Travelers' information station

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Travelers information stations (TIS), also called highway advisory radio stations (HAR) by the United States Department of Transportation, are licensed low-power AM radio stations operated by local transport departments to provide bulletins to motorists and other travelers regarding traffic and other delays.

They are often located near highways and airports, and occasionally other tourism attractions such as national parks. In the latter case, they often provide a loop of prerecorded information about the park's historic and other background information.

TIS operation in the United States[edit]

A TIS sign in the United States

These systems are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States. The TIS station class was originally created by the FCC by the Report and Order in Docket 20509.[1][2]

TIS stations are limited to a maximum signal of 2 mV/m at 1.5 km (0.93 mi) using a power of up to 10 watts to achieve this limit in the case of vertical antenna systems (the most common type). Up to 50 watts in the case of the radiating cable antenna systems may be used to achieve a maximum of 2 mV/m at 60 m (200 ft) from the radiating cable. Radiating cable systems are limited to a continuous antenna length of 1.9 km (1.2 mi).[3] Cable systems are used for situations such as Dulles International Airport with very long limited-access approach roads where multiple systems can be placed in 1.9 km segments.

Critical evacuation systems, such as those in the Florida Keys and near chemical and nuclear facilities, have been granted exceptional power waivers for emergency operations. These systems will typically operate under the normal power level, but have permission to exceed that limit, typically to 100 W, in the face of a critical emergency evacuation situation.

The station audio is required to be passed through an audio low-pass filter which rolls off frequencies above 3 kHz. There have been discusions by the FCC about whether to remove this requirement as it has been found that it is not effective in reducing interference to non-TIS stations (the original reasoning for the rule) and it degrades the inteligibility of the station audio.[4]

TIS station content is defined by the FCC as

non–commercial voice information pertaining to traffic and road conditions, traffic hazard and travel advisories, directions, availability of lodging, rest stops and service stations, and descriptions of local points of interest. It is not permissible to identify the commercial name of any business whose service may be available within or outside the coverage area of a Travelers' Information Station. However, to facilitate announcements concerning departures/arrivals and parking areas at air, train, and bus terminals, the trade name identification of carriers is permitted.

In the United States, only government entities may have licenses for TIS/HAR stations, with some exceptions granted for quasi-governmental agencies and authorities as well as health and emergency service providers working in conjunction with governmental entities. The FCC formerly reserved the bottom and top channels (530 and 1610) on the AM band for these stations, before the AM expanded band (1610 to 1700) was introduced in North America. Systems may currently be licensed on any frequency from 530–1700 kHz. (Most radios tune to 1710; however, this frequency has only been licensed in one instance, by Information Station Specialists for Hudson County, New Jersey, due to the potential for an evacuation from New York City.)

Stations for U.S. national parks and other units under the U.S. federal government are licensed by the NTIA rather than the FCC.

Usage of low-power FM stations for TIS[edit]

Low-power FM stations (LPFM) stations may be licensed to governments as well, but these are not considered part of the TIS/HAR service.

In some states, LPFM stations are used to broadcast travelers' information. Colorado has a statewide network of LPFMs used in this manner, while many other state, county, or local governments use one or more stations.

Examples include WTUS-LP in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, operated by the Tuscaloosa Convention and Visitors Bureau; and WGEO-LP in Georgetown, South Carolina, which is operated by the Georgetown City Fire Department.

Outside of the United States[edit]

The concept is not limited to the United States; TIS stations operate in Canada (on both AM and FM bands), in France (at 107.7 MHz FM along selected autoroutes), in Australia in some areas on 87.6–88 MHz FM, and other countries as well.

In Japan Highway Radio broadcasts on 1620 and 1629 kHz AM along stretches of major expressways.

In Italy most highways are covered by RAI's Isoradio network, broadcast in most areas on 103.3 MHz.

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