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Publication Number:      Date:  March/April 1999
Issue No: Vol. 62 No. 5
Date: March/April 1999


'Steps for Action' - Making Sure ITS Is Ready for The Year 2000

by Pamela Crenshaw

At the annual meeting of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America on May 5, 1998, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Mortimer L. Downey sounded a call to action, announcing a national summit of the intelligent transportation systems (ITS) community to address Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problems in ITS.

FHWA Administrator Wykle (right), Deputy Secretary of Transportation Downey (left), and RD and T Director Judycki (center). "The problem has its origins in computer systems that store only the last two numbers of years in dates (such as 98 for 1998; the 19 is assumed). This requires less disk storage space, but poses a major problem as we head into the year 2000. Computer systems could interpret 00 as 1900, rather than 2000. This could cause computers to crash, generate bad data, or otherwise malfunction. Transportation systems that depend on computers or vehicles using embedded computer chips could shut down," Downey said.

The national summit was hosted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in partnership with 22 transportation associations and professional groups on July 27. This one-day summit entitled "Partners for ITS Y2K Awareness to Action" served as the kick-off for a 500-day campaign to resolve the Y2K problems in ITS, and a product of the summit is "Steps for Action," a compilation of information for addressing Y2K problems from the educational, management, technical, and Representative Dennis Kucinich, Ohio.institutional perspectives. The participants at the summit represented industry; federal, state, and local governments; and systems operators in all modes of surface transportation, including transit, highway, and rail.

"The challenges of the Year 2000 problem are not limited to the federal government. Today's summit is an important step in our effort to work with partners at the state and local levels to minimize disruptions to transportation systems as we make the transition to the Year 2000," said keynote speaker John A. Koskinen, chair of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. Breakout session.

"Steps for Action" was published as a brochure, which is intended to serve as an organ

izing tool to help all people involved in ITS activities to "map out your Y2K problem-solving activities between now and January 1, 2000." This article is adapted from the brochure. The entire text of the brochure is available on the Internet at www.fhwa.dot.gov/y2k.

Downey pledged that USDOT will take advantage of every opportunity to communicate the importance of dealing promptly with Y2K.

"[The Y2K] proDeputy Secretary of Transportation Mortimer Downey."We will facilitate a national Y2K dialog and provide whatever assistance we can to ensure the safe, orderly operation of our transportation system. We will routinely provide information to our public- and private-sector partners to share examples of good practice and to encourage their adoption. We will assist in regional Y2K seminars and provide our ITS Y2K partners with materials that can be used in presentations at local, regional, state, and national conferences. We urge our state and local partners to use their regularly allocated federal highway and transit funds to repair their Y2K problems." he wrote.

The Central Questions
In "Steps for Action," Downey asks everyone in the ITS community to consider the following questions:

Characteristics of a Successful Compliance Program
The participants in the summit identified several characteristics of a successful Y2K compliance initiative:

It is critical to seek out the experiences of others who can provide "lessons learned" about effective strategies and coordination efforts for ITS Y2K. The experts at the summit gave the following advice:

Summit participants identified several pitfalls to be avoided and some of the barriers to effective management of ITS Y2K repairs:

The following World Wide Web sites provide information about Y2K solutions. In addition, newspapers, magazines, and television stations are increasing their Y2K coverage.

(This listing of these Web sites does not imply an endorsement of the information contained on the Web site or of the organizations posting information on those sites.)

Deputy Secretary Downey (left) and John Koskinen (right).

Pamela Crenshaw is a transportation specialist in the Office of Traffic Management and ITS Applications for the Federal Highway Administration. She is a member of the Midwest Program Delivery Team, responsible for providing program, policy, and technical assistance to former FHWA Regions Six and Seven. She has been part of the ITS program for two years. Previously, she was a traffic engineer for 10 years with the city of Philadelphia. She has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Howard University and is currently pursuing her master's degree in civil engineering at Howard University on a part-time basis.



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