Create multi-modal ITS plans focusing on needs and update them frequently, balancing process and projects and considering communication and coordination while ensuring that adequate resources are dedicated to implementation.
National experience with ITS strategic planning at the overview level.
Made Public Date


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New Mexico
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Caltrans District 5 (San Luis Obispo)
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New York
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Siskiyou County
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Jackson County
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Best Practices of Rural and Statewide ITS Strategic Planning


This document distills best practices in preparation of rural and statewide ITS deployment plans from 12 in-depth case studies and 18 sites surveyed by written questionnaire. The ultimate goal is to identify factors that should be considered by agencies undertaking such planning projects. The report also documents the benefits of this planning so that these benefits can encourage future ITS strategic planning efforts nationwide.

This document addresses institutional rather than technical issues with emphasis on the complex decision-making process required for ITS strategic planning. This process includes agency interactions, processes and procedures, organizational structures, and the level of institutional involvement.

  • The document uses the case studies/surveys to summarize the following aspects of deployment, and lays out guidance highlights (lessons learned) addressing many of these items:
  • The ITS strategic planning process, including regional ITS architectures
  • Goals and objectives of creating an ITS strategic plan
  • Effective stakeholder participation
  • Best practices for outreach, education, and marketing
  • Funding opportunities and sources, including public/private partnerships
  • Operations, maintenance, and management considerations
  • Costs of planning
  • Potential benefits

The case studies themselves appear in appendices.

This document, along with the Rural Toolbox (FHWA-OP-01-030), forms the rural ITS best practices series.

Lessons Learned

Create multi-modal ITS plans focusing on needs and update them frequently, balancing process and projects and considering communication and coordination while ensuring that adequate resources are dedicated to implementation:


    • Implementation
  • The ITS Strategic assessment should ensure that adequate resources are dedicated to implementation. Specific projects for implementation should be identified and targeted deployment schedules established.
    • Strategic Plan Updates

    Since ITS technology and practices are evolving so quickly and given the novelty of ITS to many Stakeholders, and since regional circumstances are continuously evolving frequent ITS strategic planning is as important as having a written plan. Therefore, updating planes annually is a useful undertaking. Regional Stakeholders should monitor continuing ITS project deployments in the region, and then maintain and update the project database in order to evaluate the expected benefits.

    • Projects vs. Process

    Balancing the ITS planning process with the selection of recommended ITS projects is the key to maintaining stakeholder interest while satisfying federal and state guidelines. Most non-transportation agencies do not get involved in ITS until real, funded projects are begun. Usually these other agencies will only be willing to contribute resources or initiate new projects when they begin to comprehend benefits to them. Care should be taken, however, to ensure that the Region-/Statewide Strategic Plan is not just a “cookie cutter” study; each strategic assessment requires targeted, creative application of ITS.

    • Communication & Coordination

    Communication between stakeholders and coordination of ITS initiatives is important to the long-term success of an ITS program. Coordinated planning helps ensure that ITS deployments are integrated into the state’s broader architecture. Coordinated, concurrent deployments and parallel efforts among different regions are helpful to ensure that systems work together and to avoid redundant or superfluous efforts.

    In addition, close communication between the state DOT and district- level staff at the outset of the planning effort can very useful. If there is coordination, then early winners or early successful implementations by a district become known at the state level and can then be shared with other regions.

    • Multi-Modal & Transit

    While developing a multi- modal focus for the state/region may be difficult due to the multi-State nature of CVO systems and the fragmentary nature of Regional transit systems, it is an attainable (and desired) goal. Given the rapid proliferation of ITS technologies throughout the transit and CVO communities, a multi- modal focus should be central feature of ITS strategic plans.

    • Focus on Needs, not Available Technologies

    Finally, make sure that the ITS Strategic Plan does not involve "technology in search of a problem"; should be taken that needs are identified first, so that potential ITS solutions can be identified that address the needs (not vice- versa). Therefore, one of the most important aspects to consider when developing an ITS Strategic Plan is to make sure that ITS solutions are "connected" to the identified transportation needs (i.e., traceability). For example, one stakeholder thought that their strategic plan was innovative at the time in that it was needs-focused, rather than technology-focused; this approach made the plan’s recommendations more amenable to ITS Architecture development in subsequent years. In addition, transportation problems that are identified need to be specific in terms of their location and nature in order to better gain elected official support.


These can improve efficiency in the planning and implementation process.


Goal Areas