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policyinformation/pubs/vdstits2007 Chapter 1 - Introduction - Vehicle Detection and Surveillance Technologies - FHWA
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A Summary of Vehicle Detection and Surveillance Technologies use in Intelligent Transportation Systems

Chapter 1 - Introduction

The surface transportation system of the United States is comprised of approximately 3.9 million miles of roads and 503 public transit systems, which accommodate 4 trillion passenger miles and 3 trillion ton miles of freight per year (Apogee/Hagler Bailly, 1998 and U.S. Department of Transportation, 2002). In 2006, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that America loses $200 billion a year due to freight bottlenecks and delayed deliveries. In addition, consumers lose 3.7 billion hours and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel sitting in traffic jams.

Demands on the transportation system are growing rapidly, with a projected increase in highway miles traveled of 25 percent over the next ten years ( Davis and Diegel, 2002). In order to prevent congestion at current levels from getting worse, the U.S. would have to increase the capacity of the transportation system by the same 25 percent. One option is to increase highway capacity by increasing the number of lane miles, which translates to about 4,200 lane miles of new roadway every year. At the present time, roads are being built at about two-thirds this rate.

A second option is to develop alternatives that increase capacity by improving the efficiency of the existing transportation system and promote the use of public transit systems. This option focuses on building fewer lane-miles, while investing in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) infrastructure. In 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) resulted in the formation of the Federal Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program to address ways to deal with the increase in travel demand on the nation's transportation systems using the second option. Follow-on legislation in 1998 created the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). This act authorizes the Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit for the 6-year period 1998-2003. The transportation authorization, "Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users" (SAFETEA-LU; Pub. L. 109-59, 119 Stat. 1144) marks a successful "graduation" from ISTEA and TEA-21 where ITS was based almost solely in Title V (research). SAFETEA-LU no longer treats ITS as a special niche research program, but rather has "mainstreamed" transportation funding eligibility for ITS deployment. SAFETEA-LU is a $286.4 billion, six-year bill that provides for a 30% increase in highway funding and 46% increase in transit funding.

The goals of ITS include the following:

  • Enhance public safety;
  • Reduce congestion;
  • Improved access to travel and transit information;
  • Generate cost savings to motor carriers, transit operators, toll authorities, and government agencies; and
  • Reduce detrimental environmental impacts.

Intelligent Transportation Systems include sensor, communication, and traffic control technologies. These technologies are assisting states, cities, and towns nationwide meet the increasing demands on the surface transportation system. Vehicle detection and surveillance technologies are an integral part of ITS since they gather all or part of the data that is used in ITS. It is estimated that an investment in ITS will allow for fewer miles of road to be built, thus reducing the cost of mitigating recurring congestion by approximately 35 percent nationwide (Apogee/Hagler Bailly, 1998).

Vehicle detection and surveillance technologies are being improved to provide enhanced speed monitoring, traffic counting, presence detection, headway measurement, vehicle classification, and weigh-in-motion data. This summary document was developed to assist in the selection of vehicle detection and surveillance technologies that support traffic management and traveler information services. The information will also be useful to personnel involved in traffic data collection for planning, policy, and research purposes. Included are descriptions of common types of vehicle detection and surveillance technologies that include their theory of operation, installation methods, advantages and disadvantages, and summary information about performance in clear and inclement weather and relative cost. Following each technology description is vendor-provided information about specific sensor models, their functions and applications, users, and installation and maintenance costs. A 3-ring binder format was selected to allow the contents to be easily updated.

The Summary of Vehicle Detection and Surveillance Technologies Used in Intelligent Transportation Systems will be updated periodically as long as the Vehicle Detector Clearinghouse remains in operation. The latest version of this summary document is available in electronic format at the following URL: http://www.nmsu.edu/~traffic.

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