Impacts of Technology Advancements on Transportation Management Center Operations
Chapter 5 – Program-Level Implementation and Integration
In Chapter 3, top trends of TMC operations were identified and in Chapter 4 individual strategies were presented to assist TMC managers with addressing the trends. Chapter 5 recognizes that tools are needed at a program-level that support implementation of the set of strategies selected. The purpose of Chapter 5 is to identify some of the tools that can help TMC managers in implementing these strategies.
Figure 11: Chapter 3, 4, and 5 Flow
(Source: Parsons Brinckerhoff)
Chapter 5 discusses two areas of the supporting organizational change:
- Technological and internal processes that can typically be applied directly by the TMC manager; and
- Coordination of TMC processes within the broader organizational context.
The two program level categories presented here should not be viewed as independent, but rather should be coordinated in implementation. For example, each TMC manager will have his or her own unique views on how to improve operations while satisfying drivers’ needs for instantaneous information. However, cautious consideration should be given to local and regional transportation issues. The TMC managers’ preferred technological implementation approach should first be an assessment of the current technology environment both internal and external to the agency and identify ways to make smart investments in the right technologies that align with agency policies and strategic business goals, such as performing a cost benefit analysis of specific ITS projects to aid in short-term and long-range project planning.
For both of these areas, there is a section that includes applicable tools followed by a section with a corresponding checklist. The checklists are starting points for TMC managers to use to examine their current practices and investigate tools that can support implementation of strategies that will help them address the top trends they are expected to face over the next decade. Some TMCs will already perform items on the checklists. In such cases, managers are encouraged to continue using them, appreciating their importance for adapting to technological change. Some TMC will have unique characteristics that require modifications and additions. However, on the whole, the checklist items will provide a strong base that TMC managers can use to help implement the strategies they select.
The checklists are starting points for TMC Managers to use to examine their current practices and investigate tools that can support implementation of strategies that will help them address the top trends they are expected to face over the next decade.
5.1 Internal TMC Processes
The purpose of this section is to present ideas on how TMC managers can best use the resources within their control to implement new strategies and successfully integrate them into daily TMC operations. The intent is to provide an overall sense of the actions that will result in an environment that will encourage innovation and facilitate the use of technology that results from the trends identified in Chapter 3.
These tools may be self evident for many TMC managers who have progressed through positions at the TMC or who are in other operations positions. Many are simply good management practices. However, it is still worthwhile to keep them in mind and pay attention to them. They may be easy to put off considering how busy most TMC managers are and the number of urgent issues that surface nearly every day in a TMC . However, using these tools can be of utmost importance in the long term and when considering how to make best use of new technological developments.
The tools for technological and internal process can be thought of in three categories – technical processes, being prepared (plans and readiness), and staff development.
Technical processes are used to make sure the TMC implements new systems and technologies in ways that will facilitate integration and allow for continued innovation.
Developing plans covering technology advances are forward looking actions that prepare TMC managers and staffs for deploying new technologies, systems, and subsystems.
Staff development provides a strong base from which operations staff can effectively implement and operate new systems and technologies.
The highlighted tools for each are shown in Figure 12 and described further below.
Figure 12: Internal TMC Process Tools
(Source: Parsons Brinckerhoff)
- Systems Engineering – The systems engineering process provides a framework for helping select key strategies, and then successfully implementing technologies and systems. It guides the agency in evaluating needs, translates the needs into requirements, and traces requirements through design and implementation. The requirements are then tested, verified, and validated to make sure that the needs that were originally identified are addressed in the implemented system. The systems engineering process is particularly important when new technology is deployed because less is known about the new technology and implementers may not be able to fall back on previous experience to deliver success. The systems engineering process should be used throughout the entire lifecycle of a project and not just done at the beginning of a project to check off a box. Oftentimes, personnel who are responsible for project development and implementation are not part of the TMC and may not fully understand TMC day-to-day operations. By requiring that the systems engineering process be followed, identifying user needs of the TMC and the TMC staff are integral to the development of the project concept and are woven into all aspects of the project.
- Standards – ITS standards, other communications standards, and equipment standards can support interoperability among disparate equipment and systems. They are especially important when hardware is procured through low-bid contracts. They also have the potential to manage the size of spare equipment inventories.
- Maintenance, Asset, and Configuration Management – The rapid changes in technology advancements make it necessary to consider robust asset and configuration management programs. As agencies deploy devices and technological systems throughout their jurisdiction, it is critical to not only keep track of physical placement and configuration, but from a software and firmware angle to keep track of version control. Many devices can offer expanded or enhanced capabilities simply through software or firmware upgrades, and keeping track of the logical configuration is now of equal importance to keeping track of physical configuration. In addition, new technology often brings with it unknown life-cycle needs, which can be evaluated and tracked through proper maintenance management processes and systems.
- Ethernet Network Management Software – For Ethernet networks, management software is a valuable tool for evaluating available network capacity when considering additional systems, maintaining IP address records during deployments, supporting acceptance testing, monitoring network uptime, and trouble-shooting faults.
- TMC ITS Architecture – The TMC ITS Architecture includes the data flows, standards, and interfaces among TMC systems and subsystems. As in the Regional ITS Architecture, it includes both existing and planned components.
- Regional ITS Architecture – Each region should have an ITS architecture in place. The TMC is likely to be a central concept in the architecture. The architecture illustrates the functions and subsystems that have been determined to be part of the long-term ITS program in the region. The architecture identifies key interfaces that are needed to implement the ITS program. Standards for these interfaces are also identified. Keeping the architecture current and following the architecture when new technologies and systems are implemented maximizes the likelihood of successful integration of new technology and reduces the cost and difficulties in deploying new technologies.
- Strategic Plan – Developing a strategic plan for the TMC will focus on near-term vision (generally 2 to 5 years). The strategic plan will look at developments and conditions that are likely over the timeframe of the plan. This will allow the TMC manager to look ahead and to plan actions and activities that will further the TMCs goals and objectives over that time period. A strategic plan is critical in positioning the TMC to adapt to and utilize new technologies and impacts of new technologies. It also often supports funding requests. It is the look-ahead that helps prepare the TMC and its staff for upcoming developments and changes that will affect the operation and success of the TMC.
- Subsystem Plans – The strategic plan should cover all aspects of the TMC and its subsystems. However, some functions and subsystems within the TMC may need specialized plans, especially when a major effort to implement or update these functions or subsystems is underway. Examples of subsystems that may warrant a specialized plan include traffic incident management, ramp metering, and traveler information. It is especially important to have these specialized plans for subsystems that involve multiple agencies, include private sector participation, or require significant public involvement and information. Subsystem plans should identify technologies that can be used and what technologies are evolving that may allow objectives to be more effectively met.
- Clear Definition of Deployment “Readiness” – Whenever a system is implemented or expanded, it is important to know when the system is ready for deployment and initial activation. It is important that all necessary functions of the system will operate correctly, that interfaces with field equipment and other systems work properly, and that staff know what they need to do under a wide array of conditions that could occur during system operation. Clearly defining readiness identifies system capabilities and correlates those capabilities with conditions that could occur during operation. Checklists of activities that are needed to assure readiness can be developed. Activities include installation, testing, staff training, agency coordination, and possibly public information.
- TMC Staff Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) – It is critically important that TMC staff, including the manager, have the needed skills and abilities to make the best use of new technologies that may be implemented. As strategic plans and subsystem plans are developed, skills needed by staff should be identified. A comparison of the needed knowledge, skills, and abilities can be compared to existing staff KSAs to identify gaps that need to be filled. Identifying KSAs are a needed first step in identifying and providing training that will allow staff to make the use of the full capabilities of technologies and systems implemented through the TMC. The KSAs should be identified by specific role, position or task within the TMC.
- Regularly Scheduled Operator Training Program – After identifying the KSAs that are needed by TMC staff, it is important to identify ways that staff can acquire the KSAs. Training programs, either formal or informal, are the typical ways to develop staff with the needed KSAs. Training programs should be identified for the full breadth of KSAs needed at the TMC. The programs can include a set of specific training courses that are needed or a set of tasks that need to be completed in a less formal way to acquire the KSAs. However, it is important that specific mechanisms are identified to each KSA that is identified. The KSAs should include knowledge of and skills needed to operate emerging technologies. Debriefing after major events, system activation, or other critical activities is one of the best training opportunities. Debriefing is also a key to any process improvement activity.
- Staff Communication – It is critical that the staff of the TMC is aware of developments that are imminent or on the horizon. This includes technologies that are planned to be implemented or are being considered. Staff will be more involved and have a stronger sense of ownership. In addition, staff may be able to identify promising technologies that should be considered. Open communication with staff is a key component of a vital staff that is able to adapt to changes and the adoption of new techniques and technologies.
5.2 TMC Manager Checklists for Internal Processes
The set of checklists in this section apply to technological and internal processes that are typically under the purview of the TMC manager. This is in contrast with sections 5.3 and 5.4 which focus instead on coordination of the TMC manager’s activities with external processes and the broader organizational context.
Table 3: Internal TMC Process Checklist for Technical Processes
❑ Develop specific systems engineering actions tailored to your TMCs’ processes
❑ TMC role in system/project requirements definition
❑ TMC role in system/project implementation
❑ TMC role in system/project integration
❑ TMC role in system/project verification and testing
❑ TMC role in system/project operations and maintenance
❑ Adopt standards and include them in applicable agency specifications
❑ National ITS standards
❑ Ethernet networking, including network architecture and IP addressing schemes
❑ Implement maintenance, asset, and configuration management systems
❑ Link maintenance management system to developed data quality standards
❑ Use Ethernet network management software
❑ Develop ITS Architecture for the TMC and its systems
❑ Assure that the TMC architecture is consistent with the Regional ITS Architecture
❑ Review and update the TMC architecture when new systems are implemented
Table 4: Internal TMC Process Checklist for Plans and Preparedness
❑ Actively use and update the ITS Architecture
❑ Review contents, including any standards for data interfaces
❑ Document needed updates to reflect current conditions
❑ Participate in ITS Architecture revision activities
❑ Propose updates including desired data flows, systems/processes, partner agencies, interfaces, and standards
❑ Use ITS Architecture to support applicable funding requests
❑ Prepare and update TMC Strategic Plan
❑ Include short-term TMC vision and goals
❑ Include opportunities for funding support
❑ Highlight ways that TMCs can position themselves to adapt to new technologies
❑ Prepare subsystem plans
❑ Create a technology-focused plan for traffic incident management
❑ Create a technology-focused plan for ramp metering
❑ Create a technology-focused plan for disseminating traveler information
❑ Create a plan for incorporating multi-agency and private sector participation
❑ Create a plan for handing input obtained through public involvement
❑ Create clear definitions of “Readiness” for each system to be deployed
❑ Include new TMC processes or procedures to support new or expanded system
❑ Request specific technical experiences to be shared through outside agency TMC operator-designed webinars to highlight system challenges and benefits
❑ Collaborate across multiple agencies on new system rollouts and discuss technical challenges, operational strategies, and opportunities for operator training
Table 5: Internal TMC Process Checklist for Staff Development
❑ Develop Staff Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) and updated position descriptions
❑ Include operators, managers, field technicians, and other related staff
❑ Collaborate with staff to accurately capture and document job duties and functions
❑ Initiate personnel outreach to discuss operations, position descriptions, and career paths
❑ Obtain job descriptions from similar TMC environments
❑ Work with Human Resources to implement updated position descriptions
❑ Create a regularly scheduled TMC operator training program
❑ Formalize a training program for supervisors to implement with operators. Evaluate gaps between staff qualifications and desired KSAs to identify training topics
❑ Evaluate gaps between staff qualifications and desired KSAs to identify training topics
❑ Use data from system performance management to identify training topics and underscore influence operators have on agency goals
❑ Have documentation of emerging technology training available for new employees
❑ Prepare a “quick start” operations guide for staff unfamiliar with system, or staff that does not routinely use system. Focus on troubleshooting and basic system functions
❑ Integrate TMC staff with broader departmental training initiatives (project management, leadership training, communications training)
❑ Promote staff communication
❑ Schedule periodic staff meetings to encourage open communication
❑ Promote knowledge transfer and TMC staff leadership of technical discussions
❑ Share relevant performance data, including operational performance data, TMC performance data, and customer feedback
❑ Conduct debriefings with TMC staff on major incidents and TMC processes during these incidents
❑ Lessons learned and potential improvements
❑ Document and acknowledge successes
❑ Seek periodic input from police, fire, or other first-responders to ensure mutual needs are met
❑ Encourage participation and feedback on changes or process improvements
❑ Involve key contractors that are housed in the TMC (sometimes there is a definitive line between DOT and contractor staff)
❑ Seek out opportunities for the TMC to be represented in broader organizational meetings (i.e., Communications/PIO, IT)
❑ Update TMC staff with important initiatives or activities at the department level
5.3 Coordination of TMC Processes with the Broader Organizational Context
This section presents ideas on how TMC managers can increase the support for the TMC and the systems and activities housed therein.
All of the strategies and technological changes identified in the previous chapter require TMC managers to be aware of current and evolving changes in technology and to have some idea of what operational changes they want to make. TMC managers usually cannot fund and implement these strategies with the budgets given them. They have to garner support from agency executives, partner agencies, and decision-makers in order to fund these activities and projects. It is important to have a coherent, compelling plan (or set of plans) that provide a vision for the role of the TMC and how it can enhance the performance of the transportation network.
Knowledge of other local and regional agencies’ operations functions, procedures, processes, what their needs are along with what they can offer to others is extremely valuable in giving TMC managers direction on how to lead the TMC in responding to local transportation needs. It is evident that there are infinitely more benefits to agencies that have shared vision and values. The shared vision and values are realized through agency coordination agreements, whether it be inter-agency, inter-state, inter-system, such as tolling, or multi-state contracts.
The local and regional transportation issues vary across TMCs and the TMC manager knows which issues are of utmost concern to their agency. Common issues agencies deal with include reduced operating budgets and funding sources, decreased staffing levels, lack of effective projects and programs in the pipeline that improve roadway operations, driver safety and environmental concerns, and even a shift of drivers utilizing multiple modes of transportation all in one trip. TMC managers should research what other agencies with similar transportation issues have done, not only to discover solutions, but also to substantiate their proposals for adopting new technologies that benefit operations, travelers, and the community.
TMC managers should research what other agencies with similar transportation issues have done, not only to discover solutions, but also to substantiate their proposals for adopting new technologies that benefit operations, travelers, and the community.
These tools are primarily intended to help TMC managers enhance the position of the TMC in their agency and in the transportation community at large. The tools can be thought of in three categories – planning, visibility, and communication. These tools are geared to increase the visibility of the TMC and highlight the transportation benefits the TMC provides.
Planning tools are effective management tools that apply business planning principles to help strategize on ways to incorporate new technology strategies focused on achieving TMC and agency-wide goals.
Actions that increase the Visibility of the TMC and emphasize the critical role that TMC managers and staff play in providing valuable services to the public can support funding requests for implementing new technologies and generally maintaining agency support.
Communication tools are significant ways that TMC managers can establish a network to effectively communicate TMC purpose, visions and objectives to others.
The highlighted tools for each are shown in Figure 13 and described further below.
Figure 13: Broader Organization Context Tools
(Source: Parsons Brinckerhoff)
- Business Plans – In the previous section, plans are highlighted that are primarily geared internally to TMC operations (strategic plans and subsystem plans). It is also important to develop business plans that can be geared toward external audiences to show how the TMC can meet larger agency and regional goals and objectives. Business plans are often written specifically for external audiences and they demonstrate the value of the TMC.
- Regional Coordination and Implementation Efforts – these efforts include multi-agency traffic incident management (TIM) strategic plans or TIM coalition initiatives. There are many examples of multi-state efforts (for example, the I-95 Corridor Coalition, Northwest Passage, and ENTERPRISE) and even more examples of multi-agency efforts within a single metropolitan region. TMCs play a key role in developing these coordinated programs. By being at the core of the regional efforts, the TMC increases its visibility within its agency and with decision-makers in partner agencies.
- TMC Tours – Tours may seem like an added burden, but the value to the organization is significant. Tours for groups within the agency provides an opportunity to educate staff from other divisions and groups about the value of the TMC. Tours for external groups, if communicated to agency management, demonstrates the value of the TMC. If outside groups and agencies, especially from other states or countries, want to visit your TMC, it must be worth visiting and the TMC must have value. It is important to let agency management know about tours from external groups, especially if senior or executive managers may know any of the people in the tour group.
- Keeping TMC Physically Connected with Other Agency Offices – Being physically located with an agency’s main office can help prevent the TMC from suffering from organizational isolation. It is easier to rotate staff into and out of the TMC, increasing understanding of the role the TMC plays, its benefits, and its value to the organization. If the TMC can’t be physically located with the main office, then robust communication links should exist. Although this strategy helps the visibility of the TMC and leads to stronger support of the TMC, the primary benefit is operational and strategic. The TMC has an incredibly rich set of data and tools that can help other disciplines in the agency and can be vital when decisions need to be made by executives in emergency situations.
- Communication Channels – Whether internal, to external partner agencies, or to decision-makers and elected officials, it is critically important to be aware of the proper communication channels and protocols to use. Effective communication to groups outside the TMC can be one of the most effective ways to garner support for the TMC and its programs. It is particularly important to utilize the appropriate channels and protocols when communicating with elected officials.
- Communicate Success – One of the trend areas is performance management. A key aspect of monitoring performance is measuring performance. It is important to communicate the successes that are demonstrated by the performance management system. Objective measures of the benefits of the TMC and its systems and programs are data that can be used in communicating success. But, subjective measures are also important, such as positive communications from the public, commendations from national organizations, and thank-you letters from groups that tour the TMC. One approach to communicating success is to generate a regular internally distributed bulletin about TMC successes. In addition to performance measures, kudos, and commendations, narrative about critical roles the TMC played during a major incident, storm event, or other emergency demonstrate the successes of the TMC.
- Distribute Performance Monitoring Results – In communicating success, it is important to communicate with easy to understand terminology and graphics. Keep in mind that some of the performance measures may be technical in nature. Keeping the writing and graphics simple and easy to understand will maximize the audience that can be targeted with these results and successes.
5.4 TMC Manager Checklists for Coordination of TMC Processes within the Broader Organizational Context
These checklists highlight the activities TMC managers should focus on for coordination and integration of external processes within the broader organizational context of the transportation industry.
Table 6: Broader Organizational Context Checklist for Planning
❑ Develop TMC Business Plan
❑ Base the business plan on agency goals and objectives
❑ Demonstrate in the plan how the TMC supports and furthers agency goals and objectives
❑ Include plan for long-range TMC vision and goals
❑ Outline requirements for executing the plan, such as operational, staffing, and interface requirements
❑ Use Checklist for Identifying Strategies to determine those strategies that will translate into specific action items
❑ Initiate involvement in developing coordinated regional programs
❑ Assign a TMC representative to attend regional planning meetings that have other local agencies, commissions, and councils on the roster
❑ Research lessons learned on establishing multi-agency programs
❑ Volunteer TMC data and decision support tools to other agency divisions
❑ Volunteer decision support tools to help create annual maintenance and preservation budgets
❑ Share historic traffic data in strategic planning situations
Table 7: Broader Organizational Context Checklist for Visibility
❑ Assume a principal role in regional planning efforts
❑ Conduct tours of the TMC with other agency staff
❑ Reach out to other agency divisions or regions and offer to host a tour
❑ Distribute Fact Sheet on TMC devices as a form of calling card
❑ Volunteer to conduct tours of the TMC with external agencies and groups
❑ Reach out to the local community to start “marketing” efforts
❑ Reach out to local colleges and universities to generate interest in TMC data and operations from undergrads and researchers
❑ Designate a webpage on the TMC within the agency website
❑ Engage the local media in doing a segment on “a day at the TMC”
❑ Identify training opportunities that the TMC could initiate for internal agency staff in other departments, such as on traveler information tools and resources, TMC capabilities, and performance management
❑ When considering TMC location, consider the importance of co-locating with groups and divisions of your own agency, not just co-locating with other agencies
❑ Establish robust communication links between the TMC and other agency offices
❑ Develop remote access for software to transfer full control over TMC functions
❑ Establish lines of communication between a designated point of contact at the TMC and external partner agencies and decision-makers
❑ The points of contact should be at the TMC manager level or a direct report
❑ Create a regularly distributed TMC bulletin on noteworthy news
❑ Highlight TMC successes and critical roles played during major events
❑ Include excerpts of correspondence received from agencies that tour the TMC
❑ Include positive feedback received from the public
Table 8: Broader Organizational Context Checklist for Communication
❑ Use proper communication channels and protocols for internal discussions regarding the TMC
❑ Establish these rules if they aren’t documented
❑ Follow the appropriate agency rules for communicating with elected officials
❑ Seek out opportunities for the TMC to be represented in broader organizational meetings (i.e., Communications/PIO, IT)
❑ Create reader-friendly performance monitoring reports in an easy to understand format
❑ Create visual analysis tool for recording TMC performance data
❑ Develop procedures for collecting, analyzing, and distributing performance measures
❑ Examine internal and agency goals to determine appropriate metrics
❑ Search existing processes and software for opportunities to collect data on metrics
❑ Contribute to quarterly agency-published documents on congestion, mobility, accountability, and performance