Chapter 2 – Freeway Management
and the Surface Transportation Network
Page 2 of 2
2.5 Planning for Operations
A recurring theme in this chapter has been the need for the freeway practitioner
to understand the transportation planning process and to develop a role
within programming processes, as this is the conduit by which funding
for freeway management and operations is allocated. However, this may
not always be easy. As stated in a White Paper prepared by FHWA (Reference
9), identifying significant areas of change to achieve an adequate emphasis
on operations in Federal surface transportation programs: "effectively
and proactively operating the highway system has not traditionally been
of equal emphasis (to capital projects), and even where operations activities
have been pursued, they have been typically carried out in a stove piped
fashion within an individual jurisdiction (e.g. State, City, county),
functional element (e.g. freeway, arterial, local street) or mode (e.g.
passenger vehicle, highway-based transit) basis. A regional operations
focus is largely lacking and the regional institutions that exist (e.g.
MPOs) have not, with a few notable exceptions, traditionally championed
operations at all."
Reference 7 shares a similar sentiment, stating: "operations is
not adequately addressed by the transportation planning process. Most,
if not all, planning models are incapable of evaluating the impact of
improved operations on air quality and level of service. While investments
in operations are becoming increasingly important, they cannot be justified
as part of the planning process".
Recognizing the need for a more formalized program for developing a transportation
operations program, the FHWA Office of Traffic Management has published
a document entitled "Regional Planning for Operations Primer"
(1), an introductory document
that discusses a formal collaborative activity called "regional planning
for operations". The development of this primer was guided by three important
- The value of regional operations collaboration and coordination results
from having formalized and sustained activity between operators and
service providers in metropolitan areas regarding regional operations
policies and projects that cross agency and jurisdictional lines.
- Where regional operations collaboration and coordination takes place,
institutionally, is not the question. What gets done is the important
challenge. The focus is on improving operational performance for safe,
reliable, and secure transportation systems across a region to better
serve the customers.
- The regional operations collaboration and coordination activity must
be closely linked to the metropolitan transportation planning and decision-making
processes governed by Federal law. Stronger links between operations
and planning will result in meaningful programs and investments as well
as improved service to the customer across modes, agencies, and jurisdictions.
As envisioned in the primer, "regional operations collaboration
and coordination is a deliberate, continuous, and sustained activity that
takes place when transportation agency managers and officials responsible
for day-to-day operations work together at a regional level to solve operational
problems, improve system performance, and communicate better with one
another" – much the same concept as discussed earlier in this
Chapter. The document "encourages and enables regional operations
collaboration and coordination for transportation managers and public
safety officials from cities, counties, and States within a metropolitan
region. These managers and officials may include traffic operations engineers
and managers, transit operations managers, police officials, fire officials,
emergency medical services officials, emergency response managers, and
port authority (e.g., air and water) managers." While not specifically
mentioned, freeway practitioners are also part of this regional operations
collaboration and coordination.
Figure 2-2 shows the framework on which "managers with day-to-day
responsibilities for providing transportation and public safety services
can build sustained relationships and create strategies to improve transportation
system performance. The intent of the framework is to help institutionalize
working together as a way of doing business among transportation agencies,
public safety officials, and other public and private sector interests
within a metropolitan region".
Figure 2-2: Framework for Regional Collaboration &
This framework creates structures through which processes
occur that result in products. It implies a commitment of resources
needed to initiate and sustain regional collaboration and coordination
and for implementing agreed upon solutions and procedures. The collaborative
spirit is motivated by a desire for measurable improvement in regional
transportation system performance. The five elements of the framework
are interactive and evolving. A brief description of each element and
the associated "action steps" (taken from Reference
1) is provided below:
The regional structure that supports collaboration
and coordination within a region is the set of relationships, institutions,
and policy arrangements that shape the activity. It provides the "table"
at which operators and service providers sit with public safety and other
key transportation constituencies. This "regional table" may range from
an ad hoc loose confederation to a formal entity with legal standing and
well-defined responsibilities and authorities. It may be facilitated by
or emerge from existing entities or be newly formed. Associated action
- Identify key constituencies (e.g., employers, shippers, developers,
communities) who support better transportation systems performance.
- Enlist regional champions/leaders who are committed to working together
(and encouraging others to work with them) in support of better system
- Develop a vision for regional transportation system performance that
is shared by operators, service providers, and planners.
- Establish operations as a regular item on the regional planning agenda.
Processes are the formal and informal activities
performed in accordance with written or unwritten, but collaboratively
developed and accepted, policies involving multiple agencies and jurisdictions
in a region. Processes describe how the "regional table" works to achieve
its objectives. Associated action steps include:
- Make investments decisions based on the best combinations of capital
investments and operations strategies (performance-based planning).
- Ensure that the solutions (project) selection process and criteria
provide a level playing field for operational improvements and investments.
Tools are available to show the benefits of operational improvements.
- Address operations activities (e.g., incident management, traveler
information) in multimodal corridor planning.
- Use operations performance audits (e.g., corridor-wide) as a tool
for guiding investment choices
- Leverage operations to achieve regional goals (or meet other commonly
The products of collaboration and coordination
are the results of processes, informing regional entities (public and
private sector) about the operation of the regional transportation system
over time (including planned improvements). These products include studies,
evaluations, a regional concept of operations, baseline performance data,
current performance information, and operating plans and procedures. Associated
action steps include:
- Provide a current conditions baseline to calibrate long-range planning.
- Develop a regional concept of operations that sets performance expectations
for regional operators (priorities, projects, improvements, processes,
- Get buy-in for the regional operations implementation agenda from
public safety providers and agencies that operate elements of the transportation
- Make the regional operations implementation agenda a necessary input
into the transportation improvement plan/long-range plan (TIP/LRP).
- Use market research as the common link between operations (customer
feedback) and planning (planning input).
Resources govern what is available within the
region for sustaining and implementing the regional concept of operations
and other operations plans on an ongoing basis. The resources include
staff, equipment, and dollars. Also implied is the commitment on the part
of organizations and individuals to allocate and share these resources.
In essence, operations must be viewed as a resource priority to participating
organizations. Associated action steps include:
- Ensure linkages to the overall regional transportation planning process
for needed investment in operations.
- Use available funds to support convening activity for operators and
- Ensure that everyone at the regional collaboration and coordination
table perceives a return on investment of time and other resources.
- Make resources sufficiently available and flexible to effectively
fund regional planning for operations activities and initiatives.
The performance element comprises how performance
will be measured, and individual and collective responsibilities for monitoring
and improving regional transportation system performance. Regional performance
objectives, which are established collaboratively, most commonly address
public safety, mobility, security, economic development, and environment.
Associated action steps include:
- Agree on expected levels of performance and the need for improvement.
- Develop and accept relevant regional performance measures.
- Provide regular status reports on regional transportation system operations
- Share, link, and provide system managers and system users with access
to real-time and archived system performance data.
Freeway management and operations must be an integral part of regional
planning for operations and the resulting strategies. These include a
collective vision for how the region's transportation systems will
operate in all situations, under a range of conditions, and with other
related systems; a concept for how the system should be operated on a
regional basis, and how to make changes to achieve desired improvements
in system operating performance; and measures for assessing performance.
2.6 Human Relations
A recurring theme of the above discussions is that freeway management
and operations is an ongoing, iterative effort requiring regional collaboration
and coordination. The various agencies that are involved or impacted by
the surface transportation network don't attend and participate
in coordination meetings and decision-making processes, per se; rather,
it is their representatives that discuss and (hopefully) resolve the numerous
institutional, technical, and funding issues associated with regional
operations. Freeway management and operations requires the talents of
many people. In fact, most institutional challenges and barriers are really
about human relations. As stated in the FHWA "Guidelines for Successful
Systems" (Reference 10), "excellent human relations are therefore
essential to a systems success. In fact, this may be the most critical
aspect of the process. If the various participants cooperate, then a successful
system is almost assured. On the other hand, when the relationships between
individuals disintegrate and they start to work at cross-purposes, the
success of the system is seriously endangered." The importance of
personal relationships among leaders and staff members of key operating
agencies and neighboring jurisdictions, who recognize common problems
and opportunities and agree to work together to improve regional transportation
systems performance, cannot be overemphasized.
The dependence on the social behavior of different individuals can be
a bit unsettling. After all, the most critical element of the process
to develop, implement, and operate a freeway a management program is also
the least controllable. Reference 10 identifies a number of general principles
that can help to promote and maintain good human relations, and therefore
minimize many of the potential barriers to collaboration and coordination.
These principles include:
- Good communications, preferably face to face.
- Appropriate knowledge and authority on the part of key individuals
(agency representatives, managers)
- Empathy – viewing problems and issues as others do, which requires
- Honesty – clearly presenting the facts and being truthful in
- Individuality – approaching people as individuals, not as stereotypes.
- Thoughtfulness – showing respect for the opinions and talents
- Positive Thinking – showing confidence in the concept of an
- Flexibility – recognizing that circumstances change, and being
open to new ideas.
In closing, it is worthwhile highlighting similar "practitioner
roles and responsibilities" identified in other sources. For example,
according to the ITE publication "A Tool Box for Alleviating Traffic
Congestion and Enhancing Mobility" (6), written by M.D. Meyers,
"some of the most successful efforts at adopting the transportation
programs have exhibited the following characteristics:
- Waging an aggressive campaign to inform the public of what is likely
to occur if something is not done.
- Clearly stating what the average citizen will gain from these actions.
- Providing opportunities for citizens and interact groups to participate
in the planning and decision making process.
- Actively pursuing business support for the proposed actions.
- Seeking media support in editorials and news reporting.
- Developing a cost effective program that appeals to a broad a political
base as possible"
The aforementioned FHWA White Paper (9), describing potential areas of
change to achieve an adequate emphasis on operations in Federal surface
transportation programs, proposes: "States be provided with a charge
and the necessary resources to focus on regional operations collaboration
and coordination. How this would be carried out in each State would vary,
but the following functions would be performed:
- Establish and sustain a 'table' where regional operations
policies, protocols, activities, and projects are defined, discussed,
debated, and coordinated by transportation system operators, including
State and local transportation and public works agencies, public safety
personnel and transit system operators. Representatives at the 'table'
should be those responsible for day-to-day management and operations
- Develop, maintain, and monitor the effective implementation of a regional
concept of operations;
- Set performance targets; identify, collect and store regional data
for performance measurement, trend analysis, and monitoring; report
to the public on system performance;
- Coordinate region wide operational improvement to enhance highway
- Carryout regional collaboration for security and emergency transportation
operations on key evacuation and military routes and the protection
of critical NHS and STRAHNET infrastructure and provide for continued
operations during an emergency;
- Prepare a Regional Operations Action Agenda; use performance data
to identify operational problems, evaluate potential solutions and facilitate
- Ensure the coordinated delivery of timely traveler and user information
on transportation system operations to the full range of system users;
- Provide substantive input to the Statewide and/or regional transportation
planning process on necessary investments to improve system performance.
So long as all appropriate system operators are involved, performance
of these functions could be led by an existing regional agency, such
as an MPO; other existing agencies, such as State DOTs or large cities
or counties; or an organization formed for the specific purpose of
focusing on regional operations."
FHWA's "Self-Assessment process for Roadway Operations
and System Management" (11) is a tool by which agencies with traffic
operations responsibility can assess the effectiveness of their existing
roadway operations processes, both in terms of its internal processes
and the degree to which it serves its customers. This self-assessment
reflects two important aspects of roadway operations: Organization (how
well is the roadway operations process administered, directed, an evaluated)
and Business Results (how well is the roadway operations process executed).
Some of the assessment criteria – particularly those that mirror
the discussions herein – are summarized in Table 2-1.
Table 2-1: Selected Criteria – "Self-Assessment Process for
Roadway Operations and System Management"
Area 1 – Organizational
Leadership – This category rates the senior leadership
of an agency. It is a measure of the degree to which this leadership
has personal involvement in creating and sustaining values, agency
directions, performance expectations, customer focus, and a leadership
system that promotes performance excellence in roadway operations.
Specific areas include:
- Performance Criteria – The degree to which the agency has established
objectives for roadway operations, including:
- Have performance objectives been established that measure quality
of service provided to motorists?
- Have performance objectives been established for incident management
- Have performance objectives been established for maintenance response
- Are users involved in the identification of criteria?
- Personnel Understanding of Objectives
- Do clear visions and goals exist for roadway operations?
- Has management communicated and documented the visions and goals
for roadway operations?
- Were all levels of personnel involved in developing the visions
- Have responsibilities for these goals been clearly communicated?
- Are the visions and goals reviewed on a yearly basis and revised
- Outcome Orientation – The degree to which the agency relates
the quality of its roadway operations performance to the impact on the
- Structure – The degree to which the agency has established an
organizational structure that encourages effective leadership throughout
the organization, including:
- Does the agency have an appropriate mix of individuals to achieve
- Are training courses given in leadership?
- Are potential leaders identified from less experienced personnel?
- Are the potential leaders mentored?
Planning – This category rates the manner in which
the agency develops its roadway operations strategies and plans,
and the effectiveness with which it communicates them to its staff.
Planning includes a broad spectrum of activities, including:
- Participation in the long-term strategic planning process that is
typically conducted agency-wide
- Annual planning and budgeting cycles for the roadway operations function
- Planning of near-term activities such as allocation of staff to operations
and maintenance functions
- Decisions for periodic operational updates and reviews such as signing,
signal retiming, and preventive maintenance activities
- The manner in which the planning process is translated into an effective
performance monitoring system to ensure that planning objectives are
Customer and Market Focus – This category considers
the agency's relationship with its external customers including
motorists, commercial vehicle operators, transit providers, transit
riders, bicyclists, older drivers, hazardous material carriers,
pedestrians, contractors, business owners and residents. It evaluates
the agency's understanding and appreciation of its customers' needs
and expectations, and the degree to which their needs are satisfied.
Integration – This category evaluates how well
the agency's operations are coordinated and integrated with those
of other modes and jurisdictions, and with "sister" organizations
within the agency. Specific areas include:
- Coordination – The quality of your agency's coordination
with other agencies and organizations, including:
- Does your agency meet regularly with other agencies and organizations?
- During these meetings, do you discuss operational issues of common
- Do you discuss sharing of personnel and resource sharing (communications
facilities, equipment required for emergencies, etc.)?
- Have you executed memoranda of understanding defining responsibilities
during periods for which operational coordination is required?
- Have you practiced the coordinated operations under controlled
- Do you review, discuss, and act upon the results of coordinated
operations following major events or activities?
- Integration of Operations – The quality of your agency's
concept of operations, including:
- Has your agency participated in the development of a regional
concept of operations that defines the operational responsibilities
of all agencies and organizations in the region under various types
of incident and non-incident conditions?
- Does this concept of operations describe the interactions between
the agencies and organizations?
- Is the concept of operations reviewed and updated periodically?
- Have memoranda of understanding been executed by the participants
that ensures management acceptance and support of the concept?
- Is the concept of operations consistent with the regional ITS
architecture if one has been developed?
- Integration and Coordination of Routine Operations – The degree
to which the agency's routine operations activities are coordinated
with other agencies.
- Data and Information Integration – The degree to which your
agency recognizes the importance of shared information, and takes steps
to facilitate this sharing. (The various criteria within this category
explore "technical integration", which is discussed in Chapter
- Integration of System Planning and Designs – The degree of integration
that occurs during the planning, design, and implementation of new traffic
management and/or dispatch systems, such as the inclusion of other agencies
and organizations in the planning process; and the plans reflecting
the requirements and services needed by other agencies.
Human Resources (Personnel) – This category evaluates
the manner in which the workforce (including consultants and contractors)
is enabled to develop and realize its full potential with regard
to operations and system management. It also evaluates the alignment
of the agency's personnel policies with its other objectives. Specific
- Involvement and Commitment – How well all personnel are encouraged
and enabled to contribute to achieving agency operations and system
management goals and continually improving the agency, including soliciting
inputs from all personnel (as appropriate) during the development of
the strategic and annual plans.
- Professional Development Programs – The quality of the programs
and facilities available to agency personnel as appropriate for their
job performance as well as advancement to the next job level, including
training programs in the categories of traffic engineering, project
management, leadership, and negotiating skills.
- Empowerment – Whether personnel are provided with the needed authority
to permit them to interact with neighboring and other appropriate agencies.
Process Management – This category rates the processes
of the agency uses to provide quality roadway operations, and the
processes it uses to improve this quality. It deals with the degree
to which processes are defined, monitored, evaluated and upgraded.
A key criterion involves "Integration with Other Processes" – that
is, the degree to which roadway operations is integrated with other
elements of the agency and with other agencies; the extent to which
roadway operations personnel are involved in the planning, design
and inspection of new facilities; and participation of operations
personnel in the activities of the appropriate Metropolitan Planning
Data, Information and Knowledge – This category
evaluates the effectiveness with which the agency collects data,
processes the data, and creates the knowledge for effective decision-making
at all levels of management.
Area 2 – Business Results
This area evaluates the current performance of the agency in a variety
of areas, listed below, all of which are in the purview of the freeway
- Safety Analysis
- Signing and Marking
- Debris Removal
- Snow, Sand, and Ice Control
- Emergency Evacuation
- Traffic Monitoring
- Vegetation Control
- Service Patrols
- Ramp Metering
- System Performance Monitoring, Evaluation, and Reporting
- Construction Management
- Rest Areas
- Incident Response
- Incident Diversion Planning
- Incident Clearance
- Scheduled Incidents
- Motorist Notification (DMS, HAR)
- Media Interface
- Information Dissemination (Internet)
- Freeway / Arterial Coordination
- Interagency Coordination
1. "Regional Transportation Operations Collaboration
and Coordination, a Primer for Working Together To Improve Transportation
Safety, Reliability, and Security", FHWA, Publication FHWA-OP-03-008,
2. "Integrated Surface Transportation Systems: The
Role of Transportation Management Centers"; Obenberger, J. & Kraft,
W.; October 2001
3. Proceedings from the 4th Conference on Integrated
Transportation Management Systems; July 2001
4. "Transportation Operations: An Organizational and
Institutional Perspective"; Sussman, Joseph; ITE Journal; December 2002.
5. FHWA Rule 940, National Register, January 8, 2001
6. Meyer, M.D.; A Toolbox for Alleviating Traffic
Congestion and Enhancing Mobility; Institute of Transportation Engineers,
Washington D.C. 1997
7. Tarnoff, Philip J.; "The Changing Role of the Transportation
Professional"; ITE Journal; October, 2002
8. "Freeway Operations in 2000 and Beyond", Members
and Friends of the TRB Committee on Freeway Operations
9. Federal Highway Administration; "Operating the
Highway System for Safety, Reliability and Security: TEA-21 Reauthorization
Proposal"; March 2002
10. "Guidelines for Successful Traffic Control Systems";
Neudorff L; FHWA-RD-88-014; August 1988
11. Federal Highway Administration; "Self Assessment
Process for Roadway Operations and System Management", Version 1.0; May