Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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Who Benefits from ITS?

ITS deployment in road network operations helps to provide users with better managed urban and interurban roads. Congestion is a huge source of delay and unreliability in travel times and journeys. Its cost is high – and though this impacts directly on those using the roads, it also impacts on the general public in terms of increased transportation costs for personal mobility and the price of goods.

US research indicates that traffic congestion-related emissions in a single year are valued at approximately $31 billion, with an additional $60 billion related costs in wasted time and fuel. A major share of the costs of USA truck congestion ($23 billion in 2010) was passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices of goods and services. Developing and emerging economies are particularly susceptible to congestion – with queues often many kilometres in length. It is estimated that the Philippines is losing ₱2.4 billion (pesos) a day in potential income due to traffic congestion.

Road network monitoring plays a critical role in collecting data on route condition and performance information. The quality of the data derived from ITS applications is key in enabling transport planners to analyse the problems of congestion in detail and develop specific solutions based on experiences of travellers and freight operators. ITS products and services which make use of data to provide:

ITS benefits different groups of users:

Road Users and Other Travellers

Road users and other travellers benefit from ITS. For example:
  • car users, truck and delivery drivers may experience greater safety, more certainty in their journeys, shorter journey times, more direct routes and easier access to parking
  • pedestrians and other vulnerable road users may experience greater safety and benefit from a balancing of traffic priorities in their favour
  • public transport users may experience shorter journey times and have better access to reliable travel information

Everyone benefits from ITS applications that:

  • reduce the vulnerability of the transport infrastructure to extreme events. ITS can help prevent incidents and speed up recovery when things go wrong (severe weather and flooding, security alerts, serious accidents and incidents)
  • better integrate services. ITS can help support improved response and efficiency for law enforcement, emergency services and other agencies. For example, accurate location information for emergency calls can reduce the time taken to respond to incidents – which in turn reduces disruption to the network.

Some advantages of ITS come at a perceived cost to the user. There can be a trade-off. The underlying issues for an individual – and for society as a whole – are “is it worth it” and “do I get value for money”? For example:

  • safety, security and journey time predictability may come from tracking the location of a vehicle or controlling a driver’s speed. Some will consider this an invasion of privacy, or unnecessary interference
  • driver aids can make driving safer for older people, but many do not want to be regarded as elderly. A common view is that driving aids are great “for people who need them” – but, by implication – “that isn’t me”
  • some people are not willing to give up privacy or anonymity, whilst others have less concern if they benefit in return – for example, from improved safety or journey times

Public Transport Users

Poor-quality public transport, with little integration between transport modes, encourages people to use their cars – leading to increased road congestion and air pollution. ITS applications have been developed that are aimed at making public transport more efficient, more attractive – and capable of supporting multi-modal journeys. They target better travel information provision, reduced journey times, greater frequency and reliability of services – and easier interchanges between public transport vehicles and modes. Examples include:
  • integrated intermodal electronic ticketing – to provide a convenient means of payment, such as smartcard and contactless bank cards or, increasingly, the use of near field communications (NFC)-enabled smartphones Passenger Fare Payment
  • on-line multimodal journey planners – enabling travellers to plan their journey across transport modes, create their own public itinerary with timetable, fare and routeing information Journey Planning
  • trams/buses equipped with GPS-enabled Automatic Vehicle Location Systems (AVLS) – to provide passengers with real-time arrival predictions on displays at stops (which are accessible via the internet and handheld devices) Real-time Information
  • traffic signal priority for trams and buses at traffic intersections – to improve journey times and reliability Bus/Tram Signal Priority
  • mobile phone applications on travel conditions – that allow travellers to find out in advance how crowded a service is likely to be and to report back their own travel experience for the benefit of others Mobile Internet & Wireless

A particular local issue for public transport users is the last 1km-2km stage of their journey – between the last stop and their final destination (home, workplace, shops or leisure activities). Journey planners can help by factoring in:

  • information on available options that avoid car use – such a bicycle hire schemes
  • bus-based park-and-rides – which provide information on occupancy, and offering integrated ticketing

For rural public transport users, dependent largely on buses, the basic communications infrastructure needed to give them urban-style real-time passenger information is typically lacking. This is because of the lack of incentives for operators to install these for relatively small numbers of passengers – and the high cost of installing displays at remote bus stops.

Potential solutions include crowdsourcing, with smartphone-equipped passengers acting as both providers and consumers of travel information via a website. Their satellite positioning-enabled devices can be used to upload information on the bus on which they are travelling for the benefit of others.

People with Mobility Difficulties

Older people, those with physical disabilities and others with reduced mobility, expect to be able to benefit from the same freedom of movement as their less vulnerable counterparts. (See  Vulnerable Road Users) The proportion of people with mobility difficulties is rising as a proportion of most national populations. In response:
  • many governments are introducing legislative and regulatory frameworks – requiring accessible public transport systems
  • many local authorities are introducing ITS and other measures – to make vulnerable road users’ interaction with transport infrastructure, safer and more user-friendly
  • the private sector is developing ITS technologies, products and applications to support the road user and to make the driving task easier. Meeting the needs of vulnerable road users is a fast-expanding field of ITS development

Disabled drivers need reliable information on the availability of appropriate accessible parking places near to their planned destination. New travel applications are being developed for smartphones which use GPS locational technology, parking space sensors and two-way messaging to enable disabled drivers on the move to find and pay for disabled parking. An example is the City of Westminster’s free “ParkRight” application (See which provides real-time information on over 3,000 parking bays in London’s West End. It can filter bays for disabled parking, provide information on operating hours and tariffs, interact with vehicle satellite navigation systems, and allow users to pay for and manage their parking sessions.

Public transport users with mobility difficulties, need to be able to board and travel on public transport safely and comfortably – and they need access to travel information in a suitable format, so they can plan their journeys in advance. This includes information about interchanges and transport terminals (including the availability of elevators) and arrival times of buses, trams and trains – for transport services offering suitable access for their specific mobility needs. For example, passengers in wheelchairs need up-to-date information about any impediments to their planned journeys. Accessibility information is provided on many websites for travel planning purposes covering accessible drop-off points, parking, entrances and step free access to stations. In Paris, information on metro stations where elevators are out of action can be accessed before travel. Similarly in the UK, the National Rail Enquiries’ “Station Made Easy” service provides accessibility information for all stations (See

Passengers with mobility problems can be encouraged to make greater use public transport by the introduction of technology. For instance:

  • for those with sight impairments, technology that can adapt the screens of PCs, information kiosks and ticket vending machines to become more readable. These can often change wording fonts and sizes, and display information in different colours on different coloured backgrounds
  • visual displays at tram/bus stops that provide information on destination and expected arrival times can be enhanced with speech output activated by proximity to dedicated RF-enabled handheld device or a contactless smartcard
  • infra-red transmitters mounted on buses can send audio messages to passengers with hand-held devices
  • en-route, next-stop audio announcements, in addition to visual displays can help passengers with visual problems
The European “Special Needs Application Program Interface” (SNAPI) Project

SNAPI (See has produced a European standard for coding user needs to enable adaptable user interfaces on a range of self-service terminals (such as ticket machines) and automatic gates. The user’s needs are coded onto a contactless smartcard which can be pre-set to request:

  • larger characters or better colour contrast
  • speech output from a visual display
  • more time to pass through automatic ticket gates

The SNAPI reader is connected via a USB cable to a user’s PC (onto which the relevant software has been preloaded) or built into at-station machines. Displays revert to normal on withdrawal of the SNAPI card.

Operators investing in these ITS products benefit – the improved accessibility they offer is good for business, attracting passengers who would not otherwise think of using public transport.

Local Communities

ITS applications impact on the local communities within which they are deployed. Cars, trucks, buses and trains all affect the people living, working, walking, playing or socialising in the area in which they operate. ITS can:

  • deliver access control schemes, parking management, lorry routes and road user charges
  • make streets quieter and safer, and in residential areas children may be able to play more safely
  • reduce noise and emissions due to smoother traffic flows

Benefits for some may come at an acceptable or unacceptable cost – depending on the interests of the community or stakeholder groups. Identifying the communities affected is important in identifying who benefits from what ITS measures whether they be:

  • retailers, local enterprises or freight/logistics operators
  • other road users (cars, public transport, cyclists and pedestrians)
  • regional or local authorities

Many ITS deployments will benefit a number of communities. For example, better freight management can benefit:

  • the manufacturing and retail communities – who may experience more customer friendly delivery times, more efficient and more journey times and delivery of goods and lower transport costs
  • enterprises – whose employees travelling in peak hours are not competing with freight traffic
  • the residential community and road users generally – who may experience better environmental control of traffic noise and pollution emissions, and improved road safety – particularly for vulnerable road users
  • the community of road-users (cars, public transport, cyclists and pedestrians) has fewer delays and lower levels of risk and fear.

For inter-urban roads, the community benefits arise from a whole-system application of ITS whose primary aim is to manage flows in a wider motorway and road network and to manage and reduce the congestion impacts of incidents and emergencies. Community benefits will include reducing traffic, delays, pollution, safety and better emergency response. The stakeholder groups benefitting may be quite dispersed – even people living a few miles from a major highway may experience noise pollution.

In the urban area, the more obvious community benefits from ITS are those arising traffic and mobility demand management. ITS which manages traffic and public transport combine to:

  • make cities safer for pedestrians
  • improve the environmental quality of cities
  • to implement community driven policies– by introducing access priority schemes to control the hours during which freight and delivery vehicles make their deliveries See Benefits to Road Network Management
Safety and Urban Traffic Control (UTC) in Paris

The UTC system introduced in Paris, France, included reducing the waiting time for pedestrians crossing at signals and extending crossing time, and adjusting signal times to suit cyclists. It has made the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and at the same time reduced the time which vehicles spend in traffic by 15%.

Safety Measures for Trondheim

In Trondheim, Norway, toll ring and traffic management measures were deployed, reducing vehicle traffic in the city centre. The change in mix of traffic on some routes reduced accidents by 60-70%

Reducing Fuel Emissions at OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg

An electronic parking guidance system was installed at O R Tambo International Airport, South Africa to deal with the significant problems of congestion on the roads leading to the airport and within the airport itself. Major benefits included a 70% reduction in fuel emissions and a reduction in the average time to find a parking space – from 8 minutes to two and a half minutes (See

Transport Professionals and Policy Makers

ITS helps policy-makers, transport authorities, road network and public transport operators to do a better job – helping to deliver their transport objectives. For example, if one of the objectives of a city’s transport policy is to:

  • enable free flow of car traffic, ITS can manage the road space to maximise capacity
  • restrain traffic, ITS can give information to travellers about alternative modes, help block access to key areas and collect access charges and penalties incurred for infringements

Investment in ITS can help them to deliver safer and more reliable journeys, reducing the detrimental effect on the environment, giving priority to freight transport, commuter traffic, public transport or pedestrians. It does so by helping to manage a city road network – and balancing many conflicting priorities. These might include the competing needs of residents, commercial retailing, tourism and the environment, as well as ensuring mobility for people without their own personal means of transport and making transport accessible to vulnerable road users.

One of the key benefits of ITS for policy-makers and transport professionals is that, embedded within ITS is the ability to gather and process large amounts of data and information – which can be used in decision-making on future planning and ITS investments. (See  Project Appraisal) For example:

  • data can be analysed to assess the cost-benefit evidence of the continued viability of an ITS investment, using metrics such as journey time data collected before and after the introduction of ITS
  • data can be used in modelling and simulation to assess the impact of ITS measures in managing conflicting transport objectives – such as the implementation of bus priority measures on the rest of traffic

Road Network Operators

Road network operators are responsible for the everyday operation of urban networks, inter-urban roads and highways. Over recent decades, in all parts of the world, traffic levels has increased with economic growth. One advantage of ITS for Road Network Operators is the opportunity ITS provides to measure traffic on different road sections – and by extension predict traffic growth. With this information road network operators are better informed in terms of knowing when different road sections are likely to reach full capacity. With this information they can put strategic measures in place to deal with the emerging problem or prioritise road network expansion investment accordingly.

Investment in new road infrastructure has been important to accommodate demand but has often been unable to keep pace. ITS has a role to play in ensuring efficient and safe use of the infrastructure – smoothing traffic flows and improving journey times – and can help postpone the need for further new road building. (See Benefits to Road Network Management)

The benefits gained from deploying ITS will be outstripped by traffic growth within a few years, unless the measures are part of a wider mobility and transport policy – for example, including traffic restraint, congestion pricing or public transport priority.

Controlled Motorways in England

Controlled Motorways use active traffic management to automatically regulate traffic speed limits in real-time in response to prevailing traffic levels on the motorway. It has delivered significant benefits. Drivers perceived that the steady flow of traffic at 50 mph (80 km/hour) resulted in overall time savings in comparison with the stop-start of motorways on which people drive at speeds varying from 30 mph to 90 mph (50 – 145 km/hour). (Case Study: M42 Active Traffic Management)

When the circumstances are right, ITS applications – such as route planning, navigation, and VMS signing – can provide useful tools for road users to optimise their journeys.


Reference sources

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