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Traveler Information
Better information translates into reduced trip times, more predictable travel, less stressful conditions and safer trips for travelers [1]. Good information is the crux of any traveler information program while the technologies enable a transportation agency to efficiently and effectively disseminate the information.  Traveler information systems consist of those technologies used to provide updates on travel, traffic, and road conditions to motorists before and during their trip.  In general, agencies provide information using the internet, cable television, telephone (both landline and cellular) and kiosks.  Examples of technologies to communicate information to travelers en route to a destination include variable message signs, telephone, and highway advisory radio.
 
 
 

Oregon Case Studies
TripCheck
 
The public looks to ODOT for fast, reliable, and accurate road condition information.  How does ODOT deliver?  Since the inception of TripCheck (ODOT's premier travel information program) in 1998, site usage numbers have continued to steadily increase. The number of visits to the TripCheck web site has grown steadily each year, averaging a growth of 25% per year in activity.  TripCheck's peak monthly activity has typically been in the winter months of December and January.  December 2007 holds the highest record with 4.6 million visits.   For more information on TripCheck usage, please see our statistics section.
 
 

TripCheck Mobile
 
TripCheck has a web site formatted specifically for mobile devices such as cell phones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). TripCheck Mobile uses a simple menu structure formatted specifically for navigation by mobile keypads. The information provided is targeted at those motorists making ‘enroute’ travel decisions.  The TripCheck Mobile site presents the same incidents and road condition information as the main TripCheck.com web site.
A user may access the mobile web site by using the http://www.tripcheck.com URL or by using http://www.tripcheck.com/mobile, either address will identify the user as being a mobile customer and automatically bring up the TripCheck Mobile web site formatted for these devices.

Some of the unique features of TripCheck Mobile include:
  • Only those highways that have reported incidents are presented in the highway listing of incidents.
  • A handy link is provided to cameras within 3 miles of an incident listed on TripCheck Mobile (if there are any).
  • Camera images are presented in two sizes to accommodate different screen sizes on mobile devices. Users can toggle between the small and large image.
  • TripCheck Mobile users can create a list of favorite cameras.
  • Weather warnings are presented from the National Weather Services.

Cable TV
 
ODOT distributes its travel information and camera images/video to some of Oregon’s cable TV providers. Citizens in the cities of Portland, Corvallis, and Bend can check road and weather information on their television via their local cable system. 
Comcast cable subscribers in the Portland metro area can view full-motion video from 18 freeway cameras Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. – 9 a.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 14. The latest images from Portland-area cameras rotate on one side of the screen while a color-coded map displays current speeds on the other.
Bend Broadband customers can view road and weather information from selected cameras, as well as live video feeds on Channel 48. Morning commuters in Corvallis get TripCheck information via their local cable systems. 
The system also provides a close circuit feed of the same type of information to municipal and local government agencies in LaGrande, Oregon.
 

TripCheck Traveler Information Portal - TTIP
 
TTIP is a data exchange system that allows ODOT and other public jurisdictions to share traveler information data as well as provides an access point for private companies, which in turn repackage this travel information data. These companies, typically referred to as Information Service Providers (ISPs), may in turn sell their services to other companies or the media. More than 60 companies currently subscribe to TTIP data.
 
TTIP is a web portal that uses Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Simple Object Access Protocol, (SOAP) technologies to provide easy access to a multitude of transportation information. TTIP is the result of a joint project sponsored by TransPort, a Portland, Oregon based consortium of regional traffic management agencies and the Oregon Department of Transportation with local and Federal Highway Administration funding.  The portal is part of a larger regional business plan to improve Center-to-Center traffic communication and Center-to-Traveler communication. 
ODOT hosts the system and it is the responsibility of the ISP to process and format the raw data for their purposes. Currently, ODOT, City of Portland and Port of Portland (PDX) are providing data to TTIP.
 
In terms of benefits, TTIP:
  • Provides easy access to data for ISPs.
  • Makes it easy to access multiple agency data in one place.
  • Uses data formats and sharing methods based on national standards so sharing locally, regionally, and even nationally is possible.
  • Saves each agency/jurisdiction from the costs of building the entire infrastructure to supply data themselves.
  • Promotes federal initiative to standardize the formatting of transportation data within Oregon.
  • Supports better emergency coordination among participating agencies by making data sharing easier and timelier.
  • Will support the build-out of the ODOT lead Transportation Operations Center project (TOCs) that will improve the coordination between transportation operations centers in Oregon.
  • Provide data that agencies can use to analyze regional traffic patterns and related issues which can influence their planning and operations.
  • Facilitates the sharing of data across boundaries with ease and consistency which improves and simplifies the public’s access to critical highway information.
 

511
 
ODOT's 511 system  (the traveler information by phone program) has averaged about 118,500 calls per month during 2007.  Every year, exceptional winter weather events continue to test TripCheck and 511 monthly and daily call records.  A new record was set in January 2008 with a total monthly call volume of approximately 600,000.  This can be attributed to increased awareness and the fact that TripCheck and 511 are the most trusted sources of traveler information in Oregon. ODOT's traveler information program truly delivers and meets the public's expectations.
 
 
 

Travel Time VMS
 
VMS signs are used in the Portland area to display travel time estimates from one major intersection to another.  For example, at I-5 and Carmen (Northbound) VMS signs will post estimated travel times to the I-405 and Highway 26 interchanges of 10-12 minutes, 12-15 minutes, or over 15 minutes depending upon traffic volume.  Currently, Portland State University is working on refining the travel time calculations to improve the reliability of these estimates.

 
 
 

Resources and References
  1. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. Managing Demand Through Travel Information Services. FHWA-HOP-05-005. Washington, D.C. 
  2. TripCheck usage statistics.
  3. 511 usage statistics.
  4. Oregon Department of Transportation. Travel Time Messaging on Dynamic Message Signs - Portland, OR. FHWA-HOP-05-048. May 2005.
 
 
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