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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mainstreaming Intelligent Transportation Systems


This paper investigates factors affecting ITS implementation as a “mainstream” transportation planning activity. It draws upon interviews with 51 leaders from a cross-section of jurisdictions and agencies in California. The interviews revealed that the vast majority of elected officials and senior staff are familiar with ITS. However, they are irritated by ITS literature, which they view as heavily promotional and full of jargon. Many believe that ITS is being implemented fairly quickly overall and that ITS elements that are not proceeding well suffer from institutional problems or market weaknesses. Respondents do not see a problem in fitting ITS projects into mainstream transportation planning processes, but complain of a lack of good information on ITS benefits and costs. Many are concerned that ITS evaluations have been less than arm’s-length, and focus too heavily on system benefits rather than traveler benefits. Many believe that the private sector should be left to implement certain ITS applications, but they also think that earmarked funds for ITS applications would speed implementation of other measures. Respondents suggested that the state DOT should lead by example, implementing ready-to-go technologies on its own facilities and within its own agency. Stronger partnerships with local government and other state agencies, developing mutually beneficial, multipurpose applications, were also recommended. Finally, respondents urged that future ITS work should pay more attention to legal and institutional issues and provide a clearer sense of “next steps.” The findings should be of use to state and local organizations with an interest in encouraging ITS implementation.

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