Beware of challenges involved in developing an integrated statewide operations system for traffic monitoring, incident data capture, weather information, and traveler information—all seamlessly controlled by a central software system.

Statewide systems implementation experience from iFlorida Model Deployment

Florida,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

Major objectives of the iFlorida’s statewide operations system were to support statewide traveler information services and hurricane evacuations. Specifically, the iFlorida statewide operations included the following activities: developing a statewide traffic monitoring system, capturing Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) incident data, incorporating weather data, and establishing a statewide traveler information system – all integrated via the Condition Reporting System (CRS), the iFlorida central software platform. Lessons learned from this ambitious undertaking are summarized below.
  • Statewide Monitoring System: Balance the tradeoff between cost-savings and system effectiveness while developing a statewide monitoring system. Twenty-five traffic monitoring stations, including radar for traffic detection and video, were deployed at existing microwave communication towers, which allowed cost-savings. These monitoring stations used the bandwidth available in the microwave network, but the bandwidth limit was inadequate to transmit traffic and video data back to the District 5 Regional Traffic Management Center (D5 RTMC). FDOT noted that using the locations of microwave towers as the primary factor in selection of the traffic monitoring sites might have been a mistake. A better system would have possibly resulted from selecting sites on the basis of their usefulness in supporting transportation decision making, and then taking advantage of microwave tower locations only if they were consistent with the selected monitoring sites. The statewide monitoring system, however, allowed sharing of traffic video with the Statewide Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), though this system was not used extensively because no significant hurricane evacuations occurred during the project evaluation period. FDOT also noted that the cost of maintaining the statewide monitoring system was high while the demand for data generated by it was low.
  • Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Incident Data: Develop a reliable interface between the FHP CAD and the Traffic Management Center software system. An interface was established between the FHP Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system and FDOT to transmit FHP CAD data to D5 RTMC. These data included information about incidents that occurred across the state. FDOT found that the FHP CAD interface provided more useful data for supporting statewide traveler information than those obtained from the statewide monitoring system.
  • Weather Data: Ensure that contract with the vendors requires establishing compatibility of the RWIS data format with the RTMC’s central software. FDOT contracted out for weather data and forecasts for each Florida Intra-state road segment. The supplier used software to fuse weather data from multiple sources and generate weather forecasts for each road segment at various time intervals, and then provided these data and forecasts to D5 RTMC. The weather data vendor also provided severe weather alerts that covered entire counties and individual roads. FDOT received additional data from a network of Road Weather Information System (RWIS) stations that were deployed at locations across the state. The interface between RWIS data management software and the iFlorida central CRS software was a problem. The contractual language between the two contractors involved did not make it clear who was responsible for fixing the problem. When systems developed by different contractors must interact, the contract should clearly define the interface that would be used as well as the responsibilities of the contractors developing the interface.
  • Statewide Traveler Information: Use creative but reliable means to develop the statewide traveler information data stream. As part of the iFlorida deployment, FDOT established a statewide 511 traveler information system, which was managed by the D5 RTMC based on statewide data obtained from the statewide monitoring system, the FHP CAD incident information, and the weather information discussed above. A Web site also provided travelers with access to statewide traveler information. However, there were challenges in procuring and compiling traveler information data for a statewide system. The wide spacing between the statewide monitoring system stations meant that the system was not very useful at supporting statewide traveler information services. The FHP-CAD data turned out to be the primary source of statewide traveler information, with the FDOT staff suggesting in retrospect that some of the resources spent on the statewide monitoring system might have been better spent on developing interfaces to additional (local) police CAD systems across the state. When available source of incident information sometimes left holes in coverage, RTMC operators used creative methods such as analyzing 511 user comments to correct 511 messages that might have been in error.
  • Condition Reporting System: Beware that major sources of problems in a complex statewide system are in developing operations interfaces between the central control system and the subsystems. The iFlorida Condition Reporting System (CRS) was a software system intended to consolidate the traffic, incident, and weather information and help the D5 RTMC staff manage the traveler information resources and other tools used to manage traffic. Long-standing problems occurred with the interfaces between the CRS and a host of other subsystems that included the FHP CAD system, the weather provider, the travel time server, and the dynamic message signs. From November 2005 through November 2007, FDOT's efforts focused on eliminating the problems with the CRS software. Different versions of the CRS were applied to the Orlando and statewide road networks. This system did not work as intended and was eventually abandoned and replaced with software developed by a different vendor.
Building a complex transportation management program, such as the iFloda’s statewide operations system, requires piecing together multiple subsystems that are to perform in a seamlessly integrated manner. The task of developing an integrated system for statewide traffic monitoring, incident data capture, weather information, and traveler information – all seamlessly controlled by a central software system – was formidable. Despite having to overcome significant challenges, FDOT met the primary objectives the of iFlorida statewide operations system, which were to support statewide traveler information dissemination and hurricane evacuations, contributing to improve mobility and safety along the iFlorida’s jurisdiction of the statewide roadway network.

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iFlorida Model Deployment Final Evaluation Report

Author: Robert Haas (SAC); Mark Carter (SAIC); Eric Perry (SAIC); Jeff Trombly (SAIC); Elisabeth Bedsole (SAIC): Rich Margiotta (Cambridge Systematics)

Published By: United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE Washington, DC 20590

Source Date: 01/30/2009

EDL Number: 14480

URL: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/3977

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Lesson of the Month for October, 2010 !

Lessons From This Source

Assess security risks, threats, vulnerabilities, and identify countermeasures to ensure operations of transportation management centers.

Be flexible to use data from various sources, such as the highway police patrol’s incident data, user feedback, and monitoring stations, to develop a statewide traveler information system.

Beware of challenges involved in developing an integrated statewide operations system for traffic monitoring, incident data capture, weather information, and traveler information—all seamlessly controlled by a central software system.

Beware of costs, utility, reliability, and maintenance issues in deploying a statewide transportation network monitoring system.

Beware of the limitations of using toll tags in order to calculate travel time on limited access roadways and arterials.

Beware that software development for ITS projects can be utterly complex, which demands avoiding pitfalls by following a rigorous systems engineering process.

Define a vision for software operations upfront and follow sound systems engineering practices for successfully deploying a complex software system.

Deploy a variable speed limit system only after the software systems required to support it are mature and reliable.

Design traffic video transmission systems around the constraints of bandwidth limitations and provide provisions for remote configuration of video compression hardware.

Develop an accurate, map-based fiber network inventory and engage ITS team in the construction approval process.

Develop an effective evacuation plan for special event that gathers a large audience and consider co-locating the responding agencies in a joint command center.

Ensure compatibility of data format of the field-weather monitoring sensors with the central software in the transportation management center.

Ensure that experienced staff oversee the development of a complex software system and thoroughly follow systems engineering process.

Ensure that Highway Patrol's CAD system operators enter key information needed by the transportation management center operators.

Establish a well defined process for monitoring and maintenance before expanding the base of field equipment.

Estimate life-cycle cost of ITS technologies as part of procurement estimates in order to assess the range of yearly maintenance costs.

In developing software for automated posting of messages on dynamic message signs, focus on the types of messages that are used often and changed frequently, and also include manual methods for posting.

Incorporate diagnostic tools to identify and verify problems in the transmission of video in a transit bus security system.

Perform adequate analyses and tests to design, calibrate and validate the capabilities of a bridge security monitoring system in order to reduce false alarms.

To support statewide traveler information services, design and implement reliable interface software processes to capture incident data from the local and highway patrol police’s computer aided dispatch systems.

Use simple menu choices for 511 traveler information and realize that the majority of callers are seeking en route information while already encountering congestion.

Lesson ID: 2010-00542