Frequently Asked Questions - ITS Costs Database

What is an ITS Costs Database entry?

The ITS Costs Database contains two types of entries: unit costs and system cost summaries.

Unit costs are the costs associated with an individual ITS element, such as a video camera for traffic surveillance or a dynamic message sign. A range of costs (e.g., $500 - $1,000) is presented for the capital cost and annual operations and maintenance (O&M) cost of each element as well as an estimate of the length in years of its usable life. Unit costs are available in two formats: unadjusted and adjusted. Unadjusted costs are presented as the original value along with the dollar year. The dollar years vary over time (e.g., 1995, 2001, 2005). To account for these differences, each cost value is adjusted to a common year. Indexes maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are used to adjust the unit cost values. Specific indexes representative of the ITS elements are used in the calculations.

System cost summaries are the costs of an ITS project or portion of an ITS project such as the cost of expanding a statewide road weather information system or the detailed costs for a signal interconnect project. Each entry describes the background of the project, the ITS technologies deployed, and presents the costs and what the costs covered. A breakout of components and costs is provided for most summaries depending on the information available. Both capital costs and annual O&M costs are presented whenever possible.

What are the sources for ITS Costs Database entries?

Unit costs are based on several key cost estimation efforts developed for the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) ITS Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) during the mid-to-late 1990s and have been updated based on new data sources such as ITS project evaluations, state and local DOT ITS deployment reports, vendors of ITS products, and self-reported costs from recipients of ITS Integration Program funds. Analysts review available cost data, analyze it, and update the unit costs ranges (low to high) when appropriate. If no data is available for a unit cost element (either capital or O&M), then the value remains unchanged. Specific sources are not cited, rather, a chronological listing of direct and indirect sources is available on the Web site. Data were updated semi-annually until September 2004; annually thereafter when cost values were adjusted to a common year using final annual index values.

System cost summaries are taken from written sources and on occasion supplemented with correspondence with a report author or an individual who is familar with the ITS project. The written documents can take on a variety of formats including, but not limited to formal evaluation reports, conference papers and presentations, news releases from state DOTs, data from state and local DOTs, and self-reported costs from recipients of ITS Integration Program funds. Specific sources are cited and links to source documents are provided when available.

How is the ITS Costs Database organized?

There are two classification schemes used in the ITS costs database: one for unit costs and one for system cost summaries. When initially brought online in September 1999, the ITS Costs Database only offered unit cost data. Overtime as collected data were analyzed, it became clear that a significant amount of cost data were not being used because the available data did not map to the unit cost elements; hence, a decision was made to make use of this data by expanding the ITS Costs Database to include sample costs of ITS deployments. The first system cost summaries were added in September 2003.

Unit costs are organized by subsystems, based roughly on where an ITS element physically resides (e.g., video cameras deployed along the roadside, signal preemption devices installed in a transit bus, and video wall monitors located in a transportation management center). Initially, unit costs were organized by the 21 physical architecture subsystems in the National ITS Architecture. In September 2006, unit costs data for commercial vehicle systems were updated with data from the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks (CVISN) self-evaluation cost collection activity (available in HTML and PDF formats) and the number of subsystems changed from 21 to 22. The unit cost structure also parallels the equipment list in the ITS Deployment Analysis System (IDAS), an ITS sketch planning and cost/benefit tool. To better reflect actual ITS deployments, unit cost elements have been added to the unit costs database that are not addressed in IDAS. These elements can be identified easily as they are not assigned an IDAS number (e.g., RS007 - CCTV Video Camera, RS008 - CCTV Video Camera Tower).

As mentioned above, unit costs are presented as adjusted and unadjusted values.

System cost summaries are organized by the 15 ITS technology application areas according to the technology that was implemented in the ITS project described. Summaries are also classified by project location. Links to related unit costs data are provided in each system cost summary.

How many entries does the ITS Costs Database include?

Currently, there are 4,273 ITS sample unit cost data entries. As of March 1, 2015, there are 320 system cost summaries developed from 254 source documents.

How often is the ITS Costs Database updated?

Unit costs are updated annually to coincide with self-reported costs from recipients of the ITS Integration Program and final publication of indexes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unit cost elements are updated only when cost data that maps to the element are available. Because many of the unit cost elements do not easily map to data available from actual deployments, many of the unit cost values are dated. As such, the dollar year of the ITS elements range from dating back to the original key cost estimation efforts (1995) to the current year for adjusted values. All unit cost elements are adjusted to a common year on an annual basis, typically late in the calendar year.

System cost summaries are continuously added to the costs database as new sources become available. Unlike the unit costs which are updated annually, new system cost summaries are added to the costs database as they are completed.

How can I find out if new entries have been added?

Users can sign up to receive notifications of new costs database entries through the ITS Information Subscription Service available in Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and e-mail formats. The Information Subscription Service provides updates for a wide variety of topic areas. From the ITS Costs Database home page, click on one of the RSS or e-mail subscription links at the bottom of the page. In addition, the What's New page lists the most recent updates to the unit costs data and the 10 most recent system cost summary additions.

How can I contribute data?

Users are encouraged to submit sources for unit costs and system cost summaries for consideration for inclusion in the costs database. To contribute cost data, click on the "Contribute Data" link in the grey navigation area on the left. After clicking on this link, please fill out the brief form and attach any supporting documents. All contribution are reviewed by a cost analyst before content is added to the costs database.

How can I learn more about the ITS Costs Database?

Training sessions on how to use the ITS Costs Database and the other ITS JPO-supported Knowledge Resources are presented throughout the year. An archived presentation of one training session from the T3 (Talking Technology and Transportation) series sponsored by the ITS Joint Program Office is available online.

For more information, see the About This Site and Help pages or Contact Us.

Last Modified: 03/01/2015