Programming for Operations: MPO Examples of Prioritizing and Funding Transportation Systems Management & Operations Strategies
Denver Regional Council of Governments (Denver, CO)
The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) serves as the metropolitan planning organization for Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Clear Creek, Douglas, Gilpin and Jefferson counties; the City and County of Broomfield and the City and County of Denver; and southwest Weld County. The organization serves approximately 2.7 million people and expects to serve 1.5 million more by 2035. DRCOG's policy framework, defined in Metro Vision 2035, focuses on the following performance-based goals for 203513:
The 2035 Metro Vision Regional Transportation Plan (MVRTP) expands upon this core strategy by identifying regionally important transportation projects that meet the needs of local governments; the Regional Transportation District, the major transit provider in the region; Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT); and the public. The 2012-2017 TIP is the six-year program for implementing the regional plan.
Three documents define the vision, goals, and strategic direction for operations in the Denver region and are used to support the selection of operations investments. The Regional Transportation Operations Strategy14 (adopted October 2010) defines regional operations goals as well as operators' roles and responsibilities within the regional transportation system. The Regional Concept of Transportation Operations (RCTO)(adopted August 2012) expands upon this strategy by describing a unified direction for regional transportation managers through shared objectives and performance measures. The RCTO15 was developed as a management tool to promote goals related to providing safe and reliable operations to regional travelers. This includes monitoring and managing traffic conditions, improving incident management, and increasing non-single occupant vehicle travel by providing mode, departure, and route choice. The DRCOG Regional Transportation Demand Management Short Range Plan (2012-2016) defines the region's TDM policies, activities, strategies, and stakeholder roles and describes how TDM supports the vision, goals, and strategies in DRCOG's regional plans.16
Funding for Operations Projects
The 2012-2017 TIP includes several funding pools for programs, including three program pools that serve as the core mechanism for Federal funding for operations in the region, described in the table below. In addition to the three pools described below, the 2012–2017 TIP provides funds for the "RideArrangers Program" for the Denver Transportation Management Area. RideArrangers is a regional commute options program that provides centralized services to help commuters, employers, and others find transportation options to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in the region.
There is a project selection process for each for these three funding operations programs within the TIP. Most ITS, TDM, and TSSIP projects are only eligible for the pool project selection processes and not the general TIP project selection process. However, two types of projects are exceptions18:
Intelligent Transportation Systems Program Pool
The ITS program pool projects are selected through a consensus-based process led by DRCOG's Regional Transportation Operations Working Group, an ongoing, collaborative forum for operations in the Denver region. Projects submitted for ITS funding are scored using a unique set of criteria. The working group relies on the operations investment priorities based on those specified in the RCTO and the Denver Regional ITS Strategic Plan in making their decisions.
The specific priorities used to select Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 and FY 2013 projects were:
As part of the application process, sponsors were requested to estimate person-hours of travel (PHT) savings to subsequently prioritize projects (by benefit-cost ratio) in the same priority category.
The ITS program pool is funded with CMAQ funds. An example of an ITS pool project funded with FY 2012-2013 funds is the Denver Federal Blvd Traveler Information System "to monitor in real-time, the traffic and travel conditions on Federal Blvd between Alameda and Interstate 70" ($370,000).19
Regional Transportation Demand Management Program Pool
DRCOG also manages a regional TDM program, which provides funding for strategies aimed at reducing single-occupant vehicle travel, varying travel time of day, shortening or eliminating trips, and providing multimodal travel opportunities such as ridesharing, vanpooling, transit, bicycling, and walking. The DRCOG Regional TDM Short Range Plan (2012-2016) defines TDM regional stakeholders, roles, policies, and strategies within the context of the larger DRCOG vision.
Projects for the TDM pool are also selected using a collaborative group of stakeholders. Once projects are submitted, a TDM Project Review Panel comprised of TDM experts and DRCOG staff members evaluates the projects according to the scoring criteria given in the table below. Following the scoring process, the TDM Project Review Panel makes recommendations for projects to be funded.
A total of $2.15 million in Federal funds is available from the TDM pool for FY 2014-2015. The minimum project funding request is $80,000, and the recommended target maximum is $300,000 total over a 2 year period.20
TDM projects funded through the pool must adhere to the Federal CMAQ Final Program Guidelines. Evaluation scoring criteria for the TDM pool are as follows.21
Traffic Signal System Improvement Program (TSSIP) Pool
The purpose of TSSIP is to work with CDOT and local governments to coordinate traffic signals in the region to reduce congestion and improve air quality. Through the TSSIP, DRCOG identifies corridors to retime, develops and fine-tunes timing plans, and documents improvements and benefits. In turn, the operating agencies are responsible for maintaining and operating their signals, maintaining the timing, and reviewing and approving plans. The implementation program consists of four categories of activities:
Capital improvements and special projects
The TSSIP investment program is updated every 3 to 4 years through a collaborative planning process involving representatives from the region's operating agencies. Projects are prioritized based on general consensus from TSSIP stakeholder group and DRCOG on the following factors:
After each project is implemented, DRCOG evaluates and documents the benefits of the project. These summaries can be found in the Annual Benefits Summary24 and are also contributed to CDOT's CMAQ Reporter in order to comply with CMAQ regulations and promote the benefits of the region's investment in signal improvements. Benefits are clearly delimited in terms of
Support from DRCOG staff for planning for operations is typically funded through the UPWP. Staff support from DRCOG for signal timing and other engineering activities associated with the TSSIP is funded through the CMAQ program. The UPWP provides staff support to several areas of planning for operations, including:
DRCOG has been successful in implementing operations projects throughout the Denver region. The separation of funding for operations into specific funding pools has helped to ensure the use of Federal funds dedicated to operations, which provides flexibility for project selection separate of other funding demands. Additionally, DRCOG relies on documented strategies for regional operations and a highly collaborative, consensus-based operations project selection process. DRCOG has created an atmosphere in which operators are working together on a consensus basis rather than a competitive basis. This is especially true with the development of an RCTO, which focuses disparate efforts of individual jurisdictions around the region. Already, DRCOG has witnessed individual regions delaying project deployment in favor of neighboring jurisdictions in an effort to work together.
Although there is a strong cooperative spirit in the Denver region, joint operations project submissions are rarely received by DRCOG. The localities have expressed that it is challenging to collaborate with other jurisdictions as part of the application development process. This is especially true for ITS Pool projects, which require systems engineering analysis activities prior to completing the application. Instead of collaborating with other localities, sponsors seek partnership with DRCOG staff to assist with collaborative project development.
For More Information
14 Denver Regional Council of Governments, Regional Transportation Operations Strategy, October 2010. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/index.cfm?page=IntelligentTransportationSystems. Return to note 14.
15 Denver Regional Council of Governments, Regional Concept of Transportation Operations, August 20112. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/index.cfm?page=IntelligentTransportationSystems. Return to note 15.
16 Denver Regional Council of Governments, DRCOG Regional TDM Short Range Plan (2012-2016), June 2012. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/index.cfm?page=TravelDemandManagement%28TDM%29. Return to note 16.
18 Denver Regional Council of Governments, TIP Preparation Policy, May 2013. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/index.cfm?page=TransportationImprovementProgram(TIP). Return to note 18.
19 Denver Regional Council of Governments, Fiscal Year 2012-2013 ITS Pool Application Submissions, November 2011. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/index.cfm?page=IntelligentTransportationSystems. Return to note 19.
20 Denver Regional Council of Governments, Regional Travel Demand Management Pool Call for Projects, 2013. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/index.cfm?page=TDMFundingOpportunities. Return to note 20.
21 Denver Regional Council of Governments, Table 1 TDM Evaluation Criteria for the FY 2014-15 TDM Pool, April 2013. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/index.cfm?page=TDMFundingOpportunities. Return to note 21.
22 Denver Regional Council of Governments, Traffic Signal System Improvement Program, August 2010. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/index.cfm?page=trafficsignalprogram. Return to note 22.
23 Denver Regional Council of Governments, Traffic Signal System Improvement Program, August 2010. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/index.cfm?page=trafficsignalprogram. Return to note 23.
24 Denver Regional Council of Governments, Traffic Operations Program Projects Completed in Calendar Year 2013. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/index.cfm?page=trafficsignalprogram. Return to note 24.
25 Denver Regional Council of Governments, FY 2014 and 2015 Unified Planning Work Program for the Denver Region, July 2013. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/documents/FINAL%20FY14-15%20UPWP-Adopted%2007-17-13.pdf. Return to note 25.
26 Denver Regional Council of Governments, FY 2012 and 2013 Unified Planning Work Program for the Denver Region, May 2012. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/documents/FINAL%20FY12-13%20UPWP%20-%20Amended%20May%202012.pdf. Return to note 26.
27 Denver Regional Council of Governments, FY 2014 and 2015 Unified Planning Work Program for the Denver Region, July 2013. Available at: http://www.drcog.org/documents/FINAL%20FY14-15%20UPWP-Adopted%2007-17-13.pdf. Return to note 27.
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