GAO: DOT could do better at spreading ITS info

RITA’s and FHWA’s roles should be more clearly defined

Blog Entry April 30, 2012
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The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report finding that some states are still struggling with the implementation of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) (


By interviewing experts, the GAO identified several emerging uses of ITS that have significant potential to reduce traffic congestion, the report stated. For example, integrating traffic and emergency services data can allow for enhanced detection of and response to roadway incidents. However, some cities use ITS and the emerging uses to a much greater extent than others.


Among the report’s recommendations is for the secretary of transportation to clearly define and document the respective roles and responsibilities of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in promoting and supporting the use of ITS. Both offer ITS-related training and technical assistance and provide guidance and information on their websites. “RITA’s and FHWA’s respective roles in these efforts are not clearly defined,” the report said, “potentially inhibiting their ability to effectively leverage resources.”


The GAO also found fault with the ease of use of the information on RITA’s and FHWA’s websites.


“Some experts and transportation agencies noted that ITS-related information . . . is not always presented in a way that is useful and some agencies lack awareness of some ITS activities sponsored by DOT.”


In an informal poll that a RITA official recently conducted of transportation professionals at two outreach events sponsored by transportation organizations, RITA officials found that 10 of 29 professionals polled (35%) were not aware of the activities and information available through RITA. The GAO added, 21% were not aware of activities and information on transportation operations offered by FHWA.


Several options have been proposed to improve communication about ITS-related activities and facilitate the sharing of ITS information among state and local officials.


The GAO suggested that the DOT could become more engaged with state and local officials, possibly through partnerships with professional associations that may have more direct access to ITS practitioners, such as the Institute of Transportation Engineers and ITS America.


RITA is developing a strategy to boost the commercial viability of its ITS research. The agency plans to unveil its new strategy in the third quarter of fiscal year 2012.


FHWA is focusing on outreach and marketing as a critical element of an implementation plan for its traffic signals program, according to the GAO, with the aim of increasing awareness and directly engaging stakeholders on the benefits and applicability of the strategy.

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