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.
Staff from all five ATIS projects mentioned a range of issues that arose during the project design, planning, and construction phases of their projects. These issues were generally not unique to advanced traveler information system projects, but they represented the types of management and agency coordination matters that could be encountered in any project involving technology implementation and/or government agency participation.
- Consider that required integration with existing technologies can affect project schedule and cost. None of the five ATIS projects evaluated were installed in a vacuum. In each case, the traveler information capabilities implemented supplemented existing ATIS systems. The nature of those existing systems varied considerably, from established networks of devices in an urban setting to smaller collections of devices in rural areas. All five project designs required consideration of existing devices in terms of:
- The location, capabilities, and expansion options of pre-existing infrastructure, e.g., communications networks, power.
- The location, capabilities, and expansion options of existing ATIS devices.
- The interaction between new and existing devices in terms of complementary functions and technical requirements.
- The support requirements
In most cases, the net result of these considerations was an investment of time and money that sometimes resulted in schedule delays or extra expenses. The nature of the investment varied by project.
In one case, a consultant was used for installation of ATIS devices and associated networking, however the DOT's ITS maintenance staff noted that the consultant used camera equipment, cabling, and installation procedures that varied from the standard components and approach used by DOT; this, combined with outdated technical plans, made maintenance difficult. After communications difficulties arose, the DOT staff repaired or replaced components to improve performance and assure compatibility with Department ITS maintenance equipment and practices.
- The vendor selection process can affect scheduling, implementation, and support. In several of the projects evaluated, vendor selection issues affected scheduling or implementation of the project as well as subsequent support. Additional time taken for vendor selection and equipment procurement, or subsequent modification of original vendor equipment to address performance issues resulted in schedule delays and/or additional expense.
In one case, the project schedule was delayed so that additional time could be taken to select software and equipment vendors whose products would integrate with existing equipment. In the end, these investments contributed to ease of support, data transfer and sharing capabilities, reduced long-term expenses, and enhanced greater future expandability. Project staff recommended that additional time be allotted for evaluation, deployment, and testing for future projects that involve software.
As shown, issues related to integration with existing ITS technologies and the process of vendor selection can affect project schedule, cost, and effectiveness. In both cases, preliminary research is advantageous in order to avoid potential ITS technology integration and vendor problems.
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