Over the last decade, 511 telephone and web services have been deployed in many states and provinces. Some agencies have already deployed ‘second-generation’ 511 systems with the intent of adding functionality, improving content or reducing operating costs. Agencies are also expanding their dissemination of real-time traveler information using push services like Constant Contact and social media tools like Twitter. Many agencies have also developed partnerships to reduce operating costs through sponsorship or outsourcing. It is increasingly challenging to plan, evaluate, operate and enhance real-time traveler information services because of limited resources, overwhelming information and rapidly changing dynamics.
The ENTERPRISE Transportation Pooled Fund sponsored this project – Next Era of Traveler Information – to help agencies understand how real-time traveler information technology and use is changing and how the changes are impacted by current and emerging trends. Emphasis was placed on sharing lessons learned by agencies that have experience related to current trends. The areas of interest that were explored during this project are described as follows.
- Dissemination tools. The project facilitated an exchange of experiences with push information services and social media to help agencies understand new options for delivering information without relying on incoming phone calls. In addition to describing the tools being used, agencies described their philosophy and goals for traveler information to provide a context for how their dissemination tools support them.
- Data management. Managing the availability, variety and formatting of a growing number of data sources creates a complex environment for delivering traveler information. The project explored data requirements outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 23: Highways, Part 511—Real-Time System Management Information Program (23 CFR 511) and the data format specifications being developed by USDOT to support the exchange of information from highway and transit monitoring systems.
- Cost management. Managing traveler information program costs continues to be challenging, particularly with increasing demands for information to be timely, accurate and delivered in a variety of formats. The project supported a peer exchange of alternative funding approaches, specifically sponsorships, to manage and optimize the costs of operating traveler information services.
- Customer needs. Understanding and meeting customer needs in an era when information is a premium commodity is especially problematic in government culture where market research is still rarely used to understand customer needs. The project facilitated a discussion of how agency approaches to understanding customer needs and presented findings from a nation-wide study conducted by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program to understand what information and services travelers find most useful.
- Performance targets. A key feature of the 2012 legislation, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), is the establishment of a performance- and outcome-based program that will encourage states to invest resources in projects that will make progress toward national goals. The project facilitated an exchange of information about states’ approaches to establishing practical performance measures and targets for traveler information programs, particularly as they relate to meeting requirements in 23 CFR 511
Much of the information exchanged for this project was done through a series of webinars and summary reports. For a summary of each webinar click here.