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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Explaining Intelligent Transportation Systems to the Public: California transportation planning agencies and the World Wide Web


Transportation planning agencies in California are increasingly using advanced technologies to improve highways, local roads, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian facilities and other transportation infrastructure by developing "Intelligent Transportation Systems." ITS, as these transportation technologies are known, use communication and information systems to improve the efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness of passenger and freight transportation systems.

To communicate about their work with ITS, many planners at California Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Regional Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPAs), and Congestion Management Agencies (CMAs) have turned to the internet. With varying degrees of effort and success, these agencies present detailed information about ITS technologies on publicly accessible websites.

This paper presents a summary of the ITS information available through this medium and an agency-by-agency review of Web sites and a list of relevant contact information. In all we considered 61 transportation planning agencies: 16 MPOs, 28 RTPAs, and 17 stand-alone CMAs.

The study highlights several important findings: First, only 38 of 61 stand-alone agencies maintain websites and of these only 14 contain extensive information about ITS or new technologies. More of these agencies are, however, involved to some extent with ITS planning efforts (at least 42). So although many transportation planning agencies do not provide Internet-accessible information about ITS, they are still making efforts to apply ITS technologies to transportation systems in their jurisdictions.

The type and extent of ITS information provided varies by the type of transportation planning agency.

It is less clear what conclusions we can draw about transportation planning agencies' interest in, and actual use of, new technologies in their internal work programs and their publicly-funded projects and programs. Though a few agencies are clearly using sophisticated information and communication technologies in their work, most agencies' Web sites do not indicate whether they are or are not. It may be that ITS is important to their efforts and their plans for the future, but that they are simply not making that known via the Internet.

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