In the Seattle metropolitan area, demand for transportation facilities and services already exceed the supply. A growing economy, increasing population, and constrained construction of new roads are dramatically decreasing transportation system performance.
Consequently, in 1997 the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and others in the public and private sectors looked to emerging technologies to help improve the performance of the Seattle region's existing transportation system. Under the U.S. Department of Transportation's Model Deployment Initiative, WSDOT entered into a partnership with more than twenty public and private organizations to implement intelligent transportation system (ITS) solutions. This partnership was named "SmartTrek", and it built upon existing institutional relationships and ITS infrastructure in the Seattle region. The goal was to apply new technologies, including sensors, communications, and information systems, to help the region better manage traffic, inform travelers of transportation options, and quickly respond to roadway incidents and changing conditions. Smart Trek integrated new and existing data sources; established a regional, multimodal transportation information network; and greatly expanded the distribution of traveler information.
The lesson is based on findings presented in the project’s 2000 evaluation report completed by Science Application International Corporation (SAIC) and on input from WSDOT project staff.
SmartTrek was a partnership of twenty public and private organizations that implemented emerging technologies to help improve the performance of the Seattle region’s existing transportation system. This project involved applying a range of different traveler information technologies. The project’s evaluation team determined that the success of the project was due, in part, to involvement of the private sector:
- Encourage private sector involvement. Private sector involvement helps to reduce program risk and support on-time deployment of ITS projects. Benefits of private sector participation in ITS projects include the ability of the project team to take advantage of the unique strengths of the private sector.
The methods used to involve the private sector in SmartTrek were noteworthy. Private sector representatives were included from the project’s inception, were involved in developing the project proposal, and had a role in every aspect of the project’s development. The SmartTrek decision-making structure also included managers from the private sector. The resulting trusting relationships that were developed among the participants during some operational tests and enhanced within the project offered a significant benefit: some decisions about the direction of the project were based on faith in the parties involved.
As an example of the benefits of private sector involvement, a private sector organization was responsible for SmartTrek’s public relations and outreach program. This firm had unique experience and expertise in information dissemination and was able to distribute to a broad and varied audience compelling information about the benefits of ITS to the region. This breadth of experience in marketing and public relations has not been traditionally available to the public sector. Benefits to public sector interests, however, come with the development of opportunities for private sector involvement in ITS.
Although the diverse participants in SmartTrek faced several obstacles, none of them proved to be insurmountable or drastically affected the ITS deployments. The was due in part to the fact that the project team demonstrated flexibility and encouraged private sector involvement in almost all aspects of the project.
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