T3 Webinar Question and Answer Transcript

Next Generation Traveler Information System
(September 23, 2015)

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Q. I am wondering about the source of the 2012 study that showed the breakdown of different information types, the information sources.
A.

Valerie Shuman: It was a good report and all the sources for everything cited in my presentation today are in the report itself. Hopefully that will be a good source. If there are any issues, let me know and we would be happy to support you.

Q. Are any agencies giving predicted information? Valerie, did you encounter any of that in the research that you did?
A.

Valerie Shuman: I would need to go back and double check. I don't remember if they focused on it, but I know there was interest out in the community.

Glenn Blackwelder: I can answer for UDOT. In terms of predictive information, we're looking at some that have not gone live yet, other than the fact that we do have weather forecasting, specifically for road weather, and make that available on our website and on our app.

John Hall: We are currently doing predictive stuff in our designs and things like that. It is all in-house and we are not pushing it out to the public.

Q. How do you think connected vehicle technology will play a role in the future travel information systems?
A.

Valerie Shuman: The answer to that one depends on the definition of the connected vehicle you are using. There are quite a lot of vehicles out there right now which have connections through various cellular means and are, of course, already providing a lot of crowd-sourced data. As we move into a more consistent environment in the vehicles, clearly there is an enormous opportunity, and the standard certainly allows for the collection of data that is related to traveler information. But, I would offer that we have got some time before the deployments and that sort of thing. Going forward it is an area to keep an eye on.

Q. Most of the transportation focuses on traveler information for drivers. What is or should be DOT's role in providing traveler information for transit riders?
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Valerie Shuman: We did talk a lot about driver-type transportation because that was the focus we were doing for the report. But, frankly, most of what we were talking about in the report applies across the entire traveler information system. Travelers typically do not think about breaking the trip up into using public transport, i.e. “I'm traveling interstate and then not interstate.” “I'm going from point A to point B, so give me all the information that I need.” They are certainly looking at getting the most integrated and helpful set of information they can get. And I think we will continue to see that kind of integration being asked for. And I know the transit folks are working very hard to share a lot of this information as well.

Q. Are any state DOTs partnering with other navigation providers, i.e. TomTom and so on?
A.

Glenn Blackwelder: Our main partnership at this point is with Waze. I do not think they are a traditional navigation provider, but they are a Google company, so some of the information may back up into the Google Maps app.

Valerie Shuman: I do not have an absolutely comprehensive answer as to who has partnerships and every area. In a lot of cases, there are various mediated partnerships where there are sourcing partnerships on the private sector side. There is a fairly complex web going on in the private sector side, which is making its way over and being made available on the public sector side as different states make decisions about how they are going to source data beyond what they collect themselves.

John Hall: We publish all of our information through RSS feeds and API is what comes off the top of my head. I don't know who all of them are. I know that Waze has signed up because we're partnering with them, and Inrix is in there, so we make the data available for anyone who wants in.

Glenn Blackwelder: Washington State provides predictive travel times. I think I've actually used that one as well. It is pretty interesting information where you can see predicted border crossing times for the Canadian border.

Q. Are you concerned about the accuracy of Waze?
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John Hall: We've been using it pretty much consistently, just as we drive around the state. It is kind of like anything else. Yes, we have some concerns, but what we have noticed is that it is anywhere between 80 to 90 percent accurate most of the time. It works pretty well, and considering what it is, we will be using it mainly to see what kind of information that we can mine out of their data. We will not report it directly yet. We will use it mainly as an alert system to folks in our traffic management centers to give them a heads up so they can start exploring what is going on what might be out there.

Glenn Blackwelder: And UDOT is having a somewhat similar experience. We have it available for the operators in our control room and in our traffic management center. Anecdotally, they are saying that maybe one in ten times they make something ahead of the information they are getting through the other channels. It is nice confirmation of what is going on and sometimes we get some information regarding key links and such in areas where we do not have that good of camera coverage.

Q. What is the future for multimodal traveler information from a single source? Example: providing alternate mobile options.
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Valerie Shuman: I think the quick answer is that sort of thing is that it's already available in some cases. I will cite two private sector examples. Google has done a lot to bring together public transit and driving and walking information. There is a website out there that provides an astonishing global perspective in all the ways you can move around the planet. Some of that consolidation is already happening and is available. Again, I do not have a state-by-state read on exactly what everybody is doing, but, from the consumer perspective, doing travel planning, there is a very large advantage to be able to look across the different options. I think the demand for that is certainly out there.

Q. Valerie, did you document an interest or need for predictive information?
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Valerie Shuman: Yes. I think predictive is one of those pieces of information that has been on the want list for a very long time in this space. And I think that interest continues and I think the ability to provide good predictive is increasing, as we get more information out there and better data. We are certainly seeing a lot of energy behind that and there are certainly companies who offer it. I would expect that as we go forward, that will continue just for the simple reason that it meets the traveler need of any to get from point A to point B, tell me the best way. Especially if the trip is more than a few minutes, you really need that.

Q. Are you aware of any DOT providing travel information through Facebook or other social media?
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Glenn Blackwelder: If you consider Twitter social media, that is widely spread. We do have a FaceBook page and we use it to talk about weather events. That is that longer-range predictive and it is also bigger format than Twitter so we can get a more nuanced report. In terms of Facebook specifically, we tend to use that for quick burn reactive travel information, but more long-term plan ahead.

Valerie Shuman: Actually AASHTO has been tracking the use of traveler information by the states and they have a nice report they have put out. We do have a reference to it in the report, but you might find it useful in looking at how much is there of the different types of social media by state DOTs. The answer is there is quite a lot of interest and quite a lot of experimentation right now.

John Hall: We do have a Facebook page but we use it more for departmental information and not necessarily travel information.

Q. UDOT, how much staff do you dedicate to twitter or other social media?
A.

Glenn Blackwelder: There are a couple of different ways that we devote staff to Twitter. Internally to the traffic management division, which is specific by traveler information, Lisa Miller is our manager, and she is pretty much on tap all the time to run the Twitter feed. We do tweet occasionally directed from our weather group in advance of major storm events and the Twitter feed is automated in the overnight hours and that is off of information directly from our traffic operators. If we had to say how many people, I would guess maybe an aggregate of people that are somewhere around half time to maybe three quarters time.

John Hall: It depends on how we look at it. We do have a rather large staff, but I am trying to lose some weight. We also have folks out in our TMCs that put data into their system. At TMCs, it is automatically populating onto Twitter, so if you counted them, statewide, it is big. Managing the system would be one, and that would be me.

Glenn Blackwelder: UDOT does have other groups the do social media for construction and for general UDOT topics.

Q. What is the opinion about traveler information between connected vehicles, in other words vehicle to vehicle traveler information?
A.

Valerie Shuman: The spot in the future is certainly that vehicles will hopefully be sharing information among themselves about their immediate environment and the technology is certainly there for them to pass that information along of themselves as well. When you're talking about a DSRC environment, that is one of these cases actively being worked. And there is testing and standardization work going on to support that. Again, in the five-year timeframe, it might be a little bit early on that just because the DSRC deployments will not be absolutely everywhere by then. But, certainly as we move forward into that technology, that is one of the cases that is part of that.

Q. Has anyone done the evaluation of effectiveness of DMS and its effectiveness in the future? Wasn't there recent study on the effectiveness of DMS for public service announcements?
A.

Jimmy Chu: Yes. We're working on one right now, effective of traveler information and it should be available sometime in March of next year. There is a coming project that we are working on. There is not enough study yet, talking about using full color matrix signs to display the graphic information and the message.

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