Monday, June 10, 2013

Op-Ed: Intelligent Transportation Systems Across the U.S.

Technology is continuously changing and improving making life easier each day. Cars are becoming more fuel efficient, mileage is increasing and they are getting smaller and even quieter. Vehicle cosmetics have been a technological focus but now the next step is for vehicles to get smarter; intelligent transportation should be adopted nationwide. Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) are a form of technology that works to monitor and manage traffic flow, especially in urban areas (USDOT 2007). It would create many benefits from reduction in traffic accidents, time delay and congestion, safer construction zones, and provide accurate and reliable information. ITS can be helpful when there is limited resources to pay for people to do the same work.

ITS can help drivers avoid traffic accidents by alerting them of slowed or stopped traffic and speed information so they are more away of what is happening on the road. In addition to alleviating congestion with this information, motorists are able to determine whether they should take an alternative route due to accidents or other delays. ITS can be beneficial for crash avoidance on all types of roads from highways, to city streets. Some systems include rear-end crash warning, lane departure warning, red light violation warning, and head-on crash warning systems (USDOT 2010). These crash avoidance systems are to support the driver, reduce the amount of crashes and minimize damages. They also increase the situational awareness and warn the driver of crash-imminent situations, they may apply partial automatic vehicle control (USDOT 2010). If each state implemented a type or a few types of these systems accidents across the U.S. would decrease. Plus, drivers would be familiar with a variety of systems when they are traveling. There wouldn't be the need to relearn what system a state has implemented. 
The United States Department of Transportation started the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America’s Transportation Network in order to alleviate congestion with the use of ITS.  Congestion has cost American’s quite a bit of time and money each year; each rush hour traveler pays an annual congestion tax of $850 to $1,600 in lost fuel and time (USDOT 2008). The use of message signs and advisory radio are two ways motorists get information about road closures, weather, construction, and other events that may cause delays and congestion. ITS may create secondary benefits of managing recurring congestion along heavily traveled corridors (USDOT 2007). In 2006, the District of Columbia Department of Transportation deployed an ITS along Highway 295 in Washington D.C. to alleviate congestion. They found that real time information system effectively diverted traffic to alternative routes during times of significant congestion. An average of 52% lower mainline volume was observed along the D.C.-295 (USDOT 2008).
Road construction and maintenance can be unpredictable and result in unstable traffic flow (USDOT 2008). Improving work zone safety is beneficial for drivers and workers. Work ITS provide information to motorists to help them choose appropriate alternative routes if necessary. They will be notified of slowed or stopped traffic that helps ease frustration and make drivers aware of what is happening further up the road (USDOT 2008). Putting ITS in and near road construction would reduce work-related congestion, provide real time delay information, and offer trip planning information available online (USDOT 2008). These systems would increase work zone safety and operations. Flexibility in system configuration is important to ensure that all signs and information is correct and able to account for impacts from a separate construction site in another state (USDOT 2008). Many states have already adopted systems in the form of portable traffic monitoring and management, and have seen varying degrees of effectiveness (USDOT 2008).

ITS are a relatively low cost way of getting timely and accurate information to travelers in order to make their commute quicker and safer. A few states have adopted ITS already, but they should be introduced nationwide to maintain continuity between the states.

U.S. Department of Transportation, (2007). Intelligent transportation systems for traveler information . Retrieved from website:
U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. (2008). Benefits of using intelligent transportation systems in work zones. Retrieved from website:
U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2010). Frequency of target crashes for intellidrive safety systems. Retrieved from website:

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