How to bring Intelligent Transportation Systems to the next level

Virginia Lingham
Senior Vice President, WSP

Public agencies nationwide are benefiting from ever-evolving advancements in traffic management operations, specifically through intelligent transportation systems (ITS).

These transportation and traffic management systems use cutting-edge information and communication technologies to improve safety, efficiency and sustainability of their networks, thereby improving safety, reducing traffic congestion and enhancing driver experiences.

Transportation leaders interested in implementing or advancing ITS can learn from WSP’s work to advance connected vehicle technologies, which has pioneered the way for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) and ITS deployments to help our clients realize the benefits of these systems.

Transportation and traffic management systems use information and communication technologies to improve safety, efficiency and sustainability of their networks.

Data Sharing Powers Better Decisions

Using sensor arrays, today’s ITS systems generate large amounts of data and share it with the vehicles and infrastructure, such as traffic lights, around them. The data includes vehicle speed, braking, idling, emissions, location, engine diagnostics and imagery of surrounding areas. Decision makers use this data to adapt and manage city transportation operations with greater precision.

The possibilities of vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle data communication are tremendous. For instance, onboard systems can prevent crashes by providing safety critical messages directly to vehicles to stop red light running, provide work zone information, and alert a driver of a vulnerable road user ahead. They can also relay information to their drivers and passengers, including recommendations for less congested routes, nearby amenities and available parking.

When coupled with smart city infrastructure, first responders can get to and from incident scenes quicker and traffic can be routed away from traffic incidents and maintenance areas, improving the response time for emergency personnel and the efficiency of maintenance operations overall.

Intelligent Transportation Systems use sensor arrays to generate large amounts of data and share it with vehicles and traffic infrastructure.

Real World Implementations

WSP is at the forefront of U.S. development and testing for emerging mobility technologies for transportation infrastructure, with the firm’s ITS practice currently working across the U.S. on innovative engineering, policy and planning projects.

Recently, WSP completed an ITS Master Plan update for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which included a long-term statewide ITS communication plan. The firm also provided a detailed assessment of the agency’s transportation systems management and operations capabilities.

Through internal and external research and process development, WSP is establishing methods to help government agencies proactively develop policies and evaluate scenarios for various advanced technology futures. For example, WSP is providing guidance on how to incorporate new and emerging technologies into Next Generation Traffic Management Systems to emphasize flexibility and ease of transition.

WSP has had a longstanding relationship with the connected vehicle pooled fund study, which is a group of 26 member agencies who pooled their funding for research. In its latest project, WSP helped develop an overall test plan for the group’s connected intersections program. An innovative message monitoring system has also been developed and delivered by WSP to this group that proves public sector V2X data is reliable for widespread use. This has been demonstrated in three states, with more sites to come in 2024.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $40 million grant to the City of Columbus, Ohio, as the winner of the Smart City Challenge. Columbus used this funding for its Smart Columbus program to reshape and improve their transportation system. WSP developed the systems engineering documents, such as the concept of operations, system requirements, system design document, test plan and test procedures for the connected vehicle environment. The firm also oversaw the integration of roadside units with traffic signal controllers and on-board units into transit vehicles, and conducted testing to verify transit signal priority, emergency vehicle preemption and other applications.

Just south of San Francisco, WSP has conducted workshops and developed a strategic plan for its client in San Mateo County to prepare for automated vehicles. Leaders in this community want to leverage this technology to meet their community’s needs for sustainable transportation options. Plans like this help communities make a strong case for technology investments.

WSP has developed an innovative message monitoring system that proves public sector vehicle-to-everything data is reliable for widespread use.

Overcoming ITS Challenges

The biggest challenge in pursuing ITS is developing a clear, equitable and well-evaluated strategy for connecting disparate systems, services and operational approaches over multiple funding cycles, technology trends and leadership changes.

Another facet of planning are the funding opportunities available for relevant ITS projects, which demand even more consideration during the early stages of these projects.

In the U.S., WSP has established the industry’s strongest track record in the implementation and deployment of connected vehicle solutions, which are critical to the future of ITS. We have seen the benefits of these connectivity implementations throughout our client portfolio, from short-term traffic solutions to long-term data collection that helps inform better infrastructure decisions for years to come.

These projects are challenging and require careful consideration, regulation compliance and substantial resources. But with the right expertise and services, they will pave the way forward to a better and safer driving experience nationwide.

The key to successful ITS implementation is development of a clear, equitable and well-evaluated strategy to connect disparate systems, services and operational approaches.

Author: Virginia Lingham

Contact Details: Catherine Whitfield (