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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Integrating ITS Alternatives into Investment Decisions in California


The purpose of the study was to document the process by which decisions are made in California about implementing intelligent transportation systems (ITS) projects, and to consider ways for "mainstreaming" ITS in the sense of evaluating ITS projects alongside non-ITS projects. The transportation planning and decision process is reviewed and described as a base for judging the efficacy of decisions with respect to the adoption of (ITS) projects. The decision process is complex and varied, involving government agencies at federal, State, regional, and local levels, but the process seems to be workable and suitable. In practice, however, critical information for making decisions does not appear to be available to decisionmakers at the points in the process when they need it. In particular, information on the impacts of ITS projects and the expected benefits appears to be missing from planning and project information documents such as Project Study Reports. Although generic claims for benefits in the form of delay savings, accident reductions, and other user or environmental benefits are sometimes provided, they are not quantified and are not specific to the particular project. Costs, on the other hand, are usually very specific, because they represent a budgetary commitment. Good decisions, however, call for better information on what benefits the specific costs will generate. Providing better information on benefits does not need to take major effort, and precise answers are not essential; any estimates would be better than what is provided currently, and the processes and methods for generating the information can be improved with experience and streamlined at the same time. A few examples of the type of analysis that would be helpful are presented in the context of two California ITS projects. Some recommendations are offered for moving toward improved information for making decisions about ITS projects, allowing them to be compared with other transportation investment on an equal footing.

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