Office of Operations Active Transportation and Demand Management

The Active Transportation and Demand Management Program (ATDM): Lessons Learned

2.0 ATDM Knowledge and Tech Transfer Workshop Highlights

Since its introduction into the United States, ATDM has garnered attention in many sectors of the transportation industry. To help promote the concept and develop programmatic direction, FHWA hosted several workshops across the country in 2011 and 2012. The following sections provide a summary of the primary questions generated by workshop attendees and lessons learned that were offered by those agencies that have implemented some aspect of ATDM. They also highlight the proceedings of those workshops, which were instrumental in the development of key tenets of the FHWA ATDM program.

2.1 Primary Questions and Lessons Learned

Through a series of outreach workshops across the country, transportation professionals learned about the concept of ATDM, had the opportunity to question early implementers about specific issues of concern, and discussed the lessons they learned along the way to implementation. The subsequent subsections highlight the themes from the following workshops:

  • Active Transportation and Demand Management and Hard Shoulder Running Workshop, hosted by Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, May 2012

  • Public Relations and Variable Speed Limit Workshop, hosted by Oregon Department of Transportation, May 2012

  • Active Transportation and Demand Management Workshop, hosted by Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Texas Chapter at the Houston Galveston Area Council, June 2012

  • Active Transportation and Demand Management Workshop, hosted by ITS Nevada Chapter at the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation (FAST) Building, June 2012

  • Great Lakes Regional Transportation Operations Coalition Active Transportation and Demand Management Summit, hosted by Illinois Tollway Authority in coordination with Wisconsin Traffic Operations and Safety Lab, September 2012

  • Active Transportation and Demand Management Workshop, hosted by California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 12 Transportation Management Center, November 2012.

2.1.1 Key Peer Questions Regarding ATDM

Peers across the country consistently challenged implementing agencies to answer questions regarding ATDM and their approach to implementation. These questions spanned the breadth of issues facing agencies and pointed to the recurring challenges agencies face when considering new approaches to managing congestion in their jurisdictions. Table 2 provides a summary of questions that emerged during the various outreach workshops. The planning questions addressed broader ATDM where some of the design and operations questions were focused on the traffic management side of ATDM. The questions are not presented in any particular order but are organized by primary topic.

Table 2. Key peer questions regarding ATDM.
Topic Area Key Question


What approach is an implementing agency taking to include ATDM and the various strategies in the regional planning process?

What regulatory obstacles did the agency face when trying to implement ATDM?

Did temporary shoulder use require any reevaluation of sound laws/mitigation measures?

How did the agency address any air quality issues regarding temporary shoulder use?

Did the agency conduct any modeling prior to implementation?

What performance measures is the agency using to determine success when implementing ATDM?

What type of public outreach and education did the agency undertake with the implementation of ATDM?

Design of ATM systems

How did the agency select specific signage for the implementation for ATM?

How did the agency handle striping of the shoulder lane?

How did the agency design the facility to accommodate dynamic lane use control?

How far apart did the agency space overhead signs for the installation? Has the agency experienced issues with visibility of those signs?

Have there been any concerns with the presence of too many signs providing too much information in the corridor?

Did temporary shoulder use present design issues with entrance and exit ramps?

Operations of ATM Systems

What agency is responsible for operations and maintenance?

Did the agency have to hire additional staff to support operations?

How is the implementing agency collecting data, what data are being collected, and for what purpose is that data being used?

What is the benefit to deploying temporary shoulder use over having a permanent lane and using ATM to control usage?

Is there a benefit to using the right vs. the left shoulder for temporary shoulder use?

How is enforcement handled? What, if any, fines are associated with violations?

What is the regional experience with compliance with the regulatory strategies, particularly during off-peak periods?

How did the implementation of ATDM impact motorist service patrols in the corridor?

What has been the experience with incident management when dynamic lane use control is operational?

How did the agency procure the software to operate the system, and what does that software entail?

2.1.2 Key Lessons Learned

In response to the litany of questions, peer institutions with experience in implementing ATDM provided insight into lessons learned throughout the entire project development process. Table 3, Table 4, and Table 5 provide a concise inventory of lessons learned that can be beneficial to other agencies considering ATDM approaches for their region. The lessons are organized by topic (planning, design, and operations) and responding agency. Planning lessons learned are broader and pertain to all aspects of ATDM. Since a majority of the deployments that were discussed in the workshops pertained to ATM, design and operations lessons pertain more towards ATM systems. The deployments discussed in the various workshops included:

  • Deployment of temporary shoulder lane use in the Boston, MA region
  • Use of buses on shoulders in Chicago, IL
  • Use of priced dynamic shoulder lanes on I-35W in Minneapolis, MN
  • Use of variable speed limits in Missouri
  • Deployment of variable speed limits in Oregon
  • Evolution of shoulder use on I-66 in Virginia
  • Use of ATM in Seattle, WA.
Table 3. Key ATDM planning lessons learned.
Agency Planning Lesson(s) Learned


ATDM is about how technology is used in operations in a dynamic manner. Existing investments in ITS provide the foundation for active management.

It is important to conduct an inventory of existing assets, resources, and capabilities so an agency knows the state of its assets, what resources can be leveraged, and what capabilities can be expanded to implement ATDM.

ATDM strategies need stakeholder buy-in, which should include identifying the need and vision to be accomplished by the strategy, developing a communication plan with a consistent and overarching message, identifying the location of stakeholders that interact with the transportation system, looking for opportunities to integrate systems with partners and the public, and conducting early and continual outreach to partners and the public.


Involve multiple stakeholders for ATDM. The bus on shoulder project was a cooperative effort between Pace Transit, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Regional Transportation Authority, and the Illinois State Police.


Consider evolutionary approaches starting with the easy options. For example, no separate speed limits for shoulder use have been implemented, as it would require legislation to allow for variable speed limits, and some believe it would confuse drivers. Outreach consisted of a media campaign and working with the regional planning agencies to promote the temporary use of the shoulder as having the potential to save time and lives.


It is important to be consistent with terminology and messaging and to determine that messaging early in the project. Obtaining buy-in from decision-makers makes these projects easier to move forward. Stakeholder support from lawmakers is important to ensure success.


Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) found success by focusing outreach on three key areas: expectations, enforcement, and media relations.


It is important to take the time to educate law enforcement and other emergency responders, bring them into the conversation early, and have them accompany agency staff when meeting with the media.


For implementing variable speed limits on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge reconstruction effort, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) conducted targeted outreach to courts and judicial offices to obtain buy-in and enforcement support, though some judges were not comfortable enforcing some citations.

Creating a good website with solid information, along with television, is effective to reach a wide audience.

Ensuring a consistent and clear message is essential to gain support from elected officials.


It is essential to educate elected officials, the media, and the public on the project. This education should be early, often, and consistent in its message. This outreach can help advocate specific projects and lay the groundwork for future projects and concepts.

When planning a project, plan ahead for software design and software/hardware test procedures throughout the life of the project. Tweaks and continual adjustments will most likely be needed.

Carefully consider standard operating procedures. Spend time thinking beyond normal situations to identify appropriate procedures before they are necessary in the field.

Take advantage of emerging opportunities due to reconstruction or other programs which can support active management.

Table 4. Key design lessons learned for ATM Systems
Agency Design Lesson(s) Learned


Currently, agencies interested in proceeding with dynamic lane use control will need to get a design exception to use the shoulder as a travel lane, which can be coordinated through the FHWA Division Office. A request for experimental treatments is required if signing will be used that is not currently in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

The decision to deploy dynamic lane use control on the right or left side of the facility is case dependent and requires specific analysis.

At entrance and exit ramps, an agency can either make the shoulder lane an exit-only lane or allow vehicles to travel through the interchange on the shoulder.

Drainage issues need to be assessed when considering dynamic lane use control involving the shoulder.


The sign structures that support the intelligent lane control signals (ILCSs) were designed with maintenance of the system in mind. The structures are a catwalk design allowing crews access to the equipment mounted over the roadway, including the hinged ILCS.

Design considerations for emergency pull-offs included a goal to locate them every half mile and make them 14 ft wide and a minimum of 200 ft long.


Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) utilizes a battery backup to help offset power and telecommunications issues in a rural location.


The spacing of emergency refuge areas is not necessarily consistent, but the agency installed them wherever feasible.

A different color pavement is used to differentiate the shoulder from the general purpose lanes.


The agency has tried to limit the usage of static signs and is keeping to MUTCD guidance for DMS spacing where possible.

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) uses a three-gantry rule whereby successive speed changes are not more than 15 mph. Gantry spacing is half a mile. Initially, speeds were held constant across all lanes, but now the system allows for speed differentials to allow higher speeds in the adjacent HOV lane, up to a 15 mph speed differential.

Camera coverage is essential to successful operations.

Table 5. Key operations lessons learned for ATM Systems
Agency Operations Lesson(s) Learned


The benefits of dynamic lane use control may not be equal for both directions and both peak periods. It is recommended to review performance and modify the hours of operation as necessary to maximize the benefit for all directions and times.

There is a need to have at least two layers of performance measures, one for the agency’s operational purposes and the other for the public to convey benefits.


The bus on shoulder project has increased on-time performance from 68 percent to 92 percent and has increased ridership on impacted routes.

Initial safety concerns of both Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois State Police have been diminished, as there have been no incidents with buses using the shoulder lanes.


A series of crash reviews found that approximately 20 percent of crashes occurred in or were a direct result of the temporary shoulder use, which was deemed acceptable. Without the strategy, congestion would be much more severe.

By allowing shoulder use, the agency has seen a reduction in incidents and an improvement in traffic flow, which helps offset the loss of the shoulder for emergency response.

Incident management plans were updated to reflect shoulder usage and new protocols. Response and lane control are coordinated.

Extensive snow removal is deployed after significant snow events. For long-lasting storms, the temporary shoulder use is closed to accommodate snow storage.


The availability of emergency pull-off areas beyond the shoulder can help facilitate incident management when dynamic lane use control is operational.

State police and freeway service patrol coordinate to ensure rapid incident response, and traffic management center (TMC) operators have the ability to close the shoulder if necessary.

Deploying temporary shoulder use impacts snow storage and increases the amount of roadway an agency has to plow during snow events.

Operations and maintenance are conducted in-house, and MnPASS (electronic toll collection) revenue does help offset some of the related costs. These operations involve full-time staff dedicated to the system.

Off-peak violations are high, so the shoulder was kept open during the day but closed in the evening.

By allowing shoulder use, the agency has seen a reduction in incidents and an improvement in traffic flow, which helps offset the loss of the shoulder for emergency response.

Early results from the variable speed limits (advisory) show improvements in mobility, including throughput and minimum speed during congestion, as well as improvements in safety regarding speed differentials approaching congestion and reduced shockwave.

Initially, the project included pavement lighting to mark when the priced dynamic shoulder lane (PDSL) was open or closed. After 2 years, the system failed as a result of the harsh climate, but early results showed no distinguishable difference in violation rates of the PDSL with or without the in-pavement lighting. It will not be replaced.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has full camera coverage of the shoulder lanes, so the agency is able to quickly spot debris and use the motorist safety patrol to clear any obstructions.


MoDOT initially deployed variable speed limits and then went to variable advisory speeds. When speeds are below 40 mi/h, the signs are blank since they cannot post anything lower on an interstate.

To determine if the system is operational, MoDOT’s system has a built-in alarm system to alert operators if the system is not functioning properly.


Law enforcement has grown to accept the intermittent use of shoulders as a way to help ease congestion on the roadways. Local county courts are receptive to the enforcement efforts of law enforcement with respect to the illegal use of shoulders.

A quick clearance program for disabled or wrecked vehicles has helped reduce response time of wrecker service to incidents.

Ensuring that emergency responders have the correct information to best select a route to the scene is critical.

safety impact study found no significant difference in crashes between when the shoulder lane is open and when it is closed.


When the system was initially activated, the data were unstable at lower speeds, resulting in frequent changes in posted speeds under stop-and-go conditions. This condition was not desirable and led to the use of 40 mi/h as the lowest speed, which was later lowered to 35 mi/h with a possible manual override of 30 mi/h. WSDOT was able to identify the cause of the instability and develop a solution, thereby bringing the posted speed limit closer in line with what motorists are experiencing.

WSDOT believes that activating additional signs in advance of congestion, rather than leaving them blank, will give additional warning to travelers of upcoming conditions and begin the process of reducing speeds earlier. This change will result in the initial gantries posting 60 mi/h and warning of congestion ahead. Subsequent gantries will step the speed limit down to 30 or 35 mi/h, depending on conditions.

WSDOT uses DMS signs that are located on the side of ATM gantries to post travel times. DMSs post both a distance to downtown and a travel time. One possible message could read as follows: “Downtown Seattle 9 miles; Downtown Seattle 20 minutes.” This message can help drivers better understand the extent of the congestion in which they are driving and help them make informed decisions regarding route choice. Initially, the side-mount signs posted the message “Reduced Speed Zone.” Changing this message to indicate travel time provides additional usable information that would change to reflect upcoming conditions while reinforcing the understanding that the system recognizes that drivers are in stop-and-go conditions.

Data collection includes the use of loop detection for detector occupancy and an algorithm to convert the occupancy to speed. WSDOT originally looked at Bluetooth technology but did not find that it would provide sufficient coverage to serve this purpose.

Compliance has been acceptable. Because of the gantry spacing, when drivers see one speed limit and then another reading the same speed within half a minute downstream, they seem to trust the system’s display.

Think about maintenance procedures and staff and how staff will gain access to equipment, how much time they will need to be out in the field (reliability), and what preventive maintenance can be done.

2.2 ATDM Peer Exchange Workshop Themes

Transportation system management, operations, and partnerships can save money and time, provide quicker mobility solutions to customer and constituent problems, expand travel options and choice, provide a better return on investment, and provide overall stability and reliability to the transportation system.

FHWA hosted a peer exchange workshop in Seattle in June 2011 to gather information and direction from key thought leaders from around the United States based on their collective experience with innovative transportation solutions and ATDM in particular. The key message that emerged from this peer exchange was that transportation system management, operations, and partnerships can save money and time, provide quicker mobility solutions to their customers and constituents, expand travel options and choice, provide a better return on investment, and provide overall stability and reliability to the transportation system.

2.2.1 Requirements

Thought leaders agreed that there is a vital need to optimize the existing system. Transportation departments in particular need to shift their institutional and organizational culture from one that focuses on construction and deployment of the transportation system to one that focuses on managing and operating it. This shift will require leadership of executive management, leadership of and collaboration with all transportation system partners, and significant outreach to customers. Furthermore, transportation departments will need to shift from an engineering focus to an operations and management focus when addressing their congestion challenges.

The urban setting is critical. The majority of mobility problems and challenges are in the cities and urban suburbs. The challenge lies in the fact that transportation departments and FHWA do not have responsibility for much of the urban infrastructure. Therefore, States need to foster partnerships with their cities, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), regional planning authorities, transit agencies, and other stakeholders as equal partners. Furthermore, they need to reach out to a broader and less traditional audience of partners that can be strong advocates for ATDM. These potential audiences might be elected community leaders; associations representing transit agencies, tolling agencies, and MPOs; the communications industry; high-tech firms; and other similar stakeholder groups.

ATDM requires that agencies increase their emphasis on the customer, who can directly benefit from ATDM.

2.2.2 A Customer Emphasis

ATDM requires that agencies increase their emphasis on customers, who will want to know how they can directly benefit from ATDM. Agencies need to understand that customers are more than highway users and that they need to be seen as allies and advocates for ATDM. Providing real-time, accurate communications can help gain allies. It is also important to demonstrate where an altered institutional approach regarding ATDM has worked and emphasize the success achieved. Another key approach is to show customers what they gain from ATDM rather than focus on how the agency benefits. The use of polls and focus groups can help agencies understand the public’s perspectives and develop messages.

2.2.3 Technology’s Role

Technology is not a substitute for building or managing the transportation system. An agency does not need to be on the cutting edge to manage its system efficiently.

It is important for agencies to recognize that technology is not a substitute for building or managing the transportation system. They need not be on the cutting edge to manage their system efficiently. The fact that technologies change so rapidly could result in the public sector chasing technologies instead of maximizing what they have. The goal of agencies needs to be to maintain and/or operate their equipment or capital assets to its fullest extent. Technology can enhance management and operations, but it is not a panacea or the end result.

2.2.4 The Federal Role Change

Thought leaders encouraged FHWA to lead the ATDM charge by example. The agency has established a modally integrated team composed of individuals in the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and in the regions who focus more on management and operations than on engineering. The intent would be to learn from transportation operators, the public, and the private sector on how to optimize the existing infrastructure. Other needs include rethinking laws that may be obstacles to ATDM, particularly regulations that are current barriers to managing and operating a transportation system. Other efforts that can help facilitate ATDM include providing incentives to encourage transportation departments, MPOs, and transit agencies to move from a project-focused State transportation improvement plan (STIP) and transportation improvement plan (TIP) to a STIP and TIP committed to managing and operating a transportation system beyond specific project investments. Agencies can also benefit from FHWA serving as a source of undisputed data quality.

2.3 ATDM Executive Session

FHWA hosted an executive peer exchange on ATDM in 2012 to further the discussion of ATDM at the executive level of transportation agencies. The purpose of the workshop was to provide FHWA with guidance and insight regarding how best to advance and adjust institutional culture and organizational strategies to include a more proactive approach to traffic management programs and identify the necessary organizational and cultural strategies within State, local, and regional transportation agencies to sustain these programs. The following sections highlight the themes that emerged from this executive peer exchange.

2.3.1 The Operations Story

Perhaps the most significant issue facing the transportation profession is that its future is very different from what was envisioned 50 years ago. Today, the focus is on making the system better and more efficient rather than building new infrastructure. This major organizational change is a result of numerous external pressures, particularly the emphasis on doing more with less. FHWA is putting a primary focus on improving operations to improve efficiency, manage resources, improve sustainability, and enhance cost-effectiveness, as well as on promoting a proactive approach. Proactive transportation system operations require data collection, monitoring, analytics, technology, integration, and planning/managing all of these factors.

FHWA is putting a primary focus on improving operations to improve efficiency, manage resources, improve sustainability, and enhance cost-effectiveness, as well as on promoting a proactive approach.

A need exists for government to make the shift from construction to operations, from being builders to becoming maintainers and operators. The challenge is that the transportation profession is primarily driven by civil engineering, whereas a primary avenue to successful and efficient operations is technology. It is difficult to keep pace with the rapid advancements in technology as well as identify a way to develop lifecycle costs for technologies. Technology requires changing institutional structures, developing new skills and capabilities for the workforce, and changing how the procurement process works.

Another challenge is looking at the transportation network from a holistic perspective. No longer can agencies focus only on the freeways. They must work cooperatively with other agencies to identify the best approach to managing the entire network, from the freeways to the surface street system to the other modes that share the network, and provide mobility solutions to travelers. Capitalizing on public and private partnerships and identifying champions can help build an environment that sees opportunities to meet the needs of the public with innovative solutions.

Agencies must work cooperatively to identify the best approach to managing the entire network and provide mobility solutions to travelers.

Policies and regulations also present challenges to the deployment of ATDM approaches. ATDM approaches push the boundaries of operations, partnerships, and opportunities. Ensuring that laws are flexible enough to accommodate them and the myriad ways they are planned, developed, financed, and implemented helps move the state of the practice forward.

Effective communications is also essential to implementing ATDM on a broad basis. If agencies cannot convince the public that innovative approaches can help solve their problems, then they cannot hope to gain the attention of policymakers and decision makers. Members of the public can be vital partners, advocates, and champions. Consistent messages from all levels of the organization help sell the concept, especially when they resonate with the greater population and target issues that are of global concern, such as health and safety. How a message is crafted can make or break a project and a program.

2.3.2 Advancing ATDM Strategies

In the past, State and Federal highway programs were traditionally centered on roadway and bridge infrastructure expansion and preservation. Today, programs are increasingly broad, including system reliability, safety, and performance. Current financial constraints require transportation departments to look for alternative delivery, operation, and management approaches, and ATDM can help agencies work within these constraints to meet the needs of the traveling public. While ATDM is a work in progress, many successes support the institutional shift to management and operations.

ATDM can help address safety and congestion, but it relies on performance and proactive management of demand: doing more with existing assets and technologies.

ATDM can help address safety and congestion, but it relies on performance and proactive management of demand: doing more with existing assets and technologies. ATDM relies on real-time information, technology, pricing, and policy to support the broad categories of ADM, ATM, and APM. For ATDM to be a success, agencies need to build upon current technology to ensure deployment-ready applications.

Numerous barriers impede full implementation of ATDM. Given that, agencies need to address the challenges of transferability, guidance, data, modeling, institutional barriers, and limited communications. For example, institutional barriers such as data acquisition and accuracy hamper the transfer of predictive travel times. Another example is that the general public may not see the value in variable speed limits since they may not reflect existing conditions. These issues emphasize the fact that messaging and perception may be the most difficult challenges to overcome. To that end, agencies need to be diligent in communicating the concept to the public so that they understand and buy into the approaches being implemented.

Knowledge and technology transfer (KTT) tools are valuable in helping emphasize transferability and encourage and foster the implementation of ATDM concepts. KTT can take many forms, including outreach, workshops, traveling road shows, lessons learned, best practices, and target messages for a variety of audiences. It is also important to utilize the best communication mediums to get the message out to the right audience.

2.3.3 Developing an Agency’s Capability and Level of Maturity to Proactively Manage Its Transportation Systems

There is a need to institutionalize continuous improvement, which requires business processes, standardization, metrics, cultural acceptance, organizational development, and collaboration on a continual basis.

There is a need to institutionalize continuous improvement, which requires business processes, standardization, metrics, cultural acceptance, organizational development, and collaboration on a continual basis. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) currently has system operations and management guidance that offers a set of strategies to anticipate and manage traffic congestion and minimize the impacts of non-recurrent congestion on the system. (6) This guidance can serve as a starting point for developing a capability framework for ATDM. Such a framework can help ensure that ATDM becomes part of the vernacular and a natural consideration when facing the challenges of operating the system. Using this approach can help encourage the deployment of technology and see it as a key facilitating component of the solution. Furthermore, the framework can help agencies determine where they are on the ATDM continuum, where they want to be, and how they get there.

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