Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department - Statewide Traffic Management Center
Traffic management functions relate to tracking and reporting information related to recurring congestion.
Camera monitoring of traffic patterns, reporting speeds and delays via applications, and coordination of information to appropriate agencies are typical traffic management functions that a Traffic Management Center (TMC) performs.
From the survey, traffic data monitoring (speeds, volume, congestion), CCTV monitoring, and information sharing with municipal traffic operations agencies were all rated "very important". Conversely, ramp meter operation and information sharing with transit centers were identified as "less important" to stakeholders. AHTD does not currently have ramp meters, so it is possible that this function rated lower because stakeholders did not see the need, however if ramp metering is implemented it may be considered a more important function by stakeholders.
State Transportation agencies across the country share similar challenges: Continual need to improve safety and reduce fatalities and injuries on the transportation system; increased demand on the system while resources to maintain or expand the system often decrease; and lack of reliability of the system, which leads to frustration for travelers. An increased focus on transportation systems' management and operations strategies have been shown to be a cost effective way to address some of the challenge transportation agencies face. These management and operations strategies have been proven to improve safety, reduce congestion, and increase reliability. Strategies such as monitoring freeways and providing real-time information on travel conditions, traffic incident management coordination between traffic and emergency response agencies, freeway service patrols, and ramp-metering are just a few example of transportation systems management and operation strategies that can be implemented.
The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (the Department) has begun deploying much of the infrastructure to support improved management and operations strategies. Closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, dynamic message signs (DMS), highway advisory radio (HAR), and the IDriveArkansas website are just a few examples of the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) that the Department has installed to improve operations. The Department is continually challenged to monitor these systems, while maintaining staff that is available to respond to incidents, road closures, severe weather, or other events that may disrupt normal traffic flow. The Department also lacks the staff and facilities to more closely coordinate with local partners, such as the State Police during incident response, or with other State DOTs to manage closures that impact traffic entering or exiting Arkansas.
The Department's Maintenance Division currently monitors and operates ITS equipment by remotely using on-call staff after hours. This process has been effective when a limited amount of ITS equipment has been deployed, but as the amount of infrastructure increases it will be more difficult to efficiently operate the ITS infrastructure through a remote on-call operator.
One of the proposed solutions to facilitate improved management and operations of Arkansas' transportation system is a Statewide Transportation Management Center (TMC). A Statewide TMC would provide a single point of contact for other agencies, act as hub for processing information from around the State, and serve as the central communications facility to provide information to the public, media, other states, local traffic, and emergency response partners. The Statewide TMC could be co-located with the Department's current Radio Room, which would provide an opportunity for the TMC operators and Radio Room dispatchers to act collaboratively. Co-location provides the Radio Room dispatchers with easy access to video and data feeds from the Statewide TMC. Initially, it is not anticipated that the Statewide TMC would be operated as a 24-hour facility, so co-location would also allow dispatchers, who staff the Radio Room on a 24-hour basis, to provide back-up of the TMC operations after normal TMC business hours.
In the short term, the Statewide TMC would rely upon existing ITS equipment to provide traffic information and work zone information, update the IDriveArkansas website and social media applications, and upgrade virtual access systems and software capabilities for the Department's needs. Incident management and monitoring of highway traffic conditions and rural signal operations would rely upon the existing infrastructure and become more effective over time as additional monitoring devices and/or equipment is deployed. Sources for traffic data would rely upon currently available data sources offered by third-party data providers (e.g., INRIX or HERE). Although the Department does not plan to deploy its own traffic detection systems, if a more cost effective system were developed in the future the TMC would be responsible for monitoring the detectors. Incident detection would rely upon existing field personnel. A pilot test zone could be defined whereby a concentrated effort is placed on deployment of additional field equipment to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program. This could form the basis for a future statewide focus as funding becomes available.
In the long term, with appropriate investment in software systems within the TMC and appropriate system coverage with CCTV, DMS, HAR, and other equipment (such as traffic detectors), it would be possible to have proactive, full-scale operations of traffic incident monitoring and management, as well as traffic information sourcing for public knowledge. The Statewide TMC would serve the purpose of incident management hub or command center, with public safety agencies reporting information into the TMC for dissemination to appropriate personnel in other agencies and the traveling public. The scope of traveler information would include uploading messages to DMS as information becomes available, by monitoring, verifying, and reporting from other agencies and first responders,as well as utilization of live updating for the IDriveArkansas website and applications. In addition, surveillance equipment could be used to verify the nature and severity of incidents and signal malfunctions to dispatch appropriate maintenance crews and provide information to responders. Expanding the system's capacity would help the TMC realize its full potential.