Speech #45 – Training Public Officials How to Procure ITS

ATM-Gold #10: The Professional Speaker manual – “The Professional Seminar project”



Joe Gillis, President of the Mid-Tennessee Valley Planning Commission in Huntsville, Alabama is here at the American Planning Association National Convention in our nation’s capitol to lead a 20 minute mini-seminar on the topic of “Training Public Officials how to procure Intelligent Transportation Systems.”



I enjoyed speaking with some of you during the meet ‘n greet time and I enjoyed looking over the comment cards you submitted that let me know what you wanted to learn this morning.


Quote: “Public Officials are not elected on operations and management but rather on capital projects,” This was said at an ITS Workshop at a 2002 meeting of the Transportation Research Board. 


Representative Ellen Tauscher, from California, chair of the House ITS Caucus, in 2003 also said, “ITS is the only budget-realistic way to reduce congestion – by recapturing unused capacity.”


As planners, your job is partially to help those public officials you work for provide service to their constituents.  You already have the skills to plan projects.  This seminar will help you learn the most cost-effective way to plan your ITS project and procure the needed funds.


The first thing that you need to do is come up with a wish list of what deliverables you would like to have in an ITS system.  Brainstorm with leaders in your community to determine what your current problems are that need to be solved – such as congestion, delays, air pollution, fuel expense, security and emergency response.  Think through what types of solutions might help you – traffic signal management, variable message signs, freeway metering, HOV lanes, traffic cameras, etc… 


At this point, you need to see what funds might be available to your disposal.  This will be used to plan your budget and then determine approximately how many of the items in your wish list are feasible.  I encourage you to look for various sources of fund.   The Federal Government grants monies for ITS on an annual basis through a funding program called TEA-21, but I don’t recommend that you rely on just that one source.  One other source of federal funds is CMAQ which stands for Congestion Mitigation / Air Quality) If you have a plan that can be shown to reduce air pollution through reducing traffic congestion, you may qualify for CMAQ funds.


This leads me into an important subject.  Document your needs.  The more information you have at the beginning of the process, the better off you are.  Document your air quality, your average daily traffic. Average highway speeds, anything that will show why you are considering an Intelligent Transportation solution.


Let’s go back to funding issues.  I encourage you to be creative in your funding.  I want to tell you about what Colorado Springs, Colorado did to reduce costs.  Colorado Springs is a city of 350,000 and they had the usual problems of traffic congestion and air quality issues. The city also wanted to enhance fuel efficiency for travelers and maximize traffic flow.   In 1993, the traffic volume on Interstate 25 was over 100-thousand cars a day.  They set our on a solution path that included alternative financing and techniques, low-cost applications and resourceful financing techniques. 


They applied for a $2.3 million CMAQ grant and made plans to install traffic signal synchronization, freeway management and plans for more applications in the future.  In their initial installation they employed the use of solar-power traffic monitoring units and they relied heavily on commercially-available components, even using local vendor where possible.  They also used Government GSA procurement rules to keep material prices low.  Colorado Spring also entered into a public-private venture with companies in the downtown area to share the cost for share-use fiber optic cabling.  Freeway message signs were mounted on pre-existing structures wherever possible. They also used in-house staff for small installation tasks wherever possible. 


What were the results?  One year after implementation, average travel times were down by 20% and carbon dioxide was reduced by 1 million kilograms of particulate. 


Another way to finance your projects is to bring multiple municipalities together to share in the cost of ITS and therefore share the benefits.  The City of Portland, Oregon did this as they were in an alliance with Oregon DOT and also the Tri-County Metro Transportation District, to implement ITS in a community that saw traffic double from 1980 to 2000.  Together they implemented freeway management, traffic signal control management, traffic management, incident management and established a regional travel information system.


One creative thing that was done was a joint venture with the local media to pay for the installation of traffic cameras – cameras the media could increase their capacity for getting information to the general public.  Other things implemented were a smart bus system with traffic signal priority and joint incident response for police, fire and medical.


Besides funding, you also need to choose the best contracting situation for your project.  Traditional construction projects are done in a sequence called Design-Bid-Build.  The design phase is done by a qualified engineering firm.  This firm will prepare the documents that will be used to solicit competitive bids from construction contractors.  Although this type of contracting will work to build a Transportation Management Center or install your in-field permanent traffic analysis and control devices.  It is not the best way to manage an ITS project, which uses advanced technologies that change quickly and require the services of software engineering and computer systems integrators.  This type of contract goes to the lowest qualified bidder who may not have the right level of expertise to handle an ITS project.


One recommended approach is to do a Design-Build.  With this contract type, one entity does both the design and the build phases of the project.  The city or agency will usually complete around 30% of the design work in-house and issue a request for Proposal (RFP).  Bidders will complete the design and the lowest responsive bidder gets a single contract for the business.  This works well for complex ITS projects.  These contracts usually include performance-based specifications or even a warranty.  The risk areas are having not well-enough defined specifications, having to add more bonding and liability insurance and it is generally more risky for the contractor that design-bid–build.


A third approach you might consider is to employ a System Manager.  Consultants will accept payment based on a cost plus fee basis.  It will be their job to pay for and obtain the necessary Engineering Design Documents from a qualified Engineering firm and they will then let out various pieces of the business to contractors by competitive bid.   System managers should have ITS experience and they should only select engineering design firms with ITS experience.  Often, the System Manager works for the Engineering Design company.  This type of approach acknowledges that ITS projects are complex and the technology is evolving.  This arrangement allows such areas as software development and system integration to be performed with experienced engineers and takes advantage of competitive bid scenarios to get the best price for things such as the construction of the Transportation Management Center.  This arrangement offers seamless integration between phases with the System Manager seeing the project through from beginning to end. But, it is often the highest costing solution and the system manager may be less familiar with construction projects.


I want to conclude by talking about examples of the latter two examples I gave you.  The first is a Design-Build contract led by the State of Michigan DOT.  The State wanted to design a statewide ITS for Michigan, with the first part of the project starting in the Detroit area.  They employed a Design-Build strategy and included a performance warranty to make sure of their success.  The DOT had the resources in-house to come up with 30% of the ITS system design, which included traffic management and traveler information.  The end result was a successful installation completed in budget and on-time.


My second example is a little closer to home, the Atlanta Georgia NaviGAtor system. Atlanta’s goal was to reduce traffic congestion before the 1996 Olympic Games.  They wanted to employ Incident Management and Traveler Information with the goal of expanding the system statewide.  The System Integrator worked with the Georgia DOT to come up with an adequate design for the system.  The consulting firm performed part of the project – namely those requiring software development and system integration and the construction segments were let out to bid.  The System Manager oversaw the whole project and the end result was an on-time system deliverable that is still in the process of expansion across Georgia.


In Conclusion, I hope you understand that ITS systems are complex and you need to consider alternate strategies in an effort to reduce costs.  Select a contract method that best fits you – use a System Manager if you can afford it or else warranty the completed system.  Most of all, remember the reason that you need an ITS system and make sure the final product will help you reach your goals.