As our transportation system transitions to a smarter, more automated future, technology will, more than ever, impact the design, operation, and implementation of managed lanes. Recognizing this, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) wanted some questions answered regarding its Silicon Valley Express Lanes. What will tech advances cost? Will the driving public accept or reject those advances? How can government agencies and the private sector work more seamlessly together?
At the 2014 TRB Annual Meeting, VTA Director of Planning and Programming Development John Ristow, expressed a desire for guidance in facilitating implementation of new technologies for the Express Lanes. TTI Associate Transportation Researcher Nick Wood accepted the challenge in 2015 and led a specialized team of transportation professionals to facilitate a unique gathering of public- and private-sector experts. The workshop consisted of five short technology presentations, three breakout group discussions and one large group discussion, with the following goals:
- Finding ways to reduce obsolete equipment and technologies about to be implemented;
- Evaluating metric(s) needed for evaluating future systems; and
- Determining how to maximize the use of existing technologies before discarding them.
VTA Project Manager Murali Ramanujam praises Wood and the results of the workshop for bringing together such a diverse group, including many experts from large technology companies, smart start-ups, public agencies, financial service organizations, media, enforcement personnel and younger generation users.
“Operators of managed lanes will eventually encounter problems of lifecycle management, including obsolete equipment and strained financial resources,” explains Wood. “Principal stakeholders need to be involved early and continuously throughout the project development process, mostly to gain trust and enable access from all involved parties.”
The greatest takeaway from the workshop, according to Wood? The need to engage the private sector early in the process. Doing so can “shorten the time period for existing advanced technology to become mainstream for managed lanes,” says Wood. He delivered his briefing paper — coauthored with TTI Associate Transportation Researcher Jason Wagner, who presented at the workshop on how connected and automated vehicles might impact the Express Lanes — to the VTA in February 2016.
“VTA understands the impact of technological advancements on our Express Lanes isn’t going to be solved in one fell swoop. Instead we have decided to support projects like this one that send us in the right direction,” says Ramanujam.