The mantra ‘We cannot build ourselves out of congestion’ has long been stated and too often ignored. But with the economy in dire straits, funding deficits and pressure to reduce governmental spending, this is now being taken seriously by almost everyone who has an interest in the flow of traffic. By ‘everyone’ we include the transportation management community and the travelling public; every driver, rider and shipper who relies on this infrastructure for profession, profit or play.
To date, there has not been any means to optimise the transport and traveller flows across the full multimodal environment, including arterial, freeway and transit for a region’s transportation infrastructure. Rather we see a series of independent systems, each funded, managed and measured by separate organisations. And if there was ever a classic example of ‘ne’er the twain shall meet’, this is would be it. Local transit authorities are often not connected and, in many cases, do not even exchange information with the transportation management agencies responsible for managing and operating the very infrastructure on which they operate.
This approach means there is no single source of information, no standardisation and no centralised environment from which to gather information about the status of the various elements of the infrastructure. Rather, the traveller becomes the integrating function; he or she is the one who must search for information tidbits and form it into a cogent decision. Even once compilation of all this information is completed, there is no assurance that it is accurate, timely or reliable. This therefore provides limited motivation to instigate change or to help the traveller make informed decisions.
From an agency perspective, the system management function is vertical in nature, which means that there is essentially no regional integration. While the supporting communication network within any system offers the potential, there is very little connectivity between geographically or functionally separate transportation management activities. This non-cohesive approach means that at any given point in time, there is very limited information and knowledge about the overall transportation infrastructure. If there is any data available for exchange, it is likely to be in different formats, severely limiting the opportunity for data fusion. This data latency affects the ability to provide quality information to the traveller and to perform any type of predictive analysis.
On the whole, agencies have insufficient information to fully manage the entire transportation network and are therefore unable to disseminate accurate, timely and useful information to the travelling public.
To a more integrated infrastructureWhile for the most part this is the situation today, tomorrow will see the advent of Integrated Corridor Management (ICM). ICM is a tool to assist the management and planning of an entire transportation network. This change in management philosophy has been in the pipeline for some time but it has received additional emphasis from the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and the growing interstate cooperation stemming from hurricane evacuations and responses to other catastrophic weather events, such as floods and tornados.
ICM is a decision support system which enables the best possible flow across the network by encouraging and facilitating the most efficient blend of traffic, freight and transit needs.
When implemented correctly, the ICM environment becomes a system of systems, providing the ability to interface all aspects of the ITS infrastructure and bring this data into a centralised environment where, through a single interface, agents and users have access to their entire environments. ICM is the forerunner of the Smart City environment and leads to the concept of integrated regional management. It should be clear that this system which ties together all aspects of transportation within a city or a region is in fact one of the core elements of the Smart City philosophy now gaining traction as the way to the future. It is based on the decision support system described above but is also dependent on an integrated and inclusive communication system and the formulation of inter-jurisdictional agreements.
Table 1: Key elements of ICM
• Incident and event management – this will be a multi-agency, multi-mode process which will facilitate a quicker response and more importantly, an ability to use all modes and routes to balance the load across the transportation network.
• Data collection, aggregation and fusion – enabling data to be verified, logged and made available through a number of structured databases, providing real-time and validated information.
• Predictive capability – structured data-sets which can be interrogated and enhanced with analytics to provide accurate and reliable predictive services, such as transit arrival and departure information, or predictive congestion information.
• Establishment of an information portal delivery – provides a single source of information about the entirety of the transportation network.
• Multi-channel delivery – provides multiple means of connecting to the travel information portal.
• Consolidated platform for ease of solution integration – provides a core system solution that serves as the system level data aggregation, fusion and dissemination engine but allows all member agencies to individualize specific functions for their agency, location and function.
• Traffic simulation engine to provide predictive analysis – this provides management with a capability to potentially eliminate, probably mitigate and more accurately and quickly implement actions to address impacts on the network stemming from congestion and/or special events.
• An ability to accept data from almost any source – this is probably the single largest improvement over doing business as usual. Now every activity, agency or entity that generates any form of information about the condition of the infrastructure, both short- and long-term, any form of information about things that would impact the infrastructure (both weather-related and mancaused) and the status of movement over the infrastructure, can share and receive this information in a timely manner.
• A full GIS capability – this is the integrating function that allows all information to be geo-located and depicted very accurately by all users of the system.
Encouraging modal shift Beyond the increased capability, ICM provides the means and probable motivation for the travelling public to actively engage in modal shift (Figure 1). The travelling public wants information
that is timely, personalised, exhibits a predictive capability and which is delivered in a manner that provides a positive user experience while reducing driver distraction.
In addition, traveller information must be available across all forms of media to ensure accessibility for everyone. Different user groups are not only given to using different technologies, but actively require different information. As an example, a commuter will generally require different information from that of a tourist, and the same applies for an urban and rural user. This approach enables agents to respond more rapidly, thus automatically informing the travelling public about the challenges that they may face. This is the key to enabling travellers to make modal decisions.
However, enabling the travelling public to make modal decisions is one thing, convincing them to rely on this new information and use it as actionable information may be a bigger challenge than any found in the technical arena. This problem will likely be the case in the early stages of implementation, but as information provided is proven to be accurate, reliable and predictable, the user’s trust will grow.
What will be required is to convince the travelling public that the Modal Equation with real-time data that is integrated, fused and made available through a combination of traveller information and traffic management systems is reliable, accurate and timely. While this may seem to be quite a significant challenge it can be overcome by ensuring a positive user experience based on ease of use and understanding of the additional benefits that accrue, not only to the community, but to each individual traveller. While the individual driver and rider applies the “What’s in it for me?” criterion, commercial entities will measure it against the bottom line and the political faction will look at it from an economic development and environmental impact perspective. ICM has the capability to meet or exceed the expectations of each of these interest groups.
In summary, the advent of Integrated Corridor Management provides all of the tools necessary to facilitate and accommodate modal shifts. More importantly it will make our communities a better place to live, work and play.