Drivers in many U.S. metro areas have seen a dramatic increase in their average commute times over the last few years. For I-5 commuters in Seattle, Washington the "annual delay per person increased three hours from 2011-2013 – from a total of 5 hours, 27 minutes, to 8 hours, 40 minutes" according to a recent article from the Seattle Times written by Mike Lindblom. But Seattle isn’t the only city dealing with traffic woes, according to the annual Traffic Scorecard from INRIX, a company that provides traffic data. The time spent in traffic for the typical American driver was up 6% nationwide in 2013 with an average of 47 hours annually. The report highlights some of the largest congestion spikes in Honolulu, Hawaii - up 18% to 60 hours annually and in Boston, Massachusetts – up 22% to 38 hours annually. Using Onvia’s database of government procurement activity we decided to examine various state and local solutions used to mitigate commuting issues and traffic congestion.
Intelligent Transportation Systems:
In our latest white paper, Intelligent Transportation Systems: Technology Paves the Way to Smart Traffic Management, we examine the types of ITS solutions that government agencies are seeking out in order to solve their local traffic issues. As stated in the white paper by Onvia market analyst and author Paul Irby, agencies are faced with a "dilemma of unmet needs: Add more pavement or look for smarter alternatives." The more cost efficient method for most cities is to avoid building more roads; instead, cities use technology to alleviate congestion issues.
Intelligent transportation isn’t necessarily a new concept, but there are newer technologies that are beginning to shape the nature of modern intelligent transportation. These types of intelligent solutions are growing in popularity due to their cost effective nature and in some cases their utilization of newer mobile technologies. Here’s an example of a recent bid from the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority:
Request for Traffic Congestion Management Software and Smartphone App
Agency: Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority
Location: Austin, Texas
Description: The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is soliciting information to identify vendors who may offer an existing software application capable of providing traffic congestion management for central Texas roadways. The application should analyze real-time traffic data to provide alternative, less-congested route recommendations based on that data and communicate information about current and project traffic congestion to drivers through a smartphone application.
A recent article in The New York Times written by Jon Hurdle notes that use of public transportation is growing rapidly in the United States and is currently at levels not seen in this country since the 1950’s. Economic growth, improved service and environmental concerns contribute to the increase in ridership. With people using public transportation in record numbers to get to-and-from their place of employment, the number of transit-related contracts has increased accordingly.
Using the search criteria of projects tagged for the provision of public transit vehicles and/or public transit services in Onvia’s Project Center, we were able to map growth in this space over the last 2.5 years:
A portion of this growth in public transportation contracting can be attributed to recent advances in green vehicle technologies. Local transit agencies are not only addressing the increase in ridership but the agencies are also putting out contracts to upgrade their vehicle fleets with cost and energy efficiency in mind.
Here’s an example of a recent award for energy efficient transit buses from the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority:
Purchase of CNG, Diesel and Hybrid-Diesel Transit Buses
Agency: Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
Award Amount: $140,963,185
Awarded Vendor: New Flyer of America Bus Manufacturing
Description: Lump sum award for the procurement of up to 265 heavy-duty, low floor, compressed natural gas, diesel and hybrid-diesel transit busses. Of the 265 transit buses awarded a minimum of 50 must be diesel or hybrid-diesel models.
Bicycle commuting is also increasing nationwide as vehicle traffic gets worse, gas prices rise and Americans become more health conscious. The construction of protected bike lanes encourages bicycle usage by shielding bicyclists from the typical safety hazards that arise from riding alongside cars. In addition, the implementation of bike lanes offers a more cost effective option for reducing traffic than widening or creating new roads. According to a recent study covered by People for Bikes, a bike advocacy group, "When protected bike lanes are added to a street, bike traffic rises – by an average of 75 percent in their first year alone." Bike lanes do not only encourage bicycle usage but ultimately each person on a bike takes up less traffic space than the equivalent space per vehicle.
Here’s a look at the contracting growth in bike lane opportunities over the last 2.5 years based on Onvia’s data:
Recently popular in dense metropolitan areas are car sharing programs. These can easily be defined as a specific type of car rental model where a car is rented for a short period of time, typically for a quick trip to the grocery store or from one local neighborhood to another. Government agencies are beginning to see the value of these programs in reducing traffic and the amount of vehicles on the road.
In our research into contracts for the implementation and operation of car sharing programs, we noticed that 19% of all contracts were published by higher education institutions. Typical contracts seek to provide a full service car sharing program to allow students, faculty and staff easy access to and from campus and to reduce car traffic around the college or university.
Here’s an example of a recent request for a car sharing program from the University of Arizona:
Car Share Services for the University of Arizona Parking & Transportation Department
Agency: University of Arizona
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Description: The Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), on behalf of the University of Arizona, is soliciting proposals from interested vendors to provide car share services for use by students, faculty and staff.
The Effects of Traffic Congestion on Government Contracting:
If you live in a medium to large sized city, the odds are high that you are affected by longer commute times and increased traffic congestion. With limited budgets, state and local governments are adopting lower-cost modern solutions to address the spike in traffic congestion. Is your local government thinking of creative ways to tackle traffic? We encourage you to share your comments below and to share this post by using the social buttons at the top of the page.
For more on the current state of intelligent transportation technologies in government contracting, be sure to check out our latest whitepaper located here: Intelligent Transportation Systems: Technology Paves the Way to Smart Traffic Management.