End of an Era as COATS Project Draws to a Close

After twenty-five years and eight phases, the California Oregon Advanced Transportation Systems (COATS) project drew to a close this year, marking an end to an era. Sharing roots with the founding of WTI, the COATS project has made a lasting impact on rural transportation in the western states and beyond.

The COATS initiative was established to investigate and address rural concerns using advanced transportation technologies in the northern California and southern Oregon region. COATS identified regional challenges and developed and evaluated appropriate solutions. Through the COATS partnership, the annual Western States Rural Transportation Technology Implementers Forum was established as a premier venue for technology transfer and ideas exchange on Rural Intelligent Transportation Systems. The project has provided an incubator for ideas that have evolved into stand-alone projects and products. COATS has served as the impetus for long-term partnerships and was the foundation for the Western States Rural Transportation Consortium (WSRTC) Pooled Fund, which is now in its second phase.

COATS research, either directly funded through the project or as a spinoff, brought substantial benefits to the region and other stakeholders. For example:

  • First-generation Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) planning and architecture documentation, which each state incorporated into its respective ITS efforts.
  • Successful implementations of ITS technologies, including CCTV cameras, dynamic message signs, and road weather information systems, to address regional transportation challenges.
  • Strengthened partnerships between the states, which have improved operations and maintenance of the transportation system, especially near the state border.
  • Innovative technology development activities, such as work providing new web-based traveler information mechanisms.
  • Evaluations of rural ITS deployments, for which the results have been presented in national venues.
  • Outreach to a variety of audiences, including the technology transfer activities of the Western States Forum.
Fifty people sit at conference tables and watch a speaker and powerpoint
Participants at the 2019 Western States Forum. Photo by Doug Galarus.

Notably, the initial COATS effort produced the first two Rural Transportation Management Centers (TMCs) in California. In addition, COATS project work developed the fundamental technical architecture for connecting the TMCs to rural field elements, resulting in the first all-Internet Protocol rural field element network in the California Department of Transportation. The second phase, called COATS Showcase, saw the evolution of the effort toward deployment, testing, and evaluation with multiple project implementations and the foundations for expanded efforts and spin-off projects. The Western States Forum was established in COATS Phase 3 and research on Rural Integrated Corridor Management laid the foundation for the One Stop Shop for Rural Traveler Information. Both the Western States Forum and the One Stop Shop are national award winners. In addition to growth of the Forum and establishment of the WSRTC, later phases of the COATS project included Evaluation of the Fredonyer Icy Curve Warning System, Regional ICM Planning, Survey of Western States Safety Warning Devices, Data Quality for Aggregation and Dissemination of DOT Traveler Information, Rural Deployment Assistance, Radar Speed Trailer deployment warrants, and Chain-up Delay Tracking with Bluetooth.

The COATS partnership has been productive and successful at addressing rural transportation issues with ITS, making a lasting impact in the western states region. We encourage you to review the COATS Project History page and the COATS Project Fact Sheet to read about all that has been accomplished through this project partnership. The work of the COATS Project continues under the scope of the Western States Rural Transportation Consortium.

WTI’s CATS program joins international EPIC-Network

Susan Gallagher, CATS Coordinator

We are pleased to announce that WTI’s Community-engaged and Transformational Scholarship (CATS) program is now a member of the Education Partnership for Innovation in Communities Network (Epic-N), a group of programs that match community-identified needs and projects with the resources, expertise, and human capital of university students.

To become a member, programs must demonstrate that they align with the tenants of Epic-N: respecting existing administrative structures, individual responsibilities, and incentives; creating genuine partnerships with local governments or organizations; intentionally aiming to improve quality of life; focusing on community-identified, -driven, and -evaluated contributions; and catalyzing multi-disciplinary work and high numbers of courses, students, and student hours.

Since its foundation in 2018, CATS has provided hands-on learning experiences for more than 400 MSU students on over 40 projects for the City of Bozeman. The diversity of project needs has facilitated participation from an equal diversity of university disciplines, including geography and GIS, sociology, political science, sustainable foods & bioenergy systems, environmental, chemical, and industrial engineering, architecture, environmental science, film, and horticulture.

To begin a project, interested partners select a community challenge and work with Susan Gallagher, the CATS coordinator, to develop a project outline, budget, and schedule. They also identify an MSU faculty member excited to address the issue with their students. Most projects, such as Community Garden Expansion – Recommendations Based on Case Studies, are completed within a single semester, though projects may be expanded to increase their scope and depth. A notable example is the Investigating Neighborhood Character in the Northeast Neighborhood of Bozeman, MT which built on the work of multiple MSU courses and departments. The final product was a beautiful report documenting the “existing character of the neighborhood and social, economic, and architectural changes as perceived by residents,” and outlining the neighborhood characteristics that should be protected under increasing development pressure.

The success of the CATS program is due, in part, to its rewarding and continuing relationship with the City of Bozeman. Developing additional partnerships with organizations like neighborhood associations, departments of transportation, and counties, will not only support more hands-on learning opportunities for MSU students, but new and innovative solutions for Montana communities. To learn more about past CATS projects and developing partnerships, visit http://wrtwc.org/partnerships/cats/.