FHWA published guidance on the use of ITS in rural locations referred to as the Rural ITS Toolbox. The document represents best practices at the time of publication with regard to many ITS services including Emergency services; Tourism & Traveler Information; Traffic Management; Rural Transit; Crash Prevention; Operations and Maintenance; and Surface Transportation & Weather.
Information includes best practices to illustrate successful development of ITS deployment plans and also a toolbox of resources that document successful rural ITS applications.
This lesson is about Oregon DOT’s experience with providing traveler information in rural areas. Many agencies did not recognize until recently the need or potential benefits to providing traveler information in rural areas. Providing traveler information in rural locations has proven to be very valuable in terms of reduced user delay and safety benefits. The need for such information to the public is particularly important in order for them to avoid construction congestion during summer months and to travel safely during the winter months. Oregon DOT’s experience in providing traveler information in the rural areas via 511 telephone services and Web-based services are presented below.
- While designing your 511 services, consider the contingency of being overwhelmed with high call volume during inclement weather conditions. Customer satisfaction is key to a successful traveler information system. Agencies have experienced over-whelming response to their phone based traveler information system during peak weather periods, resulting in over-run systems often leading to user dissatisfaction.
- Recognize the costs associated with maintaining an up to date Web-based traveler information service. Oregon DOT has utilized web-based technologies to provide state wide traveler information for many years. The TripCheck System was designed to allow ODOT personnel from anywhere in the state to enter information into the on-line system. The de-centralized system has proven to be a success. The costs to maintain the TripCheck site annually is approximately $117,000 which does not include the time of ODOT personnel to enter the information into the system or the cost to gather the information from the field. The public has embraced the system and user sessions top 350,000 during peak periods in the winter months and average 100-200,000 during non-peak periods. Challenges noted include the need to recognize the costs associated with maintaining an up to date system. Without accurate, timely information, the public will recognize the weaknesses of the system and discontinue use.
- Provide e-mail address on your traveler information Web site and assign staff hours to respond to the received emails. To maintain good relations with the public, agencies should consider providing an e-mail address for users to communicate with the host agency and also provide staff-hours for personnel to respond to received e-mails.
- Include costs of advertising of rural traveler information systems. Advertising of rural traveler information systems, through road-side signs, television and radio ads, is recommended and should be included in project budgets.