To address the growing problems of congestion and incidents in the Miami tri-county region, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) implemented a regional Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) program (SunGuide) in the Miami tri-county region. The SunGuide program selected Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS) as the most effective integration, implementation, and congestion mitigation tool given its current situation.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to support the project was negotiated by the stakeholder agencies and signed in August 1999. All referenced agencies are signatories to the MOU, and are collectively designated as "PARTNERS."
The PARTNERS determined that establishing a public-private partnership would be the most cost-effective and efficient means to obtain ATIS services. A procurement method permitted under Florida procurement laws known as Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) was selected to obtain the services of a private partner. Based on the results of the negotiations, SmartRoute Systems (SRS) was selected in March 2000 as the information service provider (ISP) in support of the project. Under the contract terms SRS was to develop new business areas and revenue sources to support the ATIS.
The evaluation was developed as a case study providing a qualitative assessment of the project. The main study areas identified for the evaluation were the public-private partnership, the procurement process, and the business model. Additionally, a comparison was made between the SunGuide system and the basic content guidelines version 1.0, for 511 services, which were being developed at the time the evaluation was taking place.
As the information society increasingly advances, users have become accustomed to having easy access to high quality information, and 511 content must be no different. Agencies seeking to either implement, or improve upon, 511 systems must focus their efforts to address several fundamental baseline factors that are essential to the success of 511. To ensure users are able to rely on 511 as a trusted source, it is crucial that all information is up to date and accurate. For 511 services to be utilized by the highest number of callers as possible, information accessibility needs to be very easy to use. Lastly, while a large portion of 511 is highway related, agencies should also collaborate with local transit providers to include information pertaining to public transportation. Based on the SunGuide system, the following lessons provide direction for the implementation of 511.
- Provide information that is both accurate and up-to-date. While it is recognized that smaller agencies will have more difficulty inserting and updating information quickly, every attempt must be made by both large and small agencies to update information as soon as there is a known deviation from the current report. If the system reports service disruptions that are not occurring (or worse, does not report a service disruption), callers will come to distrust the information provided. If inaccuracies persist, callers will discontinue their use of 511.
- Include general information on transit agencies and their operations. Along with providing roadway updates, agencies implementing 511 need to include general information relating to public transportation. At a minimum, the content of the information ought to include a brief description of the agency’s services, major issues affecting those services, and other relevant information. The 511 system should also work in conjunction with the transit providers’ customer service number so that, when appropriate, callers are able to contact agency staff. It is important to note that it is the responsibility of the transit agency to ensure the accuracy of the information being made available.
- Provide callers with a reliable stream of information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The inherent reliability of the 511 system needs to minimize the amount of time callers will be unable to obtain a report along a route segment due to equipment or process failures.
- Provide specific content that is easily obtained using a touch tone phone. To make certain that callers receive information that is useful to their needs, it should be a goal of agencies implementing 511 that all content is as specific as possible. Notifications ought to be corridor-based and use the National Highway System (NHS) as a basis for content. In areas where traffic volumes and congestion levels are higher, information on non-NHS limited access highways should also be made available. At a minimum, content should note: construction and maintenance projects, road closures and major delays, special events, and weather and road surface conditions. Specific details of such content should include information regarding: location, direction of travel, description of impact, duration of delay, and detours or restrictions. In order to enable callers to retrieve information without having to contact a human operator, all information should be accessible via a menu tree, navigated either through a phone’s keypad or by voice command.
In order to provide the most benefit to users, agencies seeking to implement 511 need to consider several key factors relating to information content and availability. Successful 511 systems provide information that is current and accurate, increasing user confidence in the system, and helping to establish its’ reliability. Additionally, for the services of 511 to be fully utilized by the general populace, callers need to be able to quickly and easily retrieve the information they seek. By providing a wealth of information that can be accessed in a user-friendly manner, deploying agencies will be working to guarantee the success of their 511 system. This will have a positive affect on a number of goals areas, including safety, mobility, productivity, efficiency, and energy and the environment.
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