Providing Traveler Information Services: What is the Appropriate Public Sector Role?
This research examines how European policymakers, particularly in the United Kingdom, Austria, and Germany, are adapting their traveler information systems. What are the key challenges in delivering traveler information in Europe and what initiatives, if any, are in place to help overcome these challenges? How are public policymakers defining their role in providing services and/or working with the private sector to harness privately funded initiatives? Finally, how does the European experience inform the perspective of local and regional traveler information providers in the United States, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Based on interviews with more than three dozen transportation planners, policymakers, consultants, and private-sector automobile and software providers from London, Austria, Nürnberg, Munich, and Berlin, this research finds that European policymakers are committed to funding high-quality, multimodal travel options and related traveler information services, both as a fundamental approach to managing congestion and incidents and as part of their mission to encourage use of public transportation. Despite the fact that European transportation program managers are, like their U.S. counterparts, eager to implement cost-cutting or revenue-generating strategies while delivering traveler information, efforts to do so have been relatively fruitless. European traveler information deployers are more skeptical than many of their U.S. counterparts of relying on Google or other private sector firms to provide phone, web, and mobile services. European program managers believe providing accurate, reliable information is an important component of delivering transportation and mobility services.
At some point in the future, traveler information will be ubiquitous, highly accurate, and free of charge. Until that time, and to ensure that we are helping to enable that future, the public sector should view information services as an inherent part of the transportation infrastructure and use the authority of government to ensure that all people who travel in a city or region — especially those that seek alternatives to single-occupant vehicle trips — have convenient, reliable access to accurate information about their trip options.