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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-06-001 Vol. 69 No. 3    Date:  November/December 2005
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-06-001 Vol. 69 No. 3
Date: November/December 2005


Internet Watch

by Keri A. Funderburg

NTOC Site "Talks" Operations And Management

While some transportation agencies are building new roads and bridges, nearly every agency is focused on keeping the Nation's existing roads and bridges up and running. Across the country, the management and operation of existing transportation infrastructure has become a priority, with numerous transportation specialists working to improve the performance and efficiency of the system.

To help institutionalize management and operations within the transportation industry, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently provided funding to establish the National Transportation Operations Coalition (NTOC) as an alliance of national associations, transportation practitioners, and private-sector groups. Recently, the coalition developed a new Web site, "NTOC Talks" (www.ntoctalks.com), to provide a central location for current news and information on transportation management and operations and intelligent transportation systems (ITS).

"FHWA supports NTOC because it helps educate transportation stakeholders at the Federal, State and local levels on strategies to improve the performance of the highway system," says Zia Burleigh, the FHWA program manager responsible for oversight and management of NTOC activities. "To help with this task, NTOC created the Web site as a tool to help elected and appointed officials and transportation practitioners make more informed decisions about operations and management, the deployment of ITS technologies, and resource allocations over the long term."

Something to Talk About

Divided into several content-based sections, the Web site provides users with various types of information. By clicking on the forums link from the homepage, for example, users can access two online message boards that serve as a common area for discussing current issues and sharing information with peers.

The Talking Operations forum serves as a place for practitioners and managers to share their thoughts and views on how to improve the collective maintenance and operation of the transportation system. Topics recently discussed in the forum include traffic management for special events and the cost effectiveness of operations strategies.

The objective of the ITS Technology forum is to support a dialogue among transportation organizations and professionals involved in planning, researching, deploying, and operating ITS technologies. Recent topics have included loop detectors, pedestrian safety technologies, and dynamic message signs.

In addition to the forums, the NTOC Web site provides users with access to the Talking Operations Web casts. Conducted via the Internet and telephone, these monthly seminars are designed to educate transportation professionals on trends, tools, and noteworthy practices in management, operations, and ITS technologies. Recent Web casts topics have included transportation performance measures and traffic signal optimization.

"The Web casts are useful because they provide an easy and free way for transportation decisionmakers and practitioners to learn about a variety of operations and ITS topics from the comfort of their own offices," says Burleigh.

Newsworthy and Resourceful

In the newsletter section of the site, users can access the latest edition of the NTOC newsletter, which is published twice every month. Articles cover a range of topics, from information on the latest transportation research to announcements about upcoming conferences and meetings. Several NTOC member organizations contribute articles to the newsletter, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Transportation Research Board.

The newsletter section also includes a search engine that enables users to access articles from previous issues, either by entering a keyword or choosing an appropriate category, such as training or market research. Users also can peruse the contents of past issues and sign up to have specific issues sent directly to their e-mail accounts. This feature can benefit both new practitioners in the field of transportation operations and management and also seasoned veterans who want to catch up on recent news and events.

From the homepage, users also can access the resources section of the site, which features links to reports, Web sites, and other publications. Using drop-down menus, users can select information by resource type or objective, such as improving freight operations or enhancing emergency transportation.

"This part of the site provides information on a variety of subjects related to operations and ITS," Burleigh says. "If a user cannot find the information he or she is looking for in the resources section, another option is to contact FHWA or one of NTOC's member associations for assistance."

While the "NTOC Talks" Web site provides a wealth of technical information for transportation professionals, it also enables users to learn more about NTOC and its mission and objectives. By including information on both technical issues and the coalition's activities, the site is helping to ensure that the transportation professionals responsible for keeping the Nation's transportation system up and running are educated and involved.

NTOC Talks web site screenshot
The "NTOC Talks" Web site.

Keri A. Funderburg is a contributing editor for PUBLIC ROADS.




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