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Freeway Management and Operations Handbook

Chapter 14 – Transportation Management Centers
Page 4 of 5 Implementation

This stage of the systems engineering process transforms the design(s) into a product. It may involve building parts of the system from scratch or integrating the different pieces that you buy. However it is done, it makes the system real. Activities during this stage focus on ensuring that what gets built matches the agreed-upon design. One specific subset of systems engineering activities during this stage is software engineering, designed to ensure the quality of the software in the system. These activities include walk-throughs of developed programs (where programmers review the work of another programmer, to determine whether any errors exist). In addition, software engineers define standards for code development and ensure that these standards are followed. But the systems engineering activities aren't solely directed at software. It is also important to ensure that hardware developed (or modified) during this stage also matches the agreed-upon design. Hardware inspections are one technique for quality control during this stage (9).

TMC Procurement Methods

Various methods exist for implementing TMCs and ITS-based systems. An important aspect of TMC procurement relates to the separation of the physical building or plant with that of the intelligent transportation systems within.

  • Low-Bid Contracting: This is probably the most common procurement practice for TMCs, as it is for most procurement with the public sector transportation community. Low-bid contracting is the selection of a bidder based upon having the lowest quoted price, while meeting a set of a specifications published by the procuring agency. It has remained a popular choice because of its reliability and intrinsically cost-effective format. This type of contracting however places a significant burden on the procuring agency to publish detailed, unambiguous specifications. The result of a poor specification is usually a significant cost and schedule overrun due to specification modifications and sometimes debates with and claims from the contractor. A re-bid of the contract may result, too, if the specification isn't complete and other non-selected bidders protest. This always has a significant effect on the agency's timeline for commissioning.
  • Systems Management Contracting: This bidding system serves to contract with a "systems manager" who installs specific systems within the TMC. The physical building and hardware are bid separately. The systems manager is also responsible for procuring the necessary hardware or 3rd party commercial software, developing and delivering the application software, integrating the systems, and proving training and documentation. This method is not the most common, however, it is becoming more so. It is an advantageous method for complex TMCs with multiple systems.
  • Life-Cycle Costs Contracting: This method is a competitive bid where the award is based upon the initial capital cost plus the cost of operation over a specific period of time. Life cycle is based upon the life of the "item" with initial capital costs capitalized to reflect annual costs. Determining when an item is obsolete can present difficulties for this method. This method is not a common one for freeway management TMCs.
  • Prequalification: This process is employed by a procuring agency to ensure that all those that bid are capable of meeting the minimum requirements prior to requesting detailed proposals or quotes. It is a two-step process: step 1 evaluates potential bidders to see if they have the means and experience to undertake a project, while step 2 involves evaluating quotes and awarding to the lowest bidding qualified contractor. Because of the complex nature of TMC, the prequalification method is a good tool and therefore, quite common.
  • Design-Build Contracting: This method is fairly common, and involves contracting to first have the TMC designed and then implement the project. It is common for these projects to be implemented in stages in order to better control the direction of the project and ensure that budget and time constraints can be measured and met. This method can be cumbersome to contractors when a negotiated fixed price for the design-build is determined, and during the design phase, significant changes are requested that impact the build cost. This risk can be mitigated with a thorough specification and a contracting mechanism that provides staged scooping and cost estimating.
  • Request for Proposal Contracting: This method is very common for procuring engineering or consulting services. After the issue of a request for proposal containing a detailed project statement from a contracting agency, prospective bidders prepare and submit a proposal that may include an understanding of the issues, detailed scope of work, experience and staff qualifications, cost estimate and schedule. The contracting agency selects a bidder outright or selects a "short-list" of bidders for further discussion and evaluation. This is often times tied to the low bid method of contracting.
Software Procurement

There are many software products that serve to support the functions of a TMC, such as detector processing, ramp metering, control and monitoring of DMS, incident management, etc. These software packages can be commercial-off-the-shelf software or contractor developed products. It is likely that in the implementation of a TMC, application software will need to be developed or existing contractor software modified. The procurement of software (i.e., software development and integration) does not meet the normal linear process that highway or even TMC construction projects follow. Further, it is complicated with ownership and intellectual property rights.

The topic of software procurement is extremely complex. The reader is referred to a couple of detailed references that provide extensive information on the topic of ITS software procurement. The references are AASHTO's, "ITS Software: Effective Acquisitions Practices", and FHWA's "The Road to Successful ITS Software Acquisition". Another software related issue is that of configuration management, which is discussed in Section 14.3. Integration and Testing

The testing stage overlaps implementation. It starts with unit testing (i.e., the testing of individual pieces of the system) as soon as any pieces are available. It continues with string or integration testing, which ensures that individual pieces work together as intended and which tests interfaces at the lowest level within the system. Last is system testing. This involves a full end-to-end test of the complete system and comes in two major "flavors." The first is the final integration test by the system developer. The second is the "acceptance" test, where the end user(s) of the system make sure that it does what it's supposed to do. The acceptance test, however, is conducted in the next stage (9).

TMC Integration and Testing
From the perspective of a TMC implementation, testing during software development is important because it (hopefully) uncovers errors in the logic of the programs. Although it is unlikely that all execution paths through a program can be covered, it is important to identify test coverage that ensures all mission-critical functions are thoroughly tested.

Hardware components within the TMC need to be exercised as part of the testing process to ensure that they perform as expected and as the system requires them to. The practitioner should recognize that hardware testing needs to take place under realistic conditions of use, not just a "laboratory" environment.

As different elements of the TMC are installed, they also need to be evaluated to ensure that they meet accepted principles of human factors engineering. Human factors testing and evaluation should not be a one-shot, pass-or-fail activity conducted near the end of the implementation phase. Instead, human factors testing and evaluation should occur throughout the design and implementation process. The most important principle to follow in testing and evaluating the human factors elements of the design is to test early and often. Testing should be conducted by individuals who have experience in conducting human factors evaluations. From a contractual standpoint, it is important to ensure that this effort is included in the contractor's scope of services. System Acceptance

During this stage, the completed system is tested prior to putting it into production use. Users and operators should participate in the system acceptance process. During this stage, in preparation for the system acceptance process, the users and operators of the system are trained so they understand how to use it to do their jobs (9). (Note – As discussed below, training occurs throughout the systems engineering process).

TMC Training

The training of operators is critical to the success of a freeway management system. Operators need to be provided with three levels of training: technical, operational, and managerial. Both formal and informal training is needed before the system becomes implemented, as the system goes on-line, and after the system has been operating for some time.

How much training is required by operators in a TMC depends on the functions to be performed and the level of technical competence of the operations staff. Technical training is required in a variety of areas associated with system operations and maintenance, including diagnostic procedures for all hardware as well as for new upgrade procedures. The basic level of training needed by system operators includes the following:

  • General principles, operating philosophies, and concepts of freeway management.
  • An overview of the system, including the system schematics, field subsystems, communications, central subsystems, and proposed or planned system functions to be added.
  • Operation and interpretation of system software and displays.
  • Basic radio and communications codes and procedures.
  • Standard operating procedures.
  • Communicating with other agencies such as fire, police, etc.

At most TMCs, new operators generally receive one-on-one, on-the-job training with an existing operator. Besides basic training, operators need to be provided with continuous advanced training. This advanced training can be adaptable to specific issues and needs of the operations and maintenance staff. Areas in which advanced training may be provided include the following:

  • Emergency response procedures.
  • Traffic flow and control theory/philosophy
  • Control algorithm basics
  • Hazardous material spills procedures.
  • Major accident and disaster clearance procedures.
  • Roadside fire response.
  • Multijurisdictional extended pursuits.
  • Release of information to the media.

Training is necessary for other personnel in the TMC who perform roles other than operation. These include system engineers, software engineers, and electronic technicians who must maintain the systems within. Training for these functions must include:

  • System Planning – training in system configuration and deployment planning. Elements include the following:
    • System overview
    • System security
    • Communications server/channel device assignment
    • Graphics development
    • Network configuration and remote access
    • Data management
  • System Operations – training including:
    • System configuration
    • System logging and events
    • Status monitoring
    • Alarms and paging
    • Links and MOEs
    • System startup and shutdown
  • System Administration – training covers the following topics:
    • System installation and configuration
    • Troubleshooting
    • Data backup and restoration
    • Report generation
    • System maintenance

Methods of providing training include videotape, simulated events or tabletop exercises, site visits to other TMCs, lectures and coursework, and computer / workstation simulations.

Sufficient training should also be provided when a new element or application is added to an existing system. This is usually accomplished through contract specifications with training line items. In preparing for training, the following should be specified:

  • The maximum number of persons to attend each formal training session.
  • The minimum number of days for each training program (Defining what a day is may also be important.)
  • Who will develop and supply all the necessary manuals, displays, class notes, visual aids, and other instructional materials for the training program.
  • Outlines of lectures and demonstrations, and samples of all training materials. These materials should be submitted to the agency for review some specified time before their proposed use. Agency approval should be specified before the training courses can be scheduled.
  • Where training is to be conducted (e.g., at a local site designated by the agency or at the contractor's facility). If the training is at a contractor's facility, the specifications also need to define who is responsible for paying the transportation and subsistence costs of the agency personnel.
  • When training should be conducted (i.e., during normal business hours of the agency and the training site.) Operations and Maintenance

This should be the longest stage, the one in which the practitioner uses and maintain the system for the remainder of its existence. Maintenance involves all processes that keep the system performing satisfactorily, including upgrades of equipment and software to later versions to enhance the system's performance as its volume grows. When you deal with an upgrade or major change to a system, the life cycle starts over, for that piece of the system that is being modified. It's also important to recognize that you have to keep monitoring the system's performance against its original performance requirements. This is particularly important as demand on the system increases. You may have planned for some growth in demand; you need to know when you reach that limit (9).

TMC Operations

Important considerations for TMC operations – such as hours of operation, staffing, documentation, and configuration management – are discussed below in Sections 14.3.2–14.3.5.

14.3.2 Hours of Operation

In many areas, TMCs operate continuously while others operated for certain periods. As TMC's move toward performing a greater number of control and surveillance functions, the time periods of TMC operations will likely be extended. Larger, regional TMCs are generally the most suitable for 24-hour, 7-day operation. For local TMCs, minimum coverage would be two weekday shifts, one each for the morning and evening peak periods. Some agencies, although operating their TMCs continually, do not always have dedicated personnel for the entire operational period. During "off-hours" maintenance personnel may periodically monitor equipment malfunctions or TMC equipment operation. In some cases, the system hardware and software provide self-monitoring capability and automatically notify an on-call operator or supervisor when an unexpected event arises. Another option is to "transfer" late night and weekend operations to a regional 24/7 TMC. (5)

The issues associated with the TMC hours of operation need to be addressed during the Needs Analysis and Concept of Operations, taking into consideration the overall functionality of the TMC, the tasks that will be conducted there, and a variety of local conditions that may affect staffing coverage.

14.3.3 TMC Staffing

No rigid rules exist for determining the number of operators in a TMC. The number of operators in a control room primarily depends on the functions that are being performed, the number of facilities covered, and the operating philosophy of the center. The total number of staff will depend on the hours of operation. In general, staffing for 7-day, 24 hours-per-day operations entails three assignment shifts, each 8 hours per day.

Table 14-8 illustrates the ultimate staffing requirement of a traffic operations center in Rochester, New York. The primary function of the TMC is to detect and clear incidents from the freeway at all hours of the day. It also supports those individuals involved in the continued planning and operation of the system, and houses the staff responsible for developing strategies for special events, providing lane closure recommendations for construction contracts, and responding to major traffic incidents.

Table 14-8a: Staffing Requirement for Regional TMC in Rochester, NY:
Typical Staffing Distribution Requirements (Monday – Friday)
Time of Day (Hour Beginning) Number of Supervisors Number of Sr. Operators Number of Operators Total Staff
12:00 AM 1 1 1 4
1:00 AM 1 1 1 4
2:00 AM 1 1 1 4
3:00 AM 1 1 1 4
4:00 AM 1 1 1 4
5:00 AM 1 4 3 9
6:00 AM 1 5 4 11
7:00 AM 1 5 5 12
8:00 AM 1 5 5 12
9:00 AM 2 5 5 13
10:00 AM 2 4 5 12
11:00 AM 2 4 4 11
12:00 PM 2 4 4 11
1:00 PM 2 4 4 11
2:00 PM 2 4 4 11
3:00 PM 2 5 5 13
4:00 PM 2 5 5 13
5:00 PM 1 5 5 12
6:00 PM 1 5 5 12
7:00 PM 1 4 4 10
8:00 PM 1 1 3 6
9:00 PM 1 1 2 5
10:00 PM 1 1 1 4
11:00 PM 1 1 1 4

Table 14-8b: Staffing Requirement for Regional TMC in Rochester, NY:
Typical Staffing Distribution Requirements (Saturday)
Time of Day (Hour Beginning) Number of Supervisors Number of Sr. Operators Number of Operators Total Staff
Daily 1 1 1 4

Table 14-8c: Staffing Requirement for Regional TMC in Rochester, NY:
Typical Staffing Distribution Requirements (Sunday)
Time of Day (Hour Beginning) Number of Supervisors Number of Sr. Operators Numbr of Operators Total Staff
7 AM – 8 PM 1 1 1 4
8 PM – 7 AM 1 0 1 4

The types of personnel needed in the TMC of a freeway management system may include the following:

  • TMC manager / director
  • Supervisors (definable for operations, engineering, maintenance, law enforcement, etc.)
  • Workstation operators and analysts
  • Transportation and electrical engineers
  • Electronic/maintenance technicians.
  • Communications specialists/operators.
  • System administrators (for computer hardware)
  • System engineers
  • Software developers / programmers.
  • Inspectors (for field equipment)
  • HAR broadcasters
  • Radio dispatchers
  • Administrative staff
  • Public relations and media relations personnel
  • Trainees / interns

Generally, those centers whose functions include significant interaction with police officers in the field should consider including a police liaison officer on their staffs. A police liaison officer fosters stronger interagency cooperation and can aid in dispatching appropriate police responses to incident scenes. Certainly the same can be said for the fire department, other modal agencies or jurisdictions, and the media. Qualifications

Overall, the level of qualifications for TMC operators should be directly related to the design of, and functional allocation within the center. If the operators' functions are repetitive, predictable, and non-critical, operators with low qualifications can be used; however, if unique problems are frequent, rapid reactions are required, and/or criticality is high, operators need to have higher levels of training and expertise. As a rule, operators must possess good verbal skills, a degree of computer literacy, and good reasoning skills. Some agencies also require operators to have a good working knowledge of the freeway system and some dispatching experience.

The qualifications for TMC operators also vary from center to center. For example, some TMCs use operators taken from the agencies' technical staff of traffic engineers or computer scientists. Often, these operators have other assigned technical duties, or may be given special projects to work on along with their duties in the TMC. A few centers require their operators to have college engineering or technical degrees. Several TMCs employ part-time students as operators, who are under the supervision of a manager or a senior operator. The student operators can be classified as "interns" that do not require agency full-time positions, and can often be very cost effective for the level of qualifications and abilities. If set up correctly, with the cooperation of the universities, the hiring process can be done primarily through the universities, and sometimes that universities will contribute tuition to the interns.

Operators should possess the following characteristics, regardless of how much education and experience they have:

  • Ability to make good judgment calls quickly and accurately.
  • Ability to handle stressful situations.
  • Good oral and written communication skills.
  • Good technical skills and good interpersonal skills in dealing with nontechnical personnel.
  • Ability and willingness to follow standard operating procedures.
  • Initiative to learn more about the operations of the other functions in the TMC.
  • Willingness to provide suggestions/ideas to promote a more efficient operation.
  • Computer literacy.
  • Good understanding of the transportation language. Staffing Sources – Agency versus Outsourcing

Being able to attract and maintain qualified TMC personnel can be difficult for many agencies. Agencies have two basic options for staffing their TMC – personnel from within the agency, or by outsourcing. A pure agency staff has the advantage that managers and team leaders have a single personnel management system to deal with, and team cohesiveness is easier to establish and maintain. Further, agencies have a higher degree of ownership and therefore may have more initiative to make changes to the operation of the system. Outsourcing involves hiring private personnel to perform some or all of the functions in the TMC. The primary advantage of outsourcing is the immediate availability of highly qualified personnel. Seasonal and special events can be adequately staffed with limited training and start-up time. In addition, private employment agencies are not subject to the civil service regulations and policies that public agencies must follow. Private agencies can be more competitive and can pay the market salary rates that make it easier to attract and retain qualified people.

To some degree, many agencies already employ outsourcing techniques to perform some functions in the TMC (such as computer maintenance, software development, etc.). Those types of positions that can potentially be outsourced include the following:

  • Field and electronic technicians with communications or electronics experience.
  • Team managers or leaders from a variety of backgrounds.
  • TMC and communications technicians with knowledge, experience and training from other private sector hardware and software systems.
  • System programmers and computer systems analysts with knowledge and familiarity of control algorithms.

Agencies should have managers or supervisory staff that are familiar with all aspects of the TMC functions so they can adequately manage the outsourcing contracts, and so they can effectively champion the needs of the TMC and FMS within the agency.