The collection and analysis of roadway and incident data is an important part of assessing Traffic Incident Management (TIM) performance and other operational characteristics of the road network.
TIM data includes incident response and departure times, time to re-open a closed roadway, and incident type (e.g., crashes, disabled vehicles, debris). TIM data collection can come from multiple sources, such as law enforcement traffic crash reports, public safety computer-aided dispatch system time stamps, transportation management centers (TMCs), and safety service patrol logs. TIM data is a valuable source of information because the metrics collected (such as clearance times and number of secondary crashes) allow agencies to identify areas that can improve TIM programs by quantifying and monetizing program performance.
Two examples from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) help illustrate the real-world applications of TIM data. Each of these DOTs uses TIM data to improve performance and ensure all TIM activities are conducted safely and efficiently.
VDOT collects data statewide at five regional operation centers. This data primarily comes from the interstate system and is entered into a central Advanced Transportation Management System. In addition to TIM data, VDOT collects and reports on traffic speed and volume, work zone, and weather data to create real-time awareness of roadway operations for the agency.
VDOT primarily uses the collected TIM data for reporting three performance measures. The first is scene clearance time, which is measured from the start of an incident to when the incident scene is clear. The second, roadway clearance time, is measured from the start of the incident when at least one lane of travel is blocked to the time that all travel lanes are open to traffic. The third performance measure is estimating causes of congestion due to roadway incidents, which uses an algorithm to estimate the cause for interstate congestion.
Though traffic incidents cause congestion, other factors such as work zones, weather, and recurring events can impact mobility. VDOT develops monthly and quarterly reports for executive and regional leadership using TIM data and publishes an annual Operations Performance report that is available to the public, which provides a statewide summary and overview of each VDOT district.
VDOT uses historical or archived TIM data to explore opportunities to expand and improve the Safety Service Patrol routes and response times and to enhance the Towing Recovery and Incentive Program performance. In addition, VDOT uses TIM data to create a before-and-after analysis to evaluate the impact of a project, such as restriping, detour management, express lane extensions, and variable speed limit, after implementation.
“Overall, the use of traffic operations data, including TIM data, has been beneficial to the department,” said Katie Felton, an engineer in VDOT’s Traffic Operations Division who leads TIM performance reporting and data analytics. “We are committed to continuing to use TIM data to create opportunities to expand and improve existing programs and evaluate the performance of future projects. Also, we know that the analysis of TIM data to make data-driven decisions enhances comprehensive ways to improve the safety and operations of VDOT’s roadway system.”
Florida started collecting roadway clearance time, incident clearance time, and secondary crash data in 2017. Using Florida’s SunGuide® TMC software, they are now storing TIM performance measures, which are shared with the State’s Central Office and subsequently used for graphical, web-based dashboards of historical FDOT–TIM data.
Participation in EDC round six Next-Generation TIM has FDOT looking for continued opportunities to use TIM data. A new TMC video wall in Southwest Florida provided such an opportunity. Agency information technology (IT) staff integrated TIM data from the statewide dashboard with the TMC video wall to create a real-time, local dashboard to track active incidents on the big screen. The TIM metrics for each active incident can now be displayed in a list form with graphical details and an individual event view with greater detail.
TMC operators and their co-located Florida Highway Patrol dispatchers now also get a contextual view of any event that includes camera views, incident severity, responders notified, dispatch status, incident duration, arrival status, roadway/lane blockage, and clearance activities. Average travel time on road segments, speeds, and estimated delay are also shown, reflecting roadway telemetry and third-party probe data. A related map of the area is also displayed. Road Ranger service patrol status is readily visible for resourcing.
“Enhancements to the video wall now present real-time data to operators and dispatchers, and the feedback has been very positive,” said Tom Arsenault, FDOT District 1 TIM Program Manager. “The ability to track clearance times allows FDOT to train first responders to get the roads open faster and keep the motoring public moving safely.”
Agencies across the Nation are analyzing Traffic Incident Management (TIM) data to assess their TIM program performance, measure how well traffic incidents are managed, and look for ways to continue improving response activities. As data collection capabilities continue to develop, agencies will be better able to reduce clearance times, decrease secondary crashes, and improve efficiency for both motorists and responders.
The Federal Highway Administration Office of Operations hosts a monthly Talking TIM webinar series that provides a forum for sharing these TIM program strategies. View the May 22, 2022, webinar to learn how the Virginia Department of Transportation uses the TIM data they collect to evaluate their Safety Service Patrol routes and Towing Recovery & Incentive Program.
Notice: The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this article only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.
Recommended Citation: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration - Washington, DC (2022) Innovator Newsletter, September/October 2022, Volume 16 (92). https://doi.org/10.21949/1521850