Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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Planning an ITS Programme

In most countries as traffic volumes increase and the roads get more congested there is pressure on the authorities for better traffic management and control of congestion. Highway authorities, road operators and urban road network managers everywhere need to deliver better road management. This involves all the activities involved in building, maintaining and making best use of the roadway assets.

One of the aims of road management is to ensure that traffic can continue to travel – in a manner that is safe, efficient, reliable and which causes the least damage to the environment. When designing a programme that supports this aim the road operator will need to address a number of practical considerations – such as how to:

  • monitor and keep track of traffic and road conditions in the network, day-by-day, hour-by-hour and – on some occasions when there is major disruption – minute-by-minute
  • maximise operational safety and efficiency of the road network including the safety of personnel who have to work on the roads
  • minimise negative impacts of disruption caused by recurring congestion and non-recurring incidents within the road network
  • provide road users with the information necessary to support their decisions on travel and relieve stress while driving

These are universal issues for road network operations. They are about keeping traffic on the roads running safely and efficiently and taking into account the level of service experienced by the road users.

Typically, the programme will be built on a number of distinct principles that will shape the priorities:

  • knowledge: as a basis for investment – to monitor and manage traffic on the network
  • safety and security: to control the traffic and analyse accidents
  • education: to promote and enforce safety on the roads, encourage good driving habits and a high level of compliance with traffic rules
  • vehicle maintenance: to reduce vehicle breakdowns and improve road safety– and so reduce accidents and emergencies; for freight transport a priority may be to improve security against hi-jack and criminal activity as well as road safety
  • rapid response: to incidents – notably in the “golden hour” when lives can be saved and providing information to reduce secondary accidents to lessen inconvenience to other road users


ITS can make a positive contribution to these road management objectives. With relatively modest investment (compared with the cost of building a new road) ITS can significantly improve road network operations, optimise the use of available infrastructure, raise revenue and improve road safety. ITS can help to:

  • keep track of traffic movements through network monitoring – with the aim of optimising the use of the roadway and the available capacity
  • provide information to road users about hazards and disruption affecting the road network – so they can adapt their travel plans
  • create a reliable revenue stream (through electronic tolling) that supports a forward-looking programme of road investment
  • help improve driver behaviour – for example through:
    • safety and in-vehicle technology that encourages safer driving
    • encouraging compliance with traffic regulations and developing policies that support better enforcement

Road users want safe, reliable, and seamless journeys. They are not interested in the geographical boundaries between one transport authority’s network and another. This means that transport networks need to be integrated across geographical boundaries between different transport operators and administrations. ITS deployment may be multi-modal, multi-jurisdictional, and in some cases, international. This may involve bringing together local, regional, national road authorities and the operators (which may by concession-holders). (See Integrated Operations)

Most countries engaged in ITS deployment have formal ITS programmes at the governmental level – and/or the non-governmental level through anetwork of National ITS Associations. These programmes aim to promote ITS as a reliable and effective tool for solving transport problems – by ensuring consistency and synergy among ITS projects, continuity of funding, and generating public acceptance and new investment.

When formulating an ITS programme, priority services need be clearly identified in terms of overall relevance to goals and objectives, scope, requirements, and expected impacts. Priority services need to be “packaged” within clearly defined deployment projects that specify their scope, scale, functional and performance requirements and budget. (See PDF 9201 Hefei City Traffic Management System Case Study) Projects will need to show they meet the criteria for funding by national or international funding schemes. (See Budgeting and Affordability)

Keys to Success

The key to success can be summed up in four simple rules:

  • ITS needs to be incorporated into the mainstream transport planning and investment cycles (See Strategic Planning)
  • project finance needs to take account of capital investment and ongoing maintenance and operational costs – ideally planned on a whole-life cost basis with an allowance for upgrade (See Funding ITS)
  • private sector knowledge and experience in delivering ITS projects and operating ITS-based services offer an opportunity to fill any skills gap – and private finance can be mobilised through partnerships and out-sourcing
  • ITS needs innovative procurement methods in the public sector – that involve multiple evaluation criteria to award a contract on the basis of best value rather than lowest cost – judged against the essential performance requirements (See Procurement)

The figure below illustrates the different factors that need to be considered when planning a programme of ITS deployment.

Principal Dimensions of ITS Deployment


Public Sector Business Case

The public sector business case assesses the value of the investment to the community and its affordability from the perspective of the road authority. Expenditure using public funds raised from local, regional or national taxation, has to be justified. It is likely to have to demonstrate the link between the public policy goals and the predicted impacts of the service. Socio-economic impacts are likely to dominate, but other practical factors will come into play. Assigning a monetary value to all benefits may be difficult. (See Weighing the Costs and Benefits) An alternative approach is to draw on the results of evaluations of similar projects. (See Guidelines and Techniques)

Commercial Business Case

In the case of a public private partnership the commercial business case needs to be made. This will turn on rests on the return on investment and the profitability of the operation as a whole, including any monies received as a subsidy or through sponsorship. A return on capital and recovery of operating costs are both essential for any scheme to be commercially viable. A decision to progress the project will depend on a risk assessment of all uncertain factors including the availability of ITS infrastructure and the costs of creating and maintaining it. (ITS Technologies and Contracts) Other factors to take into account include:

  • market potential
  • the ownership, cost and reliability of data sources
  • the clarity and stability of government policies
  • the impact of the legislative and regulatory framework
  • whether there are institutional barriers that might impede the project
  • the risk of competition and technological obsolescence
  • the expected profile of revenue streams over time
  • the road and regional authorities’ assessment of the proposed ITS service

Public Policy Context

Transport policy relates to all subjects within the administrative control of a diverse range of government bodies at the national, regional, city and rural level – for example, the planning and operation of local roads and public transport networks, parking policy, traffic and travel information, provision for the elderly and disabled, road safety policy and environmental factors. Transport goals and objectives are not the only consideration – because ITS contributes to economic development through the exploitation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

Public authorities need to create a framework for the assessment of potential ITS application – from the point of view of the specific local deployment and from the perspective of the city or region as a whole. The public sector can also help create a positive business framework to stimulate the market – for example, by clarifying the institutional setup (organisational and regulatory issues). A practical example would be to facilitate data collection by commercial fleet owners and other operators – by authorising the use of privately funded and privately managed probe vehicles or other infrastructure, such as toll tags, to monitor conditions on the network. (See Probe Vehicle Monitoring)

Regional ITS Infrastructure and Info-structure

The infrastructure for ITS is made up of a number of different enablers. For the systems to work, ITS services need all the basic components in place, fully and reliably operational. For example a lack of basic infrastructure affecting any part of the information supply chain will lead to poor-quality information service. (See Data and Information)

The technical requirements include:

  • reliable broadcast and mobile communications links, including the Internet, for transmitting data and information to and from the users and their vehicles (See Telecommunications)
  • intelligent infrastructure and the means for vehicle location (fixed beacons or satellite navigation, with corresponding on-vehicle equipment) (See Navigation and Positioning)
  • a well-developed infostructure consisting of location referencing systems, data dictionaries, digital maps and data exchange protocols (See Basic Info-structure)
  • dedicated wireless and fibre optic links for high bandwidth applications such as transmission of CCTV pictures (See CCTV)
  • real-time data capture: traffic monitoring, pollution monitoring, weather monitoring (See Weather Monitoring)
  • the people and buildings to provide ITS services – such as traffic control centres, vehicle fleet controllers and dispatchers, travel information centres (See Operation Centres and Operations and Fleet Management)
  • common support services, such as electronic payment systems, vehicle tracking, load and driver identification, enforcement and security systems (See Technologies and Processes and Automatic Vehicle Locator)

ITS Service Characteristics

ITS is service-driven. They are dependent on the availability and affordability of enabling technologies and infrastructure – such as telecommunications, smart card payment and the supporting automated payment clearance systems. They will have a profound impact on the cost and risk profile of ITS services and products.

An ITS service which requires investment in a major infrastructure may fail because of the financial barriers and technical risks. If the operational cost and revenue model or longevity of the supporting services is uncertain then the venture may be judged too risky. As with any other business, the promoters will be looking for a clear path to successful and profitable delivery.

The viability of an ITS service deployment will be influenced by the level of functionality required, the service profiles – such as 24/7 (24 hour operations, seven days a week) – and the levels of service offered to the users (for example, 100% availability with real-time data). For example, for an ITS travel information service, there are many variables. (See Travel Information Systems) These include:

  • the extent and depth of transport network coverage
  • whether it is single travel mode or multi-modal coverage, or for general or specialist use.

A number of issues need to be considered:

  • will it be a narrowly focussed (niche) service or a broadly based public service?
  • will there be positive or negative road safety implications?
  • what added-value services are to be offered (tourist features, emergency call-out, location-based yellow pages look-up)?
  • will the service be pay-per-use or subscription, or free at the point of use; or financed by sponsorship?
  • is the ITS service “static” with a low refresh rate – or “dynamic”, updated frequently in real-time?
  • will the user be able to interact with the ITS service?
  • what choice of user interfaces and equipment is to be supported?
Smart Solutions for Traffic in Cairo, Egypt

In Egypt, an activity was launched to engage the young technical community in understanding and developing smart solutions for traffic problems in Cairo. The initiative, “Cairo Transport App Challenge”, was supported by the World Bank and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, the Ministry of Transport and the Egyptian technical community. Young professionals were asked to develop, test and market smart phone applications to improve transport in Cairo – to make it less congested and safer for drivers, passengers and users of public transport. Technical and business mentorship was provided to the applicants. The challenge began with a workshop at Egypt’s Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (TIEC) in September 2012 – and resulted in more than 24 submissions and more than 850,000 followers on social network sites. Experts and mentors shortlisted 10 finalists, with the “most popular” app being chosen through online voting.

Operating Context

The operating context is the basic organisational, regulatory and institutional framework for the ITS service and is the key to ensuring a viable and workable system. For example:

  • regulations or administrative requirements may impede data collection
  • a lack of standardisation or quality control procedures may produce unreliable quality in the data streams
  • excessive cost of data acquisition may inflate operating costs to the point where the service is not viable

A well planned service operation needs sound allocation of risk, appropriate cost sharing, sustainable service pricing and a commitment to quality delivery for the end user. A service which is too costly for the user will have low market penetration which will limit the impact of the service with respect to policy and commercial goals and undermine the public and private sector business case for funding.

Inter-Agency Agreements

Practically all ITS services involve the cooperation and/or coordination among multiple transport agencies. Even in the case of single-mode management, multiple agencies under different jurisdictions may be involved. It is good practice to document in some detail the agreed allocation of roles and responsibilities – and exactly how each agency will operate in relation to the others. This can be done in formal interagency agreements to avoid misunderstanding in the future.

Public/private partnerships are often needed. These can range from informal agreements between the parties to cooperate on day-to-day operational tasks – to more formal contracts and/or memoranda of understanding on information sharing and provision of services. (See Public Private Partnerships)

Establishing a group of individuals with decision making powers, who can represent the key stakeholder organisations, provides a forum for reaching consensus on roles and responsibilities in terms of how to deliver and manage ITS-based operations.


Inter-agency Agreements in Egypt

In ITS Egypt, formal agreements are being developed between:

  • the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Interior to establish roles and responsibilities to enable joint development and operation of the planned Traffic Management Centre
  • the national road authority and Egypt Telecom to allow for access and use of telecommunication networks and service for the ITS deployments on the road network (See Case Study “ITS Strategy for Egypt”)

Predicted Impacts

Predicted impacts are the forecast effects that the proposed ITS service will have on transport systems and their users. These should relate to the transport and related public policy goals – and in the case of a partnership with the private sector – the commercial business objectives. The benefits might be to individuals – such as reduced travel time, perceived reliability of public transport services, or information which is personalised. Policy-related benefits to the community should also be considered – such as improved civic image for inward investment or safety benefits through better incident notification. (See Valuing the Benefits)

Urban Traffic Management, China

ITS Strategy, Egypt



Reference sources

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