oversight

Intelligent Transportation Systems: Improved DOT Collaboration and Communication Could Enhance the Use of Technology to Manage Congestion

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-03-19.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States Government Accountability Office

GAO          Report to the Committee on Science,
             Space, and Technology, House of
             Representatives


March 2012
             INTELLIGENT
             TRANSPORTATION
             SYSTEMS

             Improved DOT
             Collaboration and
             Communication Could
             Enhance the Use of
             Technology to Manage
             Congestion




GAO-12-308
                                             March 2012

                                             INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS
                                             Improved DOT Collaboration and Communication
                                             Could Enhance the Use of Technology to Manage
                                             Congestion
Highlights of GAO-12-308, a report to the
Committee on Science, Space, and
Technology, House of Representatives




Why GAO Did This Study                       What GAO Found
Traffic congestion burdens the nation’s      State and local governments currently use ITS technologies in various ways to
quality of life and will likely grow         monitor and control traffic and inform travelers. For example, transportation
substantially if current trends continue.    agencies use cameras to monitor traffic conditions, signal technologies to control
Intelligent Transportation Systems           traffic flow, and dynamic message signs to inform travelers about travel
(ITS) are a range of technologies that       conditions. By interviewing experts, GAO identified several emerging uses of ITS
can reduce congestion at less cost           that have significant potential to reduce traffic congestion. For example,
than some other approaches. The U.S.         integrating traffic and emergency services data can allow for enhanced detection
Department of Transportation’s (DOT)         of and response to roadway incidents. However, some cities use ITS and the
Research and Innovative Technology
                                             emerging uses to a much greater extent than others.
Administration (RITA) is responsible for
promoting and supporting the use of          State and local governments face multiple challenges in using ITS technologies
ITS in coordination with other modal         to manage traffic congestion. For example, some agencies do not fully integrate
administrations, including the Federal       ITS into their planning processes. Funding the deployment and maintenance of
Highway Administration (FHWA). Since         ITS technologies is also an issue, because of funding constraints and
1994, DOT has overseen the allocation        competition with other needed infrastructure projects. Further, agencies struggle
and expenditure of more than $3 billion      to attract and retain staff with the skills necessary to manage and maintain ITS
for deploying and researching ITS.           systems and may not have leaders who support ITS. Finally, coordination among
GAO was asked to address (1) the             agencies can enhance the effectiveness of ITS through such activities as
current and emerging uses of ITS
                                             synchronized traffic signals along a corridor, but such coordination can be difficult
technologies by state and local
                                             given agencies’ differing perspectives and priorities.
governments, (2) the challenges these
governments face in using ITS, and (3)       RITA’s and FHWA’s activities to promote and support the use of ITS
the extent to which DOT’s efforts to         technologies help address these challenges. Both offer ITS-related training and
promote and support ITS address              technical assistance and provide guidance and information on their websites.
these challenges and follow leading          FHWA estimates that states used about $800 million to $1.3 billion of their
practices. To conduct this work GAO          eligible 2010 federal aid highway funds and $798 million to $1.3 billion of
visited four sites, and interviewed and      American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds on ITS. Further adoption of
analyzed documents and data from
                                             leading practices could improve these efforts. RITA’s and FHWA’s respective
DOT and state and local transportation
                                             roles in these efforts are not clearly defined, potentially inhibiting their ability to
officials, ITS experts, and other
stakeholders.
                                             effectively leverage resources. Some experts and transportation agencies noted
                                             that ITS-related information on RITA’s and FHWA’s websites is not always
What GAO Recommends                          presented in a way that is useful and some agencies lack awareness of some
                                             ITS activities sponsored by DOT. Several options have been proposed to
GAO recommends that the Secretary            improve communication about ITS-related activities and facilitate the sharing of
of Transportation clearly define the
                                             ITS information among state and local officials. While RITA intends to develop a
roles of RITA and FHWA in promoting
                                             new strategy in 2012 for promoting the use of ITS, it has not yet determined
the use of ITS, improve the usefulness
of ITS information on the agencies’          whether it will incorporate any of these proposals.
websites, and include in its strategy        Uses of ITS technologies include posting travel times on dynamic message signs (left) and
plans to further enhance                     synchronizing traffic signals to increase traffic flow (right).
communication on ITS activities. DOT
reviewed a draft of this report, said it
would consider our recommendations,
and provided technical comments.



View GAO-12-308. For more information,
contact David J. Wise at (202) 512-2834 or
wised@gao.gov.

                                                                                          United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                         1
               Background                                                                      4
               State and Local Governments Use ITS in Various Ways to Manage
                 Congestion, and Some New Uses of ITS Are Promising                            8
               State and Local Governments Face a Number of Challenges in
                 Using ITS Technologies                                                      21
               Further Use of Leading Practices Could Enhance DOT’s Promotion
                 of ITS and Better Address Challenges                                        32
               Conclusions                                                                   47
               Recommendations for Executive Action                                          48
               Agency Comments                                                               49

Appendix I     Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                            50



Appendix II    Examples of DOT Activities That Address State and Local Challenges            54



Appendix III   GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                         55



Tables
               Table 1: Comparison of 2010 ITS Deployment and Other
                        Characteristics of Four Metropolitan Areas GAO Visited               15
               Table 2: Emerging Uses of ITS Technologies That Have the
                        Greatest Potential for Reducing Traffic Congestion, Based
                        on Experts’ Views                                                    16
               Table 3: Leading Practices for Successfully Encouraging the
                        Adoption of New Technologies                                         38
               Table 4: Names of Experts We Interviewed and Their Affiliations               52


Figures
               Figure 1: Causes of Highway Traffic Congestion                                  5
               Figure 2: Select Uses of ITS Technologies to Manage Congestion                  9
               Figure 3: Active Traffic Management along Interstate 5 in Seattle,
                        Washington                                                           19




               Page i                               GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Abbreviations

AASHTO     American Association of State Highway and Transportation
             Officials
DOT        Department of Transportation
FHWA       Federal Highway Administration
ISTEA      Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991
ITS        Intelligent Transportation Systems
RITA       Research and Innovative Technology Administration
RITIS      Regional Integrated Transportation Information System
SAFETEA-LU Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation
             Equity Act, A Legacy of Users
TEA-21     Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century
TIGER      Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery
TRANSCOM Transportation Operations Coordinating Committee




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Page ii                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   March 19, 2012

                                   The Honorable Ralph M. Hall
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
                                   House of Representatives

                                   Traffic congestion burdens Americans’ quality of life through wasted
                                   energy, time, and money; increased pollution; and threats to safety.
                                   Estimates of the cost of congestion vary. According to the Department of
                                   Transportation (DOT), congestion costs America an estimated $200
                                   billion a year in lost travel time and fuel, and drivers in metropolitan areas
                                   spend more than one-quarter of their total annual travel time in congested
                                   conditions. Pressures on the surface transportation system are likely to
                                   grow substantially if trends that underlie the demand for passenger and
                                   freight travel, such as trends in population, continue.

                                   State and local governments have used Intelligent Transportation
                                   Systems (ITS) technologies to help manage congestion. ITS technologies
                                   consist of a range of communications, electronics, and computer
                                   technologies, such as

                                   •   systems that collect real-time traffic data and transmit information to
                                       the public via dynamic message signs and other means,

                                   •   ramp meters to improve the flow of traffic on freeways, and

                                   •   synchronized traffic signals that are adjusted in response to traffic
                                       conditions.

                                   ITS technologies support strategies to more efficiently use existing
                                   roadway capacity by improving traffic flow. As we have previously
                                   reported, improved system operations, management, and performance
                                   through the strategic use of ITS technologies have the potential to reduce




                                   Page 1                                GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
congestion without major capital investments. 1 Some other congestion
reduction strategies, such as building new infrastructure, can be costly.
According to DOT’s analysis of evaluations of ITS projects, strategies that
make use of ITS technologies—such as managing traffic incidents and
providing information to travelers—have shown positive effects on traffic
mobility. 2 These strategies often also have documented cost savings to
transportation providers or travelers. Various policymakers and
transportation advocates have pointed to ITS as a way to address
congestion, particularly given current federal, state, and local budget
constraints and the high cost of building new infrastructure. Other
advantages of ITS include increased safety and pollution reduction.

DOT promotes and supports state and local governments’ use of ITS
through various means—including training, technical assistance, and
information sharing—and provides some funds, through federal aid
highway programs and demonstration projects, that can be used for ITS
deployment. Although Congress previously authorized federal funding
specifically for deploying ITS, through a DOT program, this funding ended
in 2005. DOT also has ITS research initiatives to test new technologies,
systems, and strategies in support of safety, congestion management,
and environmental performance goals. Since 1994, DOT has overseen
the allocation and expenditure of more than $3 billion for deploying ITS
technologies and researching new technologies. DOT’s funding of ITS
deployment is discussed in more detail later in this report.

Given the potential benefits of ITS to the nation, you asked us to address
(1) how state and local governments currently use ITS technologies to
manage traffic and emerging uses of these technologies that have the
greatest potential to reduce congestion, (2) the types of challenges state
and local governments face in using ITS technologies to manage traffic
congestion, and (3) how DOT’s efforts to promote and support state and
local governments’ use of these technologies have responded to
challenges they face and the extent to which these efforts reflect leading
practices for such endeavors.


1
 GAO, Highway Congestion: Intelligent Transportation Systems’ Promise for Managing
Congestion Falls Short, and DOT Could Better Facilitate Their Strategic Use, GAO-05-943
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 14, 2005).
2
 DOT, Research and Innovation Technology Administration, Intelligent Transportation
Systems Benefits, Costs, Deployment, and Lessons Learned Desk Reference, FHWA-
JPO-11-140 (Washington, D.C.: September 2011).




Page 2                                     GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
To meet our research objectives, we analyzed pertinent laws as well as
documents and data from DOT, such as DOT’s ITS policy and planning
documents and 2010 data on ITS deployment. On the basis of interviews
with DOT officials and analysis of the 2010 ITS deployment data, we
determined that the data were sufficiently reliable for our purposes. We
interviewed and obtained documents from officials from DOT’s Federal
Highway Administration (FHWA) and Research and Innovative
Technology Administration (RITA) and representatives of the American
Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and
the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America). We
identified emerging uses of ITS technologies—which we defined as
approaches that have begun to be used over the last 5-10 years,
including approaches being researched or promoted by DOT—through
interviews with DOT officials, experts, and a literature search. We
excluded technologies with primary applications outside roadway traffic
management, such as transit ITS, except when they had bearing on
roadway traffic management. We conducted site visits to four cities:
Washington, D.C.; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Austin, Texas; and Los
Angeles, California. We selected these sites based on criteria that
included high congestion levels and varying levels of deployment of ITS
technologies. At each site, we obtained documentation and interviewed
officials from one or more state departments of transportation; one or
more local government transportation agencies; the metropolitan planning
organization; one FHWA division office responsible for the area; and, if
applicable, any academics, researchers, or coalitions focused on ITS in
that metropolitan area. 3

We also identified 15 experts from a list of individuals recommended by
officials at RITA, FHWA, AASHTO, and ITS America. The primary
requirement was that each individual have expertise in at least one of the
following ITS fields that are important for traffic management: freeway
management, arterial management, traffic incident management,
roadway operations and maintenance, traveler information, and road
weather management. In making our final selection, we considered
publications and ITS experience and aimed to include a mix of individuals
from state and local government, transportation associations, academia,


3
 From this point on, we refer to state departments of transportation and local
transportation agencies as “transportation agencies.” We refer to all others we spoke to on
these site visits, including staff from metropolitan planning organizations and FHWA
Division Offices, as “stakeholders.”




Page 3                                       GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
             and private industry. We obtained the views of these experts on the
             emerging uses that have the greatest potential to reduce congestion; the
             types of challenges state and local governments face in planning,
             deploying, and operating ITS technologies; and the usefulness of DOT’s
             efforts to promote and support ITS implementation. We identified and
             reviewed leading practices in literature for promoting and supporting the
             use of technologies, particularly those that pertain to encouraging state
             and local governments to adopt transportation technologies. The ones we
             identified as being the most applicable are (1) developing a strategy to
             promote and support the use of technologies, (2) choosing appropriate
             methods to promote the use of technology by the target audience, and (3)
             monitoring technology adoption.

             We conducted this performance audit from January 2011 to February
             2012, in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
             standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
             obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for
             our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe
             that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings
             and conclusions based on our audit objectives. Additional information
             about our scope and methodology is provided in appendix I.


             Congestion is geographically concentrated in major metropolitan areas,
Background   as close to 80 percent of America’s growth and economic development is
             concentrated in metropolitan areas. Traffic congestion has grown worse
             in many ways in the past 30 years—trips take longer, congestion affects
             more of the day and affects more personal trips and freight shipments,
             and trip travel times are more unreliable. According to AASHTO, travel on
             the National Highway System has increased fivefold over the past 60
             years, from 600 billion miles driven per year to almost 3 trillion in 2009. 4
             Annual travel is expected to climb to nearly 4.5 trillion miles by 2050,
             even with aggressive strategies to cut the rate of growth to only 1 percent
             per year. 5




             4
              These figures are based on FHWA’s highway statistics on vehicle miles of travel, which is
             the mileage traveled by all vehicles on a road system per year.
             5
              American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Unlocking Gridlock:
             Restarting America’s Most Essential Operating System. April 2010.




             Page 4                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
The main types of strategies that state and local governments can use to
address traffic congestion are improved traffic operations, public
transportation, increased capacity, and demand management. 6 ITS
generally fits within traffic operations as a way to better manage existing
capacity. According to FHWA, traffic congestion is caused by various
factors (see fig. 1). Bottlenecks, which reflect inadequate capacity, cause
about 40 percent of urban road traffic congestion. The remaining 60
percent of congestion results from other causes, which, according to
FHWA, can be addressed by management and operations strategies.

Figure 1: Causes of Highway Traffic Congestion




ITS encompasses a broad range of wireless and wire line
communications-based information and electronic technologies, including
technologies for collecting, processing, disseminating, or acting on
information in real time to improve the operation and safety of the
transportation system. When integrated into the transportation system’s


6
 Traffic operations can be defined as the implementation of management strategies aimed
at minimizing the impacts of congestion with the goal of more efficiently operating the
surface transportation system. Demand management strategies include a variety of
methods to move trips away from the peak travel periods. These are either a function of
making it easier to combine trips via ride sharing or transit use, or providing methods to
reduce vehicle trips.




Page 5                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
infrastructure and in vehicles themselves, these technologies can relieve
congestion, improve safety, and enhance productivity.

Using ITS strategies may require officials to make capital improvements
by installing equipment, such as traffic control systems and incident
management systems. In highly congested metropolitan areas, ITS
infrastructure tends to be complex because it typically consists of a set of
systems deployed by multiple agencies. For example, the state
government typically manages and operates freeway facilities, and city or
county governments manage and operate smaller arterial roadways. 7 In a
given metropolitan area, the state transportation department, city traffic
department, transit agency, and toll authority may each deploy different
ITS technologies that address their transportation needs. Metropolitan
planning organizations serve a key role in planning, as they have
responsibility for the regional transportation planning processes in
urbanized areas. 8

Congress established the ITS program in 1991 in the Intermodal Surface
Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), 9 and DOT created the ITS
Joint Program Office in 1994. Since its creation, the ITS Joint Program
Office has overseen allocation and expenditure of more than $3 billion for
deploying ITS applications and researching new technologies. Under
ISTEA and continuing under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st
Century (TEA-21), enacted in 1998, 10 Congress authorized funds


7
  As we reported in 2009, according to DOT officials, the term “freeways,” which is used in
its ITS deployment surveys, refers to controlled access roads that have no intersections.
Arterial roads generally consist of roads that have signalized intersections. See GAO,
Surface Transportation: Efforts to Address Highway Congestion through Real-Time Traffic
Information Systems Are Expanding but Face Implementation Challenges, GAO-10-121R
(Washington, D.C.: Nov. 30, 2009). The ITS deployment surveys are administered by
RITA. FHWA defines arterials and freeways differently, however, and considers freeways
a subset of arterials.
8
 Metropolitan planning organizations represent local governments and coordinate with
state departments of transportation and providers of transportation services in developing
and periodically updating short-range Transportation Improvement Plans and long-range
Metropolitan Transportation Plans. These organizations exist for all U.S. urbanized areas
of more than 50,000 people. We have suggested that Congress consider making this
transportation planning process more performance-based. See GAO, Metropolitan
Planning Organizations: Options Exist to Enhance Transportation Planning Capacity and
Federal Oversight, GAO-09-868 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 9, 2009).
9
Pub. L. No. 102-240, §6051, 105 Stat. 1914, 2189 (1991).
10
    Pub. L. No. 105-178, §5201, 112 Stat. 107, 452 (1998).




Page 6                                       GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
specifically for state and local governments to deploy ITS technologies.
The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act:
A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), enacted in 2005, did not directly
reauthorize the ITS deployment program. 11 Although DOT no longer
provides dedicated funding for ITS deployment, states can use their
federal aid highway program funds for improving traffic operations,
including deploying ITS. 12 In addition, state and local governments may
use their own funds to finance ITS projects. State funding mainly comes
from highway user charges, while local funding primarily comes from
general funding allocations, property taxes, sales taxes, and various other
taxes and fees. Although DOT does not track state or local spending on
ITS, a market research company has estimated that states spent a
combined $1.4 billion on ITS in 2010. 13

The ITS Joint Program Office, within RITA, leads research of new ITS
technologies and also carries out several activities to promote the use of
existing technologies. In this capacity, the office works with the other
modal administrations within DOT, including FHWA, the Federal Transit
Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the
Federal Railroad Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, and the Maritime Administration. The Joint Program Office
was previously housed in FHWA and moved to RITA in early 2006.
FHWA’s Office of Operations carries out activities aimed at improving the
operations of the surface transportation system, including traffic
management, and, as part of these efforts, encourages the use of ITS by
state and local governments.




11
 Pub. L. No. 109-59, §5101(a)(6), 119 Stat. 1144, 1779 (2005).
12
  American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds have also been used for some state
and local projects that include the deployment of ITS technologies. Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123
Stat.115 (2009).
13
  IMS Research, Intelligent Transport Systems in the U.S.—A Market Opportunity
Assessment-2010. July 31, 2010. GAO did not evaluate the data and methodology used in
the estimate.




Page 7                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                       State and local governments currently use ITS technologies in a variety of
State and Local        ways to monitor traffic conditions, control traffic flow, and inform travelers.
Governments Use ITS    While numerous types of ITS technologies are available for these
                       purposes, their deployment is uneven across the country. We identified
in Various Ways to     several emerging uses of ITS that have significant potential to reduce
Manage Congestion,     traffic congestion. These include approaches that use integrated data to
and Some New Uses      manage traffic and inform travelers and use ITS to proactively manage
                       traffic.
of ITS Are Promising

State and Local        State and local governments use ITS technologies to monitor traffic
Governments’ ITS       conditions, control traffic flow, and inform travelers about traffic conditions
Deployment             so they can decide whether to use alternative, less congested routes (see
                       fig. 2).




                       Page 8                                 GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Figure 2: Select Uses of ITS Technologies to Manage Congestion




                                       Page 9                    GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Monitoring Traffic Conditions   Transportation agencies use ITS technologies, such as closed circuit
                                cameras and sensors, to monitor traffic conditions in real time. The
                                availability of real-time information means that agency staff can more
                                rapidly identify and respond to events that impede traffic flow, and
                                develop accurate traveler information. 14 For example, cameras are an
                                important component of incident management. Incident management is a
                                planned and coordinated process to detect, respond to, and clear traffic
                                incidents that can cause traffic jams. Operators can use information from
                                cameras to verify traffic conditions detected through sensors, coordinate
                                response to incidents, and monitor the recovery from the incident.
                                According to DOT’s 2010 ITS deployment survey, the percentage of
                                freeway miles 15 covered by cameras increased from approximately 15
                                percent in 2000 to 45 percent in 2010. 16 The 2010 deployment survey
                                found that 83 percent of freeway management agencies reported a major
                                benefit from cameras—higher than for any other technology. Meanwhile,
                                the level of deployment of cameras on arterials has remained relatively
                                flat. For example, in the 2000 deployment survey, 17 percent of agencies
                                reported deploying cameras on arterials, compared with 21 percent of
                                agencies in 2010. DOT speculated that this may be due to funding
                                limitations at local agencies.

                                Technologies such as loop detectors, radar detectors, and vehicle probes
                                provide traffic data that allow transportation agencies to monitor traffic
                                conditions. 17 The availability of such data has grown in recent years. In
                                the 2000 deployment survey, 18 percent of freeway miles were covered


                                14
                                 See GAO-10-121R.
                                15
                                 Freeway miles are the miles within the metropolitan areas surveyed.
                                16
                                  In order to track the deployment of ITS technologies, DOT has conducted a nationwide
                                survey of state and local transportation agencies since 1997. The 2010 surveys were
                                distributed to agencies in the country’s 108 largest metropolitan areas. In this report we
                                report numbers from the survey of arterial management agencies, which had a 81 percent
                                response rate, and freeway management agencies, which had a 84 percent response
                                rate. Statistics such as percentage of freeway miles are calculated based on the total
                                miles managed by the responding agencies rather than the total freeway miles in the
                                country. For the complete 2010 survey results, see http://www.itsdeployment.its.dot.gov/.
                                17
                                  Loop detectors use a fixed roadway sensor to measure the number and estimate the
                                speed of passing vehicles. Radar detectors use microwave radar and are mounted on
                                overhead bridges or poles and transmit signals that are reflected off vehicles back to the
                                sensor. The reflected energy is analyzed to produce traffic flow data, such as volume and
                                speed. Vehicle probes use roaming vehicles and portable devices, such as cell phones
                                and Global Positioning System devices, to collect data on travel times.




                                Page 10                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                           by real-time data collection technologies, as compared with 55 percent in
                           2010. The use of these technologies has also grown on arterial roadways,
                           with the percentage of signalized intersections covered by electronic data
                           collection technologies growing from approximately 20 percent in 2000 to
                           48 percent in 2010. In addition, private companies are expanding the use
                           of vehicle probes that collect real-time data on travel time and speed,
                           allowing for greater geographic coverage. Partnering with private
                           companies to gain vehicle probe data expands the data that state DOTs
                           use. According to the 2010 deployment survey, 11 state DOTs reported
                           using vehicle probe data collected by a private sector company.

Controlling Traffic Flow   Many technologies can be used to dynamically manage freeway capacity
                           and traffic flow using real-time information. Approximately one-third of the
                           largest U.S. cities deploy traffic control technologies on freeways.
                           Specifically, 35 of the 108 largest metropolitan areas in the United States
                           have deployed one or more of the following freeway technology
                           capabilities:

                           •    Ramp meters control the flow of vehicles entering the freeway.
                                According to DOT’s 2010 deployment survey, ramp meters are
                                deployed in 27 of the 108 largest metropolitan areas in the country
                                and manage access to 13 percent of freeway miles, about the same
                                level as in 2006.

                           •    Congestion (or road) pricing controls traffic flow by assessing tolls that
                                vary with the level of congestion and the time of day. All U.S.
                                congestion pricing projects in operation are High Occupancy Toll
                                lanes, which charge solo drivers a toll to use carpool lanes, or peak-
                                period pricing projects, which charge a lower toll on already tolled
                                roads, bridges, and tunnels during off-peak periods. The deployment
                                of congestion pricing relies on electronic tolling ITS technology. Other
                                ITS technologies used to support congestion pricing include sensors
                                that detect traffic conditions and dynamic message signs that
                                announce toll rates. In 2012, GAO found that congestion pricing
                                projects were open to traffic in 14 major metropolitan areas. 18




                           18
                             For more information on congestion pricing, see GAO, Traffic Congestion: Road Pricing
                           Can Help Reduce Congestion, but Equity Concerns May Grow, GAO-12-119
                           (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 12, 2012).




                           Page 11                                    GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                      •    Reversible flow lanes and variable speed limits can also be used to
                           control freeway traffic and address congestion. These strategies can
                           incorporate various forms of ITS technologies, including retractable
                           access gates and dynamic message signs. According to the 2010
                           deployment survey, 11 metropolitan areas use reversible flow lanes or
                           variable speed limits on freeways.
                      Transportation agencies can use ITS technologies to control arterial traffic
                      through traffic signals. Types of advanced traffic signal systems include
                      the following:

                      •    Operating signals under computerized control: This capability allows
                           operators to remotely adjust the signals from the traffic management
                           center to respond to current traffic conditions and allows for enhanced
                           control over signals in response to traffic events. According to the
                           2010 deployment survey, 50 percent of signalized intersections were
                           under centralized computer control—essentially equal to the
                           proportion in 2000.

                      •    Adaptive signal control technology: These signals can be automated
                           to adjust signal timings in real time based on current traffic conditions,
                           demand, and system capacity. It allows faster responses to traffic
                           conditions caused by special events or traffic incidents. For example,
                           Los Angeles has developed one of the first fully operating adaptive
                           signal control systems in North America. Despite benefits of adaptive
                           signals, according to DOT, only 3 percent of traffic signals in the
                           country’s largest metropolitan areas are controlled by adaptive signal
                           control. According to DOT, agencies have not deployed adaptive
                           signals because of the costs of deploying, operating, and maintaining
                           them, as well as uncertainty about their benefits. 19

Informing Travelers   Transportation agencies communicate information gathered from traffic
                      monitoring to the traveling public in various ways, including via dynamic
                      message signs, television, websites, e-mail, telephone, and devices used
                      in vehicles such as cell phones. This information—including information
                      about travel times and traffic incidents—allows users to make informed
                      decisions regarding trip departures, routes, and modes of travel.




                      19
                        According to FHWA, its Every Day Counts initiative is developing and providing
                      information related to implementation costs and system benefits of adaptive signal control
                      to agencies to help spur deployment.




                      Page 12                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Dynamic message signs are popular for communicating traffic information
to travelers. According to DOT’s 2010 deployment survey, almost 90
percent of freeway agencies, and approximately 20 percent of arterial
agencies, reported using dynamic message signs to disseminate traveler
information. The number of dynamic message signs deployed on
freeways increased from fewer than 2,000 signs in the year 2000 to over
4,000 in 2010, greatly expanding agencies’ capabilities to communicate
directly with freeway travelers. Arterial agencies also increasingly adopted
dynamic message signs, nearly tripling from 10 percent of responding
agencies in 2000 to 26 percent in 2010.

The 511 Traveler Information Services are another method of informing
travelers. DOT initiated the development of these services and seeks to
have states deploy them nationwide. 20 These 511 services provide
information via the telephone (using an interactive voice response
automated system) and the Internet. State DOTs generally run these
services and they operate independently of one another. Currently, 14
states lack 511 service coverage or provide service for only a portion of
the state. Additionally, these services vary in the ways they provide
information (phone or Internet), the types of information they provide
(travel times, roadway weather conditions, construction), and areas they
cover (statewide or citywide). To fulfill requirements in SAFETEA-LU,
FHWA issued a Final Rule in November 2010 to establish the Real-Time
System Management Information Program. 21 The rule contains minimum
requirements for states to make information on traffic and travel
conditions available through real-time information programs and to share
this information. In 2009, 17 of the 19 experts we interviewed about the
need for a nationwide real-time traffic information system said such a
nationwide system should be developed. 22 Some of these experts noted
that state and local transportation agencies generally develop and use


20
  DOT initiated the development of 511 Traveler Information Services by asking the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set aside a three-digit telephone number
nationwide for traveler information services. FCC granted this request in July 2000 and
issued a rule on 511 stating that DOT’s role was to “facilitate ubiquitous deployment” of
these services. In the Matter of Petition by the USDOT for Assignment of an Abbreviated
Dialing Code (N11) to Access Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Services
Nationwide, Third Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration in CC Docket No. 92-
105, FCC 00-256 (2000).
21
 See 75 Fed. Reg. 68418 (Nov. 8, 2010).
22
 GAO-10-121R.




Page 13                                     GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                              these systems within their own jurisdictions, leading to gaps in coverage
                              and inconsistencies in the quality and types of data collected. Because of
                              these gaps, travelers using 511 systems have to contact different
                              systems while they are traveling and may receive different types of
                              information.

Deployment of ITS Is Uneven   In general, the level of ITS deployment varies by state and locality. For
                              example, the deployment of ITS technologies across the four metropolitan
                              areas we visited greatly varies (see table 1). ITS is also used more on
                              freeways than on arterial roads. For example, in response to DOT’s 2010
                              deployment survey, agencies in 21 metropolitan areas reported deploying
                              real-time traffic data collection technologies such as loop detectors on
                              arterial roadways, compared with agencies in 71 metropolitan areas that
                              reported deploying the same types of technologies on freeways. Several
                              experts we interviewed described the deployment of ITS nationwide as
                              “spotty” or having uneven geographical coverage. DOT officials told us
                              that the pace of ITS adoption by state and local governments has been
                              slow and that upgrades to newer types of technologies have been
                              difficult. In the next section we discuss some of the common challenges
                              state and local governments face in deploying ITS, such as funding
                              constraints.




                              Page 14                              GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Table 1: Comparison of 2010 ITS Deployment and Other Characteristics of Four Metropolitan Areas GAO Visited

Category                Indicator                                     Austin, TX            Los Angeles, CA                 Pittsburgh, PA               Washington, DC
Size and congestion     Population of metropolitan area                           1.7                           12.8                           2.4                            5.6
level                   (in millions)
                        Yearly delay per auto commuter                             38                              64                           31                             74
                               a
                        (hours)
                                                                                                                      b
Monitoring traffic      Percentage of freeway miles                                58                            37                             29                             58
conditions              covered by cameras
                                                                                                                      b
                        Percentage of freeway miles with                           58                            39                             24                             61
                        real-time data collection
                        technologies
Controlling traffic flow Freeway traffic control strategies                    None           Ramp meters,                   Reversible flow    Ramp meters,
                                     c
                         that use ITS                                                      congestion pricing                 express lanes congestion pricing,
                                                                                                                                                reversible flow
                                                                                                                                                 express lanes
                        One or more agencies deploy                                No                            Yes                          Yes                             No
                        adaptive signal control
                        technology
                                                                                                                      b
Informing travelers     Number of dynamic message                                  26                          350                              82                           217
                        signs on freeways and arterials
                        Report travel time data to                                 No                            Yes                          Yes                            Yes
                                 d
                        travelers
                                              Sources: GAO analysis of information provided by transportation officials, DOT data, Texas Transportation Institute, and U.S. Census
                                              Bureau.
                                              a
                                               The extra time spent traveling at congested speeds rather than free-flow speeds by private vehicle
                                              drivers and passengers who typically travel in the peak periods.
                                              b
                                               These figures are from the 2007 DOT ITS deployment survey results because of the lack of
                                              response of a key agency to the 2010 survey.
                                              c
                                               Includes ramp metering, congestion pricing, reversible flow express lanes, and variable speed limits.
                                              d
                                               Includes via webpage, 511, telephone system, e-mail, Twitter or other social networking site,
                                              highway advisory radio, and dynamic message signs.



Emerging Uses of ITS                          We identified four emerging uses of ITS technologies that have the
Technologies                                  greatest potential to reduce traffic congestion, based on views of experts
                                              we interviewed (see table 2). 23 We grouped these technology uses into
                                              two broad themes: (1) using integrated data to manage traffic and inform
                                              travelers, and (2) proactively managing traffic.



                                              23
                                                As described earlier, we interviewed 15 experts on their views related to ITS. We
                                              identified emerging uses of ITS technologies and asked the experts to rate these
                                              technologies regarding the extent to which their further implementation has the potential to
                                              reduce traffic congestion. See appendix I for more information on our methodology.




                                              Page 15                                                           GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Table 2: Emerging Uses of ITS Technologies That Have the Greatest Potential for Reducing Traffic Congestion, Based on
Experts’ Views
                 a
Technology use                               Description
Using integrated data to manage traffic and inform travelers
Real-time data capture, sharing, and         Creating and expanding access to integrated, high-quality, real-time, multimodal
management                                   transportation data that are captured from mobile devices, infrastructure and
                                             connected vehicles and used to improve transportation management
Enhanced incident response management        Integrating various sources of data—such as traffic, weather, and emergency
                                             services data—across jurisdictions to better detect and respond to incidents
Proactively managing traffic
Active transportation and demand             A proactive approach for dynamically managing and controlling demand and
management                                   available capacity of transportation facilities, based on prevailing traffic
                                             conditions, using one or a combination of real-time and predictive operational
                                             strategies, e.g., improved traffic signal timing and congestion tolling
Work zone management                         Proactively anticipating and mitigating the effects of work zones
                                         Source: GAO.
                                         a
                                          We included only ITS uses that (1) were considered by all the 15 experts we contacted to have at
                                         least a medium potential to reduce traffic congestion, and (2) were ranked by at least 9 of the experts
                                         as having high potential to reduce traffic congestion.


Using Integrated Data to                 ITS technologies generate and use data to support agencies’ strategies—
Manage Traffic and Inform                such as traffic signal coordination and incident management—for
Travelers                                managing congestion. State and local governments within some
                                         metropolitan areas, such as Washington, D.C., are employing new traffic
                                         management strategies that make use of data integrated from various
                                         sources, which were previously “siloed.” The objective of these
                                         approaches is to collect, manage, integrate, and apply real-time
                                         transportation data. The approaches can also enhance traffic operations
                                         because they allow agencies to intervene in traffic congestion as it
                                         happens and operate the system more efficiently. Better integration of
                                         real-time data across jurisdictions facilitates more coordinated strategies
                                         and better informs travelers, as it gives them more information on
                                         transportation alternatives.

                                         Agencies integrate a variety of real-time information—including incident
                                         information, travel time, and weather advisories—obtained from various
                                         sources to manage the transportation system and provide relevant
                                         information to travelers. The expansion of real-time data collection
                                         technologies and coverage in recent years has allowed for greater use of
                                         these data in daily traffic operations. As one expert noted, data are the
                                         foundation of managing congestion, and the more and better quality the
                                         data, the better the tools that can be brought to bear on managing traffic.
                                         In addition to supporting a more active role in managing traffic, such data



                                         Page 16                                            GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
allow management agencies to provide real-time traffic advisories and
support performance measurement.

Collection and integration of data—such as traffic and emergency
services data—across jurisdictions can enhance incident management by
allowing quick detection and response to incidents. For example, the I-95
Corridor Coalition makes vehicle probe data available to 19 agencies,
which use the data to monitor traffic patterns across state boundaries and
to respond to incidents and congestion. In 2009, the New York State
Police used these vehicle probe data along with data from the New York
511 website to assist in managing holiday traffic congestion. This
proactive approach to traffic management led to a 50 percent reduction in
traffic queues over previous years. Two-thirds of the experts we
interviewed rated enhanced incident management as having a high
potential to reduce traffic congestion.

The Regional Integrated Transportation Information System (RITIS)
program in the Washington, D.C., area is an example of data integration
that allows for improved traffic operations, incident management, and
traveler information. 24 RITIS is a system that compiles data across modes
of transportation from agencies throughout the metropolitan area,
including data on incidents, weather, managed lane status, signal status,
and data from public safety computer-aided dispatch systems. RITIS then
standardizes these data, and makes them available to participating
agencies. Previously, many of the area transportation agencies had
implemented stand-alone systems and relied on ad hoc communications
that were driven by personal relationships between staff for coordination.
RITIS is part of an information-sharing effort, called the Metropolitan Area
Transportation Operations Coordination Program, which has been shown
to result in cost savings associated with reduced traffic delay and reduced
fuel consumption. 25 Additionally, officials we spoke with at the Maryland
State Highway Administration noted RITIS was a major improvement to
their operation and has improved the ability to know where an accident




24
  RITIS was developed by the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced
Transportation Technology Laboratory starting in 2006 with funding from various, mostly
public, sources.
25
 Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination Benefit-Cost Analysis White
Paper, June 2010.




Page 17                                     GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                               has occurred. Similar efforts to provide this level of data integration exist
                               in the Los Angeles and New York City metropolitan areas.

Proactively Managing Traffic   FHWA has noted that the proactive management of roadway capacity
                               and transportation demand is the next step in congestion relief. 26
                               Technical advances now make it possible to move from relatively passive
                               monitoring to proactive control of traffic through mechanisms like variable
                               speed limits, congestion pricing, and ramp metering. Active transportation
                               and demand management is a proactive approach for dynamic
                               management and control of existing transportation infrastructure based
                               on current traffic conditions using real-time data and information.
                               According to FHWA, this approach considers the real-time management
                               of both supply and demand to prevent, delay, or minimize facility
                               breakdown when travel demand exceeds system capacity.

                               In Seattle, the Washington State DOT has instituted active traffic
                               management systems. These systems, which are among the few such
                               systems in the country, use overhead signs that display changing speed
                               limits and real-time traffic information for drivers over each lane (see fig.
                               3). These signs dynamically and automatically reduce speed limits to alert
                               drivers to slow their vehicles when they approach congestion, collisions,
                               or backups at off-ramps. The signs also alert drivers to upcoming lane
                               closures because of traffic incidents or road work and direct them to open
                               lanes. The system also includes dynamic message signs that alert drivers
                               of downstream backups and signs that display estimated travel times.
                               Although a formal evaluation of the systems in Seattle is forthcoming,
                               FHWA has reported that similar systems in Europe, depending on the
                               location and the combination of strategies deployed, have resulted in
                               increases in overall capacity ranging from 3 to 22 percent, increases in
                               travel time reliability, and reductions in primary incidents ranging from 3 to
                               30 percent. 27




                               26
                                 FHWA, Active Traffic Management: The Next Step in Congestion Management
                               (Washington, D.C.: July 2007).
                               27
                                 Primary incidents are crashes or other incidents that do not include secondary incidents,
                               such as rear-end crashes, resulting from immediate factors associated with the initial
                               incident.




                               Page 18                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Figure 3: Active Traffic Management along Interstate 5 in Seattle, Washington




Active transportation management can also include managed lanes, in
which officials control traffic lane use by

•   granting access to only certain types of vehicles, such as high-
    occupancy vehicles;

•   controlling access, such as designing express lanes where access is
    restricted to a few points; or

•   congestion pricing, where vehicles pay a toll to use the lane.

Another strategy to reduce congestion is road pricing or congestion
pricing—assessing tolls that vary with the level of congestion and the time
of day. This demand management strategy aims to improve the flow of
traffic by motivating drivers to travel by other modes, such as carpools or
transit, or by traveling at less congested times. For example, in Los
Angeles, the California Department of Transportation and the Los
Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority are converting over
50 miles of freeway from High Occupancy Vehicle, or carpool, lanes, to
High Occupancy Toll lanes. This is to allow use of excess capacity in the
lanes by single occupancy vehicles for a price. Agencies have used
electronic fare collection and traveler information ITS technologies to
accomplish this conversion. A recent GAO report reviewed evaluations of




Page 19                                  GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
five High Occupancy Toll lane projects and found that travel time and
travel speed improved on at least some sections of all five projects. 28

Officials can also proactively manage traffic conditions through ramp
metering, which can maintain smooth freeway flow by regulating vehicle
entry at entrance ramps. DOT’s 2010 deployment survey found that
freeway agencies believe ramp control has high benefit, despite the fact
that the technology is lightly deployed. Additionally, active transportation
and demand management approaches, such as ramp metering, were
mentioned as beneficial by five stakeholders and officials from four
transportation agencies we spoke with, across all four sites.

Work zone management is another emerging use of ITS to proactively
manage traffic. Transportation agencies can use work zone management
to reduce the congestion normally associated with construction activities
such as lane closures. Agencies use ITS to mitigate the effects of lane
closures, detours, and other factors. Examples of ITS technologies used
in work zones include using electronic signs to control merging for lane
closures and variable speed limit signs. Agencies also use traveler
information ITS technologies to notify the public of road closures and
work zone-related delays.

Connected vehicle technology, still under development, could significantly
change traffic management, both in terms of the amount of traffic data
transportation agencies will collect and in how agencies proactively
manage traffic. 29 DOT’s current ITS research agenda focuses on the
department’s vision to provide the nation with a national, multimodal
transportation system that features wireless communications among
vehicles, infrastructure, and portable devices. The importance of data
management and integration will continue given that connected vehicle
technology has the potential to significantly increase the amount of
transportation data available to state and local governments.




28
 GAO-12-119.
29
  We excluded connected vehicle technology, which is an emphasis of DOT’s current ITS
research plan, because it is currently still under development and has not yet begun to be
used by state and local governments.




Page 20                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                       State and local governments face various challenges in deploying and
State and Local        effectively using ITS technologies to manage traffic congestion. As
Governments Face a     mentioned previously, ITS in metropolitan areas tends to be complex and
                       is deployed by multiple agencies, which involves planning and
Number of Challenges   coordination across agencies. Effectively using ITS is dependent upon
in Using ITS           agencies having the staff and funding resources needed to maintain and
Technologies           operate the technologies. We identified four key challenges agencies face
                       in using ITS: strategic planning, funding deployment and maintenance,
                       having staff with the knowledge needed to use and maintain ITS, and
                       coordinating ITS approaches.


Strategic Planning     Planning for ITS is a key component of strategically using ITS to address
Challenges             transportation issues and reduce congestion. Transportation planning for
                       metropolitan areas has traditionally focused on building and maintaining
                       basic infrastructure to ensure adequate roadway capacity. ITS, in
                       contrast, focuses on managing already-existing capacity to use it more
                       effectively. Strategically using ITS requires agencies to shift focus from
                       planning construction and maintenance of roadways to planning the
                       operations of the surface transportation system, a shift that, according to
                       DOT, some states and local transportation agencies have not yet fully
                       made.

                       A RITA official told us that planning is a major challenge that affects
                       agencies’ ability to make effective use of ITS. The federal ITS program,
                       as mentioned previously, initially included a DOT program that provided
                       grants to transportation agencies specifically to deploy ITS. As a result,
                       many agencies have deployed ITS based on the availability of funding
                       rather than systematic planning, according to two stakeholders, a national
                       transportation organization representative, a DOT official, and four
                       transportation agencies we interviewed. According to FHWA officials, ITS
                       deployment has not always been clearly connected to a transportation
                       problem or need, or well integrated with other transportation strategies
                       and programs. If state and local governments do not consider the range
                       of available ITS options in developing their congestion management
                       strategies, they may miss opportunities to better manage traffic and make
                       the best use of scarce funds to address congestion.

                       Most experts we spoke to believed that limitations of planning processes,
                       as well as the availability of information to support sound decision




                       Page 21                              GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
making, were challenges faced by state and local governments in using
ITS. 30 Furthermore, six experts, two stakeholders, and officials from five
transportation agencies we contacted noted that there is a need for more
planning and analysis information such as cost-benefit information and
performance measures. 31 Some of these officials noted that it is currently
difficult to calculate and measure the benefits of ITS. For example, in its
2010 deployment survey, DOT found that 25 percent of agencies
responsible for managing arterial roadways reported that they had not
deployed adaptive traffic signal control technology because of uncertainty
about benefits. Lack of quantifiable information about benefits can put ITS
projects at a disadvantage compared with other types of transportation
projects such as road improvements or bridge replacements, which have
more easily quantified benefits. While some studies show that various
types of ITS technologies can be cost-effective, conducting such studies
can be challenging. 32

FHWA has emphasized the importance of incorporating transportation
operations (including ITS) into transportation planning, along with related
objectives and performance measures. Despite FHWA’s promotion of the
use of such an approach, many metropolitan planning organizations do
not fully consider operations in the planning process. A recent FHWA


30
  Eleven of 15 experts we interviewed said that limitations of planning processes
constituted a challenge to deploying, operating, and maintaining ITS technologies for
traffic management. Of these, 5 said they were a major challenge, 2 said they were
between a major and a minor challenge, and 4 said they were a minor challenge. One
expert said that limitations of planning processes did not constitute a challenge. The
remaining 3 experts said they had no basis to judge. Thirteen of 15 experts we
interviewed noted the availability of information to support sound decision making was a
challenge state and local governments face in deploying, operating, and maintaining ITS.
Specifically, 4 of 15 experts said it was a major challenge, 3 said it was between a major
and a minor challenge, and 6 said it was a minor challenge. One expert said it was not a
challenge and the other had no basis to judge.
31
  In 2007, we reported that rigorous economic analysis is not a driving factor in most
investment decisions by state and local governments. See GAO, Surface Transportation:
Strategies Are Available for Making Existing Road Infrastructure Perform Better,
GAO-07-920 (Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2007).
32
  In 2009, we reviewed studies that quantified the impact of real-time traffic information
systems. The studies generally found that the systems improved mobility and had
environmental benefits. However, these studies are not generalizable or comparable
because they are specific to a particular city or system. We also found conducting cost-
benefit analyses of these systems is challenging because of difficulty capturing data about
travelers and isolating and attributing transportation impacts to an individual project. See
GAO-10-121R for more information.




Page 22                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                     assessment found that metropolitan planning organizations increasingly
                     address traffic operations (including ITS) in their plans, but only 36
                     percent include specific, measurable objectives related to operations that
                     meet DOT’s recommended criteria. 33 Despite challenges, DOT reports
                     that some regions have effectively incorporated ITS into their planning
                     efforts, including Hampton Roads, Virginia. 34 The Hampton Roads
                     Transportation Planning Organization, the metropolitan planning
                     organization for the area, scores ITS projects for their capacity to support
                     planning objectives and has been able to acquire federal funding for
                     several ITS plans and projects through this process. These include a
                     centralized traveler information system and signal system upgrades.


Funding Challenges   Funding constraints pose a significant challenge to transportation
                     agencies in their efforts to deploy ITS technologies because of competing
                     priorities and an overall constrained funding situation. 35 ITS projects must
                     compete for funding with other surface transportation needs, including
                     construction and maintenance of roads, which often take priority,
                     according to officials from transportation and stakeholder agencies we
                     interviewed. As we reported in 2005, transportation officials often view
                     adding a new lane to a highway more favorably than ITS when deciding
                     how to spend their limited transportation funds. 36 DOT has noted that
                     funding constraints might explain why the rate of adoption of arterial
                     management technologies over the past decade has been flat. In
                     addition, the 2010 deployment survey found that 55 percent of agencies
                     responsible for managing freeways, compared with 36 percent of
                     agencies responsible for managing arterial roadways, plan to invest in
                     new ITS in 2010 to 2013. Transportation agencies face difficult decisions
                     regarding the allocation of their transportation funding, and many have


                     33
                       DOT recommends that objectives be (1) specific, (2) measurable, (3) agreed upon by
                     relevant participants, (4) realistic and (5) time-bound. See
                     http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop10027/chap_2.htm.
                     34
                       The Hampton Roads, Virginia, area includes a number of municipalities—including
                     Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, and Newport News—located among a number of
                     estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay.
                     35
                       All 15 experts we interviewed rated the ability to fund deployment of ITS in light of
                     resource constraints and competing priorities as a challenge state and local governments
                     face in using ITS. Thirteen rated it a major challenge, 1 between a major and a minor
                     challenge, and 1 a minor challenge.
                     36
                      See GAO-05-943.




                     Page 23                                     GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
faced severe revenue declines in recent years, restricting the availability
of funds for transportation improvements. For example, a county
transportation official we interviewed reported that the funds for deploying
and maintaining ITS have been reduced annually over the last 3 to 4
years because of reduced county revenues, which has led to the county
suspending almost all deployment of ITS field devices.

Transportation officials must identify priorities and make trade-offs
between funding projects that preserve or add new infrastructure and
those that improve operations, such as ITS projects. Preserving
infrastructure is a high priority for state and regional decision makers.
Traffic growth has outpaced highway construction, particularly in major
metropolitan areas, which puts enormous pressure on roads. 37 According
to FHWA’s most recent projections (using 2006 data), less than half of the
vehicle miles traveled in urban areas are on good-quality pavements and
about one-third of urban bridges are in deficient condition. 38 As five
stakeholders and officials from four transportation agencies we spoke
with noted, ITS projects have difficulty competing for funding with other
needs, such as road and bridge maintenance projects. For example, one
city transportation official told us the city must devote most of its
resources to highway and bridge projects rather than new technology,
and in some cases the city has resorted to demolishing unsafe bridges
because of lack of funds rather than repairing or replacing them.

These funding issues exist within the context of an overall large funding
gap for maintaining and improving the nation’s surface transportation
infrastructure. 39 The Highway Trust Fund has been undergoing a
solvency crisis in recent years. Its expenditures have exceeded its
revenues, which derive mainly from motor fuel taxes. According to 2006
National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission
estimates, combined revenues at all levels of government, under current
policies, will meet only 58 percent of the capital investment requirements




37
 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Rough Roads
Ahead, Fix Them Now or Pay For It Later (Washington, D.C.: 2009).
38
 FHWA, 2008 Status of the Nation’s Highways, Bridges, and Transit: Conditions &
Performance: Report to Congress. (Washington, D.C.: 2008).
39
  For more information see “Funding the Nation’s Surface Transportation System” section
of GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-11-278 (Washington, D.C.: February 2011).




Page 24                                    GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
for U.S. highway maintenance and only 41 percent of the costs for
highway improvement for the period 2008-2035. 40

Agencies that are able to deploy ITS often face additional challenges in
funding the operations and maintenance of these technologies. Eight
experts we interviewed noted that funding operations and maintenance of
ITS is more challenging than funding the initial deployment. 41 Two experts
we interviewed noted that ITS is often installed and then not fully utilized
or maintained. Additionally, in response to FHWA’s 2009 proposed
requirement for states to make travel information available as part of a
Real-Time System Management Information Program, several states
identified operation and maintenance costs as a barrier to the
implementation of such a program. 42 Ongoing costs of operations for
some systems may exceed those of deployment. For example, in 2003,
investments for signal control hardware had initial costs of $21,000 to
$30,000 and yearly maintenance costs of $9,000 to $10,500 over a 5-
year time frame.

FHWA officials told us that it is often difficult for state and local agencies
to sustain the operations of ITS technologies because of funding
constraints and the higher priority agencies place on basic infrastructure.
For example, a county transportation agency official we interviewed
reported that the agency’s operating budget has been reduced by about
30 percent over the past 2 years, which has led to reduced maintenance
of ITS devices. Officials from one local agency told us that one of its big
challenges is identifying operations and maintenance funding to support
newer systems. Advanced traffic signal systems are one area in which
operations and maintenance funding challenges can limit effectiveness
and impede greater expansion. According to FHWA, over 50 deployments
of these signal systems have occurred over the last two decades.
However, over half of the deployments were deactivated because of


40
  National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, Paying Our Way:
A New Framework for Transportation Finance, (February 26, 2009).
41
  All 15 experts we interviewed rated funding operations and maintenance as a challenge
to state and local governments in using ITS. Fourteen said that it was a major challenge
and 1 said that it was a minor challenge.
42
  75 Fed. Reg. 68418,68422, Nov. 8, 2010. In responding to these comments, FHWA
extended its time frames for implementation and modified the final rule’s language to
include an explicit reference to the eligibility of operations, including applicable preventive
maintenance, for federal funding.




Page 25                                        GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
insufficient resources or lack of maintenance or operations capabilities.
Additionally, a 2010 study on adaptive traffic control systems found that
funding—including the high cost of deployments and the lack of funding
for operations—was the main factor in why these systems are not more
widely deployed. 43 Transportation officials in one metropolitan area we
visited told us that it was common for smaller cities to fund the
deployment of advanced traffic signals but be unable to fund, maintain,
and repair them after deployment, causing signal failures that can impair
coordination with neighboring cities and operation of the larger network.

The lack of funding availability for operations and maintenance is
compounded by other challenges such as insufficient staffing resources,
difficulty in planning maintenance costs, and the fast pace of
technological change. RITA officials noted that some local governments
will not install ITS because they do not have the staff to do the continual
maintenance that the systems require. Three stakeholders and officials
from six transportation agencies told us that funding the operations and
maintenance of ITS is difficult to plan for, because of challenges
accounting for maintenance costs and the fast pace of technology. The
life cycle of ITS technologies is short, between 5 and 7 years, according
to one ITS researcher, meaning that equipment or software will become
obsolete or require retooling within that time frame.

Some states and localities have developed alternative methods for
financing congestion reduction efforts, including ITS projects. These
supplement traditional funding sources and have included imposing
additional tolls, local taxes, or fees; developing partnerships with private
industry; and designating separate funding. For example,

•    Half of the budget of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Los
     Angeles County comes from a 1.5 percent sales tax dedicated to
     transportation. This allows the agency to fund and deploy ITS
     improvements countywide, on arterials, highways, and the transit
     system.

•    The Virginia DOT is constructing High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-495
     through a public-private partnership. This agreement provided Virginia


43
  Transportation Research Board, Adaptive Traffic Control Systems: Domestic and
Foreign State of Practice, National Cooperative Highway Research Program Synthesis
403 (Washington, D.C.: 2010).




Page 26                                   GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                                with needed construction funds, as the project would otherwise
                                consume more than a year of the state’s construction funds.

                           •    Some state and local governments have purchased traffic data from
                                private companies because they can avoid the costs of data
                                collection, including sensor deployment and operations and
                                maintenance.

ITS Knowledge Challenges   ITS is a rapidly developing field that requires a specialized workforce
                           familiar with emerging technologies. Staff responsible for managing ITS
                           systems need knowledge in a variety of areas, including project
                           management and systems engineering, according to two FHWA division
                           office ITS engineers. 44 Workforce demographic changes, the competitive
                           labor market, new technologies, and new expectations in the
                           transportation industry combine to make attracting and retaining a
                           capable workforce difficult for state and local transportation agencies. In
                           addition, a 2011 National Cooperative Highway Research Program study
                           found that U.S. universities produce too few skilled applicants for state
                           and local DOTs. 45 These issues combine to affect the ability of state and
                           local agencies, especially smaller agencies, to manage ITS. 46

                           Many state and local transportation agencies struggle to maintain in-
                           house staff with the skills and knowledge needed to manage ITS projects.
                           Eight of the 15 experts we spoke with noted that agencies face
                           challenges in maintaining staff with the expertise and skills needed for
                           ITS. For example, 1 expert noted that ITS requires skills that civil
                           engineers—with whom transportation agencies are generally well
                           staffed—are not specifically trained in, such as understanding electrical
                           systems, communication networks, and interagency relationship building.
                           Another expert noted difficulty finding staff with other skills necessary to



                           44
                             Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary approach aimed at enabling the realization of
                           successful systems. It focuses on defining client needs and required functionality to
                           address those needs early in planning, and then carries out design and operation while
                           considering the complete problem from both business and technical perspectives.
                           45
                             National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Strategies to Attract and Retain a
                           Capable Transportation Workforce (Washington, D.C.: 2011).
                           46
                             Fifteen of 15 experts we interviewed said that lack of sufficient staff expertise constituted
                           a challenge. Nine rated it a major challenge, 1 between a minor and major challenge, and
                           5 a minor challenge.




                           Page 27                                        GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
ITS management, such as contract management, systems integration,
and information technology troubleshooting skills. In addition, the fast
pace of technological change and resource limitations put more demands
on transportation officials and limit training opportunities. RITA officials
told us that transportation agencies need systems engineers to manage
ITS deployment and operations but do not have them in sufficient
numbers. For example, a local government official told us he has been
unable to fill a vacant ITS-related engineering position because of a hiring
freeze that has been in effect for over 3 years. According to this official,
this makes it difficult to complete ITS projects even when funds for
projects are available.

Once ITS professionals have needed skills, agencies find it difficult to
retain them. Eight of the 15 experts we spoke with noted that retention of
qualified staff is a challenge for agencies. Limitations in salary and career
opportunities can limit the ability of state and local governments to retain
staff. One expert noted that the ITS staff at his state DOT could double
their salary by going elsewhere, and another mentioned a state DOT
employee who had multiple job offers from the private sector and whom
the state DOT could no longer afford. Additionally, officials from 10
transportation and stakeholder agencies we interviewed noted that
retaining staff was a challenge. For example, officials from several
transportation and stakeholder agencies noted that, because of budget
restrictions, they have been unable to hire ITS staff to replace those who
have retired.

This is a particular issue for small agencies, according to two FHWA
division office ITS engineers. The agencies controlling arterial roadways
and intersections, including traffic signals, are typically county and city
governments and are smaller in terms of funding and personnel, on
average, than agencies controlling freeways, which are typically state
governments. For example, the National Transportation Operations
Coalition’s 2007 National Traffic Signal Report Card Technical Report
found that agencies operating very small signal systems scored markedly
lower on signal operations than all other agencies, likely because of staff
not having specialized knowledge of signal systems operations and
maintenance. 47 Additionally, the report found almost one-half of all 417



47
 National Transportation Operations Coalition, National Traffic Signal Report Card
Technical Report (2007).




Page 28                                     GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
survey respondents did not have staff or resources committed to monitor
or manage traffic signal operations on a regular basis. According to a
paper by two FHWA division office ITS engineers in California, small to
medium-size agencies in the state lack qualified staff and, as a result, find
it difficult to implement complex ITS projects successfully. The engineers
noted that these agencies are not able to maintain staff with project
management and systems engineering expertise because of insufficient
ITS activity to justify a full-time staff position, high turnover of staff, and
difficulty in obtaining ITS training. In the paper, the FHWA engineers
proposed several potential solutions for these agencies, such as sharing
technical staff within the same agency, sharing ITS staff between
agencies, hiring consultants, or hiring another agency to perform some of
the needed functions.

Seven experts, six stakeholders, and officials from nine transportation
agencies we spoke with noted that agencies often address these issues
by hiring consultants for ITS support. State and local agency officials
reported hiring consultants to perform a range of ITS tasks, such as
maintaining ITS equipment, developing the regional architecture needed
to meet federal requirements, and conducting the systems engineering to
develop project requirements. 48

In addition to developing a workforce skilled in ITS, transportation
agencies also need leaders who support ITS to plan, fund, and implement
projects successfully. 49 As one expert noted, supportive state DOT
leaders can find creative ways to fund ITS. However, officials from two
transportation agencies and five stakeholders noted that leaders in their
areas do not always place a priority on ITS, especially in the context of
limited funding, when other projects such as bridge and roadway
maintenance and building capacity can take precedence. Officials from
some transportation and stakeholder agencies we interviewed said that



48
  FHWA requires that any ITS projects carried out using funds from the Highway Trust
Fund conform to the National ITS Architecture. Regions are required to develop a regional
architecture to tailor the National Architecture to local needs. This rule also requires that
all ITS projects be developed using a systems engineering analysis. 66 Fed. Reg.1446
(Jan. 8, 2001). 23 C.F.R. Part 940.
49
  Of the 15 experts we spoke to, 12 rated institutional leadership and support as a
challenge facing state and local governments in deploying, operating, and maintaining
ITS. Five identified it as a major challenge, 3 as between a major and a minor challenge, 4
as a minor challenge, 2 as not a challenge, and 1 had no basis to judge.




Page 29                                       GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                          elected and appointed officials lack good understanding of potential ITS
                          benefits, and require reeducation when there is a change in leadership,
                          which can lead to variations in funding and other support. The majority of
                          the experts we interviewed noted that the level of ITS leadership varies
                          across the country and from agency to agency.


Coordination Challenges   As mentioned earlier, in highly congested metropolitan areas, ITS
                          systems tend to be complex and involve multiple agencies.
                          Transportation networks include freeways, arterial roadways, and transit
                          systems that cross state and jurisdictional boundaries; and ITS may be
                          implemented by numerous agencies, such as state DOTs, counties,
                          cities, and transit agencies. For example, in the Pittsburgh metropolitan
                          area, approximately 260 townships manage their own traffic signals, and
                          in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, approximately 120 cities manage
                          their own traffic signals, according to metropolitan planning organization
                          officials. As noted previously, better integration of data across
                          jurisdictions can improve traffic operations and traveler information.
                          According to FHWA, better coordination has the potential to improve a
                          region’s integration of ITS approaches, permitting agencies to leverage
                          resources, avoid duplication, and enhance ITS effectiveness. However,
                          we found coordination of various ITS elements and technologies is a
                          challenge for agencies. Fourteen experts, seven stakeholders, and
                          officials from five transportation agencies we interviewed noted that
                          coordination across agencies is a challenge. 50 In addition, the DOT 2010
                          deployment survey found that about 39 percent of freeway management
                          agencies employ coordinated traffic incident management and only about
                          16 percent of freeway agencies and 28 percent of arterial agencies
                          engage in cross-jurisdictional traffic signal coordination.

                          Agencies face difficulty coordinating for many reasons, including differing
                          priorities and perspectives. In 2007, we reported that common challenges
                          transportation agencies face in coordinating include difficulties aligning
                          perspectives when working on regional projects and addressing
                          competing ideas of which jurisdictions should be responsible for the



                          50
                            Fourteen of 15 experts whom we interviewed said that coordination among agencies
                          and across jurisdictions presented challenges to state and local governments in deploying,
                          operating, and maintaining ITS technologies. Five said that coordination presented a
                          major challenge, 1 between a major and a minor challenge, and 8 a minor challenge. One
                          had no basis to judge.




                          Page 30                                     GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
management and funding of ITS projects that cross boundaries. 51 FHWA
officials noted that some communities may have priorities that are
contrary to the goal of creating free-flowing traffic, such as slowing down
traffic through the town. Additionally, officials from six transportation
agencies we interviewed discussed differing jurisdictional priorities as
obstacles to regional goals. For example, in regard to traffic signals,
officials in one metropolitan area we visited told us some cities work
together to manage their signals with the purpose of expediting traffic
through a corridor, while other cities want to independently manage their
signals to slow traffic or discourage additional traffic. In another
metropolitan area we visited, metropolitan planning organization officials
reported challenges deciding who will bear the financial responsibility for
bus priority signals that would allow buses to have priority through traffic
signals. While the transit agency that operated the buses wanted a single
equipment system to enable buses to move freely at signals in the
region’s various jurisdictions, cities operating the traffic lights could not
afford to modify their systems. 52

In some cases, agencies are able to work together to achieve common
goals to reduce congestion. For example, three jurisdictions outside of
Pittsburgh—Cranberry Township, Seven Fields Borough, and Adams
Township—worked together in 2008 to implement a signal coordination
project along Route 228, a congested arterial corridor. These jurisdictions
were able to secure a mix of local and state funding to implement the
project and established an agreement to govern the maintenance of the
signals. According to an evaluation, the project could yield total benefits
of up to approximately $2 million in reduced delay, reduced fuel
consumption, and reduced emissions over a 5-year period. For a 5-year
cost of $70,000, the public could realize a benefit-to-cost ratio of as much




51
  GAO, Surface Transportation: Strategies Are Available for Making Existing Road
Infrastructure Perform Better, GAO-07-920 (Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2007).
52
  Officials noted that this problem was eventually alleviated by the use of federal
Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, part of the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was intended to provide
economic stimulus across the nation.




Page 31                                    GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                             as 30 to 1. 53 At a regional level, the I-95 Corridor Coalition has worked on
                             a consensus basis to promote better traffic management along the I-95
                             corridor by involving state and local transportation agencies, toll
                             authorities, and related organizations since the early 1990s. Initially
                             focused on incident management, the coalition now addresses other
                             issues including data sharing to enhance decision making by states.
                             Other areas in which the coalition is now working include integrating
                             tolling systems and promoting availability of real-time truck-parking
                             information along the corridor.


                             DOT activities sponsored and funded by RITA and FHWA promote and
Further Use of               support the use of ITS and address the challenges that state and local
Leading Practices            governments face in deploying and effectively using ITS technologies. We
                             identified several leading practices for successfully encouraging the
Could Enhance DOT’s          adoption of new technologies: developing a strategy to promote and
Promotion of ITS and         support the use of technologies; choosing appropriate methods to
Better Address               promote the use of technology by the target audience, including making
                             users aware of ITS resources; and monitoring technology adoption.
Challenges                   Further use of these leading practices could improve DOT’s promotion of
                             ITS while leveraging its resources.


DOT’s Efforts to Promote     DOT agencies—specifically RITA and FHWA—sponsor and fund various
and Support ITS              activities that promote and support the use of ITS by state and local
Technologies Help Address    governments. These activities can be categorized as training and
                             education, technical assistance, publications and guidance, ITS
State and Local Challenges   databases, planning and analysis tools, funding, demonstration and pilot
                             projects, and ITS standards and architecture. 54



                             53
                               Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, “User Benefits Associated With the
                             Implementation of a Multi-Municipal Signal Coordination Project: State Route 228, Butler
                             County,” April 2008. We did not evaluate the data and methodology used in this estimate.
                             However, we have noted some general limitations and sources of errors in the practice of
                             forecasting benefits and costs for transportation projects. See GAO, Highway and Transit
                             Investments: Options for Improving Information on Projects’ Benefits and Costs and
                             Increasing Accountability for Results, GAO-05-172 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 24, 2005).
                             54
                               The National Architecture provides a common framework for planning, defining, and
                             integrating ITS. RITA developed the National Architecture and facilitates the development
                             of standards in coordination with transportation organizations and industry. FHWA
                             provides technical assistance to state and local government officials in using the
                             standards and architecture.




                             Page 32                                     GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                     RITA’s activities focus on conveying knowledge of the value and uses of
                     ITS technologies, while FHWA’s activities promote strategies for
                     improving traffic operations, many of which make use of ITS technologies.
                     The activities sponsored by RITA and FHWA help state and local
                     governments address the challenges they face in deploying, operating,
                     and maintaining ITS technologies. For a summary of various DOT
                     activities that address the state and local challenges we have previously
                     identified, see appendix II.

Strategic Planning   DOT has undertaken various activities that can assist state and local
                     governments in addressing challenges they face in planning the strategic
                     use of ITS technologies. FHWA sponsors a program called Planning for
                     Operations aimed at incorporating traffic operations strategies, supported
                     by ITS technologies, into mainstream transportation planning. For
                     example, this approach advocates using operations-based objectives and
                     performance measures, such as reducing delays as a result of incidents,
                     as a basis for choosing congestion management strategies, such as
                     traffic incident management strategies that make use of ITS technologies
                     to identify and respond to incidents more quickly. As part of this effort,
                     FHWA sponsors workshops for metropolitan planning organizations and
                     has written guidance that provides examples of operations objectives,
                     performance measures, and a sample transportation plan that includes
                     different operational strategies. In addition, RITA hosts an ITS portal on
                     its website that includes ITS-related information that can be useful for
                     planning, such as databases with studies highlighting the benefits, costs,
                     and lessons learned associated with ITS deployments.

Funding              Although DOT no longer provides dedicated funding for ITS deployments,
                     several funding mechanisms can be used for ITS-related deployments
                     and operations. SAFETEA-LU authorizes states to use their federal aid
                     highway funding for developing and implementing ITS systems. 55 For
                     example, funds from the Highway Trust Fund’s National Highway System,


                     55
                       As noted in the previous section, a large gap exists in financing the nation’s surface
                     transportation needs. The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing
                     Commission has proposed a number of options to address this issue. See National
                     Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, Paying Our Way: A New
                     Framework for Transportation Finance, (February 2009). In addition, we have reported on
                     several strategies that could be used to better align surface transportation expenditures
                     and revenue. GAO, Surface Transportation: Restructured Federal Approach Needed for
                     More Focused, Performance-Based, and Sustainable Programs, GAO-08-400
                     (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 6, 2008).




                     Page 33                                     GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Surface Transportation, and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality
Improvement programs are eligible to be used for the deployment and
operations of ITS technologies. 56 Although funding of ITS technologies is
not specifically tracked, FHWA officials estimate that approximately 3 to 5
percent, or between $800 million and $1.3 billion for fiscal year 2010, of
federal aid highway program funds have been used for ITS
technologies. 57 For the most part, this funding is not for pure ITS projects
but rather for ITS technologies that are incorporated into larger road and
bridge improvement projects. According to FHWA officials, an internal
analysis found that a similar percentage of funds, or between about $800
million and $1.3 billion, of FHWA’s American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act funds were used for ITS deployments, with the majority of the total
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds being obligated between
early 2009 and March 2011. 58 In fiscal year 2010, RITA obligated
approximately $28.2 million for research on emerging uses of ITS
technologies and obligated an additional $12.3 million to programs
supporting the deployment of ITS, including the Professional Capacity
Building program. 59




56
  23 U.S.C. § 103(b)(6)(O)(National Highway System); 23 U.S.C. § 133 (b)(13)(Surface
Transportation); 23 U.S.C. § 149(b)(5)(Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement
Program). Operating costs under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement
program are restricted to transit and intermodal projects, and traffic operating centers.
57
  Federal aid highway funded projects generally incorporate ITS into larger road
improvement projects. This estimate is based on FHWA officials’ experience and data as
a result of working with these projects and includes funds from the Equity Bonus program,
which provides funding to states to ensure a minimum rate of return on contributions to the
Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund. In fiscal year 2010, FHWA apportioned the
following federal aid highway funds to states: $7.6 billion in Surface Transportation
program funds, $7.2 billion in National Highway System funds, $2.1 billion in Congestion
Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program funds, and $9.6 billion in Equity Bonus
Funds, totaling $26.5 billion pursuant to the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2010,
Pub. L. No. 111-147, Title IV, 124 Stat. 71, 78 (2010).
58
  FHWA apportioned approximately $26.6 billion in total funds to states for highway
infrastructure investment under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
59
  In fiscal year 2010, RITA obligated more than $112 million for programs operated under
the ITS Joint Program Office, including connected vehicle technology research. Although
the ITS Joint Program Office resides within RITA, the funding for the Joint Program Office
is provided through the FHWA budget. A formal memorandum of understanding between
RITA and FHWA specifies that the Joint Program Office administers ITS program funds
under RITA program guidance, while FHWA provides budget and administrative functions.




Page 34                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                DOT also provides funding for limited trial deployments of ITS. Since
                2005, FHWA has provided about $26.6 million and managed about
                $150.9 million of RITA’s funds for demonstration projects that support the
                use of ITS technologies in managing traffic congestion, including four
                Urban Partnership Agreement projects, two Congestion Reduction
                program projects, and two Integrated Corridor Management projects. 60 In
                addition, FHWA has sponsored several smaller-scale demonstration
                projects that examine and test ITS applications, such as a demonstration
                project to develop an enhanced 511 traveler information system.

ITS Knowledge   DOT sponsors multiple activities and programs aimed at ensuring that the
                state and local transportation workforce and leaders have adequate ITS
                knowledge. RITA operates a Professional Capacity Building program that
                aims to enhance the professional development of current and emerging
                ITS professionals. According to RITA statistics, between January 2010
                and June 2011, the program reached over 3,400 transportation
                professionals through multiple activities, including 13 webinars, 8 web-
                based courses, 5 workshops, 6 presentations, and 12 peer-to-peer
                exchanges on topics such as ITS project management, systems
                engineering, adaptive signal control technology, and integrated corridor
                management. The program is in the process of refocusing its efforts in
                order to prepare transportation professionals for new connected vehicle
                technologies as well as to allow them to take advantage of proven ITS
                technologies.

                Similarly, FHWA conducts a variety of activities aimed at building the
                expertise of the state, regional, and local workforce in traffic operations
                strategies and associated ITS technologies. In addition to offering some
                training courses through RITA’s Professional Capacity Building program,
                FHWA offers its own training courses, technical assistance, and a variety
                of publications and guidance aimed at improving the management of
                traffic operations and the use of ITS. For example, between January 2010


                60
                  The Urban Partnership program has provided funding to four cities seeking to relieve
                traffic using four strategies: tolling, transit, telecommuting, and technology. The
                Congestion Reduction Demonstration was a follow-on to the Urban Partnership program
                and provided funding to two cities to implement congestion pricing along with
                complementary transportation solutions, such as transit service and innovative
                technology. The Integrated Corridor Management Systems initiative funded two projects
                that focus on operating and optimizing the transportation system along a specific corridor
                through a combined application of technologies and a commitment of network partners to
                work together.




                Page 35                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
               and June 2011 FHWA offered 52 workshops, 2 webinars, and 12 peer-to-
               peer exchanges related to topics such as adaptive signal control
               technology, traffic incident management, and ITS performance measures.
               Most of these activities are sponsored by FHWA’s Office of Operations
               under individual program areas, such as traffic incident management,
               traffic signal management, congestion pricing, and real-time traveler
               information. FHWA also has an additional initiative—including guidance,
               training, and technical assistance—aimed at improving traffic signal
               management.

               In addition, RITA and FHWA have activities focused on enhancing the
               knowledge of state and local leaders about traffic operations and ITS
               technologies. Through its Professional Capacity Building program, RITA
               emphasizes leadership awareness through activities such as peer-to-peer
               exchanges. RITA officials told us they are also considering possible new
               ways to reach high-level decision makers. FHWA is sponsoring an
               initiative that provides guidance to leaders in 12 states on how to
               integrate transportation operations and ITS technologies into the state
               planning process, with the intent of turning these states into models for
               other states. Furthermore, FHWA has an effort under way to identify and
               contact newly appointed state DOT leaders to discuss the benefits of
               operational strategies that use ITS technologies, including hosting
               workshops with top-tier leaders.

Coordination   DOT promotes the coordination of ITS approaches among state and local
               government agencies, emphasizing the benefits of a regional approach.
               For example, FHWA promotes regional collaboration through its Planning
               for Operations program as well as the Regional Concept for
               Transportation Operations initiative. Specifically, this initiative provides
               state and local officials with various publications that encourage a
               coordinated regional approach in the planning for and deployment of ITS-
               based operational strategies, such as traffic incident management or
               traveler information services. RITA and FHWA also promote regional
               cooperation by sponsoring demonstration projects through the Integrated
               Corridor Management initiative. This initiative aims to integrate
               operational strategies and ITS technologies among transportation
               operators along a specific corridor, supporting interagency collaboration
               and the integration of systems. Additionally, RITA and FHWA promote
               ITS coordination through the development and support of ITS architecture
               and standards used to facilitate the exchange of information and ensure
               compatibility among ITS technologies at a regional level. One RITA
               official told us that the regional architecture is often the catalyst for
               interagency contact between state and local DOTs.


               Page 36                              GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                           Furthermore, FHWA encourages regional approaches by supporting
                           alliances of transportation agencies in multiple states. For example, the I-
                           95 Corridor Coalition includes 40 member agencies, toll authorities, and
                           other entities located along the corridor that work together with the aim of
                           creating seamless operations across jurisdictions and modes. The
                           coalition has been supported by RITA funds that are managed by FHWA
                           and used for efforts that benefit all the coalition members, such as
                           purchasing private sector data that are shared among the agencies.
                           Similarly, the North/West Passage Corridor Coalition was created as part
                           of a shared fund study, supported by FHWA, that combines funds among
                           eight member states along the I-90 and I-94 corridors in order to develop
                           effective methods for sharing, coordinating, and integrating traveler
                           information and operational activities across state borders. 61


Increased Use of Leading   The National Academies’ Transportation Research Board and we have
Practices Could Improve    identified a number of leading practices for successfully encouraging the
DOT’s Promotion of ITS     adoption of new technologies. 62 Of these, the ones we have identified as
                           being most applicable for assessing DOT’s efforts to promote and support
                           ITS use by state and local governments fall into three main areas (see
                           table 3).




                           61
                             The member states of the North/West Passage Corridor Coalition include Washington,
                           Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
                           62
                             See Transportation Research Board, Transportation Technology Transfer: Successes,
                           Challenges, and Needs: A Synthesis of Highway Practice, National Cooperative Highway
                           Research Program Synthesis 355 (Washington, D.C.: 2005); Transportation Research
                           Board, Managing Technology Transfer: A Strategy for the Federal Highway
                           Administration, Special Report 256 (Washington, D.C.: 1999); GAO, Technology Transfer:
                           Clearer Priorities and Greater Use of Innovative Approaches Could Increase the
                           Effectiveness of Technology Transfer at Department of Energy Laboratories, GAO-09-548
                           (Washington, D.C.: June 16, 2009); Rail Safety: Federal Railroad Administration Should
                           Report on Risks to the Successful Implementation of Mandated Safety Technology,
                           GAO-11-133 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 15, 2010); NextGen Air Transportation System:
                           Mechanisms for Collaboration and Technology Transfer Could Be Enhanced to More Fully
                           Leverage Partner Agency and Industry Resources, GAO-11-604 (Washington, D.C.: June
                           30, 2011); Best Practices: Stronger Practices Needed to Improve DOD Technology
                           Transition Processes, GAO-06-883 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 14, 2006).




                           Page 37                                   GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Table 3: Leading Practices for Successfully Encouraging the Adoption of New Technologies

Leading practice                               Description
Developing a strategy to promote and           Developing a strategy to promote and support technology use is a key component to
support the use of technologies                the successful transfer of knowledge about and adoption of technologies. We have also
                                               found that collaborating agencies should work together to define and agree upon their
                                                                                     a
                                               respective roles and responsibilities.
Choosing appropriate methods to promote      Identifying the primary users of a technology and choosing the appropriate methods to
the use of technology by the target audience promote the use of a technology by that audience are key steps in fostering the
                                             successful transfer of knowledge about and adoption of technologies. We have also
                                             found that improving the availability and awareness of DOT resources can assist state
                                                                                                                       b
                                             and local officials in making decisions regarding transportation projects.
Monitoring technology adoption                 Careful monitoring of the acceptance, adoption, and satisfaction among users of
                                               technologies being promoted can provide lessons about agency efforts to encourage
                                               technology implementation. Reporting this information can demonstrate program
                                               results and build support for the agency’s efforts.
                                           Source: GAO analysis of GAO and National Academies’ Transportation Research Board reports.
                                           a
                                            See GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain
                                           Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005).
                                           b
                                            See GAO, Intermodal Transportation: DOT Could Take Further Actions to Address Intermodal
                                           Barriers, GAO-07-718 (Washington, D.C.: June 20, 2007).


Develop a Strategy to Promote              RITA and FHWA each have strategies that guide their efforts to promote
and Support the Use of                     and support the use of ITS technologies at the state and local levels.
Technologies                               RITA has developed a strategic plan for its Professional Capacity Building
                                           program that outlines goals, performance measures, and an action plan
                                           for implementation of professional development activities for ITS
                                           professionals and leaders. In addition, RITA is developing a strategy to
                                           help ensure that the results of its ITS research become commercially
                                           viable and are adopted by the transportation community and is planning
                                           to issue this strategy in the third quarter of fiscal year 2012. Likewise,
                                           FHWA’s Office of Operations has developed a plan that outlines, among
                                           other things, the activities associated with promoting better traffic
                                           operations among state and local agencies, including the use of ITS
                                           technologies. The plan defines goals, performance measures, and
                                           activities for each traffic operations program, such as sponsoring
                                           workshops on real-time traveler information, developing guidance on the
                                           state of the practice for traffic incident management, and creating training
                                           courses on road weather traffic management.

                                           RITA and FHWA coordinate on ITS research programs and in developing
                                           a strategic research plan for ITS, but they have not fully or clearly defined
                                           their roles and responsibilities for promoting and supporting ITS
                                           technologies. RITA and FHWA both participate in the ITS Strategic
                                           Planning Group, a departmental group that oversees DOT’s ITS research



                                           Page 38                                                       GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
efforts. The Strategic Planning Group’s charter, a document that specifies
the process for multimodal coordination, describes RITA’s leadership role
in advocating for advanced ITS technologies that address congestion
issues, among other things. 63 However, the respective roles and
responsibilities of RITA and FHWA in promoting and supporting ITS are
not defined in the charter or in RITA’s strategic research plan. In addition,
the ITS Professional Capacity Building strategic plan does not discuss the
roles and responsibilities of the modal agencies, such as FHWA, in
developing activities to support ITS professionals. Although RITA and
FHWA officials said that they coordinate informally, we have found that,
as part of agreeing to respective roles and responsibilities, collaborating
agencies should clarify who will do what.

Without clearly defining their respective roles, RITA and FHWA may not
be fully leveraging their resources and their efforts may be fragmented. 64
RITA and FHWA carry out several similar efforts to promote ITS to a
similar audience of state and local officials. Both agencies provide training
and peer-to-peer exchanges that cover ITS technologies, and have
numerous studies and guidance. For example, RITA, FHWA’s Office of
Operations, and FHWA’s Resource Center each offer peer-to-peer
exchanges to state and local agencies aimed at resolving issues
associated with deploying ITS technologies or operational strategies
using ITS. Specifically, between January 2010 and June 2011, RITA
conducted one peer-to-peer exchange on adaptive signal control
technology and FHWA conducted three peer-to-peer exchanges on the
same topic. The Professional Capacity Building strategic plan includes an
objective aimed at coordinating the educational efforts of a variety of
organizations to avoid overlap, including RITA, FHWA, and their federal
training partners, since they each offer multiple courses on ITS


63
  The ITS Strategic Planning Group’s charter describes how RITA and the modal
agencies should define their roles and responsibilities regarding ITS research programs.
64
  We have previously identified a number of surface transportation programs where
potential duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could exist. See GAO, List of Selected
Federal Programs That Have Similar or Overlapping Objectives, Provide Similar Services,
or Are Fragmented across Government Missions, GAO-11-474R (Washington, D.C.: Mar.
18, 2011). We have used the term “fragmentation” to refer to those circumstances in
which more than one federal agency (or more than one organization within an agency) is
involved in the same broad area of national need. The presence of fragmentation and
overlap can suggest the need to look closer at the potential for unnecessary duplication.
However, determining whether and to what extent programs are actually duplicative
requires programmatic information that is often not readily available.




Page 39                                     GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
technologies. 65 However, according to a RITA official, the focus of this
effort is currently on meeting with select universities to identify the
learning providers. One expert and a transportation agency said that the
roles of RITA and FHWA should be better defined so that state and local
government officials are aware of which agency is playing which role.

Furthermore, in comparing RITA and FHWA websites related to ITS, we
found that each of the sites provided links to different studies and
guidance for several of the same or similar ITS uses. For example, in a
search for the benefits associated with arterial management applications,
RITA’s and FHWA’s websites provided different documents with no clear
coordinated approach to addressing the topic. 66 Similarly, when searching
for training opportunities on arterial management, we looked at two
FHWA websites and a RITA website and found 16 different courses cited.
FHWA officials noted that such inconsistencies exist because each
agency has a different outlook on ITS technologies. In addition, the large
array of information and pace of development make it difficult to
completely align the websites.

In addition, RITA’s role in promoting ITS technology is changing, and
without defined roles and responsibilities for RITA and FHWA, it is difficult
to assess how this change will affect DOT’s overall efforts for promoting
and supporting the use of ITS technologies. As previously discussed,
RITA’s Professional Capacity Building program is refocusing its agenda to
prepare the transportation workforce to adopt new connected vehicle
technologies and take better advantage of proven ITS technologies. This
will result in activities sponsored by RITA to be more focused on
connected vehicle technologies, according to a RITA official, resulting in
fewer available resources to support the use of more mainstream ITS
technologies. At the same time, as previously discussed, state and local
governments face challenges using ITS, especially in building and
maintaining ITS knowledge among staff. Not fully or clearly defining the
roles of each agency may result in the inefficient use of resources that,



65
  Federal training partners include the National Highway Institute and National Transit
Institute. In addition, RITA and FHWA also work with other training providers, such as
universities, professional associations, and private sector vendors of ITS.
66
  RITA’s and FHWA’s websites provide some links to each other’s ITS resources, such as
between FHWA’s Arterial Management program and Adaptive Signal Control
Technologies program and RITA’s ITS databases.




Page 40                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                               given the current fiscal environment, may inhibit RITA and FWHA from
                               fully leveraging their resources to promote ITS.

Choosing Appropriate Methods   Identifying Users and Selecting Methods
to Promote the Use of
Technology by the Target       RITA and FHWA have defined their target audiences for promoting and
Audience                       supporting ITS technologies. RITA’s Professional Capacity Building
                               strategic plan defines the target audience as the ITS practitioner, including
                               federal, state, and local level professionals from all surface modes,
                               decision makers, researchers, and students. However, a RITA official told
                               us that the agency intends to more narrowly define its target audience to
                               better focus its efforts. According to FHWA officials, FHWA defines its main
                               audience as state DOTs, in part because of its role in administering the
                               federal aid highway program. FHWA is building stronger relationships with
                               metropolitan planning organizations and transportation agencies in major
                               metropolitan areas as part of its efforts to promote improved traffic
                               operations, according to an FHWA official. However, the official noted that
                               it is difficult to work with local transportation agencies, since there are so
                               many of them. As previously mentioned, smaller transportation agencies
                               tend to face additional challenges in deploying ITS technologies, such as
                               having limited time or knowledge to plan for ITS and difficulty recruiting and
                               retaining a qualified workforce to manage ITS.

                               RITA and FHWA involve stakeholders in the process of developing
                               activities and information on traffic operations and related ITS
                               technologies. RITA has elicited input from stakeholders in developing its
                               activities. For example, the agency conducted three user workshops in
                               developing the Professional Capacity Building strategic plan, getting
                               feedback from 148 multimodal public and private sector users in two
                               interactive web meetings. RITA issued a request for information in July
                               2011, seeking input from interested public, private, and academic entities
                               in identifying the needs for ITS learning among transportation
                               professionals and innovative techniques for delivering ITS learning. 67
                               FHWA also involves stakeholders at the program-planning level,
                               specifically when major products are being developed. For example, an
                               FHWA official told us that the Planning for Operations program used peer
                               groups from metropolitan planning organizations to develop and review
                               guidance materials.



                               67
                                See 76 Fed. Reg. 45334 (July 28, 2011).




                               Page 41                                    GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Experts, transportation agencies, and stakeholders we interviewed
considered some of the activities sponsored by RITA and FHWA more
useful than others. The 14 experts we interviewed considered training
and education activities, including webinars, as well as technical
assistance activities, such as the peer-to-peer exchanges, to be the most
useful of the activities offered by RITA and FHWA. 68 Many of the
transportation agencies and stakeholders we interviewed found webinars
particularly useful. Additionally, experts and transportation agencies we
interviewed, as well as stakeholders with whom RITA consulted indicated
that opportunities to share information among their peers, either via
workshops or peer-to-peer exchanges, provide valuable ways to learn
from others’ experiences.

A RITA official told us that the peer-to-peer program may be phased out
as RITA refocuses the agenda of the Professional Capacity Building
program on connected vehicle technologies, leaving less of a focus on
mainstream ITS. In RITA’s planning workshops, users indicated that they
primarily would like real-world experience “from the source,” stating that
opportunities to learn from peers, including peer-to-peer exchanges, are a
desirable way to learn. In our interviews, two transportation agencies and
three experts also said that it would be useful to have more opportunities
to learn from peers. RITA’s refocused agenda could decrease the
opportunities for state and local officials to participate in an effective
method for relaying ITS information and technical assistance to DOT’s
target audience.

In contrast, other resources, such as the information sources sponsored
by RITA and FHWA may not be as useful to state and local officials.
According to the experts we interviewed, RITA’s and FHWA’s publications
and guidance related to ITS, as well as the ITS databases, were not
considered as useful as other activities. 69 While several transportation
agencies noted that FHWA’s website is helpful, four experts and one



68
  We interviewed 15 experts, but the responses from 1 expert were not included because
the expert was a provider of some of the activities sponsored by DOT. In the interviews,
we asked experts their opinions on RITA’s and FHWA’s resources for training and
education, technical assistance, outreach and publications, ITS databases, demonstration
and pilot projects, planning and analysis tools, and policy and standards development.
However, we did not ask experts specifically about the funding of ITS as part of the
questions on RITA’s and FHWA’s resources.
69
 In May 2011, RITA made a new user interface available for the ITS databases.




Page 42                                    GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
state and local official said that RITA’s and FHWA’s websites have too
much information and are not well organized. In addition, three experts
and one transportation agency commented that it is difficult to identify
needed information given the amount of information available.
Specifically, one expert noted there was little effort to highlight or
summarize the most important information on these websites.

Users that RITA surveyed, as well as some experts and transportation
agencies we interviewed, indicated that they would like specific benefit
information related to ITS deployment. 70 At the same time, the majority of
experts we interviewed said that the ITS databases housing this type of
information were only somewhat useful. Likewise, one transportation
stakeholder did not think the databases were useful and found them
difficult to navigate, while another stakeholder did not think the studies in
the databases were useful. In addition, we searched the ITS database for
the benefits associated with arterial management projects and found 125
separate studies in six categories dated from 1994 to 2011. Of these
studies, 21, or only 17 percent, were completed in the last 5 years.

RITA officials told us that there are fewer evaluations being completed to
include in the ITS databases, since DOT no longer provides dedicated
funds for ITS deployments. In addition, as previously mentioned, DOT’s
current ITS research agenda focuses on connected vehicle technologies.
RITA officials also acknowledged that the information in the databases
may be dated, but noted that the information is still useful. According to a
RITA official, the information in the databases is updated on a rolling
basis as DOT reports are completed and other external reports are
submitted by state and local governments. A RITA official also stated that
RITA tracks the monthly usage statistics for the ITS databases, although
this doesn’t measure the usefulness of the databases. ITS-related
information that is not easily accessible, timely, and relevant will not
effectively meet the needs of state and local officials as they plan for and
deploy ITS technologies, resulting in underused resources.




70
  Future evaluations for the Urban Partnership Agreement demonstration project reports
and the Integrated Corridor Management demonstration project reports will feature
benefit-cost analyses that fulfill the Office of Management and Budget’s guidance.




Page 43                                    GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Making Users Aware of ITS Resources

Transportation agencies may not be aware of all of the ITS-related
activities and information offered by RITA and FHWA. In an informal poll
that a RITA official recently conducted of transportation professionals at
two outreach events sponsored by transportation organizations, RITA
officials found that 10 of 29 professionals polled, or 35 percent, were not
aware of the activities and information available through RITA, and 21
percent were not aware of activities and information on transportation
operations offered by FHWA. Likewise, four experts, a transportation
agency, and a stakeholder we interviewed said that DOT could improve
communications about ITS activities and information with state and local
governments, for example, by becoming more engaged with state and
local officials. For example, two experts said that transportation agencies
were not aware of how to contact the ITS specialists in FHWA’s Resource
Center that offer ITS technical assistance. According to two FHWA
division office ITS engineers in California, although DOT sponsors
Internet-based training, most local agencies have not taken advantage of
these activities. An FHWA official also acknowledged that it is difficult to
match users with their activities and get state and local officials to take
advantage of the activities available.

RITA and FHWA are taking some steps currently to improve access to
and awareness of ITS-related information and assistance. For example,
RITA is developing plans to target audiences through partnerships with
professional associations that may have more direct access to ITS
practitioners, such as the Institute of Transportation Engineers and ITS
America. It also plans to more effectively use University Transportation
Centers, which are established to “advance significantly the state-of-the-
art in transportation research and expand the workforce of transportation
professionals.” 71 RITA is also planning to use video more aggressively to
promote ITS activities and develop testimonials to promote the
Professional Capacity Building program. FHWA is focusing on outreach
and marketing as a critical element of an implementation plan for its traffic
signals program, with the aim of increasing awareness and directly
engaging stakeholders on the benefits and applicability of the strategy.
SAFETEA-LU set a cap of $250,000 per fiscal year for DOT’s funding of




71
 SAFETEA-LU §5402(a) (49 USC 5506(b)).




Page 44                                  GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
outreach for ITS-related activities, but this cap may be lifted in the next
reauthorization of surface transportation programs. 72

As noted earlier, RITA is developing a strategy, to be issued in the third
quarter of fiscal year 2012, to help ensure that the results of its ITS
research become commercially viable and are adopted by the
transportation community. Such a strategy could provide an opportunity
for RITA, as well as its partner FHWA, to further identify methods for
improving access to and awareness on the part of state and local
transportation agencies of ITS resources related to traffic management.
Also, as noted previously, RITA is considering phasing out its peer-to-
peer program, while experts and transportation agencies we interviewed
as well as stakeholders RITA consulted indicated that methods for
sharing information among peers provide valuable ways to learn from
others’ experiences. Therefore, this strategy could also provide an
opportunity to identify ways to facilitate the exchange of information
among state and local officials. However, RITA has not yet determined to
what extent its strategy will address these issues.

Several options have been proposed for improving communication about
ITS resources and facilitating learning exchanges. A 2011 report solicited
by RITA to identify best practices for promoting ITS technologies included
a recommendation that the agency create an ITS Partners program that
would incorporate a number of its activities under a single brand,
encourage and support the deployment of ITS by public agencies, and
increase collaboration among federal agencies, state and local agencies,
universities, and industry. 73 Activities would include marketing the
program, implementing an interactive website where agencies can share
experiences, and establishing networks of individuals interested in
specific topics.

While RITA is planning to enhance partnerships with professional
associations and University Transportation Centers to leverage its
resources, RITA has not yet decided on the extent to which it will


72
  SAFETEA-LU limits DOT’s use of funds for ITS activities consisting of outreach, public
relations, displays, tours, and brochures to no more than $250,000 per fiscal year. See
Pub. L. No. 109-59, §5302(a), 119 Stat. 1144, 1805 (2005).
73
  U.S. Department of Transportation, RITA ITS Joint Program Office, Key Findings and
Recommendations for Technology Transfer at the ITS JPO (Washington D.C.: Mar. 21,
2011).




Page 45                                     GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                           implement this recommendation. Officials cited restricted funding as a
                           factor in their implementation decision. In addition, RITA’s Professional
                           Capacity Building strategic plan includes a goal to establish an ITS
                           learning portal for “one-stop shopping” of training courses, technical
                           assistance, and peer-to-peer events. According to a RITA official, this
                           effort is currently on hold, awaiting the results of a National Cooperative
                           Highway Research Program study. This study, which is being conducted
                           by the Transportation Research Board, is focusing on designing an
                           Operations Center of Excellence that would facilitate implementation of
                           best practices for traffic operations, including ITS, and promote
                           collaboration among state and local government officials in developing
                           best practices. The study will assess the needs of state and local
                           transportation agencies, inventory the available resources, and analyze
                           alternative methods to implement and fund such a center. The study is
                           expected to be completed in early 2012. 74 DOT has not yet defined its
                           role in establishing, supporting, and implementing such a center. A RITA
                           official said that the organization would need extra funds if it was tasked
                           with operating such a center and will wait for the outcome of the study to
                           determine the role it can play. FHWA officials told us that they envision
                           that they would be heavily involved in setting up the Operations Center of
                           Excellence, but would prefer that it not be funded by DOT. Participation in
                           this effort, if and when it is implemented, could allow both RITA and
                           FHWA to identify and potentially take advantage of opportunities to
                           leverage their ITS promotion and support activities with those of external
                           organizations. Such leveraging is particularly important given federal
                           fiscal constraints. As RITA develops its strategy for ensuring that the
                           results of its ITS research become commercially viable and are adopted
                           by the transportation community, it could benefit from working with FHWA
                           to consider this range of options for improving communication about ITS
                           resources related to traffic management, thereby enhancing access to
                           and awareness of these resources, and facilitating learning exchanges
                           among state and local governments, while leveraging its resources.

Monitoring of Technology   Both RITA and FHWA collect information to monitor the adoption of ITS
Adoption                   technologies and use this information to understand the level of
                           deployment and make decisions on how to encourage the future
                           deployment of ITS technologies, according to officials from both agencies.



                           74
                             The Transportation Research Board is also examining ways to improve the transfer of
                           knowledge in order to improve traffic operations and use of ITS.




                           Page 46                                    GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
              Nearly every year since 1997, RITA has conducted a national survey of
              state and local government agencies on the deployment of various ITS
              technologies and reported the results on its website. The deployment
              survey also gauges the factors affecting decisions to purchase ITS, views
              on benefits associated with ITS, and plans for continued investment.
              According to a RITA official, the agency uses the information on the level
              of current ITS deployments to help make decisions about future research.
              In addition, the survey provides feedback to RITA officials on the level of
              stakeholder interest in deploying specific ITS technologies and
              operational strategies. For example, the survey results assist the
              Professional Capacity Building program in determining the locations
              where ITS technologies are deployed and any gaps in deployment that
              merit attention.

              FHWA also uses the deployment survey to understand ITS deployment
              trends. FHWA officials said they use the deployment statistics when
              developing operations-based initiatives, such as selecting the states to
              include in a program aimed at accelerating the integration of ITS and
              operational strategies into mainstream transportation planning. In
              addition, FHWA recently used the 2010 survey results when issuing a
              Final Rule for the Real-Time System Management Information Program,
              which requires states to establish programs to collect traffic and travel
              information. The survey was used to establish a baseline for the
              deployment of 511 traveler information services and determine the effect
              this rule would have on the expansion of 511 services, according to a
              RITA official. 75 FHWA’s Office of Operations’ plan also incorporates
              deployment assessments for specific operations programs, such as the
              Road Weather Management program. This program tracks the rate of
              adoption of road weather technologies, such as a decision support
              system that helps winter maintenance managers make road treatment
              decisions.


              As traffic congestion is projected to grow and state and local governments
Conclusions   face fiscal constraints, ITS technologies and operational strategies
              supported by ITS provide opportunities for state and local governments to
              manage traffic congestion on the nation’s existing roadways.
              Furthermore, emerging uses of ITS technologies have the potential to



              75
               See 75 Fed. Reg. 68418 (Nov. 8, 2010).




              Page 47                                   GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                      build upon existing investments in ITS by integrating real-time traffic
                      information and instituting proactive management techniques. However,
                      the challenges that state and local governments face in planning and
                      funding ITS use, ensuring that staff and leaders have adequate
                      knowledge of ITS, and coordinating ITS approaches impede their ability
                      to make the most effective use of ITS technologies in addressing
                      congestion.

                      While DOT’s efforts to promote and support the use of ITS technologies
                      help state and local agencies address these challenges, the department
                      could improve the effectiveness of these efforts through greater use of
                      leading practices for promoting technology use. The lack of clearly
                      defined respective roles and responsibilities of RITA and FHWA in
                      promoting and supporting ITS raises questions about whether DOT could
                      better leverage its resources and provide a more specific, cohesive
                      strategy for ITS as it evolves. In addition, DOT’s activities may not be
                      achieving maximum results, as state and local officials may have difficulty
                      identifying the most relevant information or may not be aware of all of the
                      ITS-related activities sponsored by RITA and FHWA. Taking steps to
                      more effectively target efforts and leverage resources by further exploring
                      internal and external opportunities to promote and support ITS
                      technologies could better ensure that DOT’s activities achieve their
                      intended purposes. Some options currently under consideration hold
                      promise for facilitating the exchange of ITS information among state and
                      local governments as well as for enhancing communication to improve
                      access to and awareness of ITS-related resources. It will be important for
                      DOT to work with its external partners and determine its role in these
                      efforts to ensure it is fully leveraging its resources in promoting the use of
                      ITS and maximizing its reach. If DOT does not effectively target and
                      leverage its efforts to promote and support the use of current and
                      emerging ITS technologies by state and local transportation agencies,
                      DOT may struggle in helping these agencies transition to the next
                      generation of ITS.


                      To effectively target efforts, leverage resources, better promote and
Recommendations for   support the use of ITS technologies by state and local governments, and
Executive Action      improve access to and awareness of ITS resources, we recommend that
                      the Secretary of Transportation take the following three actions:

                      •   clearly define and document the respective roles and responsibilities
                          of RITA and FHWA in promoting and supporting the use of ITS,



                      Page 48                               GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
                  •   revise ITS information on RITA and FHWA websites to improve its
                      usefulness for state and local audiences based on their needs, and
                  •   include in RITA’s strategy for promoting the adoption of ITS
                      technologies plans for collaborating with external partners to (1)
                      further enhance communication about the availability of ITS resources
                      and (2) facilitate learning exchanges.



                  We provided a draft of this report to the Department of Transportation for
Agency Comments   review and comment. DOT said it would consider our recommendations,
                  and provided technical clarifications that we incorporated into the report
                  as appropriate.


                  As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly announce the contents of
                  this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days from the
                  report date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to interested
                  congressional committees and the Secretary of Transportation. In
                  addition, the report will be available at no charge on the GAO website at
                  http://www.gao.gov.

                  If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
                  me at (202) 512-2834 or wised@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices
                  of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last
                  page of this report. GAO staff that made significant contributions to this
                  report are listed in appendix III.




                  David J. Wise
                  Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues




                  Page 49                              GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Methodology



Methodology

              This report addresses (1) how state and local governments currently use
              Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies to manage traffic and
              emerging uses of these technologies that have the greatest potential to
              reduce congestion, (2) what types of challenges state and local governments
              face in using ITS technologies to manage traffic congestion, and (3) the
              extent to which the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) promotion and
              support of state and local governments’ use of ITS technologies have met
              leading practices and responded to challenges they face.

              To determine how and to what extent state and local governments
              currently use ITS technologies to manage traffic, we analyzed DOT’s
              policy and planning documents and data on ITS deployment from its 2010
              ITS deployment survey. On the basis of interviews with DOT officials and
              analysis of the data, we determined that the data were sufficiently reliable
              for our purposes. We also analyzed pertinent legislation, documents, and
              studies of traffic management approaches and ITS deployment in the
              United States. We synthesized information from interviews with officials
              from DOT, including the Research and Innovative Technology
              Administration (RITA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). We
              also interviewed officials from related associations such as the American
              Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and
              the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America).

              We conducted site visits to Washington, D.C.; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;
              Austin, Texas; and Los Angeles, California. At each site, we obtained
              documentation and interviewed officials from one or more state
              departments of transportation; one or more local government
              transportation agencies; the metropolitan planning organization; one
              FHWA division office responsible for the area; and, if applicable, any
              academics, researchers, or coalitions focused on ITS in that metropolitan
              area. We selected these locations from those with high congestion levels
              as determined by the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2010 Urban
              Mobility Report and varied ITS deployment levels as determined by
              DOT’s 2007 deployment survey database. We made a final selection of
              sites that included cities of different sizes and geographical
              representation, and one metropolitan area that spans more than one state
              (Washington, D.C.). We are not able to generalize our findings in these
              site visits to the whole country but used the other sources mentioned
              above to gain a more general perspective.

              We also conducted a literature search to identify background materials on
              emerging ITS technologies, published research by prospective ITS experts,
              and leading practices in promoting and supporting the adoption of new


              Page 50                              GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




transportation technologies. The literature search focused on databases
with transportation and engineering journal articles and conference
proceedings (e.g., ProQuest and Transport Research International
Documentation) as well as government reports (e.g., National Technical
Information Service). The search terms used were related to using ITS for
managing traffic congestion (e.g., incident response management).

We conducted semistructured interviews with 15 experts, whom we
selected based on recommendations from officials at RITA, FHWA,
AASHTO, and ITS America using several criteria. The primary
requirement was that each individual have expertise in at least one of the
following ITS fields that are important for traffic management: freeway
management, arterial management, traffic incident management,
roadway operations and maintenance, traveler information, and road
weather management. In addition, we selected individuals with
experience in the operations or deployment of ITS; planning,
development, or evaluation of ITS projects; or experience with DOT’s
efforts to promote and support the use of ITS technologies. In making our
final selection, we considered publications and ITS experience and aimed
to include a mix of individuals from state and local government,
transportation associations, academia, and private industry. We selected
experts based on how frequently they were recommended, a proxy for
their standing within the ITS community, and to obtain a representative
mix of officials from state and local government, academia, transportation
associations, and private industry (such as consultants and ITS service or
equipment providers). Through this representative mix, we believe that
we have obtained a balanced set of perspectives.

We identified emerging uses of ITS technologies, which we defined as
approaches that have begun to be used over the last 5-10 years,
including approaches being researched or promoted by DOT, through
interviews with DOT officials, experts, and a literature search. We
excluded technologies with primary applications outside roadway traffic
management, such as transit ITS, except when it had bearing on roadway
traffic management. The scope of our work did not include connected
vehicle technology or uses of ITS primarily aimed at other than managing
and reducing traffic congestion, such as rural safety. To determine what
emerging uses of ITS technologies have the greatest potential to reduce
congestion, we presented the experts with a list of emerging uses of ITS
technologies that we identified. This list consisted of (1) real-time data
capture, sharing, and management; (2) real-time traveler information; (3)
integrated corridor management; (4) active transportation and demand
management; (5) enhanced incident response management; (6) weather


Page 51                              GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




responsive traffic management; and (7) work zone management. We
asked the experts if there were other emerging uses of ITS technologies
that they believe have significant potential to reduce traffic congestion,
and asked them to rate these and the above ITS uses on their potential to
reduce traffic congestion. On the basis of the expert ratings, we selected
the four emerging uses that all experts ranked as having at least medium
potential to reduce traffic congestion, and which the most experts (at least
9 of the 15) rated as having high potential to reduce traffic congestion.

Table 4: Names of Experts We Interviewed and Their Affiliations

 State departments of transportation
 •    John Corbin, Director of Traffic Operations, Wisconsin DOT
 •    Bill Legg, State ITS Operations Engineer, Washington State DOT
 •    Tom Sorel, Commissioner, Minnesota DOT
 •    Kirk Steudle, Director, Michigan DOT
 Local and regional agencies
 •    Tom Batz, Deputy Executive Director, Transportation Operations Coordinating
      Committee (TRANSCOM)
 •    Randell Iwasaki, Executive Director, Contra Costa Transportation Authority
 •    Andy Mao, Chief Traffic Engineer, Harris County, Texas, Public Infrastructure
      Department
 Academia
 •    Stephen Albert, Director, Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University
 •    Peter Sweatman, Director, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute
 •    C. Michael Walton, Ernest H. Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering, Department
      of Civil Engineering, the University of Texas at Austin
 Professional organizations
 •    Siva Narla, Chief Engineer and ITS Standards Program Manager, Institute of
      Transportation Engineers
 •    Jim Wright, 511 Program Manager, ITS, AASHTO
 Private sector
 •    Abbas Mohaddes, Chief Executive Officer and President, Iteris, Inc.
 •    Robert Rausch, Vice President ITS Division, TransCore
 •    Ted Trepanier, Executive Director, Public Sector, INRIX
Source: GAO.



To determine what types of challenges state and local governments face
in using ITS technologies to manage traffic congestion, we conducted
interviews with and obtained documents from RITA and FHWA officials,
and AASHTO and ITS America representatives; conducted interviews
with identified experts; reviewed published research on ITS challenges
identified through a literature search; gathered information through


Page 52                                      GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




interviews and documents collected during the site visits described
above; and analyzed these various interviews and documents to identify
the most frequently cited challenges. We did not otherwise assess the
extent of these challenges in the locations visited, such as determining
actual funding or staffing levels.

To determine the extent to which DOT’s promotion and support of state
and local governments’ use of ITS technologies responded to challenges
they face and met leading practices, we collected information on DOT’s ITS
promotion and support through interviews with RITA and FHWA officials
and reviews of RITA’s and FHWA’s program and strategic planning
documents, including documents related to the professional capacity-
building program and traffic operations improvement efforts. In addition, we
reviewed RITA’s and FHWA’s efforts to promote and support ITS
technologies, including various studies, guidance, websites, demonstration
project and highway funding, and RITA’s ITS databases. We limited our
work to DOT’s activities and information relevant to the promotion and
support of state and local governments’ use of ITS, not including DOT’s
efforts aimed at bringing new technologies to market. We determined how
DOT is required to promote and support the use of ITS technologies
through reviews of pertinent laws. To determine the extent to which DOT’s
efforts are meeting the challenges and leading practices, we reviewed
literature on promoting and supporting the use of new technologies,
including prior GAO reports, Transportation Research Board publications,
and other academic publications, particularly focusing on leading practices
that encourage the adoption of transportation technologies by state and
local governments. On the basis of the scope and nature of DOT’s efforts,
we identified the following practices as most applicable: (1) developing a
strategy to promote and support the use of technologies; (2) choosing
appropriate methods to promote the use of technology by the target
audience; and (3) monitoring technology adoption. We compared DOT’s
efforts with these leading practices and evaluated any areas needing
improvement. We also obtained the views of identified experts and state
and local officials interviewed during site visits about the usefulness of
DOT’s efforts and any needed improvements.

We conducted this performance audit from January 2011 through
February 2012 in accordance with generally accepted government
auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the
audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We
believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.


Page 53                              GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix II: Examples of DOT Activities
                                         Appendix II: Examples of DOT Activities That
                                         Address State and Local Challenges



That Address State and Local Challenges


Challenge       Type of activity                        Examples
Strategic       Training and education                  FHWA’s Planning for Operations program sponsors webinars, case studies,
planning                                                and workshops.
                Technical assistance                    FHWA’s Resource Center and division offices provide assistance related to
                                                        planning for operations, including ITS expertise.
                Publications and guidance               FHWA provides planning-related guidance on its website, including case
                                                        studies, a desk reference on benefit/cost analysis, guidebooks, and reports.
                ITS databases                           RITA’s databases provide information on the benefits and costs associated
                                                        with ITS technologies.
                Planning and analysis tools             FHWA’s ITS Deployment Analysis System assists in planning for ITS
                                                        deployments.
Funding ITS     Federal aid highway funding             FHWA provides federal aid highway funds to states, some of which can be
                                                        applied to ITS projects. FHWA has estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of
                                                        the total funds, or $800 million to $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2010, has been
                                                        used for funding ITS.
                Demonstration and pilot projects        RITA and FHWA fund various projects aimed at applying ITS technologies,
                                                        such as projects funded under the Urban Partnership Agreements,
                                                        Congestion Reduction Program, and Integrated Corridor Management
                                                        Program, totaling more than $177 million since 2005.
ITS knowledge   Training and education                  RITA’s Professional Capacity Building program offers webinars, workshops,
                                                        and presentations for ITS professionals. FHWA’s Office of Operations and
                                                        Resource Center provide seminars, training courses, and workshops for traffic
                                                        operations managers as part of their efforts to improve traffic operations, such
                                                        as traffic signal management. FHWA also sponsors workshops to develop
                                                        local ITS champions and educate newly appointed leaders at state DOTs.
                Technical assistance                    RITA and FHWA facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges to transfer ITS knowledge
                                                        and experiences from model users to agencies with less experience. FHWA’s
                                                        Resource Center and division offices provide assistance and guidance on
                                                        ITS-related issues, such as systems engineering, regional architecture, and
                                                        traffic operations.
                Publications and guidance               RITA’s website includes a searchable ITS library with a variety of studies and
                                                        guidance. FHWA provides studies and guidance related to improving traffic
                                                        operations in areas such as traffic incident management, traffic signal
                                                        management, congestion pricing, and real-time traveler information, among
                                                        others.
Coordination    Publications and guidance               FHWA’s Regional Concept for Transportation Operations initiative offers
                                                        studies and guidance to promote a regional approach to transportation
                                                        management and operations
                Demonstration and pilot projects        DOT’s Integrated Corridor Management projects, jointly run by RITA and
                                                        FHWA, promote interjurisdictional partnerships to transform the way a corridor
                                                        operates.
                ITS standards and architecture          These standards and architecture, supported by efforts of RITA and FHWA,
                                                        define and support a common structure for regional ITS projects with
                                                        interoperable technologies.
                                         Source: GAO.




                                         Page 54                                          GAO-12-308 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  David J. Wise, (202) 512-2834 or wised@gao.gov.
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the individual named above, Judy Guilliams-Tapia, Assistant
Staff             Director; Leia Dickerson; Jennifer DuBord; Colin Fallon; David Hooper;
Acknowledgments   Erik Kjeldgaard; Terence Lam; Emily Larson; Sara Ann Moessbauer;
                  Madhav Panwar; and Joshua Ormond made key contributions to this
                  report.




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