ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems)

Intelligent Transportation Systems: It’s time to rethink the way we define ITS

  • Zeina Nazer

    Zeina Nazer

    Co-founder of Cities Forum, and Vice Chair of ITS UK Road User Charging Forum

20 February 2024

The transportation sector is constantly evolving. And so should our understanding of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).

While the terminology has changed over time, the overarching principle of these systems remains the same: providing real-time traffic information to riders for smoother trips.

If we take a step back, we’ll see that our need to optimise traffic was the catalyst in rethinking the way we design highways. This paved the way for high-occupancy toll lanes — also known as HOT lanes — in California. Designated to encourage carpooling, these roadways exempt cars with three or more riders from tolls.

Therefore, discourse around ITS and toll roads must emphasize social justice concerns. The implementation of such systems is inextricably linked to social considerations and consequences for low-income users.

On another note, we must keep in mind that enhancing road transportation isn’t always synonymous with building more roads. Providing more road capacity to alleviate traffic congestion actually creates more demand — and therefore brings more cars to highways.

Rather than building new lanes, we must focus on redesigning existing road infrastructure by providing efficient alternatives to cars. Micro-mobility solutions, which fall under the umbrella term of “ITS”, have become increasingly attractive mobility solutions in Europe. Ultimately, the best way to reduce traffic congestion is not by widening our roads but by investing in public transportation and other sustainable solutions to contribute to the “Net Zero” vision.