Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
A guide for practitioners!

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Common Challenges

The deployment of ITS will be impacted by the specific characteristics and circumstances of the area in which it is implemented – whether at local, national or regional level. For example, Latin America has made major investments in ITS – helping to stimulate the emergence of non-governmental ITS organisations to facilitate interaction on ITS deployments between the public and private sectors. Organisations such as ITS Argentina, ITS Brazil, and ITS Chile provide encourage and support.

The context for deployment in Latin America is challenging for many reasons:

  • very uneven wealth distribution leads to fundamentally different lifestyles – and mobility needs – of the different social groupings
  • the affluence of higher income groups has led to a rapid increase in car ownership without the infrastructure to support the growth in traffic – resulting in severe congestion and higher accident rates
  • fatalities in road accidents across the region are among the highest in the world – and are attributable to both inadequate infrastructure and lack of driver education
  • road authorities have let major road concessions to manage and operate national and local road networks with high traffic volumes. The process has been relatively successful, but users are now more critical, demanding more and better roads, less congestion, faster and more efficient toll collection, and increased safety
  • public transport authorities are in the process of re-organising their structures and functions – to play a new role in the region

Other characteristics that have significant consequences for ITS development are commonly found in countries in Asia:

  • the primary objective of ITS in the large cities is to reduce the problems of traffic safety and congestion
  • there is an urgent need to deal with large numbers of motorcycles and bicycles – by considering measures such as installing vehicle detectors for these types of vehicles as well as automobiles
  • the common practice of involving private concessionaires through the build, operate, and transfer (BOT) approach has often caused a lack of interoperability of electronic toll collection (ETC) systems, highlighting the need for standardisation of ETC systems
  • ITS equipment must be capable of handling multiple languages using non-Roman alphabets, such as the – Chinese, Kana, Hangul, Thai, and Hindi alphabets
  • low literacy rates among the driving population in some countries – necessitating graphic rather than text messages
  • public transport – such as buses and trains – have an important role in transport
  • previous ITS deployments may not have been used effectively – for example, traffic signals are often turned off so that police officers can manually direct traffic to ensure compliance with regulations
  • traffic education and road safety training for the general public is important for transport and society as a whole – awareness of ITS needs to be integrated with it

Demand for Mobility

Increasing demand for mobility, for passenger and commercial vehicles, and railways, is influenced by rising standards of living in emerging economies. All countries are experiencing increased pressure to provide adequate traffic capacity and to maintain infrastructure at acceptable levels.

Major challenges exist and will become more intense as the demand for an acceptable quality of mobility increases and has to be accommodated within resource constraints. Increasing traffic capacity to match the growth of traffic demand is difficult. Meeting these challenges requires commitment and cultural change at the institutional and regulatory levels.

Vehicle Ownership

Vehicle ownership is increasing significantly in both developed and developing economies. The road infrastructure is not able to support the growth in traffic highlighting the urgent need for more investment in infrastructure. Academics at the University of California have forecast that the number of motor vehicles (other than two-wheelers) in the world, will reach 1.3 billion by 2020 – more than double the number of vehicles that exist today. Most of the growth is expected in Asia and Latin America.

The increasing number of vehicles on roads are contributing to congestion, consumption of fossil fuel and air pollution. Emerging economies are seeking sustainable solutions to tackle the gap between greater demand and road infrastructure capacity. (See Demand Management)

Road Infrastructure

With the increasing rate of car ownership, the demand for road capacity is increasing. Traffic congestion is experienced daily in major cities and major regional corridors of developed and developing countries – largely due to insufficient capacity to support traffic demand. It is a daily event in many road corridors – and can sometimes last for hours.

Providing increased capacity is a major challenge everywhere – but the challenge is intensified if the existing infrastructure of roads and bridges is often in a state of disrepair. Road Authorities and owners of transport infrastructure will need to develop a programme of asset management. (See Asset Management) Sustainable solutions to infrastructure problems must be identified to meet future demand. ITS has an important role to play in making better use of existing capacity. (See  Use of ITS)


Investment in transport infrastructure has not kept pace with the demand for mobility – due to constrained resources and competing priorities such as healthcare, education, food, and housing. Emerging economies tend to suffer more than developed economies from lack in investment in transport infrastructure. Innovative contracts and alternative financing options – such as a public private partnerships – offer new options for financing major ITS deployments. (See Public Private PartnershipsBudget & Affordability and Financing ITS)


Long-established organisations often develop a “no-change” culture which is resistant to innovative solutions to mobility problems. For example, stakeholder institutions may deem building more roads or adding lanes as the only viable solutions to the problem of increasing traffic demand. There are other solutions – such as implementing high occupancy lanes or increasing public transport services, which with ITS back-office support for enforcement & travel information, may provide more cost-effective and sustainable solutions to the problem. (See Road Network Management)


Inflexible laws and regulations can sometimes impede the implementation of cost-effective and sustainable solutions to mobility problems. Innovative and sustainable solutions to mobility problems need an appropriate legal and regulatory framework that does not act as a constraint. An example is the growing interest in automated and semi-automated driving – which may not be legal in some jurisdictions. (See Driver Support)

It is important to communicate the benefits of change – and to demonstrate the opportunities for sustainable mobility and economic growth – to overcome inertia and win public acceptance for legislative change. (See Legal and Regulatory Issues)


Reference sources

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