Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Impacts of Technology Advancements on Transportation Management Center Operations

Executive Summary

Transportation Management Centers (TMCs) have historically been at the forefront of leveraging technology to manage transportation. However, as need for innovative solutions grows, the technology options multiply, and funding streams diminish, TMC managers are under increasing pressure to rapidly adapt to the impacts of changing technologies and expectations. The purpose of this report is first to identify and analyze the potential impacts on TMC operations due to technology advancements in the next 10 years. It will then present successful practices and strategies for TMC managers to best position themselves for maximum benefit. Finally, it will offer tools that TMC managers can use to build the internal, technological, and broader agency framework that supports successful utilization of emerging technologies and related trends.

Through preparing a literature review and consulting with experts, big picture influences on potential TMC technologies were identified. The most transforming implications for TMC operations are based on the proliferation of wireless communication, the rise of social media, and the involvement of third parties. Together, they create massive two-way data and communication streams throughout the transportation network. New classes of real-time holistic data become available to TMC operations, often through third parties. This enables unprecedented real-time understanding of the transportation network that can be leveraged into increasingly sophisticated control strategies. As travelers access personalized and user-friendly commercial information through their mobile device apps, their expectations for transportation system information increase.

The convergence of big picture influences with rapidly evolving Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technology reveals an opportunity to meet growing needs with careful application of technologies within progressive agency structures. In order to adapt to rapidly changing technology, financial pressures, and increased accountability, TMCs will need to be nimble and flexible. This will be a challenge for many agencies, but a likely necessity over the next decade if not already.

Fortunately, TMCs are also gaining more abilities thanks to new technology and processes. With the more detailed, varied, and geographic coverage of data, TMCs will have a much greater understanding of needs and conditions to draw upon. By integrating with regional partners and developing new ways of utilizing data, they can improve multi-modal options, trip reliability, network reliability, and safety with processes and systems that are much more automated than in the past. Third parties can be important partners in providing data to TMCs as well as developing innovative transportation analysis tools and providing the resulting traveler information to the public. That may allow TMCs to focus on transportation management and providing the information that the private industry is not able to provide. Again, flexibility will be very important for agencies so they can adapt to changing roles and take advantage of new opportunities.

Eight TMC operations top trends and issues emerged as the focus of this project, both for explaining the trends and for organizing strategies that TMC managers can use for addressing them. The top trends described in Chapter 3 are:

Graphic - Graphic showing eight top trends with associated icons described in the guidebook.
(Source: Parsons Brinckerhoff)

For each of the top trends, there are many specific strategies and technologies that TMC managers can consider to position themselves to address operational changes. These strategies are presented in the following table.

Trend and Description Strategy Related Trends
Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
A Nimble Service-Oriented Program Mindset and Organizational Structure
Represents the framework of being positioned to successfully select and rapidly adopt changing technologies and processes to address growing and changing expectations from travelers for efficiency and communication
Foster an Agency Culture of Embracing Technological Change Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Create a TMC Operator Training Program Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Enhance Operational Communication, Which Will Promote a Culture of Open Communications Among Staff. Icon - Performance monitoring and management.
Develop Memoranda of Understanding (MOU’s) and Inter-Agency Agreements Facilitating Multi-Agency (sometimes Multi-State) Cooperation & Operations Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Create New Technology Piloting and Testing Program Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Develop Skill sets of TMC Managers in Areas of Contracting, Privacy, Security, and Intellectual Property Icon - Accommodating toll and other pricing operations in Transportation Management Centers.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Adopt Standards on TMC Related Equipment and Processes Icon - Performance monitoring and management.
Use Open-Source or Non-Proprietary Software when Possible Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Require Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Document for Future Development Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Require Documentation on All Systems and Software - include Search Capabilities and Provide Remote Accessibility Icon - Performance monitoring and management.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Follow the Systems Engineering Processes Icon - Performance monitoring and management.
Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.
Active Transportation and Demand Management (ATDM) Concept and Toolkit
Using a variety of tools at one’s disposal to proactively make operations more efficient, including through staff and technology
Implement a Suite of Emerging Transportation Concepts, Coordinating as Necessary Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) Icon - Performance monitoring and management.
Active Traffic Management (ATM) Which May Include Lane Use Control, Variable Speed Limits (VSL), and Hard Shoulder Running Icon - Performance monitoring and management.
High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes Icon - Accommodating toll and other pricing operations in traffic management centers.
Portable Work Zone ITS Systems Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Regional or Multi-State Coordination of Detours and Traveler Information Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Provide Real-Time Travel Time Estimates on Full Range of Devices and Systems Available Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Display Transit Info on Parallel Route DMS (Possibly with Comparative Travel Time and/or Parking Availability) Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Parking Management Including Dissemination of Real-time Garage Space on DMS and through Apps Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Arterial Management with ITS Devices such as Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV), Dynamic Message Signs (DMS), and Remote Access to Traffic Signal Controllers Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Integrate Ramp Metering Schemes with Adjacent Arterial Signal Timing to Minimize Conflicts with Ramp Queues Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Adaptive Signal Control Technologies (ASCT) Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Transit Signal Priority (TSP) Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Road Weather Integration Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Weather-Responsive Signal and Ramp Meter Timing Plans Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Develop Protocols and Maintenance Program to Address Increased Number and Complexity of ITS Field Devices Empty cell
Co-locate Freeway & Arterial Transportation Management Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Promote Coordination with Arterial Management Agencies Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Look for Opportunities to Share Resources with other Agencies (e.g., communication networks, cameras) Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Icon - Accommodating toll and other pricing operations in traffic management centers.
Accommodating Toll and other Pricing Operations in TMCs
Integrating pricing in operations encourages obtaining revenue through tolling and financing infrastructure expansion
Develop Protocols for Operations (Such as Pricing and Ops for Diversions to HOT Lanes During Major Main Lane Incidents) during Early Feasibility Planning Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.
Develop Protocols for Joint Operation of Freeways & Toll Roads during Early Feasibility Planning Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Develop Protocols for Operations and Implementation of HOT Lanes with Variable Pricing During Early Feasibility Planning Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Develop Protocols for Operations for Cordon Pricing for Congested Areas during Early Feasibility Planning Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.
Consider Increased Network Reliability and Data Security Needs Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Icon - Performance monitoring and management.
Performance Monitoring and Management
Increasing data collection and analysis can lead to improved operations, enhanced customer service, and documented effectiveness of TMC actions
Use Results of Performance Monitoring Related to Agency Goals to Support Funding Requests Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Proactively Develop Performance Metrics Based on Staff Priorities as well as Agency Goals Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Use Multiple Data Sources to Monitor System Congestion, Including to Support Travel Time Estimation Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Consolidate Efforts to Develop Data Management Tools Across Agencies Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Frequently Process and Distribute Measures of Effectiveness (MOE’s), Including to Operators, to Improve Operational Effectiveness Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Utilize Features in Software to Track and Report Performance Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Utilize On-Board Device data from Agency Vehicles to Monitor Pavement Condition Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Train TMC Operators How to Use Performance Monitoring and How to Populate the Data Needed for Performance Monitoring Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Automation Tools and Related Tools to Increase Efficiency
New technologies that improve system management and cost-effectiveness thus resulting in greater productivity
Use Advanced Graphical User Interfaces to Increase Operator Efficiency Empty cell
Develop Decision Support Systems Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.
Install Remote Power Cycling of Field Devices Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Install Automatic Power Cycling of Field Devices Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.Icon - Accommodating toll and other pricing operations in traffic management centers.
Specify Automation Features in Software Contracts Empty cell
Consolidate Interfaces to or Consolidate Alert Systems across Agencies Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Develop Default Sets of Traveler Information Messages across Devices (such as DMS) and Media for Quick Implementation during Recurrent Special Events or Incident Types/Sites Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Utilize Low-Cost Low-Infrastructure Devices, such as Solar-Powered Pole-Mounted Traffic Sensors with Wireless Communications Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Utilize Predictive Analysis and Forecasting for Anticipating Congestion Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.Icon - Accommodating toll and other pricing operations in traffic management centers.Icon - Performance monitoring and management.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Because the Private Sector Often Develops the Automation Tools, Support Strong Participation to Provide Better Tailored Tools Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Include Options for Manual Verification and Override to be used as Operators Fine Tune and Gain Confidence in New Applications Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.
Develop a Data Fusion Engine to Merge Data from Multiple Sources, such as Travel Time Information Coming from Toll Tag Readers, Bluetooth Sensors, and/or Third-Party Providers Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.Icon - Performance monitoring and management.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Involvement of Third Parties in Data and Traveler Information
Utilizing data services that third-party vendors provide to manage roadway traffic and deliver traveler information to the public
Develop Pre-qualifications or Standards Regarding Data Accuracy and Validation (Potentially Both for Data Received and Data Provided) Icon - Performance monitoring and management.
Provide Real-Time Data to Third Party App Developers Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Share Data Among Agencies Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Develop Protocols for Data Privacy and Confidentiality, including for Media and other Agencies Co-located in the TMC Observing otherwise Restricted Material Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Utilize Private Sector Meteorological Services or In-House Meteorological Resources Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.
Research Solutions that Others have used to Solve Similar Problems Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Accommodating toll and other pricing operations in traffic management centers.Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.Icon - Performance monitoring and management.Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Use Multi-Agency Procurement for Economies of Scale Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Train TMC Operators on How to Interpret Alternate Data Sources to Support Operations Decision Making Icon - Active transportation and demand management (ATDM) concept and toolkit.Icon - Accommodating toll and other pricing operations in traffic management centers.
Consider Use of Applicable Standards to Simplify Data Exchange, such as XML Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.
Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Mobile Communications and Wireless Networks
Advances in wireless technology provide options when it comes to modernizing their field equipment and increasing data coverage
Coordinate with Information Technology (IT) Staff to Develop Firewalls and Other Security Protocols that are Effective without Limiting Functionality Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Efficiently Expand Field Device Coverage and Operations Cost Using Wireless Networks Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Allow Appropriate Remote Access into TMC Software or Devices (primarily for Maintenance Staff and Appropriate Coordinating Staff from Partner Agencies) Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Utilize Commercial Mobile Devices and Apps to Support Collaboration between Freeway Service Patrol and Other Emergency Responders, TMC Operations Staff, and Field Maintenance Staff for Improved Communication and Enhanced Field Collaboration Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Operate Mobile Command Centers or Satellite Centers with TMC Software Access Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Icon - Social media for traveler information and crowdsourcing.
Social Media for Traveler Information and Crowd sourcing
Using social networking tools to receive and distribute information among agencies, travelers, and third parties
Develop Procedures and Protocols for Use of Social Media Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Foster Relationship among Agency Public Relations Groups Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.
Co-Locate Traveler Information Provider Staff with TMC Staff and Agency Public Relations Staff Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Support Two-Way Information Exchange Via Social Media Empty cell
Designate a Larger or Statewide TMC to Take Responsibility for Social Media Alerts on Behalf of Multiple Agencies in a Region. Empty cell
Provide Information through Social Media and Mobile Apps Focused on Pre-trip Planning to Minimize Driver Distraction (Near Term) Empty cell
Utilize En-route Social Media (including Crowd sourcing) as Voice Activation Becomes More Common (Longer Term) Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Utilize Crowd sourcing for traffic information, incident information, feedback on department performance, pavement roughness Icon - Performance monitoring and management.Icon - Mobile communications and wireless networks.
Provide Incentive for Drivers to Participate in Crowd sourcing Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
Partner with the Private Sector to Facilitate Social Media Outlets and Realize Cost Efficiencies. Icon - Automation tools and related tools to increase efficiency.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.
As More Traveler Information Content is Available to Travelers through Third-Party Apps, TMCs Can Focus on Providing Content on Core Mission (Such as Upcoming Construction and Estimated Time to Reopen Lanes) Icon - A nimble service-oriented program mindset and organizational structure.Icon - Involvement of third parties in data collection, data analysis, and provision of traveler information.

TMC managers are encouraged to consider the 80 strategies presented to help them address the trends that are expected to impact them over the next decade. The strategy descriptions in Chapter 4 include successful practice examples and key references as applicable. A table cross-listing the trends and strategies while also identifying trend/strategy pairs that have high potential to be feasible on limited budgets and even reduce TMC expenditures is also included in Chapter 4.

Adopting identified strategies, as part of a program of progressive TMC operations over the coming decade is a major undertaking. Program-level implementation and integration tools help to establish a climate conducive to successful implementation, operations, and funding

Recognizing the potential difficulties in successfully implementing individual strategies, let alone the integrated sets that provide the most benefit, Chapter 5 of the report also presents tools for building a conducive framework for implementing strategies. The tools and their associated checklists for TMC managers cover internal TMC processes and technologies. They also cover cultivating a strong position for the TMC within the broader organizational context.

The tools for technological and internal processes that can typically be applied directly by the TMC manager are:

  • Technical Process Tools: Systems Engineering, Standards, Maintenance, Asset, and Configuration Management, Network Management Software, and TMC ITS Architecture;
  • Plans and Preparedness Tools: Regional ITS Architecture, Strategic Plan, System Plans, and Definition of Readiness; and
  • Staff Development Tools: Staff Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs), Operator Training Program, and Staff Communication.

Graphic - Graphic categorizing elements in three areas: technical process tools, plans and preparedness tools, and staff development tools.
(Source: Parsons Brinckerhoff)

The second set of tools is for coordination of TMC processes with the broader organizational context in order to increase support for the TMC’s programs, systems, and staff. They are:

  • Planning Tools: Business Plan, Regional Coordination and Implementation Efforts;
  • Visibility Tools: TMC Tours, Keeping the TMC Physically Connected with Other Agency Offices; and
  • Communication Tools: Communication Channels, Communicate Success, Distribute Performance Monitoring Results.

Graphic - Graphic categorizing elements in coordination of Transportation Management Center processes: planning tools, visibility tools, and communication tools.
(Source: Parsons Brinckerhoff)

Implementing these tools builds a framework for successful deployments of the strategies that allow TMC operators to take advantage of trends and technology in fulfilling their missions.

Taken collectively, the material in Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 present strategic options for TMC managers that will enable them to take advantage of technological change. It is our expectation that readers of this report will be able to better recognize trends and associated strategies that align with their agency program goals and budgets, while also benefitting the transportation community as a whole. A final checklist is provided to TMC managers in Chapter 6 with recommended actions for using the report materials.

Office of Operations