The number of States using data to improve traffic incident management
(TIM) doubled during Every Day Counts round four (EDC-4) as agencies expanded the collection and analysis of data to gauge the effectiveness of TIM strategies and support TIM response efforts.
Traffic incidents put travelers’ and emergency responders’ lives at risk and cause a quarter of all traffic delays. Resulting congestion can lead to secondary crashes. TIM programs that plan for and coordinate incident response among agencies reduce the duration and impact of incidents.
In EDC-4, the Federal Highway Administration promoted the use of low-cost technologies to collect new crash-related data to help agencies enhance TIM programs. FHWA encouraged adoption of three key TIM performance measures: roadway clearance time, incident clearance time, and number of secondary crashes. Some States went further by collecting data such as incident response time, time to return to normal flow, and roadway conditions.
“With better data and analytics, agencies can quantify program performance, demonstrate program effectiveness, and improve TIM planning and resource management,” said Paul Jodoin, FHWA TIM program manager and EDC-4 team leader.
The team offered technical assistance on creating data collection systems and using analysis tools and conducted workshops and peer exchanges on implementing TIM performance measurement programs. Forty States reached demonstration, assessment, or institutionalized stages of using data to improve TIM by the end of 2018, compared to 21 at the start of 2017.
Before EDC-4, Arizona’s analysis of TIM performance measures focused on crash data from the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) only. During EDC-4, Arizona expanded the analysis to include crashes investigated by all law enforcement agencies. A 2015 to 2017 assessment showed that AZDPS collection of TIM performance measures reached 100 percent in 2016, while collection of TIM performance measures by other agencies increased steadily over the 3-year period. Arizona is now targeting specific agencies to further improve collection of the performance measures.
In the past, California had limited data for TIM performance analysis. In EDC-4, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) assessed multiple potential data sources, including the agency’s major incident database, safety service patrol (SSP) data from one county, and California Highway Patrol (CHP) computer-aided dispatch (CAD) data. The assessment showed that the CHP CAD data offered the best potential for a statewide source of TIM performance measures. The win for California was finding it could use an existing data source to measure TIM performance.
From 2016 to 2017, State highway crashes increased while median incident clearance duration decreased. In 2018, crashes decrease while median incident clearance duration increases. Data analysis helps ODOT assess the context for these shifts and identify a course to improve their TIM program.
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) trained traffic management center (TMC) operators to record key data points in incident timelines to estimate roadway and incident clearance times. Operators now input numerical data rather than solely descriptive data. Based on closed-circuit television, operators report whether an incident is secondary when they can make that determination. INDOT also uses real-time third-party crowdsourced data to support incident detection. INDOT and Purdue University created the Traffic Ticker tool to identify speed variations as alerts for potential incidents.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) created a Transportation Systems Management and Operations Program Performance Management Plan for TIM that outlines goals, core performance measures, action items, and communication. ODOT developed a training program to improve TIM data collection and support performance measure analysis. ODOT leverages traffic operations center data with CAD data from the Oregon State Police and public safety answering points. Using the data, ODOT created a TIM performance measures report, which prompted police to improve roadway and incident clearance times.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) built a Traffic Operations Analytics tool that integrates multiple data sources to better capture incident timelines. The tool combines PennDOT’s Road Condition Reporting System and maintenance records, crash data, third-party crowdsourced data, and road weather information. Adding these features to a common platform provides a clearer picture of where, why, and how incidents happen. PennDOT generates quarterly performance management reports for TIM stakeholders.
The Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority (PRHTA) deployed a mobile application for SSP incident reporting that communicates with the TMC using a web-based service to catalog calls. The app replaces paper forms used in the past to document activities. A new SSP dashboard allows decision makers to use the improved quality, quantity, and precision of data to better understand trends and performance by facility and services. In the future, San Juan’s TMC will migrate to advanced traffic management system software, and the information from the SSP app will be integrated for seamless collection of event data.