During the planning of ITS deployments, the costs to be considered are capital costs, equipment unit costs, whole system costs – and lifetime costs which include maintenance costs, operations costs and the cost of periodic upgrade, refurbishment and replacement. Estimates must be made in the local context to support local project decisions.
Cost data for ITS installation and operations are often difficult to assess. For example, there can be substantial cost reduction through effective integration of ITS components – so care needs to be taken when using any unit cost data. It would be a mistake to add up the unit costs without considering possible cost savings that could be provided by integration and/or good system design. Some products, particularly electronic products, have widely varying prices across the world. Economies of scale can mean that significant discounts can be obtained in large scale procurement projects – and through group purchasing.
Several other factors can have a major influence:
Careful monitoring of lifetime costs is needed to build up information on the real costs of ITS maintenance and operations. These will give those planning or implementing ITS an indication of the aggregate cost of a specific ITS deployment.
Accurate operating and maintenance costs are notoriously difficult to obtain because they have to be disentangled from the general running costs of an organisation. Maintenance costs can be quite high with ITS, in comparison with, for example, roads and bridges. The equipment may be sensitive and is often exposed. The costs of refurbishment and replacement (including an allowance for obsolescence and upgrade) should be forecast and planned in the initial budget.
Installation costs will vary between regions, depending both on the terrain and the availability of skills to work on and manage the project.
The time and effort involved in software development, testing and installation can be substantial and costs can be difficult to predict. There is an advantage in using well-established products. Similarly the task of developing databases and data dictionaries for ITS is very labour intensive. A pre-existing data dictionary and database will save on development costs – but only if data quality is adequate for the purpose. This means that data has to be accurate, up-to-date and coded in sufficient detail. Repairing a database that is populated with obsolete, inaccurate and unreliable data can be more expensive than starting afresh.
Comprehensive unit cost data for planning purposes are described in the USDOT database of ITS costs and benefits. The unit cost is broken down into capital and operations and maintenance (O&M) components. See http://www.benefitcost.its.dot.gov
Users of the USDOT database should be aware that cost figures quoted in a rapidly developing field such as ITS can quickly become out of date – figures for each ITS product and service should be used with caution. In particular, the costs can be very different for different regions and countries.