Operating with the goal of identifying its niche in the national intelligent transportation systems (ITS) market and expanding member markets, the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) ITS Council is the association’s resource for intelligent roadway safety programs.
The council was implemented because, over the last couple of years, ATSSA members were looking for a platform to review emerging ITS technologies. Members believed establishing an ITS Council would allow them to diversify their company lines and make them aware of emerging ITS business opportunities.
The ITS components ATSSA members manufacture and deploy, such as changeable message signs, are part of a traffic management plan primarily involving work zones. Because the goal of ATSSA’s ITS Council involves predominantly these ITS issues, the council has no need to focus on toll collection systems, in-vehicle initiative or crash-avoidance systems, according to Dave McKee, director of technical services for ATSSA.
“We are talking about traffic management systems and traveler information systems,” said McKee. “This is what our members are manufacturing, deploying and maintaining.”
ITS Steering Committee member Douglas Bernard added, “The ITS Council was formed to identify ATSSA’s niche in the national ITS market with the goal of expanding the members’ markets.”
While the council focuses on an area of ITS issues ignored by some other groups, there is a natural tie-in between ATSSA and ITS to relieve congestion and relay timely information to the motorists as they approach the work zones.
“Many of ATSSA member companies have products that do play a major role in the ITS programs,” said Bernard. “Products like traffic sensors, highway advisory radio, changeable message signs, weather stations, traffic control devices and others. All of these products can, and do, contribute greatly to making ITS a viable program that benefits the users of transportation systems.”
Additionally, the ITS Council is providing ATSSA members, in a sense, with a glimpse of what role their products may play in the near future.
“It is, in my opinion, the new direction towards ITS that ATSSA has to go over the next several years because that is the way our industry is going,” said Ken Smith, chairman of the ITS Steering Committee. “It is not just barrels and signs anymore, it is more high-tech involving such items as variable message signs and computerized systems.”
Planting of ITS seeds
An ITS committee within ATSSA had been discussed prior to the 1998 annual convention in Long Beach, Calif. It was at that convention where a focus on ITS applications actually came to the forefront of discussions between ATSSA members.
“One of the reasons for that was state agencies had to do something about the traffic congestion through traffic management or diverting the traffic,” said McKee. “There were a lot of work zones in metropolitan areas that were screaming for diversion and for traveler information systems to get the traffic through work zones efficiently.
“There also was a need for the traveler information systems and technologies to be integrated into the work zones in order to improve the driver’s ability to get around the work zone or how they can get through it quicker and achieve the best travel times.”
Various meetings throughout the course of 1998 led to the implementation of the ITS Council.
According to Smith, interest in ITS by ATSSA members was high. “We had an 8 o’clock Sunday morning meeting during the 1998 annual meeting in Long Beach, Calif., and about a hundred people showed up. There were people from Argentina and the U.K. who sat in on the meeting because they were interested in seeing if ITS was something they could get involved in.”
Establishing a name
According to McKee, the ITS Council plans to partner with other associations and assist them with ATSSA members in the manufacturing and deployment of ITS products for work zones.
“We recently had a meeting with ITS America and we let them know what our ITS plans were and what direction we are going,” said McKee. “It is not a competitive issue. Our members are focused primarily on traffic management, roadway safety, traveler information services. We are not looking at some of the other ITS issues because our members are experts in these particular areas.”
Bernard’s thoughts are on the same track as McKee’s. “I see a coordinated effort with ITS America that will provide member companies the needed information to compete in the ITS programs and complement the effort of the other high-tech companies that comprise ITS America.”
Bernard’s support for the establishment of an ATSSA ITS Council apart from ITS America was a step in the right direction. “I feel that some people in our industry felt that ITS America had been identified by the federal government as the group to manage the whole ITS program.”
ITS Council goals include making ATSSA members more aware of the benefits of integrating these ITS applications into their company’s bottom line.
“The future for this is so large for areas that we had not thought about and that really don’t apply to traditional work-zone values,” said McKee. “For instance, event management and public access management to public parks and venues is going to be key in the future.”
Bernard agreed, saying, “I see a long-term goal as helping to develop and deliver services which allow member companies to expand and compete more efficiently in the ITS market.”
Aside from the non-traditional work-zone applications, Smith foresees the traffic control, traffic safety industries becoming more involved in ITS. “If we don’t, as a council or association, provide the ITS information that is being put out regarding ATSSA, then we are not doing our job and we are short-changing the members.
“ITS has perpetuated a whole new industry in that people are redirecting and redefining what they’ve got in saying is now ITS and we’ve got to do the same thing,” said Smith.
The evolution of ITS as it applies to ATSSA is changing on a daily basis, and ATSSA is applying itself to new areas that have not been in the traditional role of an ATSSA member in the past. Apparently for ATSSA, its ITS niche is beginning to take shape.