Road Network Operations
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Advanced Traveller Information Systems (ATIS)

Road Network Operators and other transport or public safety professional have no direct control over road users (except, perhaps, at traffic signals). Each road user is an independent entity that observes situations from the perspective of his or her specific needs, does their own thinking and decision making and executes their decisions more or less independently. The only thing the transport profession can do is to inform the travellers in the best possible manner to enable them to make informed – and hopefully safe – decisions. (See Traveller Information Systems )

Use of VMS in Florida, USA

A survey by Florida DOT District 6 (Miami-Dade Co. and south) found that 92% of freeway/turnpike drivers read VMSs at least weekly, 97% said these signs provide accurate traffic alerts, and 78% reported a willingness to alter their route based on VMS postings. Use of 511 increased in the past year and 22% of respondents were more willing to change their departure time as a result of 511 information.

(Source: Rodriquez, J., “Miami Drivers Reported Travel Benefits from Using Dynamic Message Signs,” SunGuide® Disseminator, Florida DOT, January 2013.)

Advanced Traveller Information Systems, or ATIS are designed to support individual decision-making. The goal of ATIS is for travellers to have information at their disposal to help them make better-informed travel decisions about mode, route, departure time and activity choices. A side effect of these better decisions can often be supportive of efficient and safe traffic operations.

There is a full range of advanced traveller information provider systems and services. A summary is given in th table below along with advantages and disadvantages (in no particular order):

Characteristics of Traditional Traveller Information Techniques




Posting of messages on VMSs

  • Point and advanced information to the most-affected drivers

  • Efficiently changed

  • Modern full-matrix signs can use graphics and colour to enhance messages

  • Ideal for child-kidnap alerts in a corridor

  • Doesn’t reach drivers off the roadway

  • Fixed location

  • Old signs difficult to read

  • Not always widely trusted

  • Not always read

Posting of messages on PDMSs

  • Point (and possibly advanced) information to most-affected drivers

  • Can be deployed to unplanned situations/incidents

  • Takes time to deploy for unexpected events

  • Not efficiently changed (unless remotely controlled)

  • Sometimes difficult to read

511 (voice, automated)

  • Widely available

  • Efficiently updated

  • Widely accepted

  • Can be accessed en route

  • Can be (partially) financed by sponsorships or advertising

  • Must be proactively accessed

  • Encourages phone use while driving

  • Language issues, particularly in Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR)

Call taker

  • Highly responsive and effective

  • Personalised

  • Less used today, but popular where they are

  • Encourages phone use while driving

  • More expensive than IVR

Website (TCC or 511)

  • Widely available

  • Efficiently updated

  • Can be automated (such as speed maps)

  • User can view selected CCTV images

  • Can be partially financed by sponsorships or advertising

  • Widely accepted

  • Not universally accessible; must be proactively accessed via computer or mobile device

  • Encourages mobile device use while driving

  • Language issues

Media – radio traffic reports

  • Widely available

  • Can be efficiently updated

  • Widely accepted (many users say this is their primary mode)

  • Can be accessed en route

  • Financed by the media

  • Must be proactively accessed

  • Always maintaining timely and accurate information

Media – TV traffic reports

  • Widely available

  • Can be efficiently updated

  • Can show station-selected CCTV images

  • Widely accepted (many users say this is a primary mode)

  • Can be accessed pre-trip

  • Financed by the media

  • Must be proactively accessed

  • Always maintaining timely and accurate information

  • Not available en route

Airborne spotting and reporting

  • Widely available

  • Agile relocation

  • Efficiently updated

  • Widely accepted

  • Can be accessed en route

  • Financed by the media in some regions

  • Must be proactively accessed

  • Getting timely air time for incidents (unless it is a continuous traffic reporting station)

Kiosks and display signs

  • Popular with older, less tech-savvy and disabled users

  • Provides peace of mind for transit riders

  • Transfers/connection information for transit users

  • Limited availability (for example, transit terminals, rest stops and other fixed locations)

  • Timely and accurate updates

In recent years, the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices (such as digital tablets and pads), the expanding use of social media and the increasingly wide-spread use of Floating Vehicle Data collection techniques have led to a number of truly advanced traveller information services. Some services collect data to be used by other traveller information providers.The Table below summarises these.

Characteristics of Advanced Traveller Information Techniques




Point (that is, fixed location) data collection systems

  • Passive, non-intrusive and non-threatening

  • Reasonably accurate for journey times and inferred speeds

  • Requires additional infrastructure deployment

  • Usually must funnel processed information through public or private entity at a cost

Floating (probe) vehicle tracking

  • Ubiquitous supply of probes

  • More easily deployed in rural areas and areas not covered by ITS

  • Useful for incident detection in such areas

  • Some concern for privacy issues

  • Requires additional infrastructure deployment

  • Must funnel processed information through public or private entity at a cost

Commercial traveller information services

  • Use a variety of data sources, including floating vehicles

  • Feeds data to navigation maps in near real time

  • Navigation maps show alternative routes

  • Can direct information to subscriber via mobile phone (voice or text) or social media

  • Well trusted

  • Sometimes paid by subscription

  • Encourages mobile phone or mobile device use while driving

Social media – situation reporting

  • Expands number of eyes on the roadway
  • Free for all users
  • Increasingly used by traffic and emergency managers to inform travellers about incidents and emergencies
  • Encourages cell phone or other mobile device use while driving

E-mail alerts

  • Low cost
  • Highly customizable
  • Paid by subscription
  • Not as effective for en -route alerts

In-vehicle telematics (including personal navigation devices)

  • Expanding market
  • Combines advantages of several techniques
  • Great potential for growth beyond simple traveller information
  • Paid by subscription
  • Demonstrated, but not widely deployed beyond Europe
  • Marketing and software integration issues
  • Standards among regions


Pre-trip information

Using radio and TV traffic reports, websites, navigation maps and Information Service Provider (ISP) feeds to enable travellers to change their travel mode, change the trip departure time or change the route of the trip, all to avoid an incident or just normal congestion, thus reducing traffic demand in the affected area. Further information on pre-trip information is provided here (See Pre-Trip Information).

En-route information

En-route information can be provided though VMS, radio traffic reports, (in Europe the RDS-TMC, Radio Data System – Traffic Message Channel), GPS (Global-Positioning System) or GALILEO navigation maps and Independent Service Provider feeds to a smartphone. The information can assist travellers, including drivers of passenger and freight vehicles, to change their trip plans whilst en route, for example by changing their route or even abandon the trip to avoid an incident or just normal congestion. This reduces traffic demand in the affected area. Even if a traveller does not change any trip plans, just knowing the nature of congestion, perhaps with some indication of journey time or incident location, can reduce driver frustration and anxiety, thus making them safer drivers that are less prone to take unnecessary chances, such as excessive lane changing.

VMS and Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) are used to alert rural travellers in mountainous areas about weather and other conditions on the roadway ahead.

En-route information during longer trips

On long-distance or international trips, applications like those mentioned above (as applicable) or kiosks at rest areas, can help these long-distance travellers either adjust their trip plans or at least have a more secure feeling about their trips. (See Kiosks)

Traveller information in the other modes can do such things as inform public transport passengers of the arrival of the next vehicle and provide transfer information. Whilst these do not directly impact traffic operations at that time, this type of traveller information makes travellers more comfortable and confident about using public transport, thereby encouraging them to continue to do so and not add to clogging the roadways with more cars. Some Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) concepts include public transport as well, particularly Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems.

Traveller information can also provide information that does not directly affect current travel, but serves other purposes, such as safety messages, smog alerts and for child-kidnapping alerts. Note that there is some debate about the use of VMSs and HAR for non-mission-critical purposes. (See En-route Information)

Managed lanes and Toll Roads

High-occupancy/toll (HOT) pricing is conveyed by VMSs, allowing Single-Occupancy Vehicle drivers to make a decision to use the HOT lanes, thus relieving demand in the general-use lanes. Similar information should be provided in the case of variable toll rates based on congestion so as to allow a driver to select an optional route.

Advice to Practitioners

There is a great deal of potential benefit that can be derived from using third-party data services (for example, real-time journey times on VMS, website traffic information, conducting historical analyses and so on). A number of commercial traffic Independent Service Providers (ISPs) provide services to both individual travellers and businesses as follows:

  • local radio provides traffic information in most metropolitan areas
  • navigation data to in-vehicle devices in a number of areas
  • probe vehicles are providing incident data
  • real-time, historical and predictive traffic information for many USA cities
  • traffic flow data, incident data and construction data in a number of areas

Further information: See Travel Information Systems and Traveller Services


Reference sources

The following report has an excellent analysis of the ATIS market in the USA.

Kandarpa, R., J. Sangillo, L. Burgess, and A. Toppen, "Real-Time Traveller Information Market Assessment White Paper," FHWA-JPO-10-055, February 2010.

Other state-of-the-practice reports on traveller information in general can be found at, and in particular business models at


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