Technology smooths the ride for Santa Ana commuters
For millions of Americans, each busy workday is sandwiched between a grueling commute to and from work. To make matters worse, listening to the radio to learn about road conditions might mean sitting through many minutes of loud commercials and chattering DJs before the next traffic report.
Commuters in Santa Ana, Calif., no longer need to wait for their traffic information, thanks to the recently completed Integrated Traveler Information Sharing (ITIS) system. The nearly $500,000 system is funded largely through state gas tax revenues. It employs cable TV, radio and an interactive phone service, merging them with the city’s Traffic Management Center and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 12 Traffic Management Center.
A key component of ITIS is the Traffic Management Center’s public information database. The database contains real-time freeway and local traffic data as well as traveler advisory information regarding incidents, alternate routes, lane closures and special events. Traffic data is available for arterials in Santa Ana, a city of 330,000, as well as for freeways in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
The interactive phone information service will play a crucial role in the system’s use. The service provides a combination of pre-recorded voice and computer-generated speech with real-time traffic information in English or Spanish. One central number supports up to 23 simultaneous callers, who can access the interactive phone line via a touch-tone or cellular telephone and simply punch numbers on the keypad to get the information they need.
Moreover, a cable access television system broadcasts real-time traffic information in homes and offices on a local station. The freeway information is color-coded using Caltrans’ established codes, and advisory information is presented as text in English and Spanish.
Radio station AM 620, which has a range of only about five miles, also provides real-time traffic reports.
The information kiosk, which will be located in the soon-to-be-completed federal courthouse in downtown Santa Ana, features “touch-screen” computers that enable the user to access bilingual information on city streets or county highways. Traffic information is presented in text, color codes and icons. Odetics, an Anaheim, Calif.-based manufacturer of tape recorders and broadcast automation control systems, designed and built the ITIS, which was completed in November 1997.
The ITIS also is designed to support regional data transmission, in-vehicle GPS navigation systems for buses, portable information systems and other means of disseminating information.
Access to the same traffic information will soon be available on the Internet when Santa Ana gets its web page up and running.
“The major objective was to help motorists to select the route with the least congestion,” says Santa Ana traffic engineer T.C. Sutaria. The system increases safety while reducing commuting time, congestion and automotive emissions, he says.