SPP Study: Reduce Traffic Congestion with Technology

Posted: November 16, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Elena Barbre

The use of intelligent transportation systems such as traveler information services, variable message signs, and surveillance cameras has had a significant impact on the reduction of traffic congestion in the I-66 corridor, but there remains room for improvement, according to a study conducted by the School of Public Policy (SPP).

Public policy professor Laurie Schintler evaluated Partners in Motion, a program focused on improving the quality, quantity, and availability of travel information relayed to transportation agencies, the media, and the public in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. She found that SmarTraveler, a phone service and web site that provides travelers with estimated travel times for major highway segments, has had a limited impact on peak period congestion in the I-66 corridor, but that a combination of other intelligent transportation systems may have a profound impact on reducing congestion.

“Further use of intelligent transportation systems, including traveler information services like SmarTraveler and other systems such as loop detectors, adaptive signal control, and closed circuit TV cameras, could enhance the effectiveness of highway and transit improvements planned for the I-66 corridor,” says Schintler. “We found that average travel times in areas with a heavy ITS investment are significantly lower than those in areas using a minimal additional deployment of ITS.”

These findings provide some direction for future policies regarding the use of intelligent transportation systems in the metro area. Schintler recommends further study on the benefits of the SmarTraveler service to create a balance between the quality, timeliness, and relevance of traffic information it provides and the availability and use of other services. She also recommends further development and deployment of intelligent transportation systems in the area, along with increased efforts to foster institutional support, interagency cooperation and coordination, provision of privacy safeguards, and research on algorithms and models for ITS.

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