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Public Roads - November/December 2015

November/December 2015
Issue No:
Vol. 79 No. 3
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Internet Watch

Your Home for Accessing ITS Data

by Carrie Boris

How do you manage more than 15 years’ worth of data and turn it into a valuable resource for transportation professionals? The U.S. Department of Transportation was faced with this challenge to organize and store data resulting from intelligent transportation systems (ITS) projects. The agency understood that it was critical to track benefits, costs, lessons learned, and implementation status in order to advance ITS programs.

To meet the need for storing, organizing, and providing access to these data in a useful way, USDOT maintains the ITS Knowledge Resources Web site at The site presents information on ITS deployment and operations, drawn primarily from sources such as ITS evaluation studies, research syntheses, handbooks, journal articles, and conference papers.

An Update-to-Date Resource

Developed and maintained by the ITS Joint Program Office, the site launched in 1999 with information on costs and benefits. In 2003, developers added data from surveys on ITS deployment statistics and, in 2005, launched a database of lessons learned.

The ITS Joint Program Office generally adds new content on a monthly basis to keep the site up to date. Data on deployment status are updated every 2 to 3 years as new survey results become available. The latest major update to the site, in November 2014, included the release of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Benefits, Costs, and Lessons Learned Update Report (FHWA-JPO-14-159) and an upgrade to the deployment statistics.


“The goal is to help State, regional, and local transportation professionals considering ITS in the development of transportation plans and projects to address local transportation needs,” says Marcia Pincus, a program manager in the ITS Joint Program Office. “It also benefits researchers to better understand the state of knowledge and extent of deployment of ITS.”

Three Key Databases

The databases of benefits, costs, and lessons learned are the heart of the Web site. Each database includes overview pages, mapping functions to search by location, and lists of the latest updates, frequently asked questions, and related documents.

Benefits database. This resource offers data measuring the effects of ITS on transportation operations according to the six goals identified by USDOT: safety, mobility, efficiency, productivity, energy and environmental impacts, and customer satisfaction. The database presents findings from ITS evaluations in a concise summary format that includes a statement of the evaluation finding, context narrative, and identifying information such as date, location, and source, as well as the evaluation details that describe how researchers determined the benefits. Site users can browse or search the benefit summaries by application, goal area, or location.

Costs database. This database provides cost estimates for ITS deployments. Users can access information about either system costs or unit costs. Systems consist of multiple ITS elements and typically represent the total cost of an ITS project or a portion of a project. Each entry describes the background of the project, lists the ITS technologies deployed, and presents the costs and what the costs covered. Unit costs are for an individual ITS element, such as a dynamic message sign. The database presents a cost range as well as an estimate of the length in years of the element’s usable life.

“This information helps planners develop project cost estimates during the planning or preliminary design phase, for policy studies, and for cost-benefit analyses,” says Pincus. “To provide a complete picture, both nonrecurring capital costs and recurring operating and maintenance costs are included whenever possible.”

Lessons learned database. Lessons learned capture the real-life experiences of practitioners in planning, deploying, operating, and evaluating ITS projects, which can help improve the effectiveness of future projects. Each description includes recommendations, narratives, and identifying information such as date, location, and contact. Lessons are collected primarily from ITS case studies, best practice compendiums, planning and design reviews, and evaluation studies. The lessons contained in this knowledge resource, however, should not be considered official policy or guidance from USDOT.

For more information, contact Marcia Pincus at or 202–366–9230.

Carrie Boris is a contributing editor for Public Roads.