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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-17-015    Date:  February 2018
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-17-015
Date: February 2018


State of the Practice for Traveler Information During Nonrecurring Events

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FHWA Publication No.: FHWA-HRT-17-015
FHWA Contact: Michelle Arnold, HRDS-30, (202) 493-3990.

This fact sheet is a summary of the Federal Highway Administration report State of the Practice for Traveler Information for Nonrecurring Events (FHWA-HRT-17-014).



The Federal Highway Administration recognized the need to take a comprehensive look at the information requirements and decisionmaking processes of travelers across a range of nonrecurring events. These events included traffic incidents, severe weather, work zones, and emergencies, among other events. Devices and media used to communicate information included smartphone applications, dynamic message signs, telephony, websites, radio, and in-vehicle devices that may become part of the connected vehicle ecosystem. As part of the comprehensive analysis, it was important to review traveler information from the perspective of a traveler regarding access to, perception of, and need for information about nonrecurring events. Information on nonrecurring events could be optimally presented by matching user needs with respect to content and media. Examination of the expanding role of the private sector in existing and emerging real-time advanced traveler information systems was also important. The ultimate goal was to determine what information and dissemination methods about nonrecurring events would help the traveling public make the most effective and safest travel decisions.

Purpose and Approach of the Study

The goal of this study was to review and synthesize data about travelers’ information needs and current practices for information dissemination related to nonrecurring events. To achieve this goal, researchers identified, reviewed, and synthesized academic literature, practitioner reports, and best practices for information provision related to nonrecurring events. For more information on this research, see the final report, State of the Practice for Traveler Information for Nonrecurring Events.(1) While the emphasis of this study was on information that can be provided by traffic managers, it also considered the increasing role of private companies in traffic data collection and dissemination.

Project Findings and Recommendations

Traveler information for nonrecurring events has evolved significantly in recent years. While transportation departments continue to use traditional methods such as dynamic message signs (DMSs), highway advisory radio, and 511 websites, the set of available tools has expanded to include mobile applications (apps), social media platforms, and text/email alerts. In the near future, connected-vehicle technology will provide personalized, real-time traveler information directly to travelers in their vehicles. At the same time, private-sector websites and apps such as Google® Maps™ and Waze™ provide users with valuable real-time routing, congestion, and event information. The availability of new traveler-information media drastically expands the toolbox from which traffic managers can draw, but it is important to implement information approaches in ways that meet the needs and desires of travelers as well as the needs and limitations of the transportation department. Key findings and recommendations from this study are as follows:


  1. Robinson, E. et al. (In press). State of the Practice for Traveler Information for Nonrecurring Events, Report No. FHWA-HRT-17-014, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, DC.

Researchers—Emanuel Robinson, Ph.D.

Distribution—This fact sheet is being distributed according to a standard distribution. Direct distribution is being made to the FHWA Divisions and Resource Center.

Availability—The report may be obtained from the FHWA Product Distribution Center by email to report.center@fhwa.dot.gov, by fax to 301-577-1421, or by phone to 301-577-0818.

Key Words—Nonrecurring Event, Traveler information, Decisionmaking, Nonrecurring messages, Road weather information, Special events.

Notice—This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document. The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

Quality Assurance Statement—The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.




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