Traffic Incident Management Cost Management and Cost Recovery Primer
Chapter 6. Planning for Operations
The pressures of a rapidly changing world now require that we optimize the use of our existing and planned transportation infrastructure. Planning for operations provides a foundation for explicitly developing TIM goals, objectives, strategies, processes, and opportunities for integration with broader regional operations and safety initiatives. Through these activities planners and operators will have a better starting point for estimating and evaluating TIM cost implications (capital, operational, and support) and revenue options.
The transportation planning process is a forum through which transportation decisions are made. Transportation planners develop long-range transportation plans at both the statewide and regional levels. Developing long-range plans has been evolving from a traditional process focused on large capital projects that increase capacity to a more balanced approach that addresses all available strategies to meet increasing transportation demands. The pressures of a rapidly changing world now require that we optimize the use of our existing and planned transportation infrastructure. Planning for operations provides a foundation for explicitly developing TIM goals, objectives, strategies, processes and opportunities for integration with broader regional operations and safety initiatives. Through these activities planners and operators will have a better starting point for estimating and evaluating TIM cost implications (capital, operational, and support) and revenue options.
SAFETEA-LU included specific requirements for incorporating management and operations strategies in statewide and regional transportation plans. FHWA has developed a series of publications that discuss how to integrate operations into long-range planning at both the State and metropolitan levels. It is important to understand how TIM can and should be part of this planning process, and how cost management can play an essential role.
State long-range transportation plans and metropolitan transportation plans (MTP) provide key opportunities for integrating planning with operations through identifying goals and objectives that address system management and operations, data sharing opportunities, operational needs or strategies, funding opportunities for TIM, and other means. MTPs form the building blocks for the State and help local agencies develop operations objectives that direct the ways that managers view operational performance and consider integrating operations solutions with investment decisions. These decisions in turn support reaching agency operations objectives. By planning for and investing in strategies to manage and operate the existing infrastructure, regions can use what they have more efficiently and can improve mobility for the public during both daily operations and emergencies.
For Transportation Management Areas (TMAs) – urbanized areas with populations greater than 200,000 – a congestion management process (CMP) is also required. The CMP is an integral part of the planning process that informs the MTP. The CMP is intended to address congestion through a course of action that provides for effective management and operations based on cooperatively developed travel demand reduction and operational management strategies. In corridors where incidents are a major contributor to congestion, the CMP may recommend the application of TIM strategies as essential to improving the overall performance of the system.
The Strategic Highway Safety Plan should also provide input to the statewide and metropolitan plans. SAFETEA-LU established the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) as a core Federal program. A Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), a major component and requirement of the HSIP, is a statewide coordinated safety plan that provides a comprehensive framework for reducing highway fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. It is a data-driven, 4- to 5-year plan that is developed by the State DOT in a cooperative process with stakeholders. Incorporating TIM strategies into the SHSP can provide appropriate solutions in corridors with high incident rates.
Performance measures have become increasingly important factors in the development of statewide and metropolitan transportation plans and in the CMP. As a result, analysis tools are vital to developing objective assessments of transportation investment and performance. Performance measurements are a key means of assessing the effectiveness of the strategies contained in the transportation plans.
A sound TIM cost management approach can be an essential tool for performance measurement, revealing ways to achieve a more cost-effective level of performance. Cost management and cost recovery could even provide opportunities to improve performance without increasing cost. Fully understanding the costs associated with TIM is critical to being able to evaluate TIM strategies and to determining where TIM stands among all potential strategies when considering which investments are most efficient and cost effective.
All State DOTs engage in planning studies as part of the long-range transportation plan development process. These studies may take the form of corridor, small area, or modal studies to address a particular part of the transportation system. They provide an analysis of transportation system deficiencies and needs and propose potential new investments to meet those needs. These studies present a more specific opportunity to include TIM as a potential investment option. While the implementation of a TIM program may not eliminate the need to expand the system, the use of TIM as a complimentary transportation operations approach does enhance overall roadway performance. Showing that TIM can be a cost-effective way to improve overall system performance increases the potential of including TIM and other operational improvements either as alternatives or, more likely, as complementary strategies for addressing system deficiencies. This can advance the possibilities for funding for TIM operations. Being able to provide complete and detailed cost data for TIM can be vital to these types of analyses.
The link between the MTP and the transportation improvement program (TIP) is also important. The MTP may identify funding sources that can be set aside for projects that will be selected in more short-range planning analyses to address congestion and reliability issues. The TIP may include short-term projects that directly or indirectly support TIM. Sound data, including cost data, is essential to justifying the benefits of TIM investments.
FHWA is currently developing guidance on how to link TIM to the planning process; however the financial aspects of this linkage are worth discussing here. The long-range transportation planning process can be most effective through collaboration among an appropriate range of stakeholders. TIM managers need to be part of that collaborative process. Planners may often be able to supply data about where current or future mobility issues will arise, and TIM managers can provide input on the operations objectives and strategies they believe would be most effective to implement. The following points in the transportation planning process (Figure 19) could benefit from the involvement of TIM managers.
The statewide or regional transportation improvement program (TIP) may include projects that address the operational objectives and strategies in the long-range transportation plan. The TIP is based on the MTP and includes all transportation projects from the MTP that a region plans to undertake over a 4-year period. The TIP is more realistic, given the available Federal, State, and local funding; is approved by the MPO and the governor; and is incorporated directly into the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.
Consideration of TIM projects in the TIP should be a direct extension of the process to integrate TIM into long-range transportation plans. TIP projects are drawn from the long-range plan or included to implement a strategy identified in the plan. It is critical for TIM managers to be involved in the transportation planning process to facilitate the consideration of Federal funding in the TIP for TIM projects or line items. It may be advantageous to educate the TIP committee or decisionmaking body on the merits of the TIM projects.
If the proposed TIM projects or line items relate specifically to an urbanized area of the State, they will need to be considered in the regional TIP within the MPO designated for that region. TIM projects that apply statewide or in non-urbanized areas of the State will normally need to be considered in the statewide TIP by the State transportation agency.
TIM operational costs or related capital costs may be included in the TIP as a line item or specific project. Their inclusion is based on funding eligibility and available funding. Funding is generally provided at an 80 percent Federal share. The following Federal-aid categories include eligibility for TIM related costs:
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ)
National Highway System (NHS)
Surface Transportation Program (STP)
The competition for available TIP funding makes decisions on project inclusion extremely difficult. This reinforces the need for TIM managers to be involved in the transportation planning process, for a solid for cost management process, and for using performance measures for TIM.
Regardless of a local jurisdiction's cost recovery process, including a line item in an agency or city/county budget can be helpful as a cost management tool. A TIM line item is an excellent way for administrators, elected officials, and the general public to account for and acknowledge the cost of TIM services so they can be measured against the benefits they bring to the community. It can also motivate those involved in the tracking process to provide an accurate account of the appropriate costs. This can facilitate decisionmaking by State and local leaders.
From an administrative perspective, including a well-justified line item in the budget clearly states the anticipated costs of TIM services and ensures that policy makers recognize the costs of such services. Accurately categorizing and forecasting costs will reduce unexpected expenditures. A TIM line item is a natural next step from cost tracking because it only requires analyzing the data collected, estimating changes to individual items, and presenting the results.
An agency's process for formulating a line item will vary, but the ability to develop a rational forecast will depend on the level of detail within the cost information that the agency currently collects. At a minimum, an agency can modify its current-year expenses by applying an inflation adjustment. If the detail is available, a better forecast can be made based on trends extrapolated from the number of events responded to and the cost of providing the response. More detailed line items may include several cost categories as well as indicators of future costs. For example, a line item may include overtime and regular hours as well as fuel, equipment, administrative overhead, and any other costs. Predictions for these costs for the upcoming year could incorporate historical trends of costs and events and the effects of any policy changes towards TIM. Performance measures developed for the transportation planning process may be a critical input to this process.
The use of a budgetary line item is not only a sound cost management tool, it is also imperative for justifying additional resources for TIM programs.
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration