Urban Transportation: Challenges to Widespread Deployment of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-02-27.

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

                 United States General Accounting Office

GAO              Report to Congressional Committees

February 1997
                 Challenges to
                 Deployment of

                   United States
GAO                General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20548

                   Resources, Community, and
                   Economic Development Division


                   February 27, 1997

                   The Honorable John Chafee
                   Chairman, Committee on Environment
                     and Public Works
                   United States Senate

                   The Honorable Frank R. Wolf
                   Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation
                   Committee on Appropriations
                   House of Representatives

                   Established by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act
                   (ISTEA) in 1991, the Department of Transportation’s Intelligent
                   Transportation Systems (ITS) program has received federal funding of
                   $1.3 billion to advance the use of computer and telecommunications
                   technologies to enhance the safety and efficiency of surface
                   transportation. The wide array of ITS technologies includes automated toll
                   collection systems that eliminate the need for vehicles to stop at toll
                   plazas; real-time information on traffic conditions and transit schedules for
                   travelers; and automated traffic management systems that can adjust
                   traffic signal systems to respond to real-time traffic conditions.

                   Concerned about the prospects for deploying integrated ITS in urban areas,
                   you asked us to (1) report on how the Department has changed the focus
                   of the ITS program since the Congress passed ISTEA; (2) examine progress
                   in deploying integrated ITS and the key factors affecting deployment,
                   including the status of the ITS national architecture (the framework which
                   identifies the components of an integrated ITS) and technical standards;
                   and (3) identify ways in which the federal government can facilitate the
                   deployment of ITS. To respond to these objectives, we focused on the
                   deployment of the metropolitan ITS infrastructure; we did not examine the
                   development or deployment of other ITS elements, such as commercial
                   vehicle operations and the automated highway system. We interviewed
                   transportation officials in 10 urban areas that are among the nation’s
                   largest and most congested—and therefore likely to have the greatest need
                   for ITS—and reviewed the existing studies on the ITS program. (A more
                   detailed description of our scope and methodology is in app. I.)

                   The Department of Transportation’s long-term goal for the Intelligent
Results in Brief   Transportation Systems program—the deployment of integrated intelligent

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transportation systems—has not changed since the Congress passed the
Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. However, the
Department has recently changed the program’s short-term focus to
include a greater emphasis on deploying intelligent transportation system
technologies rather than simply conducting research and operational tests.
Its new focus emphasizes the deployments of integrated intelligent
transportation technologies in selected urban areas, outreach and training
to overcome the barriers to deployment, and a continuing research
program to develop long-term intelligent transportation applications, such
as the automated highway system.

Although the program envisioned the widespread deployment of
integrated, multimodal intelligent transportation systems, this vision has
not been realized. In part, the limited deployment of intelligent
transportation systems is the result of the natural evolution of the
program. For example, the program’s national architecture and technical
standards, which define the elements of the intelligent transportation
systems and how they will work together, are prerequisite to a large-scale,
integrated deployment of the systems. However, the national architecture
for the systems was not completed until July 1996, and a 5-year effort to
develop standards is planned for completion in 2001. In addition, the
widespread deployment of the intelligent transportation systems faces
several significant obstacles. These include a lack of technical knowledge
and expertise among the state and local officials who will deploy the
systems; a lack of quantitative data proving the systems’ cost-effectiveness
in solving transportation problems; and a lack of funds, in the light of
other transportation priorities.

The federal government can take programmatic and financial actions to
promote the deployment of intelligent transportation systems. The
programmatic actions include providing technical assistance and training
to state and local officials, disseminating information on the costs and
benefits of intelligent transportation efforts, and completing the
development of the technical standards in a timely manner. While officials
from all 10 urban areas we contacted stated that intelligent transportation
systems are a potentially useful tool in solving transportation problems,
there was a wide variety of opinions on the appropriate federal role for
funding the systems’ deployment. Six urban areas stated that a large-scale
federal deployment program would be necessary to achieve widespread
deployment. In contrast, the remaining four opposed a large-scale program
because it would limit local flexibility and would encourage the
deployment of intelligent transportation systems where other, possibly

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             more cost-effective efforts could be undertaken. Officials from 5 of the 10
             urban areas also stated that a smaller-scale federal seed program could
             also be effective in fostering deployment. Finally, officials from 9 of the 10
             areas stated that federal financial assistance is needed to maintain
             deployed intelligent transportation technologies.

             During fiscal years 1991 through 1997, the Congress provided the
Background   Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program with about $1.3 billion1
             for research and development, operational testing of the ITS technologies,
             and various activities to support deployment. The research and
             development efforts have explored new technologies and applications,
             while the operational tests have been the bridge between basic research
             and development and deployment. The activities to support deployment
             have included the development of an ITS architecture and a series of early
             deployment plans. All of the program’s efforts are building on the
             important goal of developing a fully integrated ITS environment.

             In an integrated ITS, all of the components of the ITS are linked, so as to
             produce greater benefits than would a fragmented deployment of the
             systems. For example, transit agencies use automatic vehicle location
             technology to manage bus fleets, and city departments of transportation
             can use advanced traffic signal control systems to optimally manage
             traffic. If these systems are linked, the speed and location data on transit
             buses can be used to monitor the traffic flow on arterial streets, which are
             typically not monitored, and traffic signals can be adjusted to enable
             transit vehicles to stay on schedule. Furthermore, if these systems are
             linked to a traveler information system, travelers can access both transit
             and traffic information from a single source and use this information to
             decide when and how to travel.

              Appendix II contains a figure showing the level of funding for the ITS program from fiscal years 1991
             to 1997.

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                     ISTEA required the Department of Transportation (DOT) to prepare a
The Department Has   strategic plan that would specify the goals and objectives of the ITS
Refocused the ITS    program. In December 1992, DOT issued its plan, which stated that the
Program to           long-term goal of using ITS technologies was to develop an integrated
                     intermodal surface transportation system that would be safer, make more
Emphasize the        efficient use of the existing infrastructure, and enhance users’ choices of
Deployment of        travel modes. The plan assumed that building more highways was not the
                     solution to congestion in urban areas and that the implementation of ITS
Technologies and     technologies could reduce congestion and accidents, improve transit
Systems              service, conserve energy, and minimize environmental impacts.

                     To meet its long-term goal, DOT initially outlined the four major
                     components of the ITS program: research and development, operational
                     tests of promising technologies, automated highway system technologies,
                     and deployment support. DOT anticipated that these four program
                     components would serve as the basic foundation for developing
                     short-term ITS technologies, identifying long-term advanced systems, and
                     providing the basis for the future deployment of ITS technologies.
                     Following its initial program direction, DOT funded over 300 projects and
                     identified several promising ITS technologies. DOT initially anticipated that
                     the federal government would play a major role in identifying and
                     developing these technologies, but individual users and private-sector
                     manufacturers would pay for a substantial portion of the ITS deployment
                     costs; no special federal funding program would be needed for the routine
                     deployment of ITS. State and local implementers were expected to deploy
                     ITS using existing federal program funds.

                     However, as part of its ISTEA reauthorization proposal, DOT is refocusing
                     the program to place a greater emphasis on ITS deployment. According to
                     DOT officials, the new ITS program will retain a research and development
                     element and continue the long-term goal of an automated highway system
                     but will refocus short-term efforts to include an emphasis on deploying ITS
                     technologies and integrated ITS systems. In addition, the program will
                     emphasize outreach and training to help the states and local governments
                     overcome the obstacles to widespread deployment. DOT’s earlier approach
                     envisioned that most deployment efforts would not be funded by the
                     federal government. DOT now believes that widespread deployment will
                     not occur unless federal funding assistance is provided. As a result, DOT
                     proposes to expand federal financial assistance by providing funding
                     incentives of $100 million annually to help the state and local governments
                     fund the cost of deploying and integrating the ITS technologies. DOT intends

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                            that these incentives will help to promote integrated urban ITS as well as
                            systems for improving the regulation of commercial vehicles.

                            While data on the status of ITS deployment is not conclusive, most
Significant Obstacles       deployments have occurred in larger urban areas. However, even the
Limit the Widespread        larger areas are not deploying the kind of integrated systems envisioned in
Deployment of               ISTEA. This is due, in part, to the fact that ITS is a relatively new research
                            program that is still evolving and has yet to fully implement some
Integrated ITS              fundamental program components, such as the national architecture and
                            technical standards. In addition, significant obstacles are precluding the
                            more widespread deployment of ITS. These include a lack of technical
                            expertise and knowledge about ITS among those who will actually deploy
                            the systems; a lack of cost-benefit data about ITS; and a lack of funding
                            dedicated to ITS, in the light of other priorities for transportation

ITS Deployment Has Been     Studies of the status of ITS deployment show that deployment has been
Concentrated in Large       concentrated in larger urban areas—those with populations of over
Urban Areas but Has Not     1 million. According to a 1995 study by Public Technology Incorporated
                            (PTI),2 70 percent—7 of 10—larger urban areas were using ITS technologies
Occurred in an Integrated   to help solve their transportation problems. In contrast, the study reported
Manner                      that 43 percent of the urban areas with populations between 100,000 and
                            1 million were using ITS and that 14 percent of the urban areas with
                            populations of less than 100,000 were using ITS. In another study, the Oak
                            Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge) conducted a survey of the nation’s
                            75 largest urban areas and found that most larger urban areas had
                            deployed ITS technologies but that deployment was less common in
                            smaller urban areas.3

                            Data on which specific ITS technologies have been deployed are
                            inconclusive. For example, according to the PTI study, the only ITS
                            technology that a large number of urban areas had deployed was traffic
                            signal control systems—systems designed to manage traffic flow by

                             PTI is the nonprofit technology organization of the National League of Cities, the National Association
                            of Counties, and the International City/County Management Association. In 1995, PTI conducted a
                            nationwide survey of over 2,000 large and small local governments to identify ITS issues. PTI received
                            over 400 responses from a wide cross-section of small and large units of local governments.
                             The summary data on the survey conducted by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as presented by
                            the U.S. Department of Transportation, Joint Program Office for Intelligent Transportation Systems,
                            appear in A Report to Congress: The National Intelligent Transportation Systems Program (draft,
                            Jan. 1997).

                            Page 5                                      GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

coordinating in real-time the timing patterns of traffic signals. The study
reported that 60 percent of the larger urban areas had deployed such
systems. In contrast, the Oak Ridge study showed that larger urban areas
have planned or implemented a wide array of ITS technologies, including
traffic signal control systems, freeway operation centers, incident
management technologies, electronic toll collection, and transit
technologies. In addition, our interviews with transportation planning
officials in 10 of the nation’s larger urban areas and a 1996 study of 7 urban
areas by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center4 found that
freeway management systems, incident management systems, and traffic
signal control were the most widely deployed. The Volpe study also found
that multimodal traveler information and electronic fare payment systems
were the least deployed.

An example of an area that has widely deployed ITS technologies is
Minneapolis. The Minneapolis ITS program, part of the Minnesota
Department of Transportation’s “Guidestar” program, first began
operational tests in 1991. Since that time, about $50 million in public
funding and $13.5 million in private resources has been invested in
Guidestar projects. With these funds, Minneapolis has upgraded its traffic
management center to better monitor traffic flow and roadway conditions
and has installed ramp meters at numerous on-ramps of the major
expressways. These meters control the flow of traffic entering the
expressways and, according to DOT, have helped increase highway speeds
during rush hour by 35 percent. Other projects in the Guidestar program
include the use of “smart tape” that will notify those motorists who stray
onto the shoulders of highways, the electronic enforcement of traffic laws,
improved oversight of commercial vehicle (truck) regulations, and a
systems architecture to help integrate all ITS components.

Despite these deployment efforts, existing ITS studies and the
transportation officials we interviewed indicated that urban areas have not
integrated the individual ITS technologies. According to the Oak Ridge
study, very few areas are designing and implementing ITS in an integrated
manner. The Oak Ridge study found no examples of a fully integrated ITS.
In addition, the Volpe study found that transportation agencies were
implementing ITS to improve the efficiency of their agencies but were not
integrating these technologies with other transportation agencies. For
example, the study said that transit agencies have usually functioned
independently of highway agencies and are developing stand-alone

  Intelligent Transportation Systems: Assessment of ITS Deployment, U.S. Department of
Transportation, Research and Special Programs Administration-Volpe National Transportation
Systems Center (July 1996).

Page 6                                    GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

                           systems. Several of the transportation planners we interviewed also noted
                           that the deployment of ITS technologies had occurred in a non-integrated
                           manner in their areas. For example, transportation officials in the
                           Washington, D.C., area stated that local jurisdictions had implemented
                           electronic toll collection, traveler information, and highway surveillance
                           systems without integrating the components into a multimodal system.

Working Knowledge of the   According to DOT and several transportation officials we contacted,
ITS Architecture and the   widespread and integrated ITS deployment is dependent on the existence
Issuance of Technical      of a national ITS architecture and technical standards. However, the ITS
                           architecture was not completed until July 1996, and DOT has just begun an
Standards Are Needed       extensive outreach and training effort to ensure that transportation
                           officials around the nation have an adequate understanding and working
                           knowledge of the architecture. Furthermore, a 5-year effort to develop
                           technical standards began in January 1996. Several transportation officials
                           stated that an effective outreach effort for the architecture and the timely
                           completion of the standards are critical to ensure that the maximum
                           benefits are obtained from the extensive ITS deployments that some urban
                           areas plan for future years.

                           The ITS architecture identifies the basic components of an integrated ITS,
                           the functions such components perform, and how such components
                           “interface” or share information with each other (see app. III). A
                           commonly used metaphor in describing the architecture is a home stereo
                           system. The stereo industry has determined the overall architecture—that
                           is, the functions that will be performed by the speakers, amplifier, radio
                           receiver, compact disc player, etc.,—as well as how these systems will
                           interact to produce a desired sound. Within these constraints, the
                           manufacturers may produce a wide array of product types, and an
                           individual may design a stereo system suiting his/her own needs and

                           Technical standards are an outgrowth of the system architecture—they
                           specify, in detail, how the components will communicate to one another.
                           For example, the architecture states that electronic toll collection will
                           include a roadside reader that can read an in-vehicle electronic toll tag.
                           The architecture does not specifically state how this linkage will be made.
                           Instead, the standards prescribe the form and content of messages
                           between the reader, the toll tag, and the toll facility. DOT and ITS America5

                            ITS America is a consortium of private firms, public agencies, academic institutions, and related
                           associations that plan, promote, and coordinate the development and deployment of ITS technologies
                           in the United States.

                           Page 7                                    GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

                               have been supporting the development of standards throughout the
                               architecture development effort and in January 1996, contracted with five
                               organizations to begin a 5-year effort to develop standards. While the
                               standards development effort is scheduled for completion in 2001, some
                               high-priority sets of standards are scheduled for completion within a year.

                               Adhering to the technical standards is important because the purchasers
                               of ITS equipment do not want to be locked into proprietary systems that
                               cannot be integrated with those of other manufacturers and for which
                               replacement equipment or service may not be available if the vendor goes
                               out of business. For example, in the 1970s the Chicago Department of
                               Transportation contracted for a custom-designed traffic signal control
                               system. Subsequently, the vendor went out of business, and the city had to
                               scrap the system and purchase a completely new system.

                               Effective outreach and training for the architecture and standards and the
                               timely completion of technical standards are critical in the light of the
                               extensive plans for future ITS deployments. Officials from most of the large
                               urban areas we contacted consider ITS a key component of their future
                               transportation systems and plan to devote more resources to ITS in
                               upcoming years. The transportation planners we contacted stated that
                               they plan to implement more ITS projects in the future. For example, the
                               New York City area’s short- and long-term ITS deployment plans include
                               over $450 million in ITS projects. In addition, DOT has awarded over
                               $26 million in early deployment planning grants to 75 urban areas to
                               determine their short- and long-term ITS deployment needs.

Limited Technical              Our discussions with transportation planning officials in 10 urban areas
Knowledge, Cost-Benefit        and our review of several existing studies indicate that the lack of
Data, and Funding              (1) knowledge about ITS applications at the state and local level; (2) data
                               on the costs and benefits of ITS technologies; and (3) funding for ITS, in the
Constrain Deployment           light of other transportation investment priorities, are the key obstacles to
                               the widespread deployment of ITS technologies.

Transportation Officials See   In our discussions of the potential for ITS deployment with transportation
Need for ITS Technical         planning officials in 10 large urban areas, the officials consistently
Knowledge                      expressed concerns about the lack of knowledge about ITS at the state and
                               local level. According to these officials, most transportation engineers do
                               not possess the technical skills needed to operate and maintain advanced
                               ITS computer and telecommunication technologies. Similarly, the deputy
                               executive director of the Institute of Transportation Engineers said that

                               Page 8                           GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

                               although the Institute was involved in developing the national architecture
                               and the members of the Institute attended numerous training and outreach
                               sessions, most members do not have the systems integration background
                               needed to develop a clear understanding of what the architecture is, how it
                               works, and how it benefits the ITS applications. He said that most state and
                               local implementers of ITS will have to rely on system integration
                               consultants to ensure that their systems are compatible with the national
                               architecture. This view was also expressed by the executive director of the
                               American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials at an
                               ITS conference. He said that the states and urban areas have a shortage of
                               technically trained persons to deal with ITS because transportation
                               agencies are primarily staffed with civil engineers, not electrical engineers
                               or system integrators, and new skills are needed.

                               The issue of technical knowledge was also identified as an obstacle to
                               deployment in several studies we reviewed. According to DOT’s 1997 report
                               on nontechnical barriers to ITS deployment,6 the staffing and educational
                               needs of transportation agencies is one of the most pressing issues
                               confronting the ITS program. The report concludes that the successful
                               deployment of ITS depends on retraining the existing employees and hiring
                               individuals who possess new skills. Similarly, PTI’s survey of urban areas
                               found that a lack of staffing and employee training was an obstacle to
                               deployment: 56.6 percent of respondents cited staffing and training as a
                               problem. PTI also held a series of focus groups with local officials in 1995
                               and found that elected officials do not talk about ITS deployment as a
                               priority and that few see any political benefits in spending more time and
                               money on ITS. The 1996 Volpe Center report identified both the lack of
                               training and education among the staff required to work on ITS projects
                               and a lack of awareness about ITS among politicians and agency managers
                               as barriers to successful ITS deployment.

Transportation Officials See   Our discussions with transportation planning officials also revealed that
Need for Cost-Benefit Data     the lack of quantitative data on the costs and benefits of deploying ITS is
                               also seen as a deterrent to deployment. According to one official, there are
                               no adequate economic models that local transportation planners can use
                               to determine the costs and benefits of ITS, thereby making it difficult to
                               justify expenditures on ITS-related projects. Several officials told us that
                               quantitative data proving that ITS could reduce traffic congestion or make
                               transit more reliable would enable them to secure funding for ITS projects.

                                A Report to Congress: Nontechnical Constraints and Barriers to the Implementation of Intelligent
                               Transportation Systems, U.S. Department of Transportation, Joint Program Office for Intelligent
                               Transportation Systems (draft, Jan. 1997).

                               Page 9                                     GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

                               The lack of cost-benefit information was also seen as an obstacle in some
                               existing studies. Over 43 percent of the respondents to the PTI survey
                               indicated that the lack of cost-benefit data and the lack of proven
                               applications were obstacles to deploying ITS. In addition, the 1996 study by
                               the Volpe Center concluded that relatively few formal cost-benefit
                               analyses of ITS had been conducted. The report further stated that
                               transportation officials needed to conduct more analyses of the benefits of
                               ITS deployments and that such data are needed to justify spending funds on

Transportation Officials See   Our interviews with transportation planning officials and review of studies
Need for ITS Funding           indicate that the competition for limited financial resources between ITS
                               and traditional transportation projects will limit the deployment of ITS. For
                               example, officials from the Philadelphia urban area stated that they have
                               plans representing over $100 million in ITS projects, but because of the
                               pressing needs of their existing transportation infrastructure, it was
                               doubtful whether they would implement many of their planned ITS
                               projects. The officials were particularly concerned that the need to repair
                               the deteriorating roads and bridges in their area would leave little funding
                               for ITS projects. In addition, all of the officials we interviewed from the 10
                               urban areas stated that because federal law precludes the use of federal
                               funds to maintain ITS technologies, it will be difficult for some areas to
                               deploy ITS. These officials were concerned that transportation planners in
                               some areas would not want to make large capital investments in ITS
                               technologies that could not subsequently be maintained.

                               Eighty percent of the PTI survey’s respondents cited insufficient funding as
                               an obstacle to deploying ITS. PTI concluded that the majority of local
                               jurisdictions believed that the funding levels for ITS need to increase in
                               order to successfully deploy ITS. In addition, the Volpe Center’s report
                               concluded that, due to funding limitations, transit agencies will spend little
                               to deploy ITS technologies unless such funds are earmarked for ITS
                               deployment and that transit administrators feel that pursuing ITS projects
                               will force other budget items to be dropped or reduced. The Volpe report
                               stated that these factors would reduce the viability of ITS projects for
                               transit. Finally, a 1997 DOT draft report7 concluded that the competition for
                               limited financial resources between ITS and traditional transportation
                               projects will limit ITS deployment.

                                A Report to Congress: The National Intelligent Transportation Systems Program, U.S. Department of
                               Transportation, Joint Program Office for Intelligent Transportation Systems (draft, Jan. 1997).

                               Page 10                                   GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

                          The federal government can take a number of actions to address the major
Federal Actions to        barriers to ITS deployment that we identified. DOT can take, and in some
Foster the                cases has taken, a number of measures to address the programmatic
Deployment of ITS         barriers. These include continuing and expanding training and outreach
                          programs, effectively disseminating information about success stories and
                          the costs and benefits of ITS deployments, and completing the development
                          of the ITS technical standards. Congressional action would be required to
                          address the financial barriers. Among urban transportation planners, we
                          found a wide range of opinions on the desirability of expanded federal
                          deployment assistance and on how such assistance could best be
                          structured. However, all officials we contacted said that the flexibility to
                          use federal-aid funds for maintaining ITS efforts was desirable.

Programmatic Actions to   Our review of the existing studies and our discussions with transportation
Address Deployment        planning officials in 10 of the nation’s larger urban areas identified a
Obstacles                 number of recommendations on how DOT can assist state and local
                          implementers to overcome the key programmatic obstacles to
                          deployment. First, to address the issue of training and outreach needs, the
                          1996 Volpe Center Study proposed that DOT provide education to state and
                          local transportation staff and develop an information transfer program
                          whereby DOT would provide contacts to state and local officials for
                          answering ITS questions. During our interviews, most officials stated that
                          providing training and outreach was an important role for the federal
                          government. In addition, providing training and technical assistance in
                          deploying, operating, maintaining, and conforming ITS technologies to the
                          national architecture and standards was frequently cited as one of the
                          most important actions the federal government could take to foster

                          DOT  has taken some actions to address the programmatic obstacles.
                          Through a 2-year cooperative agreement with PTI, DOT has implemented an
                          outreach and training program for local agencies. Under the agreement,
                          PTI/DOT have created a network of local government elected officials to
                          help share information between DOT and local officials. DOT has also
                          developed an ITS 5-year capacity-building strategic plan for DOT staff, state
                          highway agency staff, metropolitan planning organization staff, and other
                          local government staff. The goal is to expand the knowledge of ITS among
                          federal, state, and local transportation officials and to create a cadre of
                          highly trained ITS professionals who are able to plan, design, implement,
                          operate, and maintain ITS technologies.

                          Page 11                          GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

                           To disseminate information on the benefits of ITS, DOT is developing
                           benefits reports, in which it presents data based on the experience gained
                           in field operational tests and other deployed systems. In a September 1996
                           report,8 DOT provided the results on the benefits of ITS technologies,
                           including time savings, crash reductions, and customer satisfaction. For
                           example, the report indicates that the use of advanced traffic management
                           systems on an Interstate highway in Minneapolis has reduced vehicle
                           crashes by 27 percent. Second, DOT has implemented the Model
                           Deployment Initiative. The initiative is designed to “showcase” sites that
                           will demonstrate the costs and benefits of an integrated ITS system. DOT
                           has selected four metropolitan areas as model sites—New York City, San
                           Antonio, Phoenix, and Seattle—and expects these projects to be
                           operational during 1997. However, the results from these model sites will
                           not be available until late 1998 or early 1999.

                           Finally, the lack of technical standards is seen as an impediment to the
                           widespread deployment of ITS. During our interviews, several
                           transportation planners said that DOT needs to ensure that the efforts to
                           develop the standards are completed in a timely manner. DOT has awarded
                           contracts to five standards development organizations to complete the 44
                           highest-priority sets of standards over the next 5 years.

Mixed Views on             The transportation planning officials we contacted had mixed views on the
Large-Scale Federal        need for dedicated federal funding for ITS deployment. Officials from 6 of
Financial Assistance for   the 10 urban areas supported a large dedicated program of $1 billion or
                           more per year, stating that, in the light of other priorities, additional ITS
ITS                        deployments would not otherwise occur. Officials of the four other urban
                           areas opposed such a program because dedicated ITS funds would be too
                           prescriptive and might result in poor investment decisions. In the absence
                           of a large program, officials from 5 of the 10 areas we contacted supported
                           a smaller seed program. Officials from 9 of the 10 areas supported the
                           concept of using ITS funds to maintain ITS technologies.

                           As shown in table 1, the officials we contacted were divided on the need
                           for a large-scale federal aid program dedicated to deploying ITS. Typically,
                           the supporters contended that future ITS deployments would be limited
                           without specific funding for this approach. For example, a New York
                           transportation planner stated that without large-scale funding, ITS
                           investment would have to compete for scarce dollars with higher-priority

                             Review of ITS Benefits: Emerging Successes, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway
                           Administration (Sept. 1996).

                           Page 12                                   GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

                                        road and bridge rehabilitation projects. The official believed that, under
                                        such a scenario, plans for deploying ITS would be delayed. Another official
                                        likened ITS to the Interstate system, noting that without dedicated funding,
                                        the Interstate system would never have been built.

Table 1: Transportation Planners’
Views on Federal Financial Assistance   Type of program                                                 Support              Oppose
                                        Large federal program                                                  6                   4
                                        Set-aside of existing program                                          0
                                        New funds                                                              6
                                        Grant program                                                          3
                                        Formula program                                                        1
                                        Mixed grant/formula                                                    2
                                        Smaller seed program                                                   5                   5
                                        Source: GAO’s analysis of interview data.

                                        The six supporters of large-scale ITS funding all expressed a preference for
                                        newly authorized ITS money, as opposed to a set-aside of existing Surface
                                        Transportation Program or National Highway System funds. As one official
                                        noted, transportation officials would not support taking money away from
                                        existing programs and distributing it to ITS because there are too many
                                        other pressing needs.

                                        Three of the six large-program supporters favored a grant approach, under
                                        which only applicants with a specific ITS proposal would receive funds.
                                        They stated that this approach would ensure that the funds went only to
                                        areas with a definite need and would encourage ITS innovations. The
                                        advocate of the formula approach, which would distribute ITS funds to all
                                        states on the basis of specific factors, such as total urbanized population,
                                        supported the formula approach because it would be to the advantage of
                                        his very populous urban area. The supporters of the mixed approach said
                                        that all areas should get some ITS funds but that larger amounts should be
                                        available for areas with well-developed plans for larger ITS initiatives.

                                        Four of the 10 officials we interviewed opposed a large-scale federal-aid
                                        program. All of these officials generally opposed the establishment of
                                        additional federal funding categories. One official noted that
                                        transportation planners generally identify a problem and then identify and
                                        assess potential solutions on the basis of the projected costs and benefits.
                                        Other officials noted that these resource allocation decisions are best
                                        made at the local level, not at the federal level, and that to prescribe ITS
                                        would reduce state and local flexibility. One official noted that earmarking

                                        Page 13                                     GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

              large funds for ITS could lead to calls for large-scale federal assistance for
              intermodal projects, trucking projects, and so on. Some officials also said
              that such a program could drive unnecessary ITS investment, as decision
              makers chased ITS capital money, even though another solution might have
              been more cost effective. Finally, officials from one area noted that such a
              program was very premature, stating that despite the exaggerated claims
              made by ITS proponents, the benefits of many ITS applications have yet to
              be decisively proven.

              In the absence of a large-scale program, the representatives from five
              urban areas supported a smaller grant program of about $100 million
              annually nationwide that could be used to fund experimental ITS
              applications, promote better working relationships among the agencies
              and jurisdictions deploying ITS in a single urban area, or support
              information systems for travelers. The opponents of the smaller program
              felt that this level of funding would be too small to be of much assistance.

              The reauthorization of ISTEA in 1997 represents an important milestone for
Conclusions   reassessing the direction of DOT’s ITS program. After 7 years and $1.3 billion
              in federal funds for an ITS program emphasizing research and testing ITS
              technologies, DOT is proposing a more aggressive federal role that focuses
              on deploying ITS systems, particularly in large urban areas. However,
              before DOT can aggressively pursue ISTEA’s goal of the widespread
              deployment of integrated ITS, it must overcome the obstacles cited in this
              report. First, the system architecture is relatively new, and state and local
              transportation officials have limited knowledge of its importance. Second,
              it will take time for state and local transportation agencies to supplement
              their traditional approach to solving transportation problems through civil
              engineering strategies with the information management and
              telecommunications focus envisioned by an integrated ITS approach. In
              addition, time will be needed to assess the results of DOT’s model
              deployment program—a program designed to document the benefits of an
              integrated ITS deployment program located in four urban areas. Programs
              that focus on training for state and local officials on the system
              architecture and on more information on the benefits and costs of ITS
              applications are necessary prerequisites to the acceptance of ITS as an
              important tool for addressing transportation problems. Finally,
              widespread integrated deployment cannot occur without the technical
              standards that DOT proposes to complete over the next 5 years. These
              standards are needed so that state and local governments do not purchase

              Page 14                          GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

                  ITStechnologies, such as electronic toll collection facilities, that are
                  incompatible with the system architecture and other ITS applications.

                  We provided a draft of this report to DOT for review and comment and met
Agency Comments   with the Director of the ITS Joint Program Office and her staff to obtain the
                  Department’s comments. In general, they said that the report accurately
                  portrayed the challenges that the ITS program faces in fostering the
                  widespread deployment of integrated ITS systems. In particular, they said
                  that the report accurately highlighted the nature and importance of the ITS
                  architecture and standards. They reemphasized the fact that while ITS
                  investments are being made, the urban areas deploying ITS need to
                  consider the integration of the various technologies even in advance of the
                  completed standards. The officials said that urban areas should plan to
                  integrate their systems as early as possible rather than waiting until they
                  have deployed individual ITS technologies. The officials also noted that we
                  should reemphasize that our report focused only on metropolitan ITS
                  infrastructure and did not review other areas of ITS—such as commercial
                  vehicle technologies and the development of the automated highway
                  system. We revised the beginning of the report to note that we focused on
                  metropolitan ITS infrastructure only. Finally, the officials provided several
                  specific editorial comments, which we have incorporated where
                  appropriate. The officials made no comments on our overall conclusions.

                  We performed our review from October 1996 through February 1997 in
                  accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

                  We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Transportation;
                  the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration; the
                  Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration; cognizant
                  congressional committees; and other interested parties. Copies will be
                  available upon request.

                  Page 15                          GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

Please call me at (202) 512-2834 if you or your staff have any questions.
Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix IV.

John H. Anderson, Jr.
Director, Transportation and
  Telecommunications Issues

Page 16                          GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Page 17   GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems

Letter                                                                                                  1

Appendix I                                                                                             20

Scope and
Appendix II                                                                                            21

The ITS Program’s
Funding Levels, Fiscal
Years 1991-97
Appendix III                                                                                           22

Overview of the ITS
Appendix IV                                                                                            24

Major Contributors to
This Report
Table                    Table 1: Transportation Planners’ Views on Federal Financial                  13

Figures                  Figure II.1: Funding for the Intelligent Transportation Systems               21
                           Program, Fiscal Years 1991-97
                         Figure III.1: Integrated ITS as Defined by the Architecture                   22


                         DOT        United States Department of Transportation
                         ITS        Intelligent Transportation Systems
                         ISTEA      Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act
                         PTI        Public Technology Incorporated

                         Page 18                         GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Page 19   GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix I

Scope and Methodology

             To determine how the Department of Transportation (DOT) has changed
             the focus of the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program since the
             passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA),
             we first determined the original focus of the program. We did this by
             examining DOT’s ITS strategic plan and other documents. We also
             interviewed transportation officials at the federal, state, and local level, as
             well as ITS experts in industry and academia. To determine any changes to
             the program’s focus, we interviewed ITS program management and
             reviewed their draft proposal for reauthorizing the program.

             To examine progress in deploying integrated ITS and the key factors
             affecting the deployment, we reviewed recent survey results and research
             work prepared for DOT, conducted by Public Transportation Technology
             Inc. (PTI), the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, and the Oak
             Ridge National Laboratory. On the basis of our review of these documents,
             we used a standards series of questions to conduct in-depth interviews
             with transportation planning officials in 10 of the nation’s largest and most
             congested urban areas who are, because of their areas’ size and
             congestion, likely to be familiar with ITS technologies.9 We discussed
             whether (1) these areas had deployed ITS technologies, (2) which specific
             technologies they had used an why, and (3) what if any plans they had for
             future ITS deployment.

             To identify ways in which the federal government can facilitate the
             deployment of ITS, we used a standard series of questions to guide the
             discussions with the officials of the selected urban areas. The discussions
             covered the types of financial and nonfinancial incentives that would be
             most effective in spurring deployment. We discussed the general pros and
             cons of federal financial assistance, as well as how a financial assistance
             program might be structured, including whether the program should be a
             large program of $1 billion or more annually or a smaller seed program of
             about $100 million. We also used the results of the PTI and Volpe studies, in
             concert with our interviews, to identify nonfinancial incentives the federal
             government could take.

              These areas included Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San
             Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

             Page 20                                    GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix II

The ITS Program’s Funding Levels, Fiscal
Years 1991-97

                                           Figure II.1 shows the levels of funding for the ITS program. The total
                                           funding for the program, which includes projects in three modal
                                           administrations—the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit
                                           Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety
                                           Administration—has increased from $22 million in 1991 to $233 million in
                                           1997. The total funding for the 7-year period (fiscal years 1991-97) was $1.3
                                           billion. This funding includes $645 million in contract authority granted for
                                           the program under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act
                                           (ISTEA) and $624 million provided through the appropriations process.

Figure II.1: Funding for the Intelligent
Transportation Systems Program,            Dollars in millions
Fiscal Years 1991-97                       260
                                           240                                                           233

                                           220                                  214
                                           200                                           197

                                           160                          153


                                                    1991         1992    1993    1994     1995    1996     1997
                                                    Fiscal Years 1991-1997

                                           Note: For fiscal years 1992-97, ITS funding includes both the contract authority granted under
                                           ISTEA and the funds provided through the appropriations process. In fiscal year 1991, funds were
                                           provided through the appropriations process. Fiscal year 1995 reflects a rescission, and fiscal
                                           year 1996 reflects the reduction associated with ISTEA section 1003.

                                           Source: DOT.

                                           Page 21                                      GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix III

Overview of the ITS Architecture

Figure III.1: Integrated ITS as Defined by the Architecture

                                                       Physical (Component) Architecture

                  Remote access                                                                                                                                                             Centers

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Fleet and freight management
                                                                         Information service provider

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Commercial vehicle admin
                                                                                                                                                                  Emergency management
                                                                                                                                        Emissions management

                                                                                                                                                                                             Transit management
                                                                                                                   Traffic management
                           Remote traveler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Toll administration

                                Personal information


                                     Wide-area wireless                                                                                                        Wireline communications
                                                                                                        Dedicated short-range

                                          Vehicle                                                                                                                Roadway                                                                                               Roadside


                                               Transit                                                                                                          Toll collection

                                                Commercial                                                                                                       Parking management

                                                       Emergency                                                                                                 Commercial vehicle check

                                                          Source: DOT.

                                                          The National ITS architecture provides overall guidance to ensure system,
                                                          product, and service compatibility/interoperability without limiting the
                                                          design options of a stakeholder. The architecture provides a common
                                                          structure for the design of intelligent transportation systems. It is not a
                                                          system design nor is it a system concept. What it does define is the
                                                          framework around which multiple design approaches can be developed,
                                                          each one specifically tailored to meet a user’s individual needs. The

                                                          Page 22                                                                                                                        GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix III
Overview of the ITS Architecture

architecture defines the functions that must be performed to implement a
given user service, the physical entities or subsystems where the functions
reside, the interfaces/information flows between the physical subsystems,
and the communication requirements for the information flows. Figure
III.1 outlines the physical architecture that defines the physical
components of an integrated ITS system.

The physical architecture defines four systems that encompass 19

Center subsystems deal with those functions normally assigned to
public/private administrative, management, or planning agencies. For
example, the traffic management subsystem processes traffic data and
provides basic traffic and incident management services through the
roadside and other subsystems.

Roadside subsystems include functions that require convenient access to
a roadside location for the deployment of sensors, signals, programmable
signs, or other interfaces with travelers and vehicles of all types. For
example, a toll collection subsystem interacts with vehicle toll tags to
collect tolls and identify violators.

Vehicle subsystems are installed in a vehicle. For example, commercial
vehicle subsystems store safety data, identification numbers, and other
regulatory information to expedite commercial vehicle clearance by
interacting with roadside commercial vehicle check points.

Traveler subsystems are designed to be accessible to the traveling
public to help them make optimal travel choices. For example, a traveler
at a shopping center can access an information kiosk to determine which
bus to take and the time of the next scheduled departure. Alternatively, a
commuter can access information on freeway traffic conditions via a home
personal computer. These systems derive information from traffic, transit,
and other management centers.

The architecture also identifies a basic communications infrastructure by
which these subsystems can share information. It is this communication
between subsystems that results in a truly integrated ITS system.

Page 23                            GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems
Appendix IV

Major Contributors to This Report

                       Joseph A.Christoff
Resources,             Libby Halperin
Community, and         Michael Hartnett
Economic               David Lichtenfeld
                       Gail Marnik
Development Division   Luann Moy
                       Phyllis Scheinberg

(342923)               Page 24              GAO/RCED-97-74 Intelligent Transportation Systems
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