Transportation

Congress should charge DOT with developing, by 2014, a national real-time traffic (traveler) information system, particularly in the top 100 metropolitan areas, and this vision should include the significant use of probe vehicles.

By 2014, the top 100 metropolitan areas should have at least 80 percent of freeway and arterial miles enabled by real-time traffic information systems (including incident notification, travel time, and travel speed data), and that information should be available in an interoperable format so that it can be used on any kind of Web, mobile, or in-vehicle application. States should make real-time traffic information freely available to the general public, akin to how the National Weather Service makes weather data available. In leveraging probe vehicles to collect real-time traffic information, the system should employ government vehicles, taxis, and even private fleets that would want to participate. For example, corporate vehicle fleets include hundreds of thousands of vehicles. If necessary, voluntary vehicles could receive a modest subsidy (such as a slightly reduced vehicle registration fee) for installing the probe device. States with cities in the top 100 metropolitan areas that do not achieve real-time traffic information collection and dissemination on 80 percent of their freeway and arterial roadways by 2014 should be penalized each year with fewer federal transportation dollars.

Congress should expand the remit of RITA’s Joint Program Office (JPO) at U.S. Department of Transportation to include deployment as well as research.

Currently, Congress has only given statutory permission for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) Joint Program Office (JPO) for intelligent transportation systems (ITS) to focus on research related to ITS systems. Congress should expand the JPO’s remit to include deployment as well as research, and also charge the JPO with developing, implementing, and managing a number of large-scale collaborative RDT&E projects focused on substantive and functional areas related to ITS.

Congress’s next surface transportation authorization should provide dedicated, performance-based funding of $1 billion for states to implement existing ITS systems and to provide for operations, maintenance, and training for already-deployed systems.

Currently, ITS projects often have to compete with conventional transportation projects for funding, such that ITS projects, which are poised to deliver greater long term benefits, may have to compete with projects that, while they may be immediately pressing, are not positioned to deliver as great long-term benefits, such as road repair or even new road construction. In addition to a lack of funding, which tends to exacerbate focus on more immediate concerns at the expense of a longer-term vision of the benefits of deploying ITS applications, bureaucratic inertia or a lack of interest, technical skill, or knowledge of ITS benefits have made it more difficult for ITS projects to compete with conventional transportation projects out of the same funding pools.

Congress’s next surface transportation authorization bill should include $1.5 to $2 billion annually in funding for the deployment of large-scale ITS demonstration projects.

ITS will not reach critical mass unless the United States begins to fund large-scale research, demonstration, test and evaluation (RDT&E) projects, as opposed to small “one-off” projects that currently, collectively, do not comprise a system. Moreover, rather than funding almost all ITS deployments through individual states, it would be better for the United States to also fund larger-scale consortia from the federal level. This would address the problem that ITS deployments in the United States tend to be sporadic, incremental one-off deployments scattered locally around the country and move the United States towards funding demonstration and deployment of large-scale, nationally integrated ITS systems. Congress should fund these RDT&E efforts in a number of areas, including: 1. Development of a nationwide real-time traveler information system; 2. Developing large scale platforms to conduct real-time analysis of traffic-related data from millions of vehicles; 3. Real-time transit information systems, including “peer-to-peer” transit systems; 4. Development and deployment of smart traffic signal systems that respond to vehicles’ presence; 5. Improved incident response and traffic operations management systems; 6. Testing to fully prove the viability of a user-miles traveled pricing system; 7. Freight monitoring systems (for example, real-time weigh stations); 8. Model implementations of IntelliDrive in several large U.S. cities.

Congress should require that any transit authority that is receiving federal public transportation funding and has a contactless fare payment system move to an interoperable standard.

One key to driving innovation through procurement is to support open standards architectures. By adopting technologies that are interoperable with non-federal applications, federal procurement can help drive widespread adoption. Requiring transit agencies to deploy contactless fare payment systems that are interoperable with those of other transit agencies around the country would allow passengers to easily pay for ridership in different public transportation systems across the country with a single smart card. (For example, commuters could use their WMATA SmarTrip card to make payments on New York’s MTA subway system, or vice versa.)

Government ID programs such as the Department of Defense’s Common Access Card and the Transportation Worker Identification Credential should move to an open architecture that allows electronic wallet applications to be housed on the card.

One key to driving innovation through procurement is to support open standards architectures. By adopting technologies that are interoperable with non-federal applications, federal procurement can help drive widespread adoption. An open architecture would allow these cards to house electronic wallet applications that would, for example, let employees load a contactless payment application issued by transit authorities so they would not have to have a separate SmarTrip card to ride the Washington, D.C. metro system (or those of other transit authorities). The functionality would be integrated into one single card, which could also support other functions, such as a debit card to pay for meals in government cafeterias or fees in parking garages.

Congress should repurpose transportation funds to intelligent transportation systems, in part by tying federal surface transportation funding to states’ actual improvements in transportation system performance.

Given intelligent transportation systems’ (ITS) ability to maximize the capacity of existing highway infrastructure, expanding funding for ITS is the optimal use of highway transportation funding. Yet states have significantly underinvested in ITS, preferring to fund traditional transportation investments such as new highway capacity. As one GAO study on the state of ITS deployment in the United States found, “unfortunately, information on benefits does not have a decisive impact on the final investment decisions made by state and local officials.” Repurposing transportation funds to ITS systems that have a far greater cost-benefit return would spur innovation and improve performance of the transportation system. If the federal government tied federal surface transportation funding to states’ actual improvements in transportation system performance, it would encourage states to deploy the intelligent transportation systems delivering the greatest bang for the buck.
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