1.4 Benefits of Network Operations Print

Ground transport is essential to every country’s economic and social well-being.   Many existing road networks have reached the limits of their capacity; so to ensure continued or improved efficiency, effectiveness and safety, a better use of the existing infrastructure is necessary.

Benefits apply to road users, providers of the service and the public at large.  They include improved safety, minimized adverse impacts on the environment due to reduced congestion, improved mobility and energy efficiencies, as well as enhanced economic productivity from reduced travel times.

Key benefits of the five main missions of road network operations are as follows:

1. Network monitoring
is necessary for the preparation of adequate operating, maintenance and capital renewal budgets, establishing policies and procedures and overall strategic network planning.  The responsible authority must have continual access to quantitative and qualitative information of the roadway.  An additional benefit is to provide users with informed solutions regarding identification and implementation of alternate routes by performing expert analysis on traffic volumes, distributions and fluctuations.  

2. Maintaining road serviceability and safety is needed in order to manage and maintain the road network as effectively as possible and implement adequate operational measures.  Activities include emergency response, weather related services, planned interventions and automatic enforcement, all imperative to mitigating and reducing the frequency of crisis situations.  Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) help in maintaining the viability of the road network by providing users with credible, real time information on unpredictable or forecasted events that will elicit user compliance in events such as adverse weather, evacuation in case of incident or natural disaster.

3. Traffic control is there to minimize congestion and user disruption, for example by distributing all planned roadwork over a reasonable space and time period.  This is done through information gathering, analysis, development of traffic management plans and then implementing and communicating this to the user.   Gridlock can be prevented by signal control and active traffic management.  This results in minimized impact of events that can lead to serious deterioration of traffic conditions through coordinated action by various authorities and services.  

4. Travel aid and user information can also increase the efficiency of the road network by enabling information exchange between partners that is then disseminated to road users.  Identifying blockage points and organizing or reorganizing to ensure the system functions effectively is key for activities such as winter maintenance; reducing the time required to restore normal conditions, minimizing disruption to the local economy and improve safety, as well as redirecting certain types of traffic, such as removing heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) from problem areas.   Advanced user information also provides comfort to travellers who need to feel confident and secure in their journey.  Typical applications include route confirmation, journey time estimates, clear direction signs and advice on approaching interchanges and connections.

5. Demand management can create conditions that foster greater use of alternate time periods and routes in response to a forecasted drop in network service levels.  Tolling technologies are now widely used. Gridlock can be minimized by spreading traffic over time. With use of tolling technology fees can automatically be raised during peak periods and lowered during periods of lighter traffic, as well as promoting use of public transit during rush hours.

The formal evaluation of benefits from ITS and network operations is a specialist area. Results, articles and discussion papers are published on the  IBEC web site: www.ibec-its.co.uk  from the European Evaluation Expert group at http://www.easyway-its.eu/  and for North America at www.itsbenefits.its.dot.gov

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Extract from the PIARC Intelligent Transport Systems Handbook “Who Benefits from ITS?”