Exploring the use of real-time travel information

The Challenge 

We can find out about traffic congestion, crashes, and road conditions from many sources (radio, TV, highway signs, 511, smartphones, and Twitter) before we begin a trip. The Transportation Research Board (TRB), part of the nonprofit National Academies, wants to know how we are using this information and whether it is helping to reduce congestion by allowing drivers to choose alternate routes or make other travel decisions. TRB asked Westat to study how drivers use this information and how the systems could be improved.

Our Solutions 

  • We led a study, working with the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Transportation Technology, on how state agencies and private companies that provide information on road conditions are using smartphone apps, highway advisory radio, and roadside warning signs.
  • We examined the effectiveness of these systems. In four regions across the U.S., we collected data from thousands of people through focus groups, traveler logs, and web-based surveys. We also interviewed transportation agencies nationwide.

The Results 

  • In our assessment, we described the types of travel information and the sources for such information that the public uses when making travel decisions. We recommended more effective approaches for providing information that the traveling public wants.
  • Our assessment will help guide agency decisions in adopting best practices for providing real-time traveler information.

Our Client 

National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP)