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Effectiveness of using variable message signs to disseminate dynamic traffic information: Evidence from field trails in European cities

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Variable message signs (VMS) can provide up-to-date traffic information and guidance to drivers through electronic signs at the roadside. The paper draws together the results from VMS field trials conducted in nine cities as part of European Union-sponsored research projects carried out between 1994 and 1999. The projects followed common guidelines in carrying out field trial evaluations, which has enabled generalized findings to be made on the impacts of the different VMS applications. The main emphasis in the paper is on drivers' reactions to VMS and the impacts of VMS on road network efficiency. Results are reported for four different types of traffic information. For incident messages, it is not only the severity of the problem reported that influences the level of diversions, but also other factors such as the specific location mentioned and the availability of viable alternative routes to avoid the problem location. For route guidance information, it is demonstrated that substantial diversions occur when the route advice differs from that given normally. For continuous information describing the traffic state on a major route, information increases the use of the major route and reduces use of alternative routes if there are no traffic problems reported on the major route. Travel time information was well regarded by drivers and found to be effective in inducing route changes. In general, the deployments of VMS to inform drivers of traffic conditions have proved successful in terms of improving network travel times and reducing environmental impacts. Whilst such changes have been relatively small, driver perception of the benefits is much higher. This is potentially very significant in terms of the role that VMS can play in the development of integrated transport strategies, as the provision of information may encourage greater acceptance of a range of demand management measures.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Transport and Society, Faculty of the Built Environment University of the West of England Bristol UK 2: Transportation Research Group, School of Civil Engineering and the Environment University of Southampton Southampton UK

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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