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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-20-002    Date:  Winter 2020
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-20-002
Issue No: Vol. 83 No. 4
Date: Winter 2020

 

Mainstreaming Transportation Systems Management and Operations

by Tracy Scriba, Aaron Jette, and Pepper Santalucia

The current (and future) traveler demands improved reliability and efficiency. Is your TSMO program ready to deliver?

In today's connected world, U.S. travelers have come to expect ever-improving ways of using real-time information to make their lives better. As road users see rapid advances in information and transportation technologies, such as navigational apps, shared mobility services, and connected and automated vehicles, they expect more reliable travel and access to accurate, real-time information about travel conditions. Travelers are less tolerant of unexpected delays and demand greater accountability from public officials to ensure effective spending of public funds to maximize the performance of the transportation system.

A highway through snow-covered hills with traffic congestion. A dynamic message sign over the highway reads "Icy Road Next 5 Miles Reduce Speed."
Today's road users expect accurate, real-time information about travel conditions to help them make informed decisions, especially when encountering congestion. Variable message signs like the one shown here are one way to provide real-time information.

Faced with heightened traveler expectations and funding constraints, as well as growing opportunities from advances in technology and data, transportation agencies are increasingly turning to operations strategies that optimize the use of existing roadway capacity. These strategies are known collectively as transportation systems management and operations (TSMO). TSMO is defined as a set of integrated strategies that enable transportation agencies to better manage and operate existing roadway capacity to improve the reliability and efficiency of the system and the mobility of system users. TSMO looks at performance from a systems perspective so that strategies to improve the operation of the transportation network are coordinated across multiple jurisdictions, agencies, and modes.

One key effort that helped agencies advance TSMO was the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2). For a decade, SHRP2 provided critical funding and technical resources to agencies to assist with developing and deploying innovative TSMO solutions. SHRP2 was a national partnership of the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the Transportation Research Board. A set of SHRP2 tools and training resources, the SHRP2 Reliability Solutions, focuses on improving the capability of transportation agencies to analyze and address congestion and travel time reliability. Every State, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, has implemented these solutions.

How are State departments of transportation building and implementing effective TSMO programs? The following sections detail elements of success and provide examples that give a snapshot of 21st-century operations programs using SHRP2 solutions and beyond.

Examples of TSMO Strategies

  • Active transportation and demand management
  • Congestion pricing
  • Freight management
  • Integrated corridor management
  • Managed lanes
  • Parking management
  • Road weather management
  • Special event management
  • Traffic incident management
  • Traffic signal coordination
  • Transit signal priority
  • Traveler information
  • Work zone management

Each of these categories has a number of individual strategies. More information on TSMO is available at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/tsmo/index.htm.

A Toolbox of Strategies

TSMO strategies include a wide range of operations strategies from work zone management and traffic signal timing and coordination, to congestion pricing and demand management. Many TSMO strategies leverage intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and advanced information technologies, but the TSMO toolbox also includes relatively low-tech operational enhancements and design treatments, such as snow fences, pullout areas, and part-time shoulder use.

TSMO looks at management and operations of the transportation system as a whole, and how it can effectively move people and goods safely, reliably, and efficiently to their destinations. Examples include use of traffic management centers to actively manage traffic flow between freeways and arterials during delays and crashes, real-time information that enables travelers to choose other routes or modes of travel to avoid delays, and coordinated incident response to reopen lanes sooner.

TSMO strategies can often mitigate, or even solve, many issues and improve traffic flow. However, addressing growing demand may sometimes necessitate adding lanes or other significant capital improvements. Integrating the best possible combination of solutions requires planning, data, organizational capabilities, and coordination among a range of partners.

TSMO helps system operators get the most out of their transportation facilities by smoothing everyday traffic flow and mitigating disruptions caused by weather, traffic incidents, planned events, and work zones. However, agencies must do more than deploy ITS projects to achieve the full potential of TSMO. To be most effective, TSMO must be recognized as a formal core function of State and local DOTs, just as project delivery is considered a core function today.

What are SHRP2 Reliability Solutions?

Authorized by the 2005 highway reauthorization act, SHRP2 undertook more than 100 research projects designed to address critical State and local challenges, such as aging infrastructure, congestion, and safety. Reliability was one of the four focus areas of the SHRP2 program. The SHRP2 Reliability research projects developed analytical techniques, decision-support tools, strategies, and institutional and workforce approaches to improve the effectiveness of transportation operations. Many of the solutions developed in SHRP2's Reliability focus area are intended to help agencies implement TSMO more effectively.

To help State DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations deploy SHRP2 solutions, FHWA and AASHTO created the SHRP2 Implementation Assistance Program. This program conducted seven rounds of funding awards between 2013 and 2016. This program made 36 awards to States and MPOs for implementing SHRP2 Reliability solutions.

"Moving forward, managing roadways through a TSMO framework must become as much a part of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation's (MassDOT's) DNA as fixing potholes and plowing snow," said Stephanie Pollack, transportation secretary and CEO at MassDOT, in a recently published news release. "Advancing, expanding, and institutionalizing these kinds of [TSMO] solutions will help limit the effects of crashes, work zones, and weather on already lengthy commutes."

Championing TSMO

SHRP2 Reliability Solutions arrived at the right time to help early TSMO champions with products based on research and input from stakeholders. Research identified the importance of travel time reliability and the gap in how to analyze reliability and use it in decisionmaking. This led to the development of analytical tools and resources. Research focused on what differentiates agencies that are most effective at TSMO. The research found that the key differentiating factor between agencies most effectively implementing TSMO and other agencies was not the amount of technology deployed or money spent (however, both of these factors are necessary). It was whether an agency had effective processes and organizational capabilities for TSMO. These elements help create an organizational culture that supports TSMO and enables it to become the standard way of doing business.

The SHRP2 products and implementation assistance helped bring energy, attention, funding, and new tools to advance TSMO and create buy-in across transportation agencies. Monica Harwood Duncan, TSMO development engineer for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), noted the value of the SHRP2 tools in helping to advance TSMO at WSDOT. "We have been fortunate enough to have received support for using around eight different SHRP2 products," Duncan says. "To summarize what those products meant to us as an agency—they created a conversation of innovation for us, to look at what's next for us, which may not have happened without SHRP2 products. It set very clear focus areas for us. We have to have TSMO be part of [our organization]—not champion driven, but fully integrated."

Reflecting on SHRP2 experiences and observations from other recent collaborations with agencies on TSMO, some elements that are helping agencies advance TSMO are:

  • Treating TSMO as a core agency program.
  • Integrating TSMO into existing processes, including planning for operations, and enabling it to compete effectively for funding.
  • Developing an agency culture that supports and values TSMO by gaining leadership support and building support through the organization.
  • Communicating the value of TSMO and making a business case for TSMO investments.
  • Including reliability in analysis for project investments and system performance.
  • Developing workforce capabilities for TSMO.
  • Developing effective partnerships and collaboration between internal agency departments and with external partners across regions.

A recent National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE) report confirmed these observations by sharing the findings from a series of engagements with five State DOTs about their TSMO programs. This report identified common characteristics to a successful environment for TSMO including strong leadership and a champion at the senior staff level; prioritization, visibility, and availability of resources to do the job; the importance of culture in breaking down silos; collaboration, communication, and coordination; and attention to the workforce of the future.

Enhancing Organizational Capacity

SHRP2 Organizing for Reliability Tools provide solutions to help agencies integrate and mainstream operations. These products focus on orienting and improving key aspects within the agency to facilitate effective management and operations programs and projects. Using a capability maturity model (CMM) framework, these tools are designed to help agencies assess their TSMO programs. By systematically assessing distinct aspects of their TSMO programs using the CMM framework, agencies can identify and prioritize changes to their business and technical processes, as well as their organizational structure and institutional partnerships. These changes will enhance their ability to manage congestion and more effectively operate their transportation system.

Diagram of the capability maturity model depicted as an arrow turning in a clockwise direction. The arrow is divided into six segments, which are labeled with the six dimensions used to assess an agency’s capacity to implement TSMO: business processes (including formal scoping, planning, programming, and budgeting); systems and technology (including systems architecture, standards, interoperability, standardization, and documentation); performance measurement (including measurement definition, data acquisition, analysis, and utilization); culture (including technical understanding, leadership, policy commitment, outreach, and program authority); organization and workforce (including organizational structure and staff capacity, development, and retention); and collaboration (including relationships with public safety agencies, local governments, metropolitan planning organization, and the private sector). Managing these six dimensions leads to improved transportation system management and operations effectiveness.
The capability maturity model helps agencies assess their TSMO capabilities across six key dimensions.

The Organizing for Reliability Tools garnered a high level of interest. Twenty-seven State and regional agencies applied for and received implementation assistance through the SHRP2 program to deploy these products. Interest in the CMM framework has continued to increase, and more than 50 States and regions have hosted workshops during which they used the CMM framework to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and develop action plans to improve their TSMO capabilities. Agencies have used the results of these workshops to guide the development of TSMO program plans, build buy-in from agency leadership and key stakeholders, restructure organizations or business processes to integrate TSMO, increase workforce understanding and knowledge of TSMO approaches, and strengthen interagency partnerships.

Companion tools and case studies that apply the CMM approach to individual program areas like work zone management and road weather programs are available at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/tsmoframeworktool/index.htm.

CMM in Action

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has used the CMM to assess its TSMO capabilities. After MDOT conducted an initial CMM assessment, they decided to develop and adopt a TSMO strategic plan. The agency also restructured the board overseeing the statewide traffic management system to include senior-level personnel and experts on the TSMO elements of planning, operations, and maintenance. As a result, MDOT has made progress toward integrating TSMO into its planning and project development processes, developing TSMO performance measures, and fostering a TSMO culture across the agency. MDOT established a leadership position to serve as the program manager to oversee implementation of the TSMO strategic plan. An assessment after 3 years showed improvement in five out the six CMM dimensions.

The Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) also assessed its TSMO processes and capabilities using the CMM framework. Based on the results of its assessment, the agency developed a TSMO strategic plan, a TSMO program plan, and TSMO service layer plans. Through this comprehensive planning process, Iowa DOT sought to improve TSMO business processes and develop TSMO tools to enable the effective application of integrated TSMO strategies across eight different service areas such as traveler information, work zones, and connected and autonomous vehicles. Iowa DOT held an executive briefing and a workshop to launch its TSMO plan, developed a business case for TSMO to communicate the value of TSMO efforts to address its transportation challenges, and implemented other communication and education efforts, including a TSMO website and video. A reassessment using the same CMM showed that Iowa DOT's scores increased in three of the six CMM dimensions.

Program Planning

As in Iowa, many of the action plans coming out of the CMM self-assessment efforts of other States identified the need to develop a TSMO program plan. A program plan helps guide the agency in advancing its institutional focus on TSMO. Many States have plans for specific TSMO services, projects, and activities (such as ITS or incident response plans), but those plans often do not describe the role of TSMO in support of the agency's mission and do not address all TSMO functions or explain how they integrate. States and agencies have recognized a need to better mainstream TSMO within their agencies and to set priorities for activities and investments. As a result, more than 20 States and regional agencies have developed TSMO program plans.

Bank of monitors showing traffic conditions in an Iowa DOT traffic management center.
Technology and data come together in traffic management centers like this Iowa DOT facility to help agencies quickly identify traffic and roadway issues and make adjustments to traveler information and provide incident response. With the extensive data available today, agencies can also track roadway performance.

The process of TSMO program planning, as described in FHWA's primer on TSMO program planning, Developing and Sustaining a Transportation Systems Management & Operations Mission for Your Organization: Primer for Program Planning, identifies the strategic, programmatic, and tactical elements to advance TSMO as a critical part of an agency's mission. In addition to identifying goals, objectives, performance measures, and specific projects, TSMO program plans define the programmatic structure for organizing an agency's activities, functions, and workforce to accomplish the goals and objectives of the program. Through the plans, agencies can establish TSMO as a core agency program.

Institutionalizing TSMO within agencies can help it endure over time as champions come and go; raise awareness and support for TSMO in agency policy, business processes, and budgets; and integrate it throughout the whole project life cycle. FHWA's primer on TSMO program planning is available at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop17017/index.htm.

Business Processes

Business processes are vital to guiding how an agency conducts its day-to-day business, establishing consistent steps for getting work done. Business processes can help integrate TSMO into agency project development and procurement processes, and increase the effectiveness of TSMO strategy deployment.

SHRP2 created resources to enhance business processes for TSMO. These resources provide a methodology and incorporate best practices to help transportation agencies change their business practices to strengthen systems operations, address nonrecurring traffic congestion, and improve travel time reliability. FHWA released a guide and workshop, which provide a methodology that managers can follow to develop and improve TSMO operational and programmatic processes. The guide, Improving Business Processes for More Effective Transportation Systems Management and Operation (FHWA-HOP-16-018), is available at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop16018/index.htm.

State and regional agencies have used the methodology and workshops to develop a process for activating and deactivating a storm desk (a special transportation management center function that activates during major weather events) at their transportation management centers, providing feedback on work zone traffic management plans from the field back to designers to improve future plans, and coordinating traffic management between arterials managed by local agencies and the State freeway system during major incidents on the freeway.

Changing the Culture

In general terms, efforts to advance TSMO have been described as moving an agency to become operations oriented—going from ad hoc activities to a complete TSMO program with integrated services that improve the performance of the existing transportation system. This is a cultural shift for many agencies.

Agencies advancing TSMO have built a TSMO culture working from both the leadership level and from staff-level champions. Leadership can provide indication of the agency's support for considering TSMO approaches to transportation issues and investing in TSMO strategies and workforce skills. Even with leadership support, senior staff champions play a key role in integrating TSMO into agency processes and working relationships, and helping identify where resources are needed. In some cases, staff-level champions have been in place for several years and TSMO efforts build slowly until leadership is in place that is ready to increase support for TSMO. Other times, new leaders come in emphasizing TSMO and staff-level support follows.

Many agencies have found it helpful to build a strong business case for TSMO, which can effectively communicate the value of operations and gain support and resources for TSMO.

The Nevada Department of Transportation's (NDOT's) SHRP2 CMM assessment led the agency to identify the need for a stronger internal understanding of TSMO. The NDOT Traffic Operations Division saw a business case as a way to enhance culture and collaboration for TSMO across NDOT's divisions. NDOT developed a case for TSMO that looks at eight current challenges and TSMO's contribution to addressing the challenges. NDOT drew these challenges from those already identified in the statewide transportation plan. NDOT's business case addressed challenges related to (1) a growing population, (2) a tourism-based economy, (3) growing congestion, (4) increasing vehicle miles of travel, (5) the need to repair roads and bridges, (6) safety issues, (7) trucks and freight movement, and (8) asset and performance management. NDOT formatted its business case in an easy-to-read two-page layout.

Other States, such as Iowa, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Utah have also created a business case for TSMO to help increase understanding and awareness of its value. As a result of their efforts to make a compelling case and build support for TSMO, a few States have established a mechanism to provide some dedicated funding for TSMO projects. For example, DOTs in both Michigan and Ohio have established competitive processes to which their regions or districts can submit projects for funding.

Another way some agencies have indicated support for TSMO is by incorporating TSMO into their agency missions, goals, and objectives. This is a visible way of establishing the key role that TSMO plays in a DOT and its transportation programs.

Two key resources for building a business case are the SHRP2 Business Case Primer Communicating the Value of Transportation Systems Management and Operations, available at https://transportationops.org/business-cases/business-case-primer-communicating-value-transportation-systems-management-and, and FHWA's Advancing TSMO: Making the Business Case for Institutional, Organizational, and Procedural Changes (FHWA-HOP-19-017), available at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop19017/index.htm.

Portion of Nevada DOT's business case for TSMO. The top half of the image contains text and charts with information about four current transportation challenges in Nevada: population growth, tourism-based economy, congestion and associated costs, and increasing vehicle miles traveled. The bottom half of the image contains text explaining how TSMO can help address each of the four challenges.
The Nevada Department of Transportation developed a business case for TSMO that considers current transportation challenges in Nevada and explains TSMO's contribution to addressing those challenges.

Incorporating Reliability into Data and Analysis

Traditionally, analytical tools used by transportation agencies for highway operations have focused on average conditions. They have not taken into account a range of travel times or how travel times vary in response to changing conditions. To improve travel time reliability, transportation agencies need new tools for monitoring and analyzing fluctuations in traffic. With such tools, agencies can better analyze and diagnose the causes of travel time delays and select the appropriate management strategies to address specific issues.

Many TSMO strategies help manage disruptions caused by crashes, storms, or roadwork that can lead to unreliable travel times. The SHRP2 Reliability Program produced a suite of analytical tools to help transportation agencies better identify the sources of travel time delays, analyze the likely impact on travel time reliability from implementing various strategies, and incorporate these considerations into the transportation planning and funding process. These analytical tools also enable agencies to include reliability in their assessment of transportation alternatives.

Scatter chart shows many measurements of travel time (y axis) by time of day (x-axis). The points shown on the chart are traffic incidents and weather events affecting travel time at the time of measurement. At most times of day, travel times are less than 25 minutes. However, during the evening rush-hour period, travel times steadily increase and peak at about 75 minutes before decreasing again.
Reliability analytical tools help the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) understand the effect of incidents and weather on travel times in particular corridors in the State. WSDOT can then select the most relevant TSMO strategies.

WSDOT piloted SHRP2 tools to improve the monitoring and analysis of travel time reliability in both urban and rural areas of the State. WSDOT used the tools to enhance the capabilities of its existing data management and analysis system called the Digital Roadway Interactive Visualization and Evaluation Network (DRIVE Net). This system, developed by the University of Washington, uses geospatial, traffic, and other types of data to calculate a range of performance measures and conduct other types of analyses. WSDOT modified DRIVE Net to accept additional data sources and to perform new analytical functions based on the SHRP2 tool set. With the additional data sources and enhanced capabilities, WSDOT is now able to provide comprehensive travel time reliability measures for the statewide traffic network in days rather than months.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is actively working toward integration of TSMO planning and reliability analysis into its processes with support from the SHRP2 tools and Implementation Assistance Program. FDOT developed the Planning for Travel Time Reliability Guide and The Planning for TSM&O Guidebook. FDOT then conducted outreach to its staff about integrating TSMO planning and reliability analysis into its processes. These efforts built on FDOT's earlier efforts, including a Central Office reorganization that changed an ITS office to a TSMO office in 2015. The reorganization recognized the importance of TSMO and the need for strong champions for implementation to be successful. FDOT also built off a 2016 TSMO CMM self-assessment that led to the development of a TSMO strategic plan. In addition, FDOT prepared the Evaluation of Project Processes in Relation to Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSM&O) in 2018, which explored what would be required to integrate and mainstream TSMO throughout FDOT's entire project development process.

Two damaged cars in the foreground look as if they have collided with one another. A fire engine is parked diagonally behind them, and there are four emergency responders in neon-colored vests standing between the fire engine and the cars.
Trainees attend the Tennessee Traffic Incident Management Training Facility, which is designed for them to practice responding to crashes.

Developing Workforce Capabilities

Implementing TSMO strategies effectively may require enhancing the knowledge and skills of the current transportation agency workforce. This is especially true as transportation rapidly evolves to incorporate new data sources (such as crowdsourcing, where data comes from travelers themselves rather than from sensors or cameras managed by infrastructure operators), measures (such as reliability), technologies, and modes (such as dockless bikes and autonomous shuttles), in addition to more proactive approaches to system operations and management.

NOCoE identified TSMO workforce as a key challenge and selected it as the topic for its first national summit. To address TSMO capabilities in the transportation workforce, several entities, including FHWA and the SHRP2 program, have developed different types of TSMO training.

Regional Operations Forums. One of the key reliability solutions that SHRP2 developed was the Regional Operations Forum (ROF), a week-long immersion program in TSMO that includes peer exchange, learning from experts, and interactive group exercises. Over 5 years, a combination of FHWA, AASHTO, and SHRP2 implementation efforts have supported 26 ROFs with participants from all 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, and as well as some staff from metropolitan planning organizations, municipalities, and public safety agencies. Some of these efforts were led by State DOTs using their SHRP2 implementation assistance funding. Based on feedback from the early forums, FHWA worked with AASHTO to adapt the ROF format to a condensed 2.5-day version called the Regional Operations Leadership Forum that is being delivered to every region of the country.

The forums enable program leaders at public agencies to build knowledge in TSMO while also developing a strong network of TSMO peers. Topics covered include core areas such as business processes, culture, organization, and workforce, as well as some technical topics such as integrated corridor management and emerging technologies.

TSMO Educational Program. Led by the Kansas Department of Transportation, the ITS Heartland regional chapter of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) used SHRP2 implementation assistance funding to establish a TSMO educational program based on the ROF model for its five member States: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. As part of its training program, ITS Heartland has delivered a series of TSMO webinars and in-person training sessions, two TSMO train-the-trainer workshops, and a self-paced TSMO course. The program has reached more than 600 participants to date and received a 2018 NOCoE TSMO Award. Webinar recordings and other training resources are available on ITS Heartland's website at https://itsheartland.org/tsmo-university/.

TIM Responder Training. Traffic Incident Management (TIM), an important TSMO strategy, is the planned and coordinated multidisciplinary process to detect, respond to, and clear traffic incidents and restore traffic flow as safely and quickly as possible. A strong TIM program equips responders of all disciplines to work together effectively and consistently, which decreases incident duration and reduces the number of secondary crashes.

The SHRP2 program created a TIM training curriculum that offers a set of practices to enable safer and faster clearance of traffic crashes. The training brings police officers; firefighters; DOT, towing, and medical personnel; and other incident responders together to engage in joint learning and interactive, hands-on exercises. A train-the-trainer program has created a national network of instructors, enabling quicker and more consistent training of the entire responder corps. To reach even more responders, the program developed a web-based version of the training for individuals who cannot access a classroom session.

More than 445,000 responders have completed one form of the training to date. In addition, more than 65 public safety academies in at least 38 States have integrated the training content into their curricula.

Six overlapping covers of fact sheets that explain how TSMO relates to safety, construction, asset management, environment, human resources, and maintenance.
FHWA has developed fact sheets to explain how TSMO relates to other DOT functions such as design, construction, safety, and environment.

A formal evaluation of the SHRP2 TIM training program found that States that adopted the TIM training saw strengthened responder and agency practices, resulting in further reductions to overall roadway-clearance and incident-clearance times. Participants in the TIM trainings in Arizona and Tennessee noted that the training enabled them to understand incident response from the perspective of other agencies, which made them become aware of nuances that could help expedite incident response.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) created an advanced TIM course to engage responders more deeply about multiagency collaboration. Using Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funds, Tennessee DOT also built a TIM training facility next to a training center for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

"The SHRP2 Program has provided TDOT with a number of resources that have helped mature our—and other Tennessee agencies'—TSMO capabilities," says Brad Freeze, director of the Traffic Operations Division at TDOT. "Specifically, the program has helped TDOT in developing a strategic direction for operations with the creation of a Traffic Operations Program Plan and has advanced the state of practice of incident management in Tennessee through the National TIM Responder Training course and our subsequent development of an advanced TIM training course."

Strengthening Collaboration

Implementing TSMO effectively requires collaboration not only within a transportation agency but also among transportation agencies from neighboring jurisdictions and from other modes such as transit. It also requires collaboration between transportation agencies and first responders. Some of the workforce development initiatives, such as the TIM responder training and the ROFs, foster collaboration while improving workforce skills. Other initiatives directly aim to build the internal and external relationships needed for effective TSMO.

Collaboration between planners and operators, commonly known in the industry as planning for operations, can improve the integration of TSMO into the entire project life cycle—from system planning and investment decisionmaking to design, construction, maintenance, and system monitoring and evaluation. Planning for operations also supports improved regional TSMO by considering operations strategies in regional transportation planning. Regional partners may include planning and operations staff from MPOs, State DOTs, transit agencies, highway agencies, toll authorities, and local governments.

TSMO often supports or benefits from other transportation agency functions and offices such as design, maintenance, and safety. Historically, these connections are not well understood or communicated, and organizational silos may exist in some agencies. However, acknowledging and strengthening these connections may result in more effective functions. FHWA has developed a series of nine fact sheets that detail how TSMO relates to other functions within a DOT and provide examples of how connecting these functions has worked in practice. For example, the Maricopa County Department of Transportation and Arizona Department of Transportation created AZTech, a regional traffic management partnership in the Phoenix metropolitan area. AZTech established a regional data-sharing system among its member agencies and jurisdictions to enable local jurisdictions to share real-time information on traffic incidents and infrastructure conditions. The FHWA fact sheets are available at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/plan4ops/focus_areas/integrating/tsmo_factsheets.htm.

National Operations Center of Excellence. Created in 2015 with support from the SHRP2 Reliability Program, NOCoE is an organization dedicated to promoting TSMO, educating TSMO practitioners, bringing together the TSMO community, and accelerating deployment of TSMO strategies. NOCoE is a partnership of AASHTO, ITS America, and the Institute of Transportation Engineers, with support from FHWA. The center offers an array of technical services, such as peer exchange workshops, webinars, and case studies, and raises awareness of TSMO strategies and successes through its TSMO awards program and technology tournament.

NOCoE maintains a website at https://transportationops.org that serves as a centralized source of TSMO information. On its site, NOCoE maintains a web page of resources on TSMO workforce development and offers a collection of TSMO case studies to share TSMO successes from agencies across the country.

Is Your TSMO Program Ready?

The transportation sector is rapidly transforming—connected and automated vehicles, ride-hailing services, micromobility vehicles such as shared bicycles and electric scooters, and the growing use of active and even proactive corridor management. Also changing is the increasing ubiquity of data about travelers and the transportation systems they are using (for example, crowdsourced data from travelers, private-sector data providers, and road condition data from connected vehicles) as well as the processing power and analytical tools to manage and make sense of the data.

Technological changes are increasing both the quantity and quality of real-time data that transportation agencies can use to implement TSMO strategies. In some cases, the effectiveness of existing TSMO strategies will be enhanced. In other cases, it will be possible to try new TSMO strategies. However, unless agencies have addressed the organizational, workforce, and analytical aspects of TSMO, they may not be able to take full advantage of new technologies and new data sources.

FHWA is working with a wide range of stakeholders to prepare the Nation's roadway systems for the coming age of connected and automated vehicles. In 2018, FHWA held the National Dialogue on Highway Automation, a series of six national workshops focused on automated vehicles. The series highlighted the importance of integrating automated vehicle considerations into TSMO strategies to ensure that these vehicles can safely navigate traffic incidents, work zones, special events, and signal disruptions. Based on the outcomes of the National Dialogue, FHWA is prioritizing programs, policies, and research to support the safe and efficient integration of automated vehicles. For example, FHWA is pursuing an update to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) to help prepare roads for the future of automated vehicles.

Diagram shows on the left various types of real-time data including infrastructure status, vehicle status, weather, truck, transit, and data from mobile devices. On the right, the diagram shows new or enhanced TSMO strategies, including weather applications, transit signal priority, real-time travel information, truck fleet management/dynamic route guidance, real-time signal phase and timing optimization, and safety alerts and advisories. The diagram shows data coming from the various data sources into a cloud-shaped data environment, and then flowing out from the data environment to the TSMO strategies.
Transportation agencies are leveraging connectivity and emerging transportation data capabilities to advance TSMO strategies. This diagram shows various types of real-time data that agencies can use for new or enhanced TSMO strategies.

"Addressing congestion issues requires transportation professionals to seek out solutions that involve optimizing performance to get more out of our existing facilities," says Martin Knopp, FHWA Associate Administrator for Operations. "We have seen growing recognition of the need for effective operations. SHRP2 efforts played a big role in that. FHWA will continue to support the development of TSMO strategies and a national TSMO community of practice and to assist its partners in their efforts to improve roadway operations."

WEBSITES FOR MORE INFORMATION

FHWA Planning for Operations:

https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/plan4ops/index.htm

FHWA SHRP2 Reliability:

https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/shrp2/index.htm

NOCoE: https://transportationops.org


Tracy Scriba is the team leader of the Organizing and Planning for Operations Team in the FHWA Office of Operations. She holds a bachelor's degree in systems engineering from the University of Virginia.

Aaron Jette is chief of the Program Development and Capacity Building Division at USDOT's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. He holds a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University.

Pepper Santalucia is a contractor to USDOT's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. He holds a master's degree in public affairs from Princeton University.

For more information, see https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/tsmo/index.htm or contact Tracy Scriba at 202–366–0855 or tracy.scriba@dot.gov.

 

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