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

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Priority Projects

In prioritising the projects that will form part of the ITS deployment programme, it is advisable to select those that have the greatest potential to make a positive impact on major transport challenges – such as road safety and the efficient movement of people and goods. The World Bank advises that projects should be:

  • demand-driven, so that the introduction of ITS meets real user needs
  • affordable, using a level of technology appropriate to the country or region, focusing on projects with the greatest return on investment, and making good use, wherever possible, of the experience of other countries
  • staged and flexible – to allow for growth as demand increases and resources permit, and not overly ambitious in the early stages
  • open to private sector participation

There will be strategic and transport policy objectives to fulfil and constraints to be factored into project selection – such as:

  • the degree to which the investment in ITS supports national, regional and local transport strategies and other government priorities
  • how far the investment will deal with major weaknesses in road transport and contributes to improved transport operations
  • the benefits and cost-effectiveness of the proposed project(s) in meeting policy objectives and make visible improvements
  • the financial viability and institutional stability for the investment
  • project readiness for implementation

There may be a need to demonstrate the potential of the selected investments – perhaps through a pilot project – before making a major commitment to roll-out.

Practical criteria that will influence the selection of projects include:

  • availability of qualified staff (in-house or external expertise) to coordinate the planning and delivery of ITS projects (See Project Planning)
  • the availability, capacity and usage costs of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure (See Communications)
  • budgetary constraints – affecting the timing of the project, even for high priority projects with highly-positive impacts (See Finance and Procurement)
  • public acceptance – public misunderstanding or opposition may prevent or undermine the viability of some ITS projects, such as those requiring payment or enforcement (See Road User Needs)

Public, politicians and user groups often want to influence ITS project selection and definition. In some cases, politicians may want to focus ITS deployment on certain road corridors and investment projects they consider to be key. Sometimes these “pet projects” will not offer best value and can consume a high proportion of the budget allocated for ITS deployments. To avoid this, the planning team must identify and apply certain essential selection criteria. Only projects that pass the required threshold for each of these criteria – including cost-effectiveness and public acceptance – should be prioritised. (See Appraisal of ITS projects)

Traffic Control

Network monitoring, management and control are at the heart of road network operations. (See Network Monitoring, Traffic Control and Operational Activities)

Traffic control has always been seen primarily as a responsibility for the police – closely related to their duties to maintain public safety and enforce the law. A road operator who is proposing to introduce new methods of traffic management and control – for example computerised signal controls, VMS and a Traffic Control Centre – will need to secure the support and full cooperation of the police.

In many TCCs, police and road agencies share positions in the control room to allow for integrated traffic incident detection and traffic management capabilities on the basis of common road-side ITS infrastructure. This is the most common way to share functionality.

Long-standing procedures and reluctance to change – can be barriers to the sort of cooperation that road network management requires. Two ways of overcoming resistance is to:

  • ensure clarity and understanding of the benefits to each participating agency arising from cooperation – pilot projects and field trials are one way that the various parties can work together and come to appreciate each other’s position
  • develop an inter-agency agreement in parallel – so that each party retains its own responsibility to serve the public as before, without surrendering control of its own systems and information

Experience shows that agreement on the allocation roles and responsibilities – such as between the traffic police and the road operator – will help the operator develop its capability to manage traffic on the network. Projects that are urgent and important from a road management perspective – are better delayed until this sort of agreement is in place.

Advanced traffic management systems are the base for launching many other ITS user services. A high priority in many countries is integrated transport corridor and urban area management – coupled with incident management and enforcement against speeding and traffic violations. Urban traffic management is increasingly commonplace.


Traffic Surveillance

CCTV camera surveillance is used for known hot-spots, such as – at-grade road-rail crossings (where a railway crosses a road or highway at a level crossing) and heavily trafficked road sections. Internet Protocol Television is an option that reduces costs considerably. It is likely that there will be a good case for developing shared facilities to meet the operational requirements of both the road authority and the police. Experience shows that CCTV coverage is particularly useful for network operations in the following situations:

  • where there are high traffic flows with recurrent congestion or queues at junctions, interchanges, or where the number of lanes reduces
  • at interchanges with high traffic flows where there are converging/diverging movements – or construction features such as sharp bends
  • at locations such as tunnels – where traffic congestion or accidents may create dangerous environmental conditions
  • on exposed bridges or motorways at locations where inclement weather conditions – such as high cross winds – frequently occur making conditions hazardous




More than 30 cities in China have advanced urban traffic control systems with smart detection. Speed and red light enforcement cameras are also common in most large Chinese cities.


Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, an integrated network management approach has been developed. ITS network deployments include:

  • the implementation of the Transport Information System (TIS)
  • area traffic control systems on urban roads
  • installation of traffic control and surveillance systems along the major motorways and tunnels
  • setting up the Traffic Management and Information Centre (TMIC).
  • a journey time indication system
  • red light and speed enforcement cameras



Road Safety

Many countries have a poor road safety record – making accident mitigation and enforcement measures a high priority, accompanied by road safety awareness campaigns. (See Road Safety)

Road safety measures need to be supported by reliable accident data of consistent quality to ensure effective deployments and analysis of their impact. Where toll roads exist, the data may be fairly complete, in contrast to other parts of the road network. In some countries, data may be recorded where the police have relatively easy access to the accident locations – but coverage may be poor elsewhere.

The World Road Association’s on-line Road Safety Manual is designed to help countries – at every stage of infrastructure development – to achieve their road safety targets. It is aligned with key pillars of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020:

  • Pillar 1: Road Safety Management
  • Pillar 2: Safer Roads and Mobility
  • Pillar 4: Safer Road Users

New approaches to road safety – the “forgiving road system” – take into account, the vulnerability and fallibility of people. This “Safe System” approach requires everyone to share responsibility for road safety outcomes – for example, the public agencies responsible for road network planning, design, management, emergency response, automobile manufacturers, road users, enforcement bodies. Technology solutions need to be designed as part of a comprehensive road safety programme, if they are to have a sustainable impact. 

Priority measures to enhance road safety include:

  • speed management and control on road sections with large speed variations and high level of incidents
  • traffic monitoring and automatic incident detection and management on critical road sections
  • automated enforcement systems – such as speed control, red light running and heavy vehicle compliance checks – to accompany traffic management measures
  • schemes that are adapted for vulnerable road users – including detection of the presence of pedestrians and cyclists and traffic signal schemes to include vulnerable road users in the signal timing plans.

Many countries are deploying extensive automated traffic enforcement schemes to curb traffic violations – in an effort to reduce the large number of road accidents. Speed enforcement schemes are popular in many countries but they need to be designed with care. (See Speed Management)



In Malaysia, a study was undertaken to evaluate the impacts of automated speed

enforcement. It showed that the benefits of automated enforcement are often focused on the road sections where the cameras are installed. Driver compliance was significantly lower in non-enforced sections – creating potential new black spots. Reliable accident reporting systems have value in enhancing understanding of conflict and behavioural issues and in identifying common causes of accidents and developing effective countermeasures.

Freight Transport

Road freight transport is high in many countries. In Egypt, it accounts for over 75% of total freight transport movements. Owners and operators of commercial vehicle fleets are increasing relying on technology to better plan their logistics operations – to keep track of deliveries and know exactly where their vehicles are located. (See Freight and Commercial Services)

GPS can be used to track commercial vehicles to improve efficiency of operations and protect against theft. In Brazil, a law mandates that all new vehicles shall be equipped with tracking technology to encourage the development of fleet management solutions.

In addition to tracking and tracing of vehicle movements, anti-theft and vehicle recovery – new applications are being deployed in Brazil that enable fleet managers to monitor how a vehicle is being driven. This includes technologies to identify a driver and determine which drivers are compliant with regulations or not – and driver behaviour, such as hard braking or fast acceleration. Web services are offered by companies in Brazil that help fleet operators to plan routes, set alarms for certain incidents/events, monitor performance and keep track of fuel consumption and payments.


Enforcement against Overloading

Vehicle overloading above the permitted axle weight is a common problem in many countries. For the road network operator the need to reduce the amount – and extent – of vehicle overloading is of strategic importance because of the excessive damage it causes to the road structure (the “road pavement”). According to a report by Chile’s Ministry of Public Works – for every million dollars that the Chilean Government has invested in truck weight enforcement, US$20M is saved in maintenance of principal highways and US$27M saved on costs to repair secondary roads.

Enforcement against is supported by ITS technologies. It requires a means of measuring the axle loads on trucks and heavy vehicles –to identify overloading. Given the difficulty of finding suitable locations for fixed weighbridges, there is increasing interest in making use of “Weigh-in-Motion” (WIM) techniques.

WIM systems are still in their infancy and need to be trialled – not least so that the enforcement authority can develop integrated, practical procedures to support the implementation of a WIM scheme – which covers:

  • how to identify, intercept and detain any offending vehicles
  • the kind of field operation is needed
  • how to arrange back-office support to follow-up with vehicle owners, collect fines and impose other penalties

A combination of WIM and fixed weighbridges is likely to be the best way forward. System type approval for weigh-in-motion equipment is necessary to certify accuracy and reliability. Enforcement procedures must be sufficiently robust to withstand challenge in a court of law. A field trial of the scheme may be necessary to test equipment and establish procedures. A potential outcome of field trials could be to highlight the need to amend traffic law so that evidence from weigh-in-motion equipment is acceptable in court. (See Weight Screening and Equipment Certification)

Passenger Transport

Modernisation of public transport is a high priority for most emerging economies. (See Passenger Transport)

Public transport improvement schemes can mean new tramways and metro lines. On the roads, the measures include priority for buses and trams, coordination with traffic signals, real-time information systems, and on-board load monitoring. GPS-based monitoring systems are being used to provide better fleet management and smoother integration between different public transport modes. This technology can form the basis of other systems – such as arrival time notification for passengers at bus stops and on-board real-time information systems.

The systems are often based initially on investment in vehicle location systems – that bring immediate benefits to bus and tram operators. Real-time information and other advances build further on this – for example, electronic ticketing and sensors which measure passenger numbers boarding and alighting at each stop. The systems may be phased in on specific bus routes and tram lines – one at a time – but should be designed from the start as area-wide systems. This ensures that they are technically capable of being extended across the full transport network – rather than limited to an experimental route. (See Passenger Transport Operations)


Bus Priority

Bus lanes are widely used to implement bus priority schemes and travel demand management – and ITS systems play a key role in their back-office arrangements (for example, for enforcement). Careful planning of bus and High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes is needed for maximum effectiveness – to overcome barriers to successful deployment – such as:

  • lack of adequate space for the bus priority lanes and costly enforcement operations
  • un-intended impacts leading to increased congestion and accidents, after conversion of a general-purpose lane to bus, minibus and taxi-only use

A city or region considering installing a bus priority network should take all of these factors into account.


Electronic ticketing

Regions that have a high proportion of users on public transport offer a potential for successful use of non-cash MOPs. (See Passenger fare payment) Examples are:

Ride Sharing

Promotion of car sharing can help tackle recurring congestion – with relatively little capital investment. Increasingly, internet portals and smart phone applications are used as the basis for ride-sharing schemes. Car sharing is very active in Central and South America and car sharing applications are becoming more widespread across Europe and in other countries such as India, China and Egypt.


Bus Rapid Transit

In Hefei, China, the introduction of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) schemes supported wide-spread usage of public transport fleet management systems, electronic ticketing and information services. In Cairo, Egypt, the development of underground metro lines stimulated the adoption of smart ticketing systems and traveller information systems.


In Johannesburg, South Africa, a comprehensive, integrated ITS programme supports the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). This consists of GPS-based Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL), an operations control centre, traveller information, CCTV for security and station management, scheduling packages, traffic signal priority schemes, and fare collection.



Electronic Payment

Electronic payment is a well-tried option to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of tolling schemes on roads. (See Electronic Payment)

Electronic toll collection systems (ETC) have been deployed in many countries – and the motivation is often the revenue stream it provides for investment in other infrastructure. Often ETC deployment is based on a state-owned enterprise contracting a private sector operators to build (or upgrade) the road and operate the tolling scheme. (See Public-Private Partnerships)

Electronic toll collection schemes require careful planning. The objectives must be clearly set and prioritised. All technological options (such as DSRC, GPS, licence plate readers, smart cards) should be considered. Winning public support is essential. This requires engaging the public and stakeholders – explaining and promoting the scheme, and encouraging constructive and well-informed discussion about the proposed project. (See Technologies & Processes)

For ETC systems that coexist alongside manual toll collection, incentives need to be provided for non-users to opt for ETC – for example by offering discounts on tolls and tags or providing exclusive toll-gates dedicated to ETC users.

For non-stop free-flow ETC systems, the routine cooperation of almost every user is necessary – since it is financially prohibitive and impractical to enforce if there are too many violators. If public acceptability for tolls is low, and the risk of payment evasion is high – a physical barrier to control the flow of vehicles is likely to be the most practical option, even if an accurate vehicle register exists. To work well, ETC requires a high proportion of vehicles with registered accounts – and high level of understanding and acceptance amongst road users, that they have to pay. (See Back Office Arrangements and Enforcement)

A firm policy on exemption requests for any payment scheme is also necessary. Granting too many exemptions puts a heavy burden on the remaining users, who have to pay more to make up for the free users.


Smart Card and Mobile Phone Payment

In some developing economies, banking systems may not be well integrated. In this case, a stand-alone smart card system provides an attractive option for public transport ticketing – and is a way to encourage multi-modal use of public transport – is a single card payment scheme. Payment schemes using mobile phones are another option and have been successfully introduced in several countries for public transport and parking payment.

An example is in Beijing, China, where the city pioneered a new Near Field Communication (NFC)-based way of paying for bus and subway rides. It is known as an "e-Surfing Traffic Card" programme. It combines near-field communication with a programme that pairs riders’ traditional electronic fare cards with their mobile phone devices. This allows customers to pay for fares using their phones and an existing fare card balance. It also allows them to pay for rides and reload their cards using their mobile phones and near field communication portals located throughout the city.



Traveller Services

Pre-trip and en-route traveller services are of growing importance in countries with emerging economies. (See Traveller Services)

Traffic information services are available in almost all countries with ITS deployment programmes. The combination of high market penetration of the internet, broadband and mobile cellular phones – along with increasing private vehicle ownership – provides a user base. (See Travel Information Systems)

An attractive and economically cost effective means of broadcasting traveller information services across limited road sections – is the use of FM radio subcarrier. In China, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) is increasingly used to transmit traveller information to users. (See Radio)

Advanced traveller information systems require the developer to be responsive to user requirements. Travellers need high-quality information about their journeys – before and during their trips. Important features include route guidance, information on location-based services en-route, congestion, likely delays, planned and unplanned events impacting on the road network, and weather conditions. (See Location Based Services)

The quality of travel information involves a range of criteria, all of which are important to users:

  • accuracy
  • timeliness
  • cost
  • coverage
  • continuity of service
  • relevance to the user
  • ease of use

Travel information providers have found that comprehensive and continuous coverage is very important for their users – whilst traffic information from motorways and other main roads needs to be collected and made available in real-time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Social networks – for example, Facebook and Twitter – can play an important part in road network management as channel for providing information about:

  • the occurrence of traffic incidents and disruption to the network (such as flooding and other road closures)
  • warnings of planned road closures and bridge maintenance
  • reports and forecasts of exceptional traffic congestion and long delays

The road operator manages the links between public-sector data availability (open access) and public/private sector value-added services (paid access or free at point of use).


Variable Message Signs

Electronic Variable Message Signs (VMS) – placed at the roadside or mounted on gantries above the road – are a primary means of reaching drivers in real-time with advisory or warning information. Older forms of VMS relies on text – but modern VMS makes use of LED technology to display pictograms.

Public investments in VMS can be justified to achieve safety objectives – or manage congestion, when there are long traffic delays and high traffic volumes. VMS for warning drivers about incidents or congestion, are generally installed close to known trouble spots and at strategic points on the network where routes diverge. (See Use of VMS)




Reference sources

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