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Why Travel Time Signs Don't Always Have Travel Times

The Houston Transtar Partnership is comprised of TxDot, Metro, Harris County, and the City of Houston.

One of the vital services they provide, essential some commuters might say, is travel times on the electronic signs along toll roads and freeways officially known as “Dynamic Message Signs. (DMS)” When those signs are instead displaying other information, such as amber alerts, silver alerts, or blue alerts, frustration can produce Excedrin headaches.

“Those messages are regulated by the Texas Department of Transportation’s Traffic Operations Group and that is actually under the umbrella of  the Office of Emergency Management that falls under DPS,” Raquelle Lewis, Director of Communications for TxDot in Houston. “So when we get questions from people asking about why we have amber alerts, and silver alerts, on the Dynamic Message Signs, it’s important to understand that the ultimate authority over that messaging lies with the Texas Department of Public Safety.  Silver alerts as well as Amber alerts are activated by DPS, and once they are activated they are statewide messages and we at TxDot are mandated to post those on our statewide DMS system.”

DMS operates 24/7, with the focus on travel times from 5:30 am to 7:30 pm.  There is a hierarchy for the information that is posted.

  1. Incidents
  2. Construction/pre-construction
  3. Alerts (amber/silver)
  4. Travel times
  5. Special events
  6. Safety campaigns

Transtar has taken surveys to gauge driver satisfaction and desires.  85% of those queried say they have altered their route based on information posted on the message boards.  According to the public, they rate the benefits as:

  1. Incident alerts
  2. Travel times
  3. Current road work
  4. Future Road work
  5. Severe weather information
  6. Alerts (amber/silver/blue)
  7. Special events

 

 

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