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Dallas Area Rapid Transit receives grant for intelligent transportation pilot project: new trend?

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has received a $5.3 million grant (along with $3 million of their own funds), that will assist in the development of an intelligent transportation (ITS) pilot project. DART was selected to be one of two agencies to receive the grant, the other being San Diego, and to develop the USDOT's Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) program. While ITS projects are not new, this ICM project may push more states, in more fruitful economic times, to seek their own versions of these systems. Coupled with the future smart grid technology initiatives, counties, cities, states and the federal government will have more connectivity than ever before.

Part of the reason for these pilot projects, according to USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood, is to "show the rest of the nation that bumper-to-bumper traffic doesn't have to be the status quo." Whether these systems can provide information to reduce traffic is yet to be seen, however, it is important for future urban and suburban growth to try new methods of transportation information.

Part of the pilot project includes a provision for a 511 number, which enables commuters to call for information about traffic incidents, weather and accidents in real time. Currently, GovWin is tracking the Texas DOT 511 initiative as well as a statewide initiative in Connecticut and Illinois. Texas' 511 system was in limbo due to budget constraints, but with the grant provided to DART, Alex Power of the Traffic Operations Division, may be the funding as well as the kick-start needed to move forward with the system.

While 511 traveler information systems are important, the larger scale ITS projects are really what provides localities and states with much of their transportation data. Since 2007, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has been planning a three phase ITS project. Phase II of the project was recently awarded for approximately $8 million and Phase III is set to go out to bid at the end of 2010. In California, where it's no secret that traffic is consistently an issue, the Sacramento Regional Transit District is planning to issue an RFP for an Intelligent Transportation System at the end of 2010. While these two ITS projects are at the state level, smaller cities also are looking to develop their own systems. In Michigan, Kalamazoo is look to implement an array of different systems including Automatic Vehicle Location and an Automatic Passenger Counting System.

Across the country, more states are looking to implement their own intelligent transportation systems that fit their needs. A city like Kalamazoo may not have the need for the large scale project Dallas or Sacramento may need, but developing these systems now, even just an initial phase, will bring these localities closer to a nation with a more unified transportation network. Vendors should begin to work with counties and even small cities, on ITS projects or at the very least assist them in the development of plans for the future.

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