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Friday , 1 March 2024

ITS Technology Applications

Better Planning for Sustainable Implementation

In the last two decades, North America and Europe have successfully used the integrated traffic/transportation engineering and technology application techniques to alleviate surface transportation issues by addressing increased travel demand and additional infrastructure capacity requirements. This has inspired many countries in other continents of the world specially Australia, Brazil, China, India, Middle East, Russia and South Africa to follow suit.

The governments of these countries have initiated several ITS and/or related projects under Capital/Transportation Infrastructure Expansion and Improvement Programmes at regional and local levels. This has been done to address the challenges of surface transportation when it comes to the movement of people and goods. To ensure the projects’ success, a few governments have adopted the North American or European ITS planning framework and customised it to local needs and requirements.

Planning for ITS is slightly different from planning for traditional transportation projects such as infrastructure construction including highways and bridge structures. ITS has a unique capability to integrate different modes of transportation and infrastructure elements through communications and control.

Government Legislation and ITS

Since 1990, the United States federal government has passed three legislative bills to address the modern challenges of people and goods transportation including road safety improvement, decrease in traffic congestion and delays, increase in efficiency of freight movement and increase in intermodal connectivity. The bills also included the ensuring of environmental protection. These parliamentary bills have taken a significantly different approach by recognising transportation system preservation rather than new construction in medium to large urban areas. In these legislations, ITS is considered and included as an efficient and economical alternative to tackle transportation system needs and requirements in urban metropolitan as well as rural areas. The European Commission has recently adopted a legal framework, Directive 2010/40/EU, to accelerate the deployment of the innovative transportation technologies across Europe.

The above parliamentary actions represent the governments’ acceptance of ITS as a viable alternative and their commitment to support technology applications towards surface transportation planning, operation and management at regulatory and financial levels. These legislation documents could very well be utilised as a beacon in other parts of the world where ITS is considered to alleviate surface transportation related problems.

Public Agencies and Planning Organisations

In North America and Europe, ITS projects and programmes are usually managed and coordinated by traffic and transportation engineering sections/directorates and transportation planning organisations as compared to Asian and Middle-Eastern countries where ITS projects are considered special assignments and led by ministries of interior affairs, communication or information technology with limited or minimum traffic and transportation engineering expertise and resources.

The internal sections of traffic engineering, transportation and transit planning, facilities management, and operation and maintenance provide support at federal, state/provincial, regional and/or local municipal levels. These departments are also responsible to make arrangements to inform, collect relevant data, request input and/or bring various direct and indirect stakeholders including emergency service providers (police, fire, medical, security, etc.) to the table for discussion, share responsibilities and/or support specific ITS project/programme as part of the planning process.

Private and Non-profit Organisations

Private organisations including design consultants, system developers, product manufacturers and project/programme sponsors play a significant role in the advancement of the planning process by providing expert advice/opinion from the design perspective based on real-life experiences and the lessons learnt, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of particular systems in place and/or new systems according to the regional needs and requirements. They also assist in defining product specifications and characteristics and in helping to implement, operate and maintain via financial assistance and sponsorship.

In 2004-05, as a design consultant with system developers and operators, I was involved in the stakeholders’ consultations to share information and educate them about the new Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS). During that process, a number of regional stakeholders, including various regional transportation and emergency service provider agencies at city and county levels, were contacted to build consensus under the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Tampa Bay Area Real-time 511 Telephone and Online Information Service Program which is now part of the Florida State-wide 511 Programme. As a result, we were able to gather positive support in the form of an agreement to share real-time service information and disruption via web-link, real-time traffic data and live traffic videos on regional highways with each other.

The implementation of ITS technologies presents tremendous opportunities to improve the operation and management of the transportation system. However, harnessing technology presents a whole set of new challenges to transportation decision makers.

Academic Institutions and Centres of Excellence

The Academic Institutions and Specialised Centres of Excellence in Research and Development (R&D) play a significant role as ITS stakeholders by working across the transportation industry.

Many Asian countries including China, Japan, Korea and Singapore have established ITS R&D facilities and offer specialised courses and research opportunities to provide essential support for all transportation modal administration, development of transportation planning guidelines, standards and improvement strategies. The purpose of the R&D facilities is to assist in developing action plans with focus on cross cutting research, education and innovation in partnership with federal, state and local governments and private sector organisations.

General Public and System Users

The success of number of ITS projects/ programmes such as traveller information system, traffic management system including surveillance system via CCTV cameras, public transit system including light rail transit (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT) services is heavily dependent on general public support and acceptance.

It is a standard practice in Europe and North America to carry out atleast two-three public consultations as part of any new and improvement project planning stage. This, however, is minimum to negligent in developing countries including South Asian and Middle-East/Gulf countries due to a number of reasons. Therefore, it is highly recommended to involve general public and system users including community interest groups as important stakeholders while planning to offer technology oriented services.

Major ITS / Transportation Planning Elements

The ITS / Transportation planning process provides a forum for coordination, communication and decision making by R&D experts, engineers and planners, system operators and managers, federal, state and local governments, and elected officials. An ITS / Transportation Plan is one principal product of the planning process that covers a 20-year period and identifies multi-modal infrastructure facilities that should function as an integrated system within defined geographical areas or boundaries. A brief overview of the key elements:

Public Involvement: As discussed in the previous section, public involvement and input via public consultation workshops, information sessions, project/programme websites, etc., is essential to adequately consider the impact of transportation on land use, as well as the overall social, economic, energy, and environmental effects of transportation decisions.

Planning Factors: The planning process must explicitly consider and analyse, as appropriate, the major factors based on sound planning principles. These factors reflect major transportation system themes including mobility and access for people and goods, system performance and preservation, and environment and quality of life.

Financial and Legal Planning: An ITS plan must include financial and legal elements which identify resources that are reasonably expected to be available to carry out the plan and spell out public policy. Often, the government and respective transportation planning authorities in South Asia and Middle East/Gulf Region do not consider these significant elements at early project/programme planning stages and end up with unnecessary delays, loss of interest and waste of valuable intellectual and monetary resources. On one hand, financial element should recommend innovative and practical financing techniques to fund projects and programmes, including public-private partnerships (P3), highway tolling, congestion pricing, etc., and on the other hand, legal coverage should be in place to avoid irregularities either by the public/private client organisations or by the contracting firms.

Conformity with Jurisdictional Policies and Standards: The ITS plans and programmes paid for by the federal, state/provincial and/or regional/municipal assistance should conform to the jurisdictional policies and required transportation technology design, control, management and environmental standards.

ITS Architecture and Standards

ITS Architecture is an important and must have entity that allows integration options for ITS and technology applications to be considered at planning stages – prior to allocating resources required at the design, development, implementation, operation and maintenance stages.

ITS Standards are the basis of establishing strong foundations to plan and build open-source ITS environment to ensure interoperability, cooperative systems, and a connected transportation environment. ITS Standards facilitate deployment of inter-operable systems at national, regional, and local levels without impeding innovation as technology advances.

During my engagement with the review of National ITS Planning and Design Project in Bahrain where the Ministry of Works had conducted a feasibility study, it was found that besides the needs assessment, specification of ITS applications, economic evaluation including cost-benefit analysis and identification of funding resources, an important element of ITS Architecture and Standards framework was missing. The benefit of having ITS Architecture and Standards in place is to coordinate fast and reliable flow of information between all the systems and efficient communication between concerned stakeholders. The ITS Architecture and Standards documentation helps to identify integration of various ITS entities such as traffic/transit management centre, road-side devices, transit on-board applications, traffic signal control systems, automated toll roads, etc.

Stakeholders’ Agreement / Memorandum of Understanding

With growing ITS technology implementation, systems integration from one or more agencies and the anticipated level of information exchange, it is recommended to set up Stakeholders’ Agreement / Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). These stakeholders’ agreements / MoUs outline specific roles, responsibilities, data exchanges, levels of authority, and funding responsibilities where appropriate and applicable. Establishing such agreements / MoUs at the early stages of planning for ITS help in building trust, better working relationship and active and meaningful participation among public and private stakeholders.

It is the need of the hour to promote and streamline ITS along with traditional planning and programme, and project development processes by highlighting and propagating benefits of technology applications around the world towards surface transportation management. This will help to implement efficient, green and sustainable ITS infrastructure.


Sadiq A. Pirani, P.Eng.,
Principal Engineer / Project Manager
ITS / Traffic Engineering
Transportation Planning Services
Toronto, Canada


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