The iFlorida Model Deployment, which was started in May 2003, called for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5 (D5) to complete the design, build, and integration of the infrastructure required to support operations in 2 years. The required infrastructure was extensive, spanned numerous stakeholders, and included many technologies that were new to FDOT D5, such as sophisticated traffic management center (TMC) operations software, a wireless network deployed along I-4, an interface to Florida Highway Patrol Computer Aided Dispatch (FHP CAD) data, statewide traffic monitoring, and many others. The iFlorida plans also called for deployment of these technologies in ways that required coordination among more than 20 stakeholders. It was an ambitious plan that would result in dramatically different traffic management operations for FDOT D5 and other transportation stakeholders in the Orlando area.
In implementing the iFlorida plan, FDOT faced many challenges ranging from higher failure rates than expected for some field hardware to difficulties with the Condition Reporting System (CRS) and Central Florida Data Warehouse (CFDW) software. "Despite these challenges, it can be readily claimed that the overall iFlorida Model Deployment was successful," noted in the final evaluation report for the iFlorida Model Deployment, published in January 2009.
The difficulties associated with the iFlorida Model Deployment provided many opportunities to identify lessons learned from the experiences they had. The most important of these are presented below in a series of lessons learned articles.
The iFlorida project established methods for statewide monitoring of traffic conditions, a 511 system, and a Web site for disseminating traveler information. While the video and traffic data obtained from the statewide monitoring stations were occasionally useful to confirm information about incidents that occurred within the range of the video cameras, most incidents were not within camera range. Because of wide spacing between the monitoring stations, data from the statewide monitoring system alone were inadequate to meet the needs for statewide traveler information services. A supplementary source of data, particularly for incident information, was the Florida Highway Patrol Computer Aided Dispatch (FHP CAD) system. However, there were challenges to incorporate the FHP CAD data into the Condition Reporting System (CRS), the central data warehouse software for iFlorida. Lessons learned include:
- Develop a robust electronic interface for obtaining comprehensive incident information data from the highway patrol police organizations. Prior to the iFlorida project, the FHP maintained a Web site that included selected incident information extracted from its CAD systems across the state. Because the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5 (D5) Regional Traffic Management Center (RTMC) activities prior to iFlorida were focused on I-4 and restricted to the Orlando area, the FHP CAD Web site was rarely used by RTMC operators. If an RTMC operator wanted information about an incident on I-4, the operator could request it from the co-located FHP CAD Troop D dispatchers. With the advent of iFlorida and its plan for a new statewide traveler information system, the D5 RTMC needed statewide incident information, so the iFlorida project included developing an interface between the FHP CAD and the CRS (iFlorida’s central software). However, the CRS presentation of incident data obtained from this interface with FHP CAD did not operate as expected, for example, it did not effectively restrict incidents to those on roads included in the iFlorida statewide system jurisdiction and it sometimes placed an incident at an incorrect location. When the CRS failed to operate as expected, RTMC operators referred to the FHP Web site directly for statewide incident information in order to populate the statewide 511 system.
- Beware that interfacing with just the highway patrol police may not be adequate to get complete incident data. A key limitation noted by FDOT with regard to FHP CAD incident information was that it was not inclusive of all incidents, as the local police rather than FHP responded to incidents at some locations. This meant that FDOT might not be aware of incidents at some locations, so the statewide traveler information was sometimes incomplete. Subsequently, FDOT undertook steps to remedy this limitation by making the 511 user feedbacks on unreported incidents available to RTMC operators.
- Develop a reliable filtering mechanism to capture correct incident data from the police CAD systems. The primary sources of incident information for the CRS were the FHP CAD system and RTMC operator input. However, RTMC operators found using the CRS extracted CAD information difficult because the CRS did not filter the FHP CAD incidents effectively for iFlorida roads. At times, an RTMC operator was required to spend most of his time deleting FHP CAD information for incidents occurring on roads outside the iFlorida limits. Nonetheless, the CRS provided tools that FDOT used to manage 511 messages. However, in May 2007, the CRS contractor discontinued development of the CRS and the CRS software failed. FDOT subsequently migrated to SunGuide as its traffic management center software and, by November 2007, was using SunGuide to manage 511 messages for the statewide 511 system.
The FHP CAD data served as a valuable source of information for the iFlorida’s statewide traveler information service, which was to increase traveler satisfaction and enhance mobility on the roadways. As evident from iFlorida’s experience, in order to effectively use the police CAD data for traveler information, it is essential to deploy a communications interface that will present relevant information.