Intelligent Transportation Systems - Why Your ITS Needs a Maintenance Program Now

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove more than 3.1 trillion miles in 2015, setting a new record.

By Akhil Chauhan, Arcadis North America Vice President of Transportation Services

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove more than 3.1 trillion miles in 2015, setting a new record. If that number doesn’t impress you, the DOT also reports an expected increase of more than 70 million people in 11 “mega-regions” by 2045. 70 million. That’s a lot of people on the road in densely populated areas where mobility is already considered a top concern.

With Americans spending so much time in their cars, and cities facing inadequate funding for long term infrastructure needs, local agencies have become reliant upon innovative and cost-effective alternatives such as Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS. Benefits of ITS include traffic monitoring, improved traveler information and the ability to quickly detect and respond to traffic incidents. Widely deployed across the world over the last 30 years, ITS is everywhere.

Those electronic road signs that alert drivers to traffic delays, accidents and roadway construction? That’s ITS. The radar speed signs that tell us how fast we’re driving, or if we’re speeding? That’s ITS, too. The closed circuit television cameras that capture everything from license plates at toll booths to car crashes on film? That’s all part of the ITS family as well.

There’s more. ITS technology continues to expand its reach by adding benefits inside of our vehicles. We already have backup cameras and blue tooth capability. Now the Obama administration has announced it will earmark $4 billion for research into self-driving cars. And the DOT has made research into connected vehicles and automation two of their priorities over the next few years.

But like any other type of technology, ITS needs to be maintained for it to continue to work properly. Despite the presence of roadway technology throughout the United States, and the world, many local agencies don’t have a proper maintenance system in place to monitor and evaluate ITS performance.

Bypassing this essential step can, and often does, result in a variety of problems from system malfunctions to secondary crashes to the misuse of public funds. The Federal Highway Administration categorizes ITS maintenance in two ways – planned and unplanned. A recent case study concluded that by being proactive and addressing the former, we can greatly reduce the latter.

The state of Louisiana is at the forefront of ITS technology, having integrated advanced systems into a full range of operations throughout the state. The system is wide-reaching and complex, and is monitored by qualified personnel through a comprehensive statewide maintenance program that provides regular data to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD).

Routine maintenance is defined as just that – it’s a regular checkup for ITS devices. Twice per year, work orders are scheduled through Maintenance Management System (MMS) software for device checkups all around Louisiana. Responsive maintenance occurs when one of those devices unexpectedly breaks down. After the root of the problem is identified, the device can be repaired by a technician in a timely manner.

During the study, the LADOTD found that by performing regular maintenance, the overall number of emergency work orders decreased over time. Identifying potential trouble spots early on in the process contributed dramatically to site improvement. The performance of closed circuit television cameras, for example, improved by 30 percent.

A maintenance system is only as good as its data. Without measuring ITS performance in a systematic and consistent manner, it can be difficult to tell if it’s really working. By employing MMS software, maintenance activities are tracked in one centralized location. Key performance metrics are applied, and data is delivered in a standardized format that can be used to assess future needs and funding.

For local agencies, reportable findings can serve as justification for future ITS monitoring and a baseline for future budgeting. For the driver, a carefully maintained ITS system can mean a smoother, safer and more efficient ride. With the help of a data and performance measures driven strategy, LADOTD’s maintenance program successfully balances routine and responsive maintenance to increase the reliability and performance of LADOTD-owned ITS.

Akhil Chauhan is a vice president with Arcadis. He is a graduate of MIT in transportation and has fifteen years of experience in ITS, safety studies, traffic engineering and transportation planning. He is the Arcadis team project manager for the Louisiana DOTD Statewide ITS Maintenance Program. He is located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Akhil Chauhan

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