The Washington State Transportation Center (TRAC) evaluated five Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) projects for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT): the Edmonds Ferry Terminal, State Route 101, State Routes 2 and 97, State Route 395, and the Tacoma TMC Enhancement. The projects involved the deployment of a range of devices in both urban and rural environments. Four of the projects provided traveler information using highway advisory radio (HAR), variable message signs (VMS), and road weather information systems (RWIS). One project involved the expansion of a traveler information communications backbone with a fiber optic link to a traffic management center (TMC). All of the projects received federal ITS funding in FY 1999 and therefore required a local self-evaluation. TRAC's first step was to develop a standardized methodology for evaluating ATIS projects. The methodology focused on technical, management, and organizational lessons learned. TRAC then used this methodology to evaluate the five projects. The methodology proved effective in producing useful information about ATIS benefits and deployment issues. On the basis of these evaluations, guidelines and lessons learned for planning and operating ATIS programs were developed to provide a better understanding of ways to approach future ATIS projects.
The equipment deployed in ATIS projects has varying levels of staffing and training requirements. The hardware and software associated with such projects also require varying levels of support. Staff from the five ATIS projects evaluated noted the following staffing and training issues.
- When developing staffing plans, consider any additional workload anticipated by the use of new ATIS devices. While ATIS devices can reduce some staff activities by automating data collection and device updating procedures, other activities can expand. Staffing for all components of the device operation process should be reviewed when new ATIS devices are being planned; this includes device operations staff, hardware and software support staff, and staff that manage field communications with maintenance and public safety agencies. For example, some participants noted increase in Internet usage and general communications (both person-to-person and person-to-device) following implementation. This required the hiring of additional technical personnel to handle both the communications themselves (e.g., radio and computer operators) and maintenance support for communications devices and networks. Note also that changing staff needs can arise from inherent changes in staffing requirements (e.g., a shift from manual device updating by maintenance staff to remote device updating by operators) and/or from increased demand for traveler information services produced by the new ATIS devices.
- When developing staff training programs, consider both present and future training requirements. While vendors might offer training after first installing equipment, there is also a need to consider future training needs as staff turnover occurs, additional staff is hired, or device use expands (e.g., initial weekday peak period use expands to become a responsibility of weekend or night crews). This is often managed on an informal basis but can also be performed with vendor support.
- Consider prior baseline conditions when assessing staffing and training requirements. Most of the comments received regarding staffing and training were associated with one of the rural ATIS projects, in which the new systems implemented represented a significant upgrade in traveler information capabilities. In those situations, there was a significant increase in technology deployment from the baseline system (and therefore a growth in associated staff and support needs). This is in contrast to the support and staffing changes associated with an upgrade to an urban system in which the baseline situation might already offer significant levels of staffing and support.
These experiences show that it is important to consider how implementing an ATIS system will impact staffing and training requirements. Due to the use of new ATIS devices, additional staff hours and the potential need for new staff needs to be taken into account, and staff training may be needed at both the beginning of and during ATIS implementation. Furthermore, additional staffing and training may depend on an agency's baseline conditions prior to ATIS implantation. With proper and timely staff training, staff should be more productive and efficient in their work. With vendor support of staff training, the transportation agency is the satisfied customer.