The National Academies

NCHRP 20-83(02) [Final]

Expediting Future Technologies for Enhancing Transportation System Performance
[ NCHRP 20-83 (Long-Range Strategic Issues Facing the Transportation Industry) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $999,780
Research Agency: RAND Corporation
Principal Investigator: Steven Popper
Effective Date: 10/22/2009
Completion Date: 5/30/2013


Strategic Issues Facing Transportation: Expediting Future Technologies for Enhancing Transportation System Performance (NCHRP Report 750, Volume 3) has been published.

Additional information on the report was presented in a TRB Webinar in December 2013. The recording is available to TRB Sponsors here.  


The objective of this project was to develop a process that transportation agencies can use to identify, assess, shape, and adopt new and emerging technologies to achieve long-term system performance objectives. The process reflects relevant trends in technologies and their applications and helps transportation agencies anticipate, adapt to, and shape the future.

For the fiscal year 2009 NCHRP, $5,000,000 was allocated to examine long-range strategic issues, both global and domestic, that will likely affect state departments of transportation. Based on the 2008 report, Long-Range Strategic Issues Facing the Transportation Industry, five projects, included this one, were funded at $1,000,0000. 

There are a variety of options that transportation agencies may use to capitalize on technology to improve transportation system performance. For instance, information and communication technology allows for enhanced traveler information, instant re-routing and mode choice, and facilitating pricing-based strategies.  Future technologies offer even greater potential to improve safety, reliability, and mobility. Furthermore, this subject area can involve not only adoption of technologies by transportation agencies, but ways in which transportation agencies can anticipate and help shape research and development of various technologies that can affect transportation system performance.
Technology often changes faster than agencies can react. In particular, the results of research can be slow to be implemented into practice. Many transportation agencies do not have the business processes and organizational structures in place that allow rapid adoption and deployment of relevant technologies. Partnerships with the private sector and opportunities for knowledge transfer from other industries may help the transportation sector more effectively adapt in this dynamic environment. Furthermore, there are many barriers outside the control of transportation agencies that impact the ability to advance technologies from research to deployment. 
(I). Catalogue and assess possible technological trends, in all relevant fields, that could impact the performance of the transportation system over the next 10 to 40 years. (II). Describe typical system performance objectives that transportation agencies could be expected to use in the future. System performance objectives should be applicable to the entire surface transportation system and should foster a proactive approach to managing and operating the transportation system. These objectives should address an array of system performance outcomes, including, but not limited to safety, multimodal mobility, and reliability. In addition, the objectives should address outcomes impacted by the performance of the transportation system, including environment, energy, and the sustainability of the transportation system. Objectives should consider both systemwide performance and the experience of the individual traveler.  (III). Identify the barriers commonly faced in identifying, assessing, shaping, and adopting innovative technologies and describe approaches to address these barriers. Consider the challenges to advancing change and innovation among transportation operators, including institutional constraints, private-sector concerns, financial constraints and objectives, the role of standards, and multi-agency coordination across modes. Consider the transportation users’ acceptability of new systems operations approaches, including issues such as privacy, new pricing mechanisms, and other relevant considerations. (IV).  Develop and document a process to identify, assess, shape, and adopt technologies that contribute to transportation system performance objectives across all surface transportation modes. Of particular interest are the results of research efforts that may lead to a relevant technology but may not produce a directly implementable product. The process should:  (a) inform investment decisions by maximizing return on investment; (b) consider research, development, and technology from industries outside transportation; (c) leverage promising processes used in other industries for innovation and knowledge transfer (e.g., translational medicine); (d) facilitate coordination among agencies and help identify roles and responsibilities for the review of a particular technology; and (e) accommodate technologies that offer alternatives to physical travel (e.g., telecommuting, on-line shopping). (V). Evaluate the process’ practicality and sustainability and summarize the results of the evaluation. (VI). Present the project results in compelling ways to encourage and guide responsible officials to institute and sustain appropriate policies and management strategies. 

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