14th World Congress On Intelligent Transportation Systems

Ministers Plenary Session Beijing, China
Remarks for Mr. Paul R. Brubaker
Administrator, Research and Innovative Technology Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
October 10, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Vice Minister. Mr. Minister and distinguished guests, thank you so much for your warm welcome.

I’m delighted to be here in China. It is appropriate that the 14th annual World Congress on ITS be held in China as you have a long and distinguished history of technical and engineering excellence, from the Great Wall, to gunpowder, paper, irrigation innovation and the 3 Gorges Dam.

As Administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the 14th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems. Through meetings like this, we learn from one another and share our experiences toward our common goal: the safe and efficient movement of people and goods within and between our countries.

Technology has revolutionized the way we work and play. Instant messaging, PDAs, I-Pods, Google Earth, Satellite Radio – these technologies were unheard of in 1990, just 17 years ago. Looking forward a few short years, what can we expect to see in the year 2025?

How will ITS enhance our driving experience, improve capacity and save time and money? Will hydrogen fuel cells or other alternative fuels improve our environmental stewardship and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the global transportation system?

In 2025, I can imagine big cities all over the world where traffic flows seamlessly, even in bad weather, even in work zones—on all roads, across all transportation modes, all the time. I can imagine vehicles without tailpipes and those that emit nothing more than water vapor.

I can imagine major highways that are free of crashes, because drivers are warned about current-condition hazards—like fog or icy patches—and quickly re-routed to safer roadways.

I can imagine busy business districts where drivers find parking right away, without circling—a colossal waste of time and fuel.

I can imagine a quiet commute to and from work—because traffic helicopters are no longer hovering to report the bad news about crashes and breakdowns, and people have the information they need to choose the most efficient route, mode, and time of day for travel.

I can imagine freight moving seamlessly across transportation modes to get to its destination on time and keep businesses thriving.

The U.S. DOT, AASHTO members and ITS America are already moving the United States toward this vision. But with additional deployment of existing and developing technology, we can accomplish so much more. That is why at the U.S. Department of Transportation, we are redoubling our efforts to reduce congestion, improve safety, ensure environmental stewardship, and make better use of our existing transportation systems through technologies like ITS.

You know, like many of the world’s major metropolitan areas, traffic gridlock has become a way of life for Americans in most major U.S. metropolitan areas, and the problem is spreading to cities and towns of all sizes. In 2005, the U.S. economy lost 78 billion dollars to congestion, including 4.2 billion hours in wasted time and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel. Last year, the typical U.S. commuter spent 38 hours and wasted an extra 26 gallons of fuel sitting in traffic—at a cost of 710 dollars per person. These figures are unacceptable, and they’re projected to get worse.

That is why U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters has made reducing congestion a top priority for our Department.

In August of this year, Secretary Peters announced that the Department will be working closely with five major Urban Partners – the cities of New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Miami – to reduce congestion by implementing what we refer to as “the four T’s”: tolling, transit, telecommuting, and technology.

Let me tell you about some exciting plans for ITS in San Francisco. San Francisco has already implemented many features of ITS – metering lights for freeway on-ramps, electronic message signs, and synchronized traffic lights on major city streets. But even with these technologies in place, in 2005 San Francisco drivers spent an extra 60 hours and wasted 47 gallons of fuel sitting in traffic — well above the national average and second only to Los Angeles.

As an Urban Partner with the Department of Transportation, San Francisco plans to expand its use of ITS technologies in several important ways to reduce congestion:

  • Dynamic pricing will be introduced on all lanes of Doyle Drive—the city’s northern gateway and the approach to the famed Golden Gate Bridge.
  • A “Smart” system will guide drivers to available parking spaces and automate pricing and payment.
  • Integrated mobility accounts will allow users to consolidate their roadway and bridge tolls, transit fares and parking fees.
  • Real-time traffic data will give travelers reliable information about transit availability and congested roadways and will help city officials improve traffic management.
  • Downtown traffic lights will be “transit-friendly”, staying green longer to accommodate transit buses and keep traffic moving on schedule.

Of course, all of these technologies can be deployed much faster and at far less expense, increasing capacity more efficiently, than the alternative of building more roadways.

Let’s take a look at New York City, the largest city in the U.S., the city that never sleeps. New York City boasts the largest subway system in the world, and millions of commuters rely on public transit to get to work every day. Only about half of the city’s residents even own a car! Even so, traffic congestion in New York City is legendary. In 2005, rush-hour drivers lost 46 hours and 29 gallons of fuel to traffic delays.

Plans for congestion pricing in New York City, modeled after the successful program in London, have gotten a lot of publicity. The plan is to charge cars 8 dollars to enter the business district of Manhattan between 6:00 in the morning and 6:00 in the evening. This new charge will help fund needed improvements to New York’s transportation system. But key to the success of congestion pricing will be the electronic tolling system, which means that motorists won’t have to slow down to pay tolls. Without this technology, it would be impossible to effectively implement congestion pricing in a city the size of New York.

Another important part of the U.S. commitment to ITS is its investment in Vehicle Infrastructure Integration, or VII. When I drive to work, I hear a traffic report every 10 minutes on the radio. By the time that report hits the airwaves, it’s too late—I’m already stuck in traffic. Sometimes the reporter suggests an alternate route, but again, it’s too late—everyone else heard the same report and they’re stuck in traffic on the alternate route.

But a fully deployed VII system could gather and process data from vehicles and roadways and get real-time information back to me on my GPS device so I can make better decisions and be on my way. The system could even integrate with my calendar and let people know when I’m likely to arrive for my meeting!

VII can prevent crashes too. Last year, more than 40,000 people were killed on U.S. highways, and another 2.6 million people were injured. These figures are both alarming and unacceptable.

By giving drivers “situational awareness” and real-time travel information, VII can change these sad statistics dramatically. With VII technology, drivers can be forewarned of ice, fog, breakdowns, work zones, cars in their blind spot, and even stopped traffic ahead—with specific information to help them change course and plenty of time to do it.

With traffic data collected in real time, transportation managers can plan better and take action before problems arise. We can be proactive—preventing crashes and avoiding congestion—rather than reactive, trying to manage our way from one crisis to the next. Wouldn’t that be a welcome change?

To me, the beauty of ITS is its ability to capitalize on the existing transportation infrastructure in our country. We’ll always have to maintain our roadways and plan for new construction, of course, but why not make the most of what we already have?

Much of the technology for ITS already exists, too – wireless communications, global positioning systems, Internet connectivity almost everywhere you go. Again, let’s make the most of what we already have! By harnessing the tremendous promise of technology and adapting it for transportation needs, ITS can help solve the most intractable challenges facing travelers and transportation managers today by:

  • improving safety,
  • reducing congestion, and
  • enhancing system performance.

To achieve its full potential, ITS will need to be fully deployed across the United States. Working in collaboration with innovators across the private and public sectors, we’ve come a long way with research and testing of new technologies. But the time has come to make the promise of ITS a reality. Our hard-working citizens shouldn’t be losing time better spent with their families. They shouldn’t have to waste precious fuel looking for parking or sitting in traffic.

Let’s work together to get ITS on the fast track so that everyone throughout the world can drive smarter and safer.

Thank you again, Mr. Minister and Mr. Vice Minister for your gracious hospitality and for the outstanding efforts of the members of the Ministry of Communications in organizing this World Congress.

I look forward to a successful Congress, as well as to seeing you all next year in New York City. Thank you.

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