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Traffic congestion has become one of the nation’s biggest transportation problems. Rush-hour traffic jams and unexpected delays frustrate travelers, reduce available roadway capacity, increase crashes and waste time, fuel and money. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, by 2015 the overall cost of congestion nationwide will grow to $133 billion per year in wasted time and fuel, up from $113 billion in 2006.
What is "Transportation Operations"?
One approach to reducing congestion is to better manage and operate the existing highway network so the system can meet customer expectations regardless of the demands placed on it. Called "transportation operations," this approach to making the most of existing infrastructure includes a host of tools that can improve system performance without costly new construction. Operations is a viable and cost-efficient strategy that—combined with building new capacity and preserving existing infrastructure—can successfully reduce the effects of congestion, improve traffic flow and meet growing travel demands.
Transportation operations includes:
Improving day-to-day performance by providing travelers with real-time information and managing system demand and access
Reducing recurring traffic jams using transportation technologies and highway management techniques
Mitigating occasional congestion due to traffic accidents, work zones, inclement weather and special events
Streamlining freight operations through size and weight policies and freight-related technologies
Preparing for emergency response and recovery
What are "Intelligent Transportation Systems"?
Part of the transportation operations approach to improving transportation system performance is the use of advanced technologies called Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). ITS includes an array of applications relating to traveler information, road weather management, crash prevention, traffic signal timing, electronic toll payment and pricing, emergency responses, highway management, transit and freight operations, and more. These technologies enable new improvements in how the system is operated and used.
Key NCSL Resources
On the Move: State Strategies for 21st Century Transportation Solutions (2012). This 2012 report explores innovative surface transportation reform laws, policies and programs, including those related to operations and ITS.
Managing Transportation Demand: HOV and HOT Lanes (2012). This 2-page LegisBrief gives an overview of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) and high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, including how they work and relevant state and federal activity.
NCSL Transportation Operations, Management and ITS Online Legislative Database (2009 to 2012 only). From 2009 to 2012, this searchable online database tracked bills and executive orders introduced in the states related to the operation and management of the transportation system. The archived database has 13 topic areas including congestion management, traffic operations, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), demand management (such as HOV and HOT lanes), work zones and freight.
Beyond Highway Construction: Alternative Uses for Funding from ARRA (2009 report) offers a brief introduction to Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) including cost-benefit data, with a focus on funding opportunities in the 2009 federal recovery act.
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Updated April 2013