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.
Before iFlorida project, most traffic management activities were handled regionally by the seven FDOT districts and by FDOT staff stationed at the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). A key objective of iFlorida was to establish statewide traffic management by deploying new traffic monitoring devices and consolidating data from those devices with existing sources of statewide traffic data, and then disseminating the consolidated data to the public as traveler information and to decision makers in need of statewide traffic information-primarily those involved in hurricane evacuation decision making. The iFlorida project established methods for: (a) monitoring traffic conditions statewide, (b) a 511 system, and (c) a Web site for disseminating this traffic information. Lessons learned from FDOT’s deployment of statewide traveler information services follow.
- Beware that a statewide monitoring system may be too sparse to consistently provide useful traveler information. The original iFlorida plans called for statewide traveler information services to cover roads on the Florida Intrastate Highway System (FIHS), which included about 4,000 miles of Florida Interstate highways, the Florida Turnpike, selected urban expressways, and major interregional and intercity arterial highways. Early in the iFlorida project, FDOT realized that the amount of traffic and incident information that would be available for many of these roads was extremely limited. FDOT decided to limit the statewide traveler information to ten major roads: I-4, I-10, I 75, I-95, the Florida Turnpike, SR-60, SR-70, SR-528, US-19, and US-27. The main source of data to support the statewide traveler information was information from the FHP CAD system obtained from the FHP CAD Web site. FDOT also established processes in which the various FDOT districts would submit information about construction activities on roads that were covered by the statewide traveler information systems. The Statewide Monitoring System provided video and traffic data from the monitoring stations that were deployed. While the video from these stations was occasionally useful to confirm information about incidents that occurred within range of the video cameras, most incidents were not within camera range. The wide spacing between statewide monitoring system stations meant that the system was not very useful at supporting statewide traveler information services.
- Evaluate if Highway Patrol’s incident data can, indeed, be a major data source for statewide traveler information systems. The FHP-CAD interface available to FDOT provided incident data from the FHP CAD system. The FHP-CAD data was the primary source of statewide traveler information. However, the central software CRS’s presentation of FHP-CAD data was not reliable, so was seldom used. Most operators chose to review FHP incident information through the public Web site interface provided by FHP. Because the FHP-CAD information was the main source of statewide traveler information, FDOT contracted in the summer of 2007 for the development of a new interface to the FHP-CAD data. This tool received data from the FHP-CAD system and created a Web site that listed incidents associated with the roads included in FDOT's statewide traveler information systems. It could also use Google Maps to display the maps of the incident locations. D5 RTMC operators found the interface to the FHP data to be both reliable and useful, though some operators still preferred to access the FHP Web site directly. FDOT staff suggested that, for the purpose of supporting statewide traveler information, some of the resources spent on the Statewide Monitoring System might have been better spent on developing interfaces to additional police CAD systems across the State.
- Use creative but reliable means to plug holes in the statewide traveler information data stream. Despite the difficulties of obtaining information to populate the statewide 511 system and the limitations of the CRS in supporting statewide operations, FDOT D5 did create a successful statewide 511 system. When the CRS failed to successfully automate capabilities for maintaining statewide traveler information, RTMC operators used more manual methods to ensure that support for statewide traveler information continued. When the available source of incident information sometimes left holes in coverage, FDOT used creative methods to fill those holes, such as providing 511 user comments to RTMC operators so they could correct 511 messages that might be in error. Over the period from November 2005 through August 2007, the statewide 511 system typically logged about 35,000 calls per month.
In developing a statewide traveler information system, especially in a large state like Florida, a statewide monitoring system may be too sparse to adequately meet the data needs. Consideration should be given to use the Highway Patrol’s incident data as a major source. Often creative, manual means shall be necessary to generate missing values in the travel data stream. Despite having limitations, Florida’s 511 statewide traveler information system helps improve customer satisfaction , and add mobility and efficiency in the roadway network.