Intelligent Transportation Systems

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced this week that highway deaths in 2009 fell to the lowest number since 1950. That happened even while vehicle miles traveled increased. Last year saw the lowest fatality and injury rates ever recorded (1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled). The number of people injured in motor vehicle crashes declined for the 10th straight year. Alcohol impaired driving fatalities declined by 7.4 percent. All of this evidence points to successful federal and state efforts to make the nation’s roads safer.

Automated toll collection at full highway speeds… traffic cameras… optimized traffic lights… roadway message signs… traveler information services. All are examples of intelligent transportation system technologies being implemented in many states that hold the promise of making travel safer, more efficient and less harmful to the environment. A new Capitol Research brief examines how these technologies and others on the horizon can help maximize the capacity of infrastructure, reduce the need for additional highway capacity, improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and emissions, collect real-time data to measure and improve transportation system performance, deliver more benefits at a lower cost compared to heftier investments to build more roads or expand existing roads, and save lives.

Intelligent transportation system technologies—everything from traffic cameras to real time road and traffic information lines—being implemented in many states hold the promise of making travel safer, more efficient and less impactful on the environment.

Charging motorists on a per mile basis has gained some traction in recent years as a potential revenue mechanism to replace state and federal fuel taxes. Pilot projects to test VMT systems in many states are helping to define how they would work.

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