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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Improving Transportation Systems Management and Operations – Capability Maturity Model Workshop White Paper – Collaboration

Executive Summary


Research done through the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) determined that agencies with the most effective transportation systems management and operations (TSM&O) activities were differentiated not by budgets or technical skills alone, but by the existence of critical processes and institutional arrangements tailored to the unique features of TMCs applications. The significance of this finding has been validated in 40 State and regional self-assessment workshops using the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and its six dimensions of organizational capabilities. This white paper focuses on Collaboration as one of the central dimensions of capability needed to support effective TMCs, including collaboration with public safety agencies, MPOs, local governments, and public-private partnerships. It summarizes the TMCs state-of-the-practice based on the workshops and subsequent implementation plans developed at 23 sites selected by FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) as part of the SHRP 2 Implementation Assistance Program.


This white paper includes the following material:

  • A description of the SHRP 2 research and workshop process related to the institutional and process aspects of TMCs including a description of the CMM self-assessment framework and its application to the Collaboration dimension.
  • A discussion of the state-of-the-practice regarding Collaboration in terms of its key elements including capability levels self-assessed at the workshops.
  • A description of key synergies between Collaboration and the other dimensions of capability and evaluation of managers’ spans of control to effect improvement.
  • Best practice examples and references.
  • Suggested actions to address Collaboration needs on a national level.

An Appendix presenting common implementation plan priority actions for the Collaboration dimension.

State of the Practice Findings for TSM&O Business Processes

Key findings from the workshops included:


Agency staff recognize the criticality of external collaboration to several TMCs strategies. Some formal memoranda of understanding with other public sector agencies have been developed, especially for traffic incident management, but interagency collaboration is still substantially informal and based on personal relationships, which are sensitive to staff turnover. Key challenges in collaboration include the definitions of common performance objectives and relative capacity and resources of partner entities. Co-training is beginning to have a positive effect. Public-private partnerships are widely used and appear to be increasing for the more technical functions.

Public Safety Agency Collaboration

  • Leading from behind. In some cases, State DOTs find themselves needing to take the initiative in raising awareness among their application delivery partners (especially with public safety agencies) about the mobility aspects of incident response and through promoting cooperative activities such as MOUs, co-training, and after-event debriefings.
  • Building collaboration habits from major events and more complex applications. The experience in coping with significant crashes, major weather emergencies, and planned special events, where extensive collaboration is essential to public safety, often spotlights issues that need to be addressed in routine procedures and organizational changes. A focus on Integrated Corridor Management and greater emphasis on public agency performance measurement are spurring a greater focus on interagency collaboration.
  • Formal team building. Multiagency teams or committees are a key to successful regional collaboration, including after-incident debriefings, co-training, and collocation. A focus on Integrated Corridor Management and greater emphasis on public agency performance measurement are spurring a greater focus on interagency collaboration.
  • Challenges with smaller local governments and rural areas. Multijurisdictional regions with many local agencies (sometimes including limited operating hours and volunteer staff) present special challenges to establishing interoperability, common procedures, real-time coordination, and co-training.
  • Championing. Collaborative activities such as interagency teams are often informal and based on individual TMCs staff member “champions” for “outreach” and regular person-to-person reinforcement. This type of collaboration is, however, vulnerable to staff turnover.
  • Formal agreements. Stimulated by the SHRP 2 and FHWA-sponsored National Traffic Incident Management Responder Training, more than one-half of the States indicated that they have formal memoranda of understanding with public safety agencies. The need for continual renewal and reference was mentioned as essential to maintaining their value.
  • Cooperative use of performance measurement and data. Collaboration between State DOTs and their public safety partners on performance measure definition, analytics, and their routine use was largely absent. In most workshop locations, after-action debriefings were confined to major incidents, and secondary incidents were rarely addressed.
  • Resource sharing. Collocation appears to substantially enhance collaboration. In addition, there are a few instances of State DOT financial support for law enforcement incident management positions, as well as funding of incentive payments to towing and recovery entities.

Metropolitan Planning Organization/Regional Transportation Planning Agency/Local Government Collaboration

  • Collaborative planning. In a few instances, MPOs have taken the initiative developing a TMCs regional plan and program, often building on their Congestion Management Process and coordinating their regional architecture with a statewide architecture developed by State DOTs. MPO ITS or TMCs technical committees are the common method for coordination and collaboration.
  • Common architecture and technology. Data sharing across modes or between State and local governments for arterial traffic operations remains a challenge. It lacks routine center-to-center communications or sharing of CAD data and camera feeds.
  • Collaboration in operations. Interagency collaboration is increasing in two specific application areas: State DOTs contracting arterial signal improvements and maintenance to MPOs and development of integrated corridor management programs with MPOs and local governments.

Public-Private Partnerships

  • Outsourcing. State DOTs are outsourcing an increasing number of the more “technical” TSM&O functions, including systems planning and engineering, TMC staffing, ITS device maintenance, traveler information program development, and project delivery. Expansion of outsourcing is introducing its own set of management challenges and opportunities related to procurement, contract management, standardization, performance-based oversight, and use of incentives.
  • Innovative contracting with incident management partners. To overcome the constraints and uncertainty of legacy towing and recovery arrangements, a few states/regions have achieved dramatic incident clearance time improvements through the development of incentive-based contracting.


TSM&O Collaboration is especially dependent on capabilities in the Culture dimension for supporting institutionalization of interagency working relationships; and the Organization and Staffing dimension, as reflected in a dependency on well-defined organizational structure. The Collaboration dimension itself is critical to other TSM&O dimensions requiring both internal and external close working relationships with Systems and Technology and Business Processes.

State DOT and Regional Implementation Plan Priorities

The leading participant-suggested actions included in TMCs implementation plans for advancement to the next level of capability in Collaboration include:

  • Establishing a forum to build better interagency relationships and improve TIM practices, including updating TIM strategic plans and co-training.
  • Conducting outreach to partners for improved transportation management, including platforms/forums for improved collaboration/operations strategies on a corridor basis.
  • Creating a formal institutional structure to enhance reliability performance measurement collaboration and coordination.
  • Conducting a Regional Operations Forum to enhance cross-site collaboration.

Best Practices and National Needs

This white paper describes example best practices and reference material related to the identified implementation plan priority needs. The paper also suggests supportive national actions to improve TMCs Collaboration – development of a program of webinars, guidelines, and lessons-learned to disseminate best practice – but also the need to develop new custom-tailored approaches to the issues raised by workshop participants in their implementation plan priorities. Important roles are seen for FHWA, AASHTO, and the National Operations Center of Excellence in supporting these efforts.

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