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

Experience from iFlorida Model Deployment

Florida; United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

An extensive network of traffic monitoring equipment was deployed and used to provide traveler information via 511, the Internet, and electronic signs. Taken together, the Central Florida and Statewide 511 systems received about 4,000 calls per day, and the Web site received more than 1,000 visits per day. That represented nearly 2 million visits to the iFlorida 511 and Internet traveler information services per year. The 511 traveler information data were also picked up by the local media and national distributors of traffic information. So traveler information reached the public through both public-sector (i.e., 511 and the iFlorida Web site) and private-sector channels (e.g., broadcast radio and television). Key insights from the 511 operations are provided below.
  • Consider the needs of existing users when changing the 511 menu structure. The iFlorida deployment resulted in a significant change to the previously existing 511 menu structure. This change was necessary so that the 511 system could accommodate all the additional roads brought into the system by iFlorida. When the new 511 system was put into use, FDOT received a number of complaints from existing 511 users about the new menu. It appeared that many of these users may have reduced their usage once the new system was in place. Putting in place a mechanism to accommodate these existing users, such as providing access to the old menu structure, could have reduced the number of complaints received and the drop in callers that occurred.
  • Beware that the voice recognition system can be a source of problems with 511 systems. About one time in seven, the iFlorida 511 system rejected a user utterance as an invalid command. Because most calls required the user to make several commands to reach the desired information, almost 50 percent of calls included at least one case where the system rejected a user utterance. This meant that a number of 511 calls ended without the caller receiving any traffic information. FDOT's My511 program helped reduce the number of commands needed to reach traveler information for those that registered with the system.
  • Realize that most travelers call 511 for information about unusual traffic conditions en route, rather than daily trip planning. In a typical week, less than 300 users called the system at least four times during the week on at least three different days. Of the users that called frequently in a given week, less than half called frequently in the following week. This implied that few 511 callers use the system for daily trip planning. Instead, it appeared that most callers used the system to find out more information about unusual traffic conditions of which they were already aware.
  • Consider that only a few callers took advantage of traveler information available for Orlando arterials and toll roads. About 80 percent of the requests for traffic information from the Central Florida 511 system were for I-4 and I-95, with requests for information on toll roads and arterials being about 15 and 5 percent of calls, respectively. A survey of travelers in the Orlando area indicated that the traveler information of greatest interest to the respondents was related to diversions and detours, such as instructions for how to bypass an incident that has occurred.
Observations during the evaluation of iFlorida project revealed that most 511 users call only after becoming aware of-and possibly enter a queue related to-a traffic problem. Then the benefits of the 511 system will be related to how well the system allows users to circumvent traffic problems once on the road rather than how well it helps them plan trips ahead of time. Perhaps the 511 system should even be tailored more towards such users, providing more information specifically designed to help travelers approaching incident-induced congestion. For example, the system could provide information about the location of the incident, where congestion ends, the expected time-extent of the congestion, suggested detour routes, etc. in order to increase the mobility by offering callers choices of potential detours.

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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 April, 2011 !

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: 2009-00487