when, and whether they use the information to alter the route or mode of transportation they take.
  • Perform usability testing: The Virginia Department of Transportation performed usability testing after their site was developed to ensure that their Web site worked and the commuters received the information that they expected.
  • Obtain feedback: Developers of the best traveler information Web sites mentioned receiving user feedback and using their comments to address technical issues or update the information provided. Houston TranStar looks for continuous improvement, reviewing the site on a monthly basis and implementing new features every two or three months. Others, such as the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD), have developed beta-test groups of Web site users who try out new features and comment on redesigns.
  • Obtain feedback through 511 systems: Transit agencies frequently work with their call center customer service staff to identify questions that people ask, and consequently provide that information on the Web site. Although this direct information is not available with a fully automated telephone system, statistics on usage and intercept surveys could provide similar information.

This lesson suggests that when traveler information Web site developers perform extensive assessment of what their users want, it can lead to good quality Web sites. The implementation of the recommendations described in this lesson of how to evaluate user needs will greatly enhance customer satisfaction. Thus, when designers are creating or updating traveler information Web sites, it is imperative that they include a thorough assessment of their customers' requirements to ensure a successful and user friendly site.

Best Practices for Traveler Information Websites: Lessons Learned From Top Traffic and Transit Website Winners

Best Practices for Traveler Information Websites: Lessons Learned From Top Traffic and Transit Website Winners
Publication Sort Date
06/01/2006
Author
Economic and Industry Analysis DivisionJohn A. Volpe National Transportation Systems CenterUnited States Department of Transportation
Publisher
Office of OperationsFederal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation

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System Engineering Elements

Focus Areas Taxonomy: