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Intelligent Transportation System Potential to Leverage Technology
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Intelligent Transportation System Potential to Leverage Technology

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by Scott Arnott, Chief Technology Officer, …

by Scott Arnott, Chief Technology Officer,
Zel Technologies, LLC

Transportation issues in Hampton Roads are complex and, there is no single, “silver-bullet” to solve them overnight. Whether budget constraints continue as tight as they are today or not, a sole focus on large scale construction can not mitigate the region’s wide-spread congestion. To be fair, neither is there a single technology that can be deployed that would solve all the issues but accurate, correlated data stored and analyzed using appropriate techniques could have a significant impact.

This paper outlines the potential of leveraging current Hampton Roads Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) initiatives (both local and regional) and suggests some emerging technologies that could have a high payoff, even in the short term.

Some examples include: increased, real-time traffic monitoring using road-side sensors and active, in-vehicle location systems can significantly assist in understanding traffic flow, responding to situations through control measures and, if published to public websites and transmitted to cars, citizens can chose different routes, decreasing local traffic volume and helping to solve both recurring and no-recurring congestion. (low cost, high pay-off)

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  1. Intelligent Transportation System Potential to Leverage Technology by Scott Arnott, Chief Technology Officer, Zel Technologies, LLC Introduction: There can be no question that the current transportation infrastructure in Hampton Roads is inadequate to optimally support the area’s transportation requirements; our highways, local roads, and railways need to be appropriately maintained and expanded. This situation is even more critical when evaluated in light of the region’s unique characteristics including its geography, specialized transportation requirements dictated by the Port of Virginia and the military, and the demographics of our commuting population. Obviously, construction and maintenance is needed and will add to the region’s overall traffic capacity but these capital improvements are expensive, time-consuming, and should be considered long-term and ongoing solutions. Hampton Roads has historically included the benefits of a continually evolving Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) in its plans; however, many believe that the legislative and funding focus has primarily been on these large projects and smaller, short-term opportunities may no have not been fully exploited. This paper outlines the potential of leveraging current ITS initiatives (both local and regional) and suggests some emerging technologies that could have a high payoff, even in the short term. Discussion: Like most metropolitan regions, congestion can be characterized as recurring or non-recurring. Recurring congestion tends to be directly tied to the capacity of the road network and the volume of traffic. While there are some technology improvements, such as improved traffic control, that may alleviate some of these delays, most research suggest that the primary way to deal with recurring congestion is construction and long term capital improvements. Non-recurring congestion is primarily caused by transient events like traffic incidents, construction, weather, and the mix of vehicle types (e.g., car vs. tractor trailer, etc); these issues can be mitigated through technology like traffic control and information distribution initiatives. It should be noted that the recent Texas Transportation Institute study stated that 61% of the delays in our region are caused by non-recurring events. As a result, it appears prudent to enhance on-going efforts by further leveraging on-going ITS initiatives and considering new technologies. Most of the existing enhancements are primarily focused on large-scale transportation and congestion control systems with a heavy priority on publicly-funded, capital investments but as technology evolves, ubiquitous networks and the rise of public-private partnerships may allow new approaches to become viable for the third generation of ITS. Some examples include: • Increased, real-time traffic monitoring using road-side sensors and active, in-vehicle location systems can significantly assist in understanding traffic flow, responding to situations through control measures and, if published to public websites and transmitted to cars, citizens can chose different routes, decreasing local traffic volume and helping to solve both recurring and no-recurring congestion. If this data is stored and analyzed using predictive analysis tools, accurate traffic predictions can be made for day-to-day driving and large scale construction projects can also be sequenced for minimal impact. Finally, with increasing fuel costs, if this data could be made available to transportation companies through a public/private partnership, some public costs could decrease and the more effective scheduling of transportation movements could decrease their fuel costs and increase profits. This is a low cost, high pay-off starting point.
  2. • As outlined in previously published plans, a systems-wide engineering look at all ITS and technology insertions must be accomplished across the region. To be effective throughout Hampton Roads, the proposed Regional Multimodal Management System should be equipped to access, analyze, and store data from across the region. Whether traffic control is managed at the local or the regional level, information from all sensors, vehicle location terminals, and emergency dispatch systems should be shared. As technology evolves, many non-traditional uses for these feeds may further enhance the system. For example, the replacement of the older generation of analog cameras with digital devices is often treated as a simple replacement. For example, there is research being accomplished around the nation focused on additional uses of these devices to radically increase sensor coverage for both traffic flow and characterization, a key issue in traffic incidents. The enhanced capabilities of these devices must be incorporated in the planning for sensor lay-down and traffic information systems. • When the information about traffic is enhanced by the use of a variety of legacy and emerging sensors (roadside and in-vehicle), and that data is provided to a regional center for analysis, the correlation of that data will enable profound insights into how best to manage the situations, both day-to-day and longer term. The military uses a construct called the “OODA Loop” for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. When the real-time traffic flow and characterization is analyzed along side volumes of historical data, traffic managers will have the insights necessary to manage individual and region- wide situations. Once this analyzed data is displayed, active systems can be deployed to manage flows such as restricting lanes, tailoring intersection control processes, or deploying personnel to problem areas. Eventually, the data collected could even form the basis for sophisticated predictive control systems, significantly improving traffic problems while construction is going on. In fact, the use of this 3rd to 4th generation of ITS should be used to help prioritize and schedule construction and maintenance activities to minimize additional problems; however, to be effective, these measures will require a region-wide “systems integration approach” to both the short and longer- term initiatives. This approach would allow phasing the project in increments as funding becomes available or the situation evolves. Summary: Transportation issues in Hampton Roads are complex and, there is no single, “silver-bullet” to solve them overnight. Whether budget constraints continue as tight as they are today or not, a sole focus on large scale construction can not mitigate the region’s wide-spread congestion. To be fair, neither is there a single technology that can be deployed that would solve all the issues but accurate, correlated data stored and analyzed using appropriate techniques could have a significant impact. With improved traffic sensors including road-side and active in-vehicle systems (perhaps jump started by accelerating their deployment in public vehicles) would allow regional centers, and the public, to observe traffic in real time and respond. Fusing and sharing this data, then providing additional analysis at the traffic management and control facilities would allow officials to orient data obtained from individual sensors systems and gain an understanding so they can decide the best options (again, day-to-day and in the longer term), then act to mitigate the situation by controlling flow or sequencing construction. Finally, innovative approaches to sharing this information with commercial partners through public/private partnerships could lower the overall cost and accelerate needed improvements.

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