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24 essages describing transit services. Some 511 phone sys- m content on traveler information websites is classified into tems present limited transit updates of departure times or four types of content: route exceptions. For example, the Miami, Florida, 511 phone system (http://511southflorida.com) provides sched- · Reports of current traffic conditions ule and route information to 511 callers, as well as rideshar- · Reports of weather or driving conditions ing information. In Portland, Oregon, the Tri-Met public · Reports of current or planned events and incidents transit system (http://www.trimet.org) operates a telephone (including construction, crashes, and special events) system that allows users to enter a transit stop ID and hear · Reports of multimodal options the next planned arrivals at the bus stop. This system serves the same purpose as reader boards or on-screen displays at Reports of Current Traffic Conditions the transit stop, but it is operated at a much lower cost than would be involved to equip each transit stop with reader Through a review of existing online traveler information boards. Additionally, callers may call the system before websites, the most common methods for relaying current leaving their home or office. traffic conditions in metropolitan areas to visitors were found to be as follows: A number of current initiatives are developing real-time transit arrival and departure information as well as tran- · Still or full motion camera images offering views of sit park-and-ride space availability information. Two fed- enough of the metropolitan areas to allow travelers to eral initiatives, the Urban Partnership Agreement and the understand traffic along key routes Integrated Corridor Management (ICM), are advancing · Maps or tabular displays of current conditions, travel increased transit information. speeds, congestion levels, or travel times. To illustrate the coverage of traveler information web- Public-Operated Traveler Information sites displaying current traffic conditions, Figure 15 shows Websites the statewide and regional traveler information systems that utilize camera images and display traffic or travel-time According to the most recent Nielsen Report, more than 75% information. As illustrated in Figure 15, the availability of of Americans have access to the Internet (more than 200 traffic condition information is extensive. million people) (Nielsen 2007). In a survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 64% of Americans Reports of Weather or Driving Conditions with Internet access have used it to access travel informa- tion. In addition, 62% of Americans have accessed weather Through a review of traveler information websites, Internet information on the Internet. The impact of the Internet can displays of weather and driving condition reports were found be seen in homes and offices every day. Simply stated, the to include the following features: Internet allows safe, anonymous, on-demand access to information from a variety of locations. · Displays (map or textual) of current and forecasted atmospheric weather reports generated by regional Unlike 511 phone systems that typically carry a cost per weather tools (e.g., National Weather Service) call (or per minute), Internet sites can support millions of · Displays (map or textual) of detailed weather condi- visits with only marginal cost impacts as the number of tions and forecasts often tied to pavement conditions visits increase. The Internet is a primary player in the dis- generated by detailed models and or measurements semination of traveler information, with some form of travel from weather monitoring stations information offered in every state, although the level of · Camera images (static or full-motion video) that allow detail and type of information varies. visitors to view the conditions of the road and observe ambient conditions at key locations throughout the state. This section summarizes the current status of Internet trav- eler information dissemination. This synthesis project reviewed existing traveler infor- mation websites to identify the level at which the country is Summary of Traveler Information Website Content covered by weather and driving condition reports. Figure 16 illustrates those states currently reporting general weather Traveler information websites disseminate a variety of types reports (typically reported as countywide conditions), as of traveler information. For this synthesis, the information compared with detailed route specific reports.
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25 FIGURE 15 Illustration of traveler information websites providing traffic condition reports. Reports of Events and Incidents Summary of Traveler Information Website Display Approaches Accurate and up-to-date reports describing the impacts of construction, crashes, closures, and other events are most Use of On-Screen Map Displays likely the most requested information on traveler informa- tion websites. Although every state includes some form of Traveler information Internet sites most typically display infor- construction and event reports on public websites, the qual- mation through on-screen map displays, and less frequently ity and standardization of these reports varies tremendously. through tabular displays. At the time that public agencies first Some states operate a network of data entry personnel who began deploying Internet sites for traveler information, many are tasked with entering events and situations that impact users were still accessing the Internet over dial-up connec- travelers. These data entry personnel may enter events dur- tions. Therefore, maps requiring the download of large data ing business hours or 24/7 depending on the reporting phi- files took too long to load. For this and other reasons, most pub- losophy of the agency. lic agencies originally deployed simple map displays. In 2008, services such as Google Maps began to mainstream the use of Reports of Multimodal Options zoom-able maps to the point at which users now are demand- ing high-quality maps. Figure 17 illustrates those states where Traveler information website displays of multimodal options public-operated traveler information websites currently oper- typically present transit route and schedule information, ate zoom-able maps, fixed maps (statewide only), and a set of offer transit trip planners, and present real-time information predefined maps offering different views of the state. describing next bus arrivals and departures. TCRP Synthe- sis 68: Methods of Rider Communication (Schweiger 2006) Use of Icons to Describe Events and Incidents summarizes methods that transit agencies use to communi- cate with riders, including websites and traveler information Many traveler information websites display icons over map systems. images to represent the locations of incidents, construction,
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26 closures, or other events. The ITS industry has defined In addition to the variations in icons, some states vary in the ITS standards for the nomenclature of event descriptions; phrases used to describe conditions. For example, some states however, accepted standards have not been established for use the phrase "construction" or "road construction," whereas icon displays on traveler information websites. Therefore, other states use the phrase "roadwork." Similarly, some states the icons displayed by states vary across the country. Some use the phrase "accident," whereas others use "crash." The states use icons that closely mirror the sign designations in North/West Passage Pooled Fund program conducted a study the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) that documented the phrases used by the eight member states (FHWA 2003b), whereas other states have created local (Washington State, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, icons for on-screen display. South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) and attempted to define an acceptable set of phrases that could be used to con- This synthesis project reviewed traveler information web- sistently describe events throughout each state in the program. sites throughout the United States to document the use of The results of this project are available on the North/West Pas- icons. The results showed little consistency among icon use. sage Pooled Fund website at http://www.nwpassage.info. Although traveler information websites typically include a legend describing the icons and therefore visitors to the site Figure 18 illustrates an example of the issues surrounding are able to understand the images, consistency among icons icon consistency. In addition to the inconsistent use of icons (and therefore the nomenclature of descriptions) would assist used by states to depict roadwork or construction activities, in universal understanding of the information. nomenclature also varies. The color coding of the states illus- FIGURE 16 Traveler information website weather coverage.
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27 trates that some states use "roadwork" whereas others use Volumes of statistics can be generated to describe traveler "construction" to describe the activity. information website use. Consistency, however, is a chal- lenge to ensure that the statistics of one site are presenting Summary of Traveler Information Websites Use and User comparable statistics to another. For this reason, nationwide Feedback statistics of traveler information websites are not commonly found or presented in this report. To highlight the large Travelers frequently have continuous connection to the volume of use that occurs during winter storms, Figure 19 Internet while at work, therefore allowing them to acquire illustrates the number of website visits (one visit is recorded pre-trip travel information. Given that approximately 50% regardless of the number of pages or views the visit involves) of Americans have access to high-speed Internet in the recorded by the WSDOT website during the January 2731, home, travelers frequently have the opportunity to quickly 2008, winter storm. WSDOT does not include camera views sit at a computer and view Internet sites before departing as part of its current traveler information website tracking. on trips. One study used an Internet survey to evaluate customer In a survey of general (noncommercial) travelers in satisfaction with web-based real-time traffic information in rural portions of Washington State, 94% agreed or strongly Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Results showed the following: agreed that the website displaying road weather information better prepared travelers for their trips. Furthermore, more · In Pittsburgh, 68% of users changed their original travel than 50% agreed the information helped them avoid travel routes and 47% changed their original time of travel as delays (FHWA 2004). a result of traveler information received online. FIGURE 17 Summary of zoom capabilities of traveler information website maps.
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28 FIGURE 18 Summary of various icons used to report roadwork and construction. FIGURE 19 WSDOT traveler information website daily visits during January 2008 storm.
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29 · In Philadelphia, 86% of users changed their original Highway advisory radio (HAR) is another field device travel routes and 66% changed their original time of used to reach large volumes of drivers. HAR broadcasts typ- travel as a result of the traffic information (FHWA ically are received on either AM or FM radios, and travelers 2003a). need only tune to the station to receive the messages. Ideas for Traveler Information Website Improvements Benefits and Drawbacks of Field Devices As part of this synthesis project, public agencies operating Several benefits of field devices are identified as follows: traveler information Internet websites were asked what they are doing (or could do) to improve them. Several written · Every driver passing a sign can view the information comments were received to the online survey. The follow- posted (no need for any device, service, or to tune the ing written comments illustrate the types of improvements radio). planned or being performed to update Internet traveler infor- · Signs can offer information that is geographically spe- mation systems: cific to a location. Unlike 511 phone or web systems, the information providers know where the travelers are · Accident reports are not reported in a timely manner when they view these signs and thus can use such mes- to the website. sages as "1 mile ahead" and can disseminate alternate · First-generation map system is outdated. Next- route information. generation map using Google Map base will greatly · Sign technology is increasing and these signs now often improve user understanding of event locations. offer color and graphics, and therefore can be used to · We need to revamp our website. It's very out of date ... convey messages in user-friendly formats. especially the map capabilities. · The system does report closures and incidents but we also Some potential drawbacks to field devices are as follows: have committed to improving the system by upgrading the mapping software to Google Mapsbased system. · Signs and HAR do not support pre-trip travel infor- · Timeliness (particularly with driving conditions) must mation, and therefore travelers are en route when they be improved. read the message and are limited in their response pos- · For the content, format, and coverage that we currently sibilities (i.e., they cannot alter departure time and have have, we are definitely meeting the needs of our custom- limited route diversion options). ers. With the webpage, the one thing that could enhance · Signs and HAR incur installation and operational costs our product delivery is to provide it in a GIS (geographic for each deployment, therefore preventing statewide information system) map format as well as the current operation as is possible with Internet and 511 phone textual format rather than just the textual format. systems. · We hope to integrate various data feeds into an easy- · Signs are limited in the length (and complexity) of the to-use, comprehensive Internet map (with a text option message displayed, given the limited time drivers will for disabled users). see the sign. HAR broadcasts are limited as well but offer a longer period for playing a message. Traveler Information Dissemination Using Field Devices · HAR broadcasts are often thought of as difficult to understand and lack presentation quality. In addition, The images that travelers view most often are those they see they require the driver or passenger to tune the radio on their own dashboard. The dashboard typically consists of a when information is desired and available. speedometer, gas gauge, various engine monitoring and vehicle control devices, gauges, and a radio or entertainment console. In a WSDOT-sponsored survey of commercial vehicle In addition, the dashboard can be considered to include the line operation companies, 57% of respondents said the avail- of sight visible out the front windshield, therefore including ability of the new HAR system made them somewhat or a static and dynamic signs visible through the windshield. lot safer. Of those interviewed during the postdeployment period, 56% indicated they tuned in to one or both of the If you consider a busy urban freeway that experiences HAR stations while traveling in the area, and 51% found the up to 250,000 vehicles per day, that is 250,000 exposures HAR messages useful (FHWA 2004). to travelers of information on a dynamic sign that could be used to relay pertinent details about conditions downstream. Industry Perspective on Use and Future of Field Devices For a state or metropolitan area with tens of signs in use, the ability to reach travelers far exceeds the exposures achieved Through discussions with transportation professionals oper- through a 511 phone system, particularly when you consider ating field devices, the following perspectives are offered that many states average 1,0002,000 calls per day. about the future of field device use:
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30 · DMS deployments will continue to expand. In Detailed information about the ICM initiative and concepts Minnesota, there are currently often 46 mile gaps for arterial street real-time traveler information delivery can between DMS signs, and a possibility was identified be found at http://www.its.dot.gov/icms/index.htm. to increase the density of DMS signs to locate signs every 2 miles. Digital Billboards · The use of dynamic lane management signs (where overhead lane-specific signs are located as close as Since the creation of roadways, billboards along the side of 0.25 mile apart to advise travelers about the use and the road informing travelers of businesses or services ahead status of each lane) is being developed in a number of have existed in some fashion. Typically used for advertis- Urban Partnership Agreements beginning in 2008. ing, billboards are most often located "on-premise" in that · Currently, DMS signs are most often used for travel- they are located on private property adjacent to the right-of- time message dissemination, notices of lane closures way of a highway. The influence of billboards on the traf- or crashes ahead, weather and road condition reports fic flow and the safety of travelers have been controversial in rural areas, Amber Alerts, and construction reports. over the years. In recent years, digital billboards have been Industry professionals indicated that they expect to see introduced to the marketplace. Digital billboards utilize a an increase in the use of DMS for purposes such as combination of dynamic message displays and real-time weather reporting in metro areas, parking, transit, High communications to display messages and graphics that Occupancy Toll availability and prices, and air quality change every 4 to 10 seconds. In addition, the digital bill- reports. The Traffic Management Center (TMC) Pooled boards typically use light-emitting diode (LED) displays and Fund Study completed a project to establish guidelines therefore may appear brighter than traditional illuminated for the policies, procedures, and practices of operat- billboards. However, digital billboard operators are able to ing DMSs. This report is available on the TMC Pooled turn down the brightness at night, reducing the impacts on Fund website at http://tmcpfs.ops.fhwa.dot.gov. travelers. The billboards can receive real-time messages sent · DMS or other field device use is limited along arterials. by the advertising agency operating the billboard and there- The majority of the use is either-- fore have the potential to display notices of Amber Alerts, High-speed arterials (especially to advise travelers weather conditions, or traffic messages, and could become about conditions on connecting freeways) effective traveler information dissemination devices if pub- High-density metropolitan areas with consider- licprivate partnerships are formed. able tourism traffic or unfamiliar drivers (e.g., the Anaheim, California, area has operated arterial DMS According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of for approximately 20 years because of the large traf- America, digital billboards account for approximately 700 fic volumes in and around the Disneyland areas). of the roughly 450,000 billboards across the United States. Digital billboards are considerably more expensive than In the Los Angeles County and Orange County areas of traditional billboards, costing approximately $250,000 Southern California, the Regional Integration of Intelligent (Stateline.org 2007). TRB started a subcommittee on digital Transportation Systems has developed a regional architec- signage during 2008. This subcommittee and the participat- ture to support an information exchange in real time between ing partners are exploring the legal, safety, and human factor freeway, traffic, transit, and emergency service agencies, issues surrounding digital billboards. including agencies that operate arterial networks. The U.S.DOT supports the ICM program. The concept behind In-Vehicle and Personal Devices ICM is that freeway networks, arterial networks, and transit networks all have mature technology deployments (includ- During the 1990s, a number of public-funded operational ing real-time traveler information). However, the technolo- tests were conducted of in-vehicle devices. Some examples gies deployed on the three networks are rarely integrated. include the Trilogy project in Minnesota that disseminated The ICM initiative is developing and modeling concepts that data displayed on in-vehicle maps showing traffic speeds include the display of information on arterial streets that on the metropolitan freeways, locations of incidents, and describe the following: whether freeway on-ramps were metered. In a similar Min- nesota effort, the Genesis project deployed handheld devices · Arterial travel time and comparison freeway travel to receive messages sent by the Mn/DOT TMC. times of parallel routes · Incident information provided either ahead on the arte- A similar project in Seattle, Washington, called the Seat- rial or on parallel freeways to give travelers informa- tle Wide-area Information for Travelers (SWIFT) dissemi- tion needed to decide whether to remain on the arterial nated traveler information to three devices: or deviate to the freeway · Other closure or detour information that is needed en · Watches equipped to receive and display the informa- route. tion (pager technology)
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31 · Portable computers Traffic.com · In-vehicle navigation devices Traffic.com provides real-time traffic information for 51 Although these and other projects (including the TravTek cities across the United States. Real-time information may project in Orlando, Florida) were successful and user feed- include construction, incidents, events, transit, or roadwork. back was positive, the business model of disseminating a Traffic.com has teamed up with trafficland.com to provide data stream and consumer devices tied to subscription ser- video images for 16 cities across the United States. vices receiving the information did not explode as quickly as was predicted in the early 1990s. Traffic.com includes personalized drive times. Users are provided with the option to enter a starting address With the introduction of the Internet, digital cellular and ending address to calculate drive time. The calcula- phones, and smart phones, the concept of personal traveler tion produces two options, the fastest drive time, and the information devices no longer mandates dedicated devices. drive time for a direct route. The calculation displays the Today, many public agencies operate web-enabled cell average speed as well as indicates any delay in minutes. In phonespecific traffic flow maps that are legible on web- addition to personalized drive times, Traffic.com identifies enabled cellular phones. traffic hotspots for each city. The hotspots have a predeter- mined starting and ending point on major roadways. The ODOT developed information dissemination specifically hotspots provide a jam factor from 0 (clear) to 10 (jammed) for mobile phones. The service (called TripCheck Mobile) to indicate the worst traffic conditions for the section of allows users with web-based phones to request informa- road selected. tion for specific routes and view camera images. TripCheck Mobile has been in service for 9 months and averages BeatTheTraffic.com approximately 40,000 visits per month (with winter months averaging about 70,000 visits). BeatTheTraffic.com is a nationwide service that processes and integrates real-time traveler and weather informa- Privately Operated Information Dissemination Services tion from public and private sources. Traveler and weather information is provided online, through three-dimensional Radio and television media have disseminated traveler infor- television newscasts, and with e-mail and cell phone mation for decades. In the early days, media outlets used aer- alerts. Currently, BeatTheTraffic.com provides traveler and ial surveillance to gather traffic information and presented weather information to more than 70 cities. Each of the 70 information using voice and personality talents. Today, auto- cities includes a separate web page that identifies informa- mated data collected by state DOTs feed media outlets with tion available for that city such as travel times, forecasts, data, to complement their own data collection practices. incidents, or cameras. Since the introduction of the ITS industry, private sec- TrafficLand.com tor information service providers have explored business models for traveler information dissemination. The most TrafficLand.com provides live video from thousands of cam- common revenue sources explored have been advertising eras worldwide from partnering with local, state, and federal revenues and subscription fees. government agencies. The website is intended to assist the driving public, first responders, DOTs, media, commercial Private sector information service providers compete with enterprises, and emergency management by providing real- public traveler information systems, free sources of weather time information nationwide. information, and existing television and radio broadcasts. Therefore, private information service providers typically TrafficGauge.com offer value added services in the form of increased detail (often gained through the collection of additional data using TrafficGauge.com provides real-time information from privately owned sensors) or expanded delivery options. handheld devices, cell phone maps, and online maps. Users can purchase a handheld device that provides real-time The following summaries of a number of private sector information for four cities. Information includes congestion information service providers illustrate the types of services reports for the selected city, such as light, medium, or heavy offered. The selection of service providers does not represent traffic. Users can access color traffic maps on a cell phone, any priority or distinction among providers. This is not an which provides areas of heavy, medium, and light conges- exhaustive list of all providers, but rather a sample of the tion. TrafficGauge.com also provides congestion informa- providers currently operating at the time of this report. tion online for 20 cities across the United States.