T3 Webinar Question and Answer Transcript

Innovative Approaches to Real-Time System Management Information
(May 21, 2014)

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Q. Ray Murphy: A question from Todd Foster: What is the expected level percentage of compliance by this November 2014 deadline for state DOTs? I think we covered that, but Bob Rupert, did you want to make a few comments to that?

Bob Rupert: Well, I mean, not really. The expected level of compliance—I mean, we fully expect all the states will be compliant by November 2014. Again, the notion here is, with compliance, it's going to be determined by the divisions, and it really is identifying, as we've heard from these three states, the processes and procedures that are in place to establish the Real-Time System Management Information Program. It's not like November 9th we're going to come out a real-time data police and start checking all this. It's more making sure that the states are positioned with their processes and procedures, to have the Real-Time System Management Information Programs in place on the interstates.

Q. Ray Murphy: We had a question from John Cort. Can you provide some examples on how states are quantifying the accuracy of the data, such as the accuracy of construction and weather information? We had some good examples from Kevin in California. I think this was posed when Kevin was speaking. Kevin, did you want to add to that? Kevin?

Kevin Korth: I think it was well—it was the 1097 and the 1098 is how we were calculating that in the table. I think this question was proposed while Karen was still speaking. John, if you want me to go back through that in the slides again we can.

Q. Ray Murphy: I think your examples showed it quite well. How was your approach, Karen, on quantifying the accuracy of these areas?

Karen Gilbertson: I might comment, I guess, on travel times first. Our approach was to look at the process and, in looking at the process for us on travel times, we looked at the components, what we had in roadside detection, what types of—we had loops, we had radar, we had Bluetooth—had a discussion about the advantages, disadvantages, successes, perhaps maintenance needs of each of those. We looked at our communication network. In the case of our travel times in Kansas City, it's fiber optic with some wireless connections. We looked at our software. We're using an automated system of travel time data capture and calculation. We looked at, in turn then, for travel times, we looked at operations. In Kansas City we're working 24/7. We have a considerable number of partners that are at all times exposed to this information, and customers that help hold our accuracy and our timeliness to a high threshold. We looked at maintenance of the specific devices—our field devices—whether we're talking about our fiber optic or our cabinets, our vehicle detection systems, cameras for verification, field traffic controllers, and uninterruptable power sources. We looked at having both preventative and emergency maintenance plans in place and having those being ongoing. We're able to have historic speeds and travel times that are available for review and comparison. And finally, in looking at the statistics, the percentage time, we saw that our equipment was uptime. We have seen significant improvements on our vehicle detection systems from 2010, in which the percentage uptime was about 75 percent, to this spring, when the value of the uptime is up in the mid-90s. For our DMS, we have about 100 percent uptime, cameras 90 percent, but the VDSs have always given us fits. So, Scout in the Kansas City area has focused some efforts, both in organizing the maintenance, having spare parts available. We have identified that we need at least 50 percent of the VDS working properly to provide travel times, but we certainly want as broad a network as we can to have those be accurate. So our analysis was to look at the components, to look at the process and the procedure, the maintenance, to identify issues we've had in the past and whether those have been addressed or how those are faring with what we're doing right now. I think that's what I had on travel times, if that's of help, Ray?

Q. Ray Murphy: Oh, very much so. Thank you, Karen. Let's go to a couple more questions. Carrie Vick said Section 1201 does not require the use of 511 telephone-based dissemination and some states are deciding not to deploy or further support 511 systems. Will websites' dissemination only be compliant with the statute? Anyone on the panel want to tackle that one?

Bob Rupert: Hi, this is Bob. I mean, I'll take the first crack at it. Actually, if you look at the 23 CFR 511 regulation, there is no requirement for specific dissemination to the public at all. The requirement is to make sure the information is, if you will, available—I think is the term we use, or provided—something like that. And the notion there, that it might make more sense to people—I know it makes more sense to me—is, again, sort of thinking about this, as the information is lying there in this big database, it is available to be pooled by people as opposed to pushed out, which is frequently the way we think about for traveler information services. So from a regulatory perspective, there is no requirement to provide the 511 telephone service or any traveler information specifically to the end-user. Certainly from a program perspective, if you have that information, it seems to make a lot of sense, from a traveler information perspective. But from the regulatory perspective, the requirement is to have that information and have it available to be used not only for traveler information but, as Nick mentioned, also to be used by other agencies—being used for planning, being used for performance management, performance measurement, and things like that. So while probably a lot of this is going to come back to traveler information, just because of the way we think about it—again, we think the information can certainly be an excellent starting point, a good seed for these other ways to help address congestion issues in the states and other places, also. And just real quick, going back to—relooking at the question earlier about funding—just to sort of clarify: the legislation that brought the section 1201 in SAFETEA-LU did not specifically earmark any funding, didn't provide any new funding, if you will. But it did explicitly note the eligibility of the major Federal aid programs for implementing the real-time monitoring program. That'd be the National Highway Performance Program, the Service Transportation Program, and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program—are all explicitly called out as being eligible for implementing this program. So I think that's all I've got to offer on that one, Ray.

Q. Ray Murphy: Thank you, Bob. Another question from John: Will Tennessee be compliant with the travel time requirements by the required dates? Nick, did you want to address that?

Nick Renna: Sure, yeah. I don't think we can formally answer that until we're totally completed with the review and finalize the action plan TDOT is willing to adopt. I think we're pretty hopeful though. I mean, there's—the regulation is kind of soft about the travel time information. It references areas that experience recurrent congestion, and so you got to ask yourself: What does that mean? Where are those areas? So Tennessee has a very robust system, and we want to be cognizant of that, but still understand that there's definitely opportunities where we could deploy those even more so throughout the state.

Q. Ray Murphy: Nick, you mentioned—there was a bullet in there in your presentation about the radar detection systems. Any specifics that you could share with the audience?

Nick Renna: Yeah. Now, those RDS systems, if you download the SmartWay mobile app, on the App Store or Android—I forget what it's called on Android, the Play Store or whatever—but you can download those and see the instantaneous speeds at those locations. They're marked at specific points along the interstate system and based on the direction of travel. I don't think right now you're able to, as a public user, to really make a distinction among lanes. I think that's kind of an instantaneous speed of the vehicles that are passing. But I understand that they are capable of that. And also, again, they are fed through automated RSS feeds as well, so you can pick out of—it's a GeoRSS feed. If you go to the SmartWay map, you can see a listing of those RSS. And so that's a way you can get a direct download of it, if you're a developer or whoever, for using that sort of information.

Q. Ray Murphy: Okay, Nick, thank you. Let me see. Kevin, could you maybe go into more detail on the real-time incident management data, of Caltrans's approach to that?

Kevin Korth: Sure, Ray. For the incident management data, Caltrans, as far as putting it into the Commercial Wholesale Web Portal and disseminating it through that route, are a little bit at the mercy of the California Highway Patrol (CHP). The California Highway Patrol, which five of the twelve TMCs are actually—their dispatch center is located right next to the TMC operators on the same floor. But the Highway Patrol is the one that receives all the 911 calls from mobile devices and coordinates responding to incidents on the state highways and interstates. And so Highway Patrol is the one verifying all incidents, and so once the incident is verified by the Highway Patrol, they will send it through to Caltrans as well as the media through a system called Media CAD. CAD stands for Computer-Aided Dispatch. So once it's pushed from CHF through Media CAD and Caltrans receives it, their operators are able to change CMS signs and make other notes. But it also is automatically populated into the Commercial Wholesale Web Portal from that Media CAD feed. So the only time Caltrans knows of an incident is when it's been already verified by CHP, through their 911 calls, and they push it through Media CAD to be disseminated to the public, as well as the Caltrans. So Caltrans is kind of a cosponsor almost of disseminating that data, because the Media CAD is being given to radio stations and TV stations in the areas that are wanting to report on that data, and Caltrans is receiving it at the exact same time as the media stations. So as soon as they receive that data, it's automatically being posted. So pretty much as soon as it's verified it's in the field. So the timeliness and the accuracy are kind of tied together, just because they're receiving data that's already been combed by the Highway Patrol when Caltrans sees it in the Commercial Whole Web Portal.

Q. Ray Murphy: Okay, Kevin. Just wanted to acknowledge, James McCarthy—I guess these are comments: Our method to look at accuracy is a software validation, not a field validation. We are comparing databases of known activities against TMC travel data output. We choose certain times of sampling to test and validate. For travel time, as with other ATMs, we needed to calibrate all six thousand loop detectors to get accuracy under 15 percent to drive travel time—lane control, variable speed limits and ramp metering. I believe this is in regards to Minnesota. Thank you, James. Appreciate that. Throughout this whole process of looking at different data, it was just quite informative to find out about social media and what states were doing, like Nick had mentioned with the SmartWay, the mobile apps. Karen, are you doing anything with social media, anything specific, in Kansas?

Karen Gilbertson: For the purpose of the review, we continually reined it in to not focus on dissemination in looking at the rule. However, KDOT does quite an extensive job in conveying all the information that they have available, whether it's construction activity that's going to have a lane or road closure, incidents, or weather. And this would as well include, besides the Twitter and various feeds, more mobile apps that are available. However, I might pose a conundrum or a problem that we've encountered with that, and this pertains to those of us who work for the Federal Highway Administration. What we've been finding is that our browser is not able to see even things on the regular website that we used to see when the regular website has been updated to correlate better with various applications. So I'd kind of like to throw that issue out. When I've asked questions whether I can update my browser, I'm not allowed to do that, or to install another one on my—at least on my work machine.

Q. Ray Murphy: Okay, Karen. I guess we're getting close to the end. Ryan Fries had a question: Are travel times required on metro routes of significance after November 2016? Anyone want to tackle that?

Kevin Korth: This is Kevin. I can take that.

Bob Rupert: Yeah, go ahead, Kevin.

Kevin Korth: Like Bob mentioned, the travel time aspect for the routes of significance is only required by the regulation if it's a limited access. So if you have a freeway that has interchanges and all that, then that route may be providing travel time. But if you decide that a major arterial that has a lot of surface streets and driveways crossing, that that metropolitan area wants to have that listed as a route of significance, they would not have to report travel time when there's all those driveways and cross-streets. They would just be reporting on the construction incident and weather information of the regulation.

Q. Ray Murphy: Okay, Kevin. Bob, you want to add to that?

Bob Rupert: No, that—Kevin pretty much took the words out of my mouth. That's exactly right.

Q. Ray Murphy: I think we're getting kind of close to closing out. Just want to say on behalf of FHWA, I'd like to thank our distinguished speakers for sharing all the innovative approaches to real-time information. My name is Ray Murphy, and wishing everyone a great day. Thank you. I'll turn it over to Volpe.

Volpe Center: Thank you, Ray—appreciate it. I want to also thank all of our distinguished speakers as well. As you exit the poll today, you'll get an email from us that will have some feedback for you—or for us, actually. If you could fill out the feedback forms and send it back, we'd really appreciate it. It's how we select new webinars, and also it lets us know how well we are doing. And finally, before we let you go, we just want to remind you that if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at t3@dot.gov, and you can also find more information about us at our website, which is www.pcb.its.dot.gov. And then for the last resource that you might want to look into, please do check out Site Consortium. That is siteconsortium—all one word—dot-org (siteconsortium.org). And again, I want to thank everybody for joining us. To all the panelists, just a reminder to stay on the line, and we'll go into a closed session. Thank you everybody, and have a wonderful day.

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