A Summary of Key Findings from a Seattle 2020 Case Study: Improving Travel Time Reliability with Intelligent Transportation Systems. (Special Report: Incorporating Intelligent Transportation Systems into Planning Analysis)

Nation's Cities Weekly, August 26, 2002 | Go to article overview

A Summary of Key Findings from a Seattle 2020 Case Study: Improving Travel Time Reliability with Intelligent Transportation Systems. (Special Report: Incorporating Intelligent Transportation Systems into Planning Analysis)


As Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies mature, the options to deal with future transportation needs become both more varied and more complex. As political and financial constraints make conventional "Build" approaches less attractive, technologies are becoming increasingly relevant in long-range planning.

The growing role of ITS is reflected in the fact that ITS deployments are increasingly funded through the use of regular sources (i.e., not specific to ITS). The move to mainstream funding mechanisms necessitates the integration of ITS into the established transportation planning process, where ITS can be evaluated both against and in combination with conventional transportation components such as road widening or new facility construction.

Currently, however, the analytical tools employed in our metropolitan regions cannot adequately address the dynamic response capabilities of ITS technologies. In addition, staff within planning organizations may have less experience with ITS than other types of transportation improvements.

As a result, ITS is typically considered an operational detail to be worked out after infrastructure planning is complete. This approach ignores the potential for the introduction of ITS to change the decisions made during infrastructure planning, or even the overall type of system chosen.

To address these issues, a transferable methodology has been developed for public sector investment that facilitated quantitative evaluations of projected ITS costs and benefits in concert with various conventional improvements.

The methodology is called the Process for Regional Understanding and Evaluation of Integrated ITS Networks (PRUEVIIN), pronounced, "proven." PRUEVIIN is not a model itself or a software product. It is a technique featuring the combined application of both regional travel demand models and commercially available traffic simulation software in an innovative scenario-based framework.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The feasibility and capabilities of an analysis based on the PRUEVIIN methodology were demonstrated with a case study analysis of a broad freeway corridor within the Seattle, Washington metropolitan region.

A variety of realistic alternative solutions for the target year 2020 were analyzed, each representing different combinations of conventional and ITS components.

The alternatives assessed were not tied to actual Settle area decision-making. However, planners and traffic engineers from the region reviewed the alternatives and found them to be plausible.

The report summarizes the key findings from the Seattle case study and development of the PRUEVIIN methodology.

The Seattle case study demonstrates that current analytical tools and data can be utilized to address key limitations of the current transportation planning process.

Although requiring additional effort beyond current practice, analyses based on PRUEVIIN can reveal important positive and negative characteristics of proposed alternatives that contain a range of ITS technologies.

System Variability and Traditional Transportation Planning Analysis

Anyone who commutes or travels through major urban areas knows that roadway congestion can be highly variable and often unpredictable. Severe weather conditions or major accidents can turn a typical 30-minute drive into a two-hour ordeal.

Sometimes unexpected congestion appears for no apparent reason and just as unexpectedly dissipates. Depending on how frequent and unpredictable congestion is, travelers as well as transportation system operators and planners within a region may be very concerned with how well the system performs under these critical conditions.

In current state-of-the-practice analysis to support transportation investment planning, however, these critical moments of severe congestion are not considered. …

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