Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
"The Puget Sound region: home to the nation's most advanced
technological applications for traffic information and management." Mortimer
Downey, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Department of Transportation, June 1998
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is a global research, development, and
deployment effort aimed at applying information technologies -- computers and
telecommunications -- to the efficiency and safety of the highway system. Work is
particularly strong in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia.
(formerly Seattle TimeSaver)
world-famous (in professional circles) ITS project in the late 1990s designed to
reduce travel times on the Central Puget Sound highway system by 15% while
increasing safety at the same time. Smart Trek built upon an already functioning Intelligent Transportation Infrastructure (the
most familiar part of which is the system of
TV cameras on freeways)
and an extensive public-private cooperative effort. This $55 million dollar
project was managed by
the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Is ITS a more cost-effective approach to reducing congestion than the Sound Transit's
$7.8 billion dollar transit plan? In other words, would spending a few hundred million
dollars more for ITS (including public transit ITS!) do more for mobility and traffic
congestion than spending billions of dollars for Sound Transit trains and tunnels? Read
on and think about it!
The rush hour traffic lights on the entrance ramps to I-5 and I-90 that slow down the
entry of vehicles through ramp metering are one example of an ITS application that has
proven very beneficial. The ramp meters along Interstate 5 have increased
capacity at rush hour by 10 to 100 percent, while increasing highway speeds at the same
time. Other cities have reported handling 8 to 22 percent more traffic while increasing or
maintaining travel speeds. These and other benefits of ITS are reported in a U.S.
Government report, Intelligent Transportation Systems: Real
World Benefits (FHWA-JPO-98-018). Click
here for an excerpt from this
One function of ITS is to provide travelers with accurate, up-to-date
information on traffic and parking conditions and on bus availability in a way that makes
traveling easier and faster. An example of traveler information in action is provided by the
numerous variable message
signs along Seattle area expressways, which can also be viewed on WSDOT's web
The system of State Government TV cameras on the freeway is another
example. The web site that displays all of these pictures is
here. Workers in any office
that has Internet access can check the pictures on these cameras to help make a decision
on when to go home, and which route to take if a choice is possible.
An example of one of the pictures available (I-5 in downtown Seattle
right now) is displayed here courtesy of Washington State Department of Transportation:
Of even greater interest here in the PITF is the development of an
Internet site that displays where the Metro buses are right now. If a bus comes
infrequently, which is often the case in the suburbs, a bus rider may like to know whether
there is a bus coming that can be caught right now! Busview Plus is a system under
development at the University of Washington to do just that when completed and
deployed to cover everywhere the buses go. Click
here to see how www.Busview.org
Through ITS and dedicated bus lanes, a modern bus system can come close
to the capabilities of a light rail system at much lower expense. Read more about
what is now called Bus Rapid
To find out more about Intelligent Transportation Systems:
U.S. DOT's vision of ITS as of January 2008 is available in a
here or in pdf format.
The U.S. trade association for this ITS effort is called ITS America. There is a chapter of this association in
Washington State called ITS Washington.
Information on Intelligent Transportation Systems direct from the U.S. Government
Department of Transportation is here.
A vision of what is possible for modern
transit using ITS prepared in 1995 by PITF Co-editor John Niles.
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February 07, 2011