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1 The General Motorsâ Futurama exhibit at the 1939 Worldâs Fair in New York piqued the collective imaginations of Ameri- cans and the world. The exhibit promised that in a mere 25 years, the United States would have an automated highway system offering tremendous benefits in meeting transportation objectives. In doing so, it foretold the coming of a fundamen- tal revolution in the surface transportation of passengers and freight. And, indeed, part of this vision was realized when, in 1997, a highly publicized, fully automated highway system was demonstrated on I-15 near San Diego, largely with support from transportation agencies. But, the sweeping revolution has yet to arrive. Why should transport system technologies which are widely perceived as beneficial, and toward which so much successful research and development has occurred, continue to elude practi- cal implementation? This concern applies not only to such major innovations as the intelligent highways of the Futur- ama. Significant public and private research efforts have focused on developing technologies for transportation that could transform how transportation agencies perform their tasks and achieve their mission goals; indeed, they could even transform the very nature of those tasks and missions. Yet, the transportation system, and transportation agencies1 in particular, appear by some measures to be slow adopters of potentially valuable technologies. This is in part because being able to assess, plan for, and integrate technological change into transportation system planning and operations has proven to be difficult and elusive. ICF Internationalâs Long-Range Strategic Issues Facing the Transportation Industry (2008), in response to which this project has its origins, observes that rapidly developing technologies in a wide range of areas hold promise for trans- portation, that agencies can play a key role in shaping and implementing these technologies, but that they face barriers in doing so. The research team was asked to (1) analyze what systemic barriers exist to the accurate assessment and success- ful adoption of new technologies by transportation agencies and (2) provide recommendations for reducing the influence of these obstacles. Accordingly, the research team developed STREAM, a practical and systematic technology assessment and decision- making process. STREAM was designed to help agencies â¢ Assess current and potential technologies according to characteristics directly relevant to agency missions and to the policy environment in which agencies operate; â¢ Incorporate such assessments more effectively into the existing agency functions, including planning, system maintenance, and operation; and â¢ Better account for the uncertainties inherent in the distri- bution, adoption, implementation, and operation of proven technologies as well as prospective future technologies. STREAM proceeds in five overarching steps as shown in Figure 1-1 and described in detail in Chapter 3.2 These five steps are an explicit, evidence-based process of framing sys- tematically the decisions faced by agencies in technology evaluation, identifying technologies that are relevant, char- acterizing technology alternatives in agency-relevant terms and comparing them on a level playing field, and helping agencies decide on the appropriate response. STREAM allows comparison of heterogeneous technologies and evaluating C h a p t e r 1 Introduction 1 âTransportation agenciesâ refers to both state departments of transportation (DOTs) and more regionally focused metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). These entities have differing responsibilities and also vary greatly among themselves even within agency type, but both face issues related to technological change and technology adoption, both in planning and operations 2 In this representation, STREAM is shown as a linear process; however, the flow of the assessment and evaluation processes in practice is likely to be recursive and bi-directional, and successive phases will themselves cause a re-evaluation of what has gone before.
2those currently available with those in prospect by allow- ing comparison on the basis of important system outcomes. STREAM not only provides a method of technology assess- ment and decision-making, but also serves to â¢ Emphasize the decision points transportation agencies face during such a process; â¢ Provide a common framework and vocabulary for dis- cussion, evaluation, and knowledge sharing within and among transportation agencies, and between transporta- tion agencies and stakeholders; â¢ Provide a best practice guide and a framework for improv- ing the quality of agency evaluation and adoption decisions; and â¢ Provide a forensic checklist for understanding better which steps or stages have proven to be obstacles. The research team used STREAM to develop approaches that can better address some of these impediments and improve the quality of assessment and outcomes in the application of technology to transportation. STREAM was developed for transportation agencies and decisionmakers. The research team conducted three specific applications of STREAM to vet the framework and provide illustrations. However, the examples provided herein only out- line what might be done by a fully resourced agency or joint evaluation body in actual applicationâSTREAM is a work in progressâa proof-of-principle system to be exercised and refined by the transportation community. This report is intended to be practical and useful and is organized with two goals in mind: 1. To help transportation agencies and decisionmakers under- stand when and how to use STREAM, and 2. To help the transportation community as a whole take steps toward applying and improving STREAM. Chapter 2 describes the barriers that exist to technology adoption in transportation and the principles the research team used to develop STREAM. Chapter 3 describes the STREAM steps; in Chapter 4, these steps are applied to the problem of bridge deck inspection. The report concludes with suggestions for implementation and a few recommendations and conclusions based primarily on interactions with trans- portation practitioners during the development and testing of the method. The report also includes appendices that provide sup- porting materials, including two additional case studies of STREAM applications, detailed case studies of specific exam- ples of technology distribution and adoption by transporta- tion agencies, and a review of the research teamâs interactions with a specific DOT. Frame â¢ What is the function that technologies are to affect? â¢ What is the agency context within which the function is carried out? â¢ What are the goals and metrics associated with that context? Identify â¢ What technologies are or will be available to affect an agency's ability to perform a particular function? â¢ What is the maturity of these technologies and when are they likely to be available? Characterize â¢ For each technology, how does it affect the agency's ability to meet the goals associated with that function? â¢ What are the costs to technology adoption? â¢ What are the drivers or barriers to technology adoption? Compare â¢ What are the tradeoffs between adopting a technology or bundle of technologies now or in the future? â¢ What are the likely outcomes, both direct and indirect, on the target function as well as other agency functions? Decide â¢ What action should an agency take -- monitor, shape, adopt, etc. -- with respect to these technologies? Figure 1-1. The major steps in the STREAM process.