From 2003 to 2005, a partnership between the New York State DOT (NYSDOT), the USDOT, research centers and the private sector developed one of the first wireless Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS) in the United States. The test bed consisted of expressways and arterials in the Albany and Troy capital region. The project was recognized as highly successful (it received two awards from the Intelligent Transportation Society of New York), it had encountered significant delays and other problems arising from necessary changes to the design, partner roles and responsibilities, etc. Despite the challenges, the ultimate success of the project renders it a good source for lessons learned for other ITS projects. The highlights below summarize key lessons learned from the NYSDOT project on Requests for Proposal, overseeing contracts and partnering.
- Engage the private sector in the development and use of ITS solutions. The NYSDOT experience in the ATIS project underscored the potential value of encouraging private sector involvement while seeking ITS solutions. Engaging with technology companies on the ATIS project cleared the path for the NYSDOT to use emerging technology to create the traveler information system. At that time, the NYSDOT did not have the resources or capability to produce wireless systems on its own. Further, by using cutting edge technology, the NYSDOT put aside the necessity of erecting roadside infrastructure required for the roadside sensors specified in the original plan. The implemented plan used probe vehicles to collect and share traffic data wirelessly, negating the need to build roadside infrastructure.
- Keep technical solutions open-ended at the project's onset. Preselecting a technical solution will restrict the research potential of a project just when alternatives should be investigated. NYSDOT in its first Request for Proposal had preselected a solution using a particular kind of sensor technology as well as a specific vendor. Unfortunately, as the project moved forward, serious technical problems emerged with the sensor. and eventually the vendor filed for bankruptcy, forcing it from the project. Ironically, the setback to the project compelled the NYSDOT project team to investigate alternative solutions, eventually selecting a solution (a probe-based wireless network instead of roadside sensors originally called for) that was ultimately successful. This experience highlights the importance of preselecting a product or system only after conducting a proper investigation into the product’s viability.
- Beware that traditional contract letting methods may not be suitable for ITS research projects. The NYSDOT ATIS project experienced significant delays due in part to the limitations of the contract vehicle, which followed a contract mechanism for construction projects. The administration of ITS research projects requires a different approach from standard projects at state DOTs. Traditional projects face uncertainty and unanticipated problems, but the nature of research is based on discovery and therefore can be less predictable or structured than construction projects. Research can force changes in concepts, technology, agency roles and responsibilities, etc., demanding flexibility in contract administration.
The NYSDOT Project had a successful outcome. By demonstrating one of the earliest field operations of a wireless, probe-based, real-time traveler information system region-wide, it proved the potential for ATIS as a tool in congestion management. The project also demonstrated the value of engaging the private sector in finding ITS solutions, the importance of keeping technical solutions open at the beginning of projects, and following a flexible, research-oriented contract mechanism.