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Regional ITS Architecture

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) projects make use of electronics, communications, or information processing to improve the efficiency or safety of a surface transportation system. Because information technology is generally most effective when systems are integrated and interoperable, the U.S. DOT has established the National ITS Architecture to provide a common structure for the design of ITS projects. The National Architecture describes what types of interfaces could exist between ITS components and how they will exchange information and work together to deliver ITS user service requirements.

A regional ITS architecture should include

The purpose of developing a regional ITS architecture is to illustrate and document regional integration so that planning and deployment of ITS projects can take place in an organized and coordinated fashion. Once developed, any ITS project in the region that receives funding from the national highway trust fund must adhere to the regional ITS architecture. A region can be specified at a corridor, metropolitan, statewide, or multi-state level, although the Metropolitan Planning Area is the minimum regional size within a metropolitan area.

Getting Started: Developing and Implementing a Regional ITS Architecture

Most regions either have completed an initial ITS architecture or currently are in the process of developing one. This experience has demonstrated a number of linkage opportunities, as discussed below.

Designate the MPO to Lead the Development of the Regional ITS Architecture

Federal regulations do not specify which agency should lead the development of a regional ITS architecture. In practice, a variety of agencies have taken the lead in different regions. At the regional scale, MPOs are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the regional ITS architecture requirements are met for the purpose of using Federal funds.

In regions where MPOs lead or are heavily involved in the development of the architecture, there is a strong opportunity for coordination with broader planning processes. MPOs often have expertise in managing a broad set of stakeholders who can work toward solutions to regional transportation issues. Concurrently, MPOs can benefit from exposure to a process that focuses on management and operations strategies, since this may be unfamiliar territory for them.

Given the authority that most MPOs have in regional transportation decision-making, they are in a unique position to ensure that the ITS architecture is relevant for informing the transportation planning process. In addition, the MPOs' experience with regional funding strategies allows them to inform stakeholders about opportunities and realities during the course of developing the ITS architecture.

Make the Regional ITS Architecture Part of an Integrated Regional Plan

Once a regional architecture is created, it is important that it serve as a resource for planning, programming, designing, and deploying ITS projects. The architecture should serve as a tool to improve regional thinking on operations. One way to promote the architecture's use is by incorporating it into the region's long-range transportation plan. This helps encourage consistency between proposed ITS projects and the architecture and ensures that additional integration opportunities are considered.

Making the architecture part of the long-range plan also helps give operations managers a stake in the planning process. Following are some steps that can begin to link the ITS architecture with the regional plan:

Link the Architecture to the TIP

Ultimately, the goal of the architecture is to facilitate the efficient deployment and use of ITS equipment, networks, and management structures to create a safer and more efficient transportation system. Developing the sequence is a consensus building process that considers costs and benefits, technological feasibility, and project readiness. While not intended to be a formal ranking of ITS projects, the project sequence can be carried over to the TIP process.

Some MPOs have connected the ITS Architecture to the project development process by way of a checklist that is presented to all project sponsors. This is a simple and useful way to promote incorporation of consistent ITS elements into appropriate projects, particularly in areas where reference to the architecture tends to come late in the project development process. Consider developing a checklist for project sponsors that describes important ITS considerations.

Build from the Architecture's "Operational Concept"

The regional ITS architecture includes an operational concept that defines the institutional relationships among the organizations involved in the deployment and operation of regionally integrated ITS systems. Consider using this operational concept as a starting place for linking planning and operations more broadly.

Build a Sustained Forum Around Maintenance of the Architecture

A region's ITS priorities and organizational approach will need to evolve along with the region's travel patterns, available funding, and technological capabilities. Project implementation may also be a catalyst for maintenance of the architecture. As projects come into final design, the regional architecture should be reviewed to see if there is any impact to the capabilities documented in the regional architecture. Likewise, the architecture will need to respond to changes in the region's long-term goals and objectives. The requirement to maintain the regional ITS architecture provides an opportunity to institutionalize certain planning and operations linkages. Although a single agency may be designated to maintain the architecture, it is important that a diverse set of stakeholders remain actively engaged in the architecture review and maintenance processes.


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