As in many other major cities in the world, traffic congestion is pretty bad in London. CIO Magazine tells us how the city began to fight back -- and how.
First, let's look at how the anticongestion scheme, based on tolls, is working.
In central London, 688 cameras at 203 sites scattered across the 8-square-mile anticongestion area photograph the license plates of the 250,000 cars that traverse it each day. Get photographed. And get ready for a one-off charge payable for that day.
At a data center in central London, Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology is then applied to convert the photograph images to license numbers. Motorists who don't pay the toll that day are fined about $130, automatically.
Considering the possible returns, it's not surprising that other cities are paying attention.
Fines and tolls combine to give the project a payback period of about a year and a half, and should in total generate an eye-popping $2.2 billion in 10 years -- all of which is earmarked for spending to improve London's public transportation systems. Best of all, according to a report cited in The Independent newspaper in March, traffic in the city's center had fallen by 20 percent, improving journey times by 5 percent.
But how the city did it?
Nothing like this had been attempted in a capital city before, so risk mitigation was the project mantra. One of the smartest moves by Transport for London, the U.K. capital's transit authority, was to recognize its own limitations and outsource project management. Rather than the typical big-bang approach, the traffic project was divided into five chunks (with an IT contract value of $116.2 million) that could be managed separately.
There five packages were: the camera technology to be used; the image management store where the images would be collected, turned into license numbers and condensed (duplicates would occur when one vehicle was photographed by several cameras); the telecommunications links between the cameras and the image store; the customer services infrastructure, including the ability to pay by phone, Web and mail; and finally, an extensive network of retail outlets, enabling people to pay at shops, kiosks and gas stations.
Read the original article to find how the project was managed. But it really worked. Why? In addition to the attention paid to procurement and project management, there were additional factors.
First, scope creep was vigorously guarded against -- with one of the few add-ons, in fact, being the option for motorists to pay tolls through the popular SMS text messaging format. Second, deliverables were spread out over a manageable timescale, rather than concentrated toward the project's end.
Finally, adds one of the directors appointed for the project, "The trick was to not use any new technology -- all the technology was proven. What had never been done before was to integrate it -- and to do it on time and on budget."
Source: Malcolm Wheatley, CIO Magazine, July 15, 2003 Issue
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