The Growth of ITS
Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS, is the umbrella term for numerous technologies deployed to manage transportation networks. These systems have gained widespread use nationally, improving the safety and efficiency of travel. In the national parks, the availability of real-time information on delays from road construction, weather-related road conditions, and transit arrival times enable a more enjoyable visitor experience.
The goals of ITS efforts are to make better use of existing transportation systems by providing users with information to make more informed travel decisions while increasing the efficiency and safey of traffic operations. ITS technologies include traffic detectors, weather sensors, computer database, variable message signs, and more.
About half of the estimated 150 million annual NPS web site visitors seek travel and trip planning information. Several parks that have roads subject to winter closures use web sites to alert visitors to road conditions. Park information radio systems have been used for decades to provide visitors with up-to-date information about the status of park attractions, parking, road construction, and general roadway information. Electronic entry and payment systems also help alleviate traffic backups and congestion at park entrance stations.
To learn more about Intelligent Transportation Systems, review the Cape Cod National
Seashore Intelligent Transportation Systems Implementation Plan, published in March 2011. This 74-page report provides an excellent overview of the various ITS components, and the process the Cape Cod National Seashore staff undertook to study and implement ITS in the Park. It describes a broad array of stakeholder agencies and organizations who participated in the planning stages, and how they were engaged early in the project.
The report looks at the existing conditions of demographics, population, traffic congestion, parking and transit systems, and emergency management procedures. Next, challenges
that will be addressed through the implementation of ITS are examined, including parking, electronic payment, and automated entry systems. Finally, recommendations are made for a deployment strategy to complete system planning, procurement, and execution of the chosen Intelligent Transportation Systems, including an implementation timeline.
Also download the fact sheet Intelligent Transportation Systems, which offers several other examples of current ITS programs.
The cost of ITS at national parks can vary widely depending on the range of ITS services and the size of the park. However, based on the fairly robust ITS deployments at Acadia and Glacier National Parks, $2 million is a rough average cost estimate for ITS in rural parks. Deploying ITS along parkways, particularly in urban areas, would involve greater expense, but would offer significant benefits to park visitors and other travelers.
The 2013 NPS Transportation Reauthorization Resource Paper request to Congress includes $15 million/year for the implementation of ITS systems across the NPS units.