Telecommunications infrastructure is important in enabling Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to function, as it ties together and moves data between the major elements of an ITS, including roadside equipment, vehicles, the vehicle operator and central operations facilities (such as transportation management centers). Through integrating the individual elements of an ITS, telecommunications provides a critical technical function to the system, and can act as a mechanism for enhancing overall transportation efficiency. Telecommunications also comprises a significant share of the cost of an ITS, both in terms of implementation and operations and maintenance.
Arriving at the telecommunications solution that best suits agencies' needs is a high priority, but it can be a challenge. This is largely due to the rapid pace of change in telecommunications and the skills required to understand and assess different telecommunications alternatives. This report is designed to provide assistance on what processes work best and what factors should be considered when making telecommunications decisions. A number of the best techniques for exploring telecommunications alternatives are presented to help agencies determine the optimal alternative in support of their ITS program.
For this study, the telecommunications experiences of state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and agencies from across the country were examined. In particular, examples of successful practices in ITS telecommunications were drawn from California, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The telecommunications industry is large and complex, with a set of technical disciplines that DOTs may not be familiar with. In planning for, as well as operating and maintaining an ITS telecommunications network, agencies must ensure their staff has the appropriate skill set. However, most agencies do not have qualified personnel in-house, as telecommunications expertise generally requires in-depth knowledge about a range of different technologies. In addition, skills relevant to ITS telecommunications are in extremely high demand in the private sector, so agencies find it challenging to hire and retain qualified personnel.
The report included several examples of how agencies benefited from acquiring the support services of telecommunications experts:
- Consider hiring an outside source experienced in both telecommunications and systems integration. Maryland State Highway Administration recognized that it did not internally have the required expertise and experience to conduct a requirements analysis, nor was this expertise available through its traditional transportation engineering consulting community. Maryland SHA hired a firm experienced in both telecommunications and systems integration to perform the telecommunications analysis. Over a period of nine months, the analysis included the following three key phases:
- Functional and performance requirements and validation
- Development of various network options
- The costing of those options
- Consider using the services of a systems firm with significant aerospace/defense background. Virginia DOT made use of systems firms with significant aerospace/defense backgrounds (already under contract) to evaluate plans for network implementation. In one case, a contractor who was performing a significant expansion of the regional advanced traffic management system (ATMS) presented a variety of alternatives to the recently bid plans and specifications. Virginia DOT did not have the in-house expertise capable of evaluating these alternatives, so it relied on a systems consultant to analyze the alternatives in detail.
A typical public agency will benefit greatly from access to qualified, professional telecommunications expertise in performing technical and business analyses and in the designing of the network. By acquiring such support services, agencies minimize the risk of making unwise cost or design decisions, and increase the likelihood that they will select an effective ITS telecommunications solution.
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