As ITS implementation progresses from programme to project level, project planning comes into focus. This needs to cover consideration of institutional pre-conditions, the financial commitments, enabling technologies, early actions, and strategies for mitigation of any risks.
To effectively plan and deliver ITS in support of road management – the organisation responsible for project planning (such as the road authority, road operator or city authority) will need to develop a capability in a number of key areas:
ITS covers a wide range of products and services – some of which are now very well established, for example, traffic signal coordination or motorway tolling. In all deployments, including well-proven applications, adaptation to local conditions is always necessary. This is to ensure that the application will be viable in the local context – such as the mix of traffic using the roads, norms of driver behaviour, observance of traffic law and levels of enforcement, as well as general standards of road infrastructure and its maintenance.
Transport agencies in developing economies have a lead role in identifying what local adaptations are likely to be required. If necessary, agencies can draw on the experience of visiting experts – working with local consultants – to provide an in-depth analysis of the local requirements and transportation needs. Often this is a sound basis for long-term cooperation.
Specifying these local requirements is a central part of the procurement process and will involve engagement with consultants and instructions to suppliers. The analysis will describe the requirements (such as tolerance of climatic conditions, reliability of energy supply and communications, maintenance skills, and protection against vandalism). This will inform the development of the functional and technical specifications for equipment, operations and maintenance.
“Working” and “Workable” Projects
The first step in basic project planning is to set clear objectives and targets for ITS services, taking full account of local requirements – including any dependencies (for example – whether different systems will be required to be interoperable, now or within the planning horizon). These objectives and targets need to be agreed by all key stakeholders who are directly affected. This lays the foundation for subsequent steps – which will include the definition of interagency agreements, time scales and expectation management and evaluation criteria.
Priority should be given to implementing “priority projects” – which are assessed as:
In many cases, ITS projects are “bundled-in” with large scale investment projects for improving road transport infrastructure – to provide the necessary platform for deploying the service. For example in:
Use of Field Trials and Pilot projects
Some countries will be unfamiliar with the concept of an ITS project that is specified on the basis of performance and service criteria – and which may require system integration of equipment packages and technologies, as well as suitable contractual and financing schemes for effective delivery. Small-scale field trials may be necessary to determine the suitability of ITS hardware and systems in the local context – before making a large-scale procurement – of, for instance, variable message signs and other equipment for network management.
In many situations, proof of concept can be demonstrated and political support secured by means of a pilot project. This is compatible with a “Staged” approach. (See Developing an ITS Strategy) Pilot projects are appropriate for assessing project viability and applicability to the local context – and provide a basis for “training and educating” key staff who will be involved in future ITS deployments. A pilot project can lead to adaptation and fine-tuning of various aspects of a deployment: technical, organisational, financial and contractual procedures.
Conditions for Success
ITS deployments will involve new institutional working arrangements – as well as new technologies. Institutional barriers will need to be overcome through careful planning and negotiations between those who will be most closely involved in project delivery and ongoing operations. This may involve innovation in project planning, financing, and effective public-private partnerships. Coping with so many new demands, may require a paradigm shift in the approach of a road authority or other public agency – affecting their roles and responsibilities and involving new ways of working. This may take time to become established. Project development, in these cases, may require considerably more time than, at first, anticipated.
In response to the challenges there are a number of procedures that will contribute to the success of project selection and planning:
Coordination, in general, is not strong between the organisations with a part to play in road transport and those providing infrastructure and services for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Each body is likely to have its own priorities, established methods of working and administrative procedures. It is often necessary to create new business units that cut across traditional lines of responsibility within and between agencies to achieve a coherent approach with integrated deployment. (See Planning an ITS Programme and Inter-agency Working)
Involvement of user groups and the general public – who will be affected by the deployment of an ITS application or service – is often not undertaken at all, or starts very late in the project development process – and may put the project at risk. For example, the introduction of electronic tolling or controlled motorway procedures (lane or speed controls) would require the users to take-up the service and comply with its requirements. The scheme’s objectives could be jeopardised if road users choose to ignore or avoid the ITS-based application.
To prevent this, it is in the interests of the promoters to consult widely and explain and champion the benefits through the use of mass media (TV, radio and advertising campaigns), meetings and other methods of consultation – perhaps using websites and social media. (See Assessment of Benefits and Case Study: Stockholm Congestion Tax)
To be viable for financing and deployment, projects should be clearly specified in terms of the objectives and scope, functional and operating requirements, standards to be used, partnership agreements and other roll-out plans, financing and contractual terms. When defining projects, it is advisable to include baseline measurements that can be used to evaluate performance before and after the ITS deployment (for example, introduction of electronic tolling may lead to a reduction in lost revenue). A common problem can be the lack of baseline data on which comparisons can subsequently be made easily. (See Indicators)
In both Hefei, China, and Egypt, baseline traffic conditions were assessed and forecast impacts were estimated to identify ITS projects for priority implementation. Those projects having the highest beneficial impact on baseline traffic conditions on the road and public transport networks were prioritised.
Without budgetary planning and a commitment to release funds, a project cannot proceed.
In emerging economies, public funds are often needed to catalyse private investment. To avoid a situation where funding problems are the source of delays, a planned approach to project finance is often needed to encourage sure private sector investment. (See Budget and Affordability)
Where possible, budget calculations for projects should be done on a whole “life-cycle” basis – taking into account initial capital costs as well as the costs of operation, management and maintenance – with an allowance for technology upgrade. The need to include operational and maintenance costs (which, for ITS, may be more than 10% of the capital cost) may not be appreciated by those road network authorities that traditionally concentrate on building and maintenance of road infrastructure – rather than its operation. (See Road User Services and Quantifying the Costs)
Contracting arrangements to supply equipment, operate services – and perhaps, design, build, operate and maintain the ITS systems – need to be put in place. The terms of contracts should aim to minimise project failures, control costs and handle known risks effectively. (See Procurement)
Appointing an ITS Programme Manager to coordinate stakeholder inputs provides a focal point for communication about the project with the public, media and other interested bodies. The Manager’s responsibilities may extend to supervising the ongoing operation of ITS services. In some cases it may also be desirable to commission a full evaluation of the project’s impacts to provide data to demonstrate success and leverage finance for further ITS investments.
In summary, evaluation provides the basis for:
While the case for evaluation is clear, a common mistake is to treat it as an optional extra and begin work too late with insufficient opportunity to collect before and after data. Part of the justification for carrying out a pilot project is to make a full evaluation of its benefits before committing to scaled-up deployment.