Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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Developing an ITS Strategy

ITS investments almost always involve a wide range of stakeholders and interest groups from the public, private, and non-profit sectors. In some countries, the research, academic and non-profit institutions also play a key role because of the involvement of advanced information and system technologies, and the level of coordination that this requires.

Getting the ITS deployment strategy right is essential for the effective and timely deployment of ITS measures – and to avoid wasted time and resources. This requires an understanding of the purpose and objectives of road network operations. (See Purpose and Objectives) Particular issues that need to be addressed include:

Investment in ITS is not an end in itself. The use of ITS must be cost-effective and compatible with the policy aims and objectives of the overall national transport strategy. In many countries, transport master plans make no reference to ITS applications and services. Proposals for ITS-based services that serve travellers and other road users can add substance to transport strategies in terms of practical measures for their delivery.

To ensure that ITS is not overlooked in the transport planning process, a well-considered and easily understood ITS Strategy is required that shows the direct links with the national transport strategy. In summary, the reasons for developing an ITS national and/or regional deployment strategy, are to:

  • agree the transport policy objectives that intelligent transport will support in practical terms
  • identify specific transport problems, requirements and needs – where ITS can provide more cost-effective solutions than alternative (non-ITS) measures
  • create a common understanding of the role of ITS in short and long-term transport planning horizons
  • define the principles and points of emphasis for the deployment of intelligent transport systems – such as the legal and organisational framework, ITS architecture and standards
  • clarify the roles of the various stakeholders and develop models for joint working and co-operative partnerships
  • outline the priority projects in different ITS domains and the criteria for investment, performance monitoring and impact evaluation – to be included in an ITS deployment programme (See Planning an ITS Programme)
  • provide an action plan to give effect to the ITS deployment programme and fulfill the strategy’s objectives


ITS Strategy for Egypt

In Egypt, a national ITS Strategy is being developed by the Ministry of Transport encompassing a clear vision and priorities for the deployment of ITS services in the short-term, medium-term and long-term. The ITS Strategy is clearly defined with project packages clearly specified for immediate implementation.


An Example of Approach for Developing an ITS Strategy


The development of an ITS Strategy should, if possible, evolve through a consensus process involving multiple stakeholders to understand their expectations, priorities and boundaries. Careful planning will take into account the local culture and transport profile so that ITS can be adapted and customised to meet the particular needs. (See Basic ITS Concepts)

One of the important lessons learned from ITS deployment is that resolving institutional issues is a key to success, and addressing them takes time and commitment. The advice is “Do not start too late. Involve all key stakeholders early on.”. This can help anticipate and resolve technical and institutional issues. Mechanisms such as steering groups and pilot projects can help win the support of major stakeholders for ITS deployments.

Countries in the early stages of deploying ITS can take advantage of this hard-learned experience – by seeking to understand stakeholder and user needs as the outset of any ITS development and addressing institutional issues early on. (See Regulatory Framework)

According to World Bank Technical Notes, for ITS to be successfully introduced, a number of institutional prerequisites must be met – in some cases, legislation and institutional change may be necessary:

  • ITS needs to be coordinated with existing laws and regulations – such as those governing traffic and vehicle safety standards, data ownership and privacy, competition and procurement (See Legal and Regulatory Issues)
  • new (IT-related) procurement procedures may be required to purchase software and electronic devices that are different from established methods used for procuring road infrastructure (See Finance and Contracts)
  • provision must be made for training senior managers, professional and administrative staff to develop and administer ITS-based applications and services (See Staffing Levels and Professional Capacity Building)
  • the viewpoints of consumers and other users need to be understood and incorporated into ITS deployment (See Users of ITS)
  • an ITS promotional organisation at the national or regional level (such as ITS-America, ITS-Europe, ITS-Japan and other ITS associations) is helpful to promote concepts of ITS to the public and encourage public-private partnerships for deployment (See Coordination Mechanisms)

Key elements in the process of establishing an ITS strategy are:

Political and organisational ISSUES

The development of an ITS strategy is heavily dependent on the political and organisational framework in a country and region. Cooperation and coordination among relevant government agencies is essential to deployment of ITS but may require clarification of roles and responsibilities. Some stakeholders may view a proposal for ITS negatively and need to be won over. For example:
  • there was local opposition to electronic tolling introduce to fund infrastructure development in Trondheim, Norway – even though there was an established practice of tolling for new tunnels and bridges
  • some local communities in California were worried about the environmental consequence of increased traffic levels resulting from an investment in ITS (such as smart traffic signal control and better navigational aids)

Overcoming opposition requires political commitment to convince stakeholders that their concerns are understood and taken into account.

Regional Strategies

ITS deployment should not be seen as a “singular” exercise, but rather connected to similar ITS deployments which should be consistent in terms of standards (and architecture) to ensure harmonised data exchange and a common “look-and-feel” for the road user. Harmonised deployment of ITS requires active partnerships between stakeholders.

A regional ITS strategy covering several regions within a country or several neighbouring countries is necessary to achieve harmonised deployment and use of ITS services. The size of the region and the complexity of transport operations that need to be integrated will determine the levels of interoperability required. (See Integrated Operations)

International freight operations and electronic toll collection for trucks moving across borders within the region benefit from interoperability based on common standards and harmonised back-office systems. In regions which do not have an agreed ITS strategy in place, the risk of fragmented deployment of various ITS systems of different standards is high.

Certain regions around the world have cooperated to develop regional ITS strategies – such as ERTICO in Europe, ITS America and ITS Canada in North America, ITS Japan and ITS Australia in Asia Pacific. Countries in the European Union have developed a legal framework to achieve greater harmonisation.

Harmonisation of ITS in Europe

The European ITS Directive (Directive 2010/40/EU of 7 July 2010) provides a legal framework for the deployment of ITS services across Europe.

Priority areas:

  • Optimal use of road, traffic and travel data
  • Continuity of traffic and freight management ITS services
  • ITS road safety and security applications
  • Linking the vehicle with transport infrastructure

Priority actions:

  • EU-wide multimodal travel information services
  • EU-wide real-time traffic information services
  • basic (road safety related) universal traffic information free of charge to users
  • an interoperable EU-wide automatic accident alert & location system (eCall)
  • Information services for safe and secure parking places for trucks and commercial vehicles.
  • Reservation services for safe and secure parking places for trucks and commercial vehicles

Information about the European ITS Directive and ITS Action Plan is available on the Commission’s website. 

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), no regional ITS strategies have been agreed between the various countries but regional ITS associations – such as ITS Arab – have an important guidance role in facilitating harmonised regional deployments. Many Arab Gulf states that were pioneers in ITS deployment now face a situation where there is a mix of legacy systems and standards – without harmonised specifications. ITS Arab has begun work on developing an ITS system architecture to help ensure some compatibility of specifications for ITS deployments in future in the MENA countries.

Many countries, such as Argentina and Malaysia, have recently created national ITS organisations. Other countries in Africa, apart from the long-established ITS South Africa, have recently created national associations to jump start ITS programmes and integrate key players at a national scale (such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt. Many of the new associations have received support from established international associations. For example, ITS Egypt received good support from ITS South Africa and ITS UK.

Institutional Strengthening

Technical and administration capacity-building measures for staff involvement in ITS planning and deployment must be part of the ITS Strategy. Without this the necessary expertise to plan and oversee the implementation of ITS projects, will be missing. In several cases, the use of independent third-party expertise – to provide guidance, training and manage the design and deployment of immediate ITS deployments – is a way to ensure effective capacity building. (See Professional Capacity Building)

Identification of Key Players

The importance of effective liaison with all potentially interested parties and stakeholders cannot be overstated. From the outset the key public and private sector stakeholders should be identified and consulted as part of developing the national ITS Strategy. Deployment plans should be thoroughly discussed and assessed with them – as well as the general public – to ensure widespread support and buy-in of the proposed deployments. (See Policy Framework Analysis)

Key players can often be grouped into seven major categories:

  • Public Administrations: many countries have centralised structures at the national level – such as ministries or road authorities – and municipalities and regional administrations at the urban and regional levels. Police services – who are often the main agency for traffic enforcement – may operate at both national and local levels. Emergency and incident management services can be part of the public administration (though they may also be private companies). Many countries have still to develop integrated plans for road incident management and emergency response (See Emergency Plans and Emergency Response)
  • Infrastructure Operators: cover all organisations responsible for managing and operating transport and telecommunication networks. In many countries, a mixture of public and private infrastructure operators exist – making their integration challenging without agreed and workable cooperation arrangements (See Business Framework and Telecommunications)
  • Transport Operators: cover all companies operating public transport and freight fleets for the different transport modes. In many countries, freight operations are not regulated making it difficult to introduce comprehensive freight fleet management services (See Passenger Transport Operations and Freight and Delivery Operations)
  • Service Providers: cover all organisations providing services in travel and information, vehicle breakdown and driver assistance, and motor insurance. In many cases, service providers are private companies who respond to customer needs and market opportunities (See Location Based Services)
  • Industry: in countries such as China and Malaysia, a healthy IT-related industry has evolved through government commitment and major investment. In other countries, investment in IT is underdeveloped in terms of both the knowledge base and available resources
  • Research Institutes: cover all organisations involved undertaking research in information and communication technologies, transport planning, traffic management and ITS. These institutes are a catalyst for developing ITS deployment plans and pilot projects. For example, in China, Egypt, Korea and Singapore, major universities and research institutes are heavily involved in the planning and development of ITS solutions, as well as leading pilot deployments
  • User Groups: cover all end users of transport infrastructure and services including the associations representing transport operators and freight logistics companies. In many developing economies, representation of travellers views – as consumers of transport services – to decision making bodies is minimal with the possible exception of automobile clubs. The needs and requirements of vulnerable road users – such as pedestrians and cyclists – also need to be considered (See Vulnerable Road Users)

Interaction with Stakeholders

Expectations of what ITS can achieve can be unrealistically high. It is important to provide clear and realistic figures on expected impacts – based upon international ITS deployment best practice – and to take a staged approach. It is also important to anticipate changes in stakeholders’ needs and requirements over time.

Active dialogue is needed to identify each stakeholder’s interests in the deployment of ITS – their perceived problems, expectations, roles and responsibilities. Within each organisation it is essential to identify the staff with the understanding and skills to engage with ITS. This requires professional development, awareness raising, training and education in the broadest sense about ITS – of technicians, decision makers (including the politicians), senior management and administrators. (See Professional Capacity Building)

National ITS Forum in Egypt

In Egypt, a national committee of all key players was set up by the Ministry of Transport for high-level coordination of ITS development. The committee was established at ministerial level, with the authority to influence the decisions of the key organisations and agencies regarding adoption of a national ITS architecture, data exchange formats and the use of international standards.

ITS Champions

Effective dialogue between stakeholders is the means for transforming organisational arrangements from concept into reality. A lead organisation (and sometimes a lead individual) may need to act as a champion for ITS to push forward deployment plans and coordinate the actions that will contribute to achieving a common ITS vision.

Often ITS champions will be individual experts having had experience of ITS development and deployment at the international level and with a desire to advance deployment in their home country. Individually they can contribute their experience but with the support of national Ministries and organisations they can mobilise stakeholders to help solve transport problems. An ITS study tour to countries where ITS is widely deployed can help raise awareness and understanding of its possibilities.

A national or regional task force of the major players, with high-level political backing, can also help to develop voluntary agreements and memoranda of understanding (MOUs) between operating partners on matters of common concern.

ITS Champion – Hefei, China

Within Hefei China, a major champion of ITS deployment was the Research Centre for Software Engineering Technology in Anhui Province – one of the main technology centres of development in the city. International cooperation – between the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and other German partners with Hefei’s municipal traffic police, Department of Communication and other partners – led to an ambitious ITS programme being developed. It was integrated within the city’s traffic and transport investment plans.

Enabling Legislation

Enabling legislation may be necessary to create and support new organisational frameworks so that public agencies and (sometimes) the private sector can work together in a structured manner with transparent and clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Any significant policy initiatives and legislation are usually the outcome of a process of consultation and consensus-building among major ITS stakeholders and interest groups. For example, the table below shows the allocation of roles and responsibilities for motorway traffic management in England and Wales – between the traffic police and the road authority – under new legislation introduced in 2005.
Police and Road Authority Roles and Responsibilities (UK)

New legislation in the UK created “Traffic Officers” invested with powers to undertake certain traffic management tasks previously carried out by the police – such as to:

  • stop traffic and close roads, lanes and carriageways
  • direct and divert traffic and pedestrians
  • place and operate traffic signs
  • manage traffic at traffic surveys – stopping vehicles and asking drivers about their journeys (used to develop and plan future investment in the transport system)

Source: Highways England, UK 

The establishment and maintenance of an ITS programme can be greatly facilitated by a policy commitment to multi-year funding for ITS activities. Without this kind of commitment a strategy for ITS deployment will be difficult to sustain because of start-up capital costs and year on year operational costs.

Enabling legislation supports the introduction of policies and procedures for ITS applications that:

  • require enforcement
  • involve financial transactions
  • raise issues of competition or procurement, legal liability and privacy (See Legal and Regulatory Issues)
  • create incentives for the private sector to enter the ITS market

Level of ICT Resources

The strategy for ITS will be dependent upon the development of the national Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure. It is necessary to have a basic level of technology in place that includes the communications infrastructure, communication standards and data models. Good practice is to synchronise ITS development goals with the roll-out of ICT generally.

ITS consists of a wide range of services and products, some of which are now very well established (such as traffic signal coordination). Adapting applications to local conditions is always necessary – for instance, so coordinated traffic signals work in mixed traffic of cars, two-wheelers and non-motorised vehicles. Transport agencies have an important responsibility to lead this adaptation in their instructions to consultants and suppliers.

STAGED Approach

In countries starting a national ITS deployment programme, it is always advisable to adopt the “THINK-BIG, START-SMALL” approach. Countries need a comprehensive ITS Vision and strategy encompassing all levels of ITS services that can evolve as circumstances change. The focus will be those applications that contribute directly to the achievement of transport policy goals and operational improvements. The successful introduction of ITS should be staged over a number of years to allow for adaptation in response to technological development, changes in policy priorities, economic growth, and greater requirements for integration as new ITS functions are introduced and existing functions evolve.


A Staged Approach in Hefei (China)

China has a strategy of introducing state-of-art technologies in transport. In Hefei, after an analysis and assessment period to develop ITS plans – an ambitious ITS deployment programme was proposed for huge investment in road and public transport infrastructure and services. The strategy requires wide-spread deployment of advanced traffic monitoring and control equipment across the city’s road network.

Stage one focuses on traffic monitoring and involves a programme of data collection based on traffic probes (Floating Car Data) using more than 7,000 taxis and trucks covering the Hefei urban road network. The data are utilised in digital and multimedia broadcasting of traffic information and for public transport planning.

Staged progression of ITS deployments gives the opportunity for stakeholders and users to gain confidence in the new systems and lay the ground for future plans. This can include developing small-scale pilot deployments of priority ITS services to demonstrate their viability and to fine-tune the designs and operational arrangements – in preparation for wide-scale deployment.

Initial steps in Egypt

The Egypt ITS Strategy includes the Cairo Ring Road which has an annual average daily traffic of more than 120,000 vehicles per day and is amongst the most heavily used roads in the national network. It was chosen as the first pilot ITS project in Egypt for the deployment of integrated traffic detection and management measures on more than 90 km of roads. Its significance – apart from its importance in easing many of Cairo’s traffic congestion problems – is as a pilot deployment for testing and developing the necessary technical and operational requirements in anticipation of extending ITS to other road corridors.




Reference sources

Yokota T. (2004) ITS Technical Note for Developing Countries, Technical Note 1 ITS for Developing Countries, World Bank