Effectiveness of Disseminating Traveler Information on Travel Time Reliability: Implement Plan and Survey Results Report
CHAPTER 10. STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, AND THREATS ANALYSIS ANALYSIS
At the end of Round 1, the project team and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) held a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis meeting with the partner agencies from the study sites to try to identify lessons learned by the project team and the partner agencies through the testing of the Lexicon in the field deployment. The intent was to use the lessons learned and the project research results to refine the Lexicon for voluntary deployment in other cities. Participants were encouraged to use the workshop as an exercise in determining what other agencies will need to know for future development of Travel Time Reliability (TTR) information in their cities. FHWA emphasized the importance of the project as one of numerous pilots of the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP2) products and their importance for the overall SHRP2 program. The following sections summarize the discussions held about the different study sites.
REVIEW OF WEST HOUSTON TRAVEL TIME RELIABILITY SYSTEMS AND PLATFORMS
The study team provided an overview of the West Houston TTR systems and platforms for the participants. In general, the study team found it was difficult to keep participants in the study for the duration. It was questioned as to whether the high number of data sources available in Houston made people less willing to participate. Using the App, the study team pushed notifications to participants each morning every day of the week to encourage them to participate in the study. It is possible to automate the notification at a particular time of the day should other cities deem that to be better. Another alternative in the event of a permanent deployment could be to have individuals subscribe to the alerts and the system to push the information out. The reliability of the TTR data is another question that may need to be examined as it relates to participation and use of the information.
REVIEW OF NORTH COLUMBUS TRAVEL TIME RELIABILITY SYSTEMS AND PLATFORMS
The study team provided an overview of the North Columbus TTR systems and platforms for the participants. Generally, the north and northwest side of the Columbus metropolitan area is the highest growth region around the city. This region includes large developments in the north of the city near US 36. The INRIX data used for the study was compartmentalized into Traffic Message Channel (TMC) segments. Because a built-in set of data for the region and major corridor was not readily available, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) worked to estimate what the buffer side of the number would be. As participants moved from the baseline survey to Phase 1, a little higher disqualification rate than Houston was seen because of the selected corridor. However, the participation rate for those continuing in the study was better. The ODOT team indicated that participation may have been higher because Ohio is a known good test market and people are willing to do surveys. Overall, the North Columbus pilot saw more regular users and more people who took 10-20 trips during Phase 2. All but one of the invitees had completed the exit survey.
In the future, other agencies should make sure the scrubbing and/or parsing of the data is accurate for their sites. The origin of the data also is an important factor. Other items noted during the Ohio discussion indicated that Ohio State University and its semester schedule may have had an impact on the responses and/or the usage of the App. When schools are in session, participation may make a difference. The availability of the INRIX data also impacted the corridor selection. Construction in various locations impacted selection as well; there was none scheduled for I-71 during the project.
REVIEW OF TRIANGLE TRAVEL TIME RELIABILITY SYSTEMS AND PLATFORMS
The study team provided an overview of the Triangle TTR systems and platforms for the participants. The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrborro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO) team noted this region does not have the alternative routes like other locations had. US 70 runs north through the region but has some limited access; it is not very viable as an alternate route. The region has three major universities: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke, and North Carolina State in Raleigh, along with Research Triangle Park (RTP). Most of the traffic in this region is going to the RTP, and there is not really a viable alternate route for I-40. At the time of the meeting, school had been out since early May, so it may have had an impact on participation; traffic counts are typically conducted in the fall when they are in session.
The study team used HERE data for the study. A comparison of HERE and INRIX data showed that the segment justifications were different for the two data sets; there is a difference between the North Carolina Department of Transportation data and the HERE data. At the time of the meeting, the study team indicated that it seemed that more people were filling out more surveys than in Columbus. The breakdown was closer to 50/50 across gender in this region. About 60 percent of the baseline survey participants did not qualify because of various reasons. Of the 5 percent response rate from the mailed postcards, half of the responses were eliminated for various reasons. The DCHC MPO team also indicated that this type of data is beneficial for economic development purposes, employers, builders, etc.
VALUE PROPOSITION FOR DEPLOYING TRAVEL TIME RELIABILITY INFORMATION
The workshop participants discussed the value proposition for deploying travel time reliability information to stakeholders and travelers. Discussions across the group took place regarding the top priority of the use of this information. Specific values that the partner agencies identified include:
- Improving facility efficiencies within a given metropolitan area.
- Gaining satisfaction from the public, which further entails optimizing the system from the consumer's perspective.
- Assessing the potential impact that TTR information may have on the environment.
- Assessing the potential impact that TTR information may have on system demand.
- Assessing the value or benefits of putting reliability into the travel models.
REVIEW OF STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, AND THREATS ANALYSIS
The following comments represent brainstorming items from the review of the initial SWOT analysis of disseminating TTR information as conducted during the meeting:
- The relationship between the provider and the audience is strengthened because the provider is giving additional information. However, it could become a bother in terms of providing yet another type or source of information.
- There is a need to point to what is reliable information to increase trust, as this will serve to strengthen the trusted relationships with the public.
- Every metropolitan area has third parties that have this type of data available, but it is provided in their own platform/format. An agency needs to determine how it competes with that option and works to become a trusted and reliable source.
- This information service would be enhanced if the coverage were more expansive to include the arterials beyond the interstates and freeways. Building in the extra travel time is a routine habit, but if this information is available, then perhaps the public does not have to plan for a time buffer with every trip and this would be a good first step.
- The provision of this information could benefit just-in-sequence delivery freight systems.
- An agency could build on the historical information of the TTR for predictive purposes so other factors or impacts match the current conditions.
- An effective way to compare reliability data is when it allows a user to make more informed decisions in a timely fashion.
- The market is narrow for those who are new to the region and there are usually limited options for travel routes. TTR information may be more helpful, the more alternative route options there are available for selection.
- The technology benefits of this approach are that it uses already fielded equipment with the addition of basic mobile applications.
- All information is shared from the back-end data collection engine to drive the platforms for information delivery.
- Providing the capability to customize and/or personalize applications may strengthen usage.
- The granularity of the reliability data impacts the ability to provide beneficial information.
- The need to process reliability data for dissemination in a useful format may be a challenge for agencies.
- The need to interface reliability data with real-time data is not common.
- The preferences of the traveler are a weakness in terms of what they prefer to see and how they will use that information.
- The logistics community can help provide input on this kind of project in the future. It would support routing on the national highway system as opposed to a just a commute. Freight has the potential to be a bigger consumer of these data than the general traveling public.
- Automating the processing of the data to disseminate can speed up the delivery.
- Knowing and choosing what data sources are the right ones to be used at specific times of the day is important.
- Identifying ways to consistently integrate real-time and reliability data is needed.
- Providing new information to travelers and offering the potential for travelers to make better trip choices is a new opportunity.
- TTR data can offer the near-term potential to impact transportation mode choices in many situations and areas. It can optimize the usage of existing networks.
- Accessibility to reliability information can influence the demand on the system and enhance economies in terms of cost, time, and utility. It also offers a means to reduce congestion as well as emissions.
- TTR data may provide a means through expansion to provide continuity of information across major state or regional locales and the arterials and feeders (e.g., first and last mile).
- Agencies can apply the information for other uses: planning processes, event scheduling, and improving incident response. It can also become an integral part of performance measurements in a region.
- A more customized experience can be offered to the traveler, as well as the ability to share that information with the traveler, thereby meeting the consumer's preference.
- Agencies can investigate ways for the information to be used to add operational strategies to keep the reliability of the system at a steady state. The data offer a means to quantify direct and indirect benefits of projects (e.g., economic impact models).
- Agencies can utilize the data to assess or compare the value of potential projects to more effectively target spending. It could be used in the future to rank project prioritization. This could be involved with methods for state and federal funding, such as the strategic transportation initiative or detail how projects are ranked.
- This approach makes the information absolutely easy to use. The consumer may not ask for the information because they do not understand it, but they may start asking for it once they get used to seeing it and knowing what they are seeing.
- Consistent accessibility to reliability data is essential for success.
- Travelers' failure to access the information (either through ability or willingness to access data) limits the value of the data. With other apps and resources being available to travelers, they may not use the information provided.
- Benefits are limited if the data provided are not compatible with other sources and/or there is discontinuity with the data.
- Travelers' perception of the usefulness of the information may limit its impact.
- The lack of trip changes or mode changes made in response to information limits the impact of the system.
- Discontinuity across state lines and regional boundaries where existing information is available minimizes the broader impact of TTR data.
- There is a need to have and offer the value-added benefit of gaining more trustworthy data in exchange for giving up some level of privacy.
- Incompatibility of data and inability to make comparisons between data information sources increases the work required to deliver useful information.
- Making clear the goal of providing the information to the traveler is necessary (e.g., to push travelers to a different route, to push travelers to a different mode, or shift the time at which a trip is taken).
Overall, the workshop participants agreed that the information provided at the conclusion of the study could be used for a variety of purposes by operating agencies. For example, TTR information could be used by operating agencies to help mitigate the impact of traffic congestion or the effects due to construction activities to the extent that reliability information and information pertinent to construction events is readily accessible. The availability of the information to travelers could help them compare real-time conditions with reliability (historic) conditions and possibly change travel behavior to avoid congestion. Additionally, the information could be used by agencies to share reliability information with key decision-makers and planners. The alternate phrases could help ensure that these audiences understand the terminology and their meaning within the overall mobility discussion.
The partner agencies and FHWA team were also interested in the usage information for the 511 systems. They indicated that it is critical to understand the usage of the system for possible future deployments, and are particularly interested in the results from the exit survey, because they may provide background information for the next generation Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS). At the time of the SWOT analysis meeting, the results were not available. The results of the usage of 511 for the study were discussed in the previous chapter and were not positive for this information platform.
At the time of the SWOT analysis meeting, the data collection efforts were still underway. As such, no changes were made to the study design and procedures. To make changes to any aspects of the research mid-project would nullify the hypotheses and confound any results gathered because clear, direct comparisons between the assemblies and dissemination platforms would not have been possible.
Overall, the SWOT analysis provided insight into the potential usefulness of the study results from the perspective of operating agencies. It was synthesized with the study results to arrive at the overall information presented in the companion document to this report.