Tuesday, April 10, 2001

24-7 ARTIMIS proving popular

Calls, Web hits increase as service expands

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Two weeks after ARTIMIS went to round-the-clock road advisory service, phone calls and visits on the agency's Web site, artimis.org, have increased by about 15 percent, program director Scott Evans said Monday.

        The road advisory system, funded in part through the Ohio Department of Transportation, covers 88 miles of highway in Greater Cincinnati, including Northern Kentucky.

        Since the change, its annual budget was increased to $3.8 million, from $3.2 million, according to Howard Wood, ODOT's director for intelligent transportation systems in Columbus.

        ARTIMIS, short for Advanced Regional Traffic Interactive Management and Information System, previously operated from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Only construction-zone advisories were issued on weekends.

        Command center staffing ranges from seven during morning rush-hour to two on the overnight shift.

        “I think it's a good thing,” said Mike Jones, a Skyline Taxi driver who for the last eight years has called Cincinnati roads his workplace.

        Fellow cabbie Dave Drake, of Sunshine Taxi, disagreed, saying time-delay warnings on the overhead advisory system haven't always been accurate.

        Glenn Flinchum, 66, of Southgate, no longer drives professionally — he was a furniture delivery man for 30 years — but now says the best way to avoid road problems is to simply avoid the road. He doesn't drive at rush hour, and says that while the 24-hour service could be helpful, “it's also hit and miss.”

        In the month before the switch, ARTIMIS took 2,400 phone calls on weekend days on its 211 system, but has seen that rise 20 percent since. On weekdays, there's been a 15 percent jump to 11,500, Mr. Evans said.

        Weekend daily Web site visits or “hits” have risen 10 percent to 6,380, while on weekdays, hits are up 15 percent to 21,331, he said.

        On days of inclement weather, the Web site typically gets up to 35,000 hits daily, said Tim Schoch, deputy program manager.

        ODOT officials were in Cincinnati last week to survey the system, as it prepares to install a similar traffic monitoring device on interstates in metro Columbus.

        “Sixty percent of congestion is related to incidents,” said ODOT's Mr. Wood, “so if you can eat into that, that's a good public service.”

        The timing of the round-the-clock service might have been fortuitous because the highway construction season has just gotten under way, but Mr. Schoch said that's simply a coincidence. The primary reason was to better serve emergency response crews, second- and third-shift truckers, motorists coming from special events such as Reds games, and those going to the airport at all hours.


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