Use non-proprietary software for ITS projects to ensure compatibility with other ITS components

Experience with the ITS integration effort in the Metropolitan Model Deployment Initiative (MMDI)

New York City,New York,United States; Phoenix,Arizona,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

For the ITS projects in the MMDI, the cost of deploying ITS projects was generally competitive with non-ITS transportation projects, particularly in the earlier stages of deployment. However, some projects in the MMDI eventually had cost over-runs or budget shortfalls, highlighting potential vulnerabilities or problem areas. The following recommendations are based on these types of experiences with MMDI and demonstrate ways for managers to help contain costs for ITS projects.
  • Use software systems that are non-proprietary and that make use of standards. The model deployment evaluation found that proprietary systems for ITS applications led to higher costs in the long term, even if initial costs were relatively low. Integrating closed systems can introduce costs when they are to be integrated with other systems. The integration of ITS components is facilitated when software is open, standardized and follows the same architecture. The manager of the Phoenix deployment site in MMDI noted that the Arizona Department of Transportation had a closed, proprietary freeway management system, which required the department to pay for a new computer server system that would allow integration with other ITS components.
  • Maintain strong oversight over ITS software projects. Software development is the cornerstone of deploying ITS in that software enables the exchange of data and the execution of control between systems. It is also one of the significant cost elements to ITS deployment. The important role of software projects to successful deployments and in cost control demands that project managers exert strong oversight over the development of software applications. The experience of managers in the MMDI noted that having regular, frequent and face-to-face meetings with software developers helped curb costs because the meetings enabled the parties to communicate their expectations about the end product and reduced the likelihood of misunderstandings on project specifics. The NY/NJ/CT site used weekly meetings on software projects to track progress and work out discrepancies and problems.
  • Develop system plans and specifications in sufficient detail for vendors and contractors to understand fully the desired ITS application. The MMDI evaluation found that having a strong in-house understanding of the project tasks and objectives was associated with successful deployments. The procurement of ITS projects requires that the request for work has a comprehensive specification of the desired system in order for vendors and customers to have a shared understanding of the process, tasks and end goals of the project. Plans that are ambiguous can lead to differences in interpretation. Successful projects have project plans and proposals that were prepared accurately and in detail. The customer is responsible for providing correct specifications, and the vendor is responsible for meeting those specifications.
The managers of the model deployment sites identified important ways of containing the costs of software development in ITS projects: providing strong oversight, developing system specification in sufficient detail, and using non-proprietary, standard based software products. These ways also provide keys to successful deployment. The fact that these steps appear obvious can lead to their being easily overlooked.

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Deploying and Operating Integrated Intelligent Transportation Systems: Twenty Questions and Answers

Author: SAIC

Published By: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

Source Date: 2001

EDL Number: 13599

Other Reference Number: FHWA-OP-02-023

URL: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/3673

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Lesson ID: 2010-00526