Programming for Operations: MPO Examples of Prioritizing and Funding Transportation Systems Management & Operations Strategies
Genesee Transportation Council (Rochester, NY)
The Genesee Transportation Council (GTC) is the MPO for the Genesee–Finger Lakes Region, spanning nine counties in New York State centered around Rochester28. The Rochester Transportation Management Area (TMA) includes all of Monroe County (which contains the City of Rochester) and parts of Livingston, Ontario and Wayne counties.
Efficient system management and operations is recognized as a key transportation goal for the region. GTC's LRTP, adopted in 2011, lays out a vision for transportation in the region through 2035. It includes "promote efficient system management and operations" as one of seven goals, which guide the planning activities and programs conducted by GTC. Consequently, the plan places a priority on TSMO strategies, which are seen as the best opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of the current transportation system at the lowest cost, while also improving safety. The plan is performance–based and identifies key performance measures in relation to key goals. These include travel time index on major roadways, transit on–time performance, median incident clearance time on major roadways, and number of fatalities.
The region has also developed an Intelligent Transportation Systems Strategic Plan for Greater Rochester, which lays out key ITS strategies. Monroe County (which provides traffic engineering services for the City of Rochester) maintains and continues to expand ITS capabilities and is recognized as a national leader among mid–sized metropolitan areas. The New York State DOT (NYSDOT) and Monroe County DOT manage and operate the highway and bridge network from the RTOC, with the New York State Police co–located at the facility. The New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) also maintains ITS instrumentation across the region. Together NYSDOT, Monroe County, and NYSTA coordinate monitoring of traffic conditions, as well as incident response29.
Project Prioritization and Selection Process
In developing the TIP, GTC builds off the goals and performance measures articulated in the LRTP. The TIP is developed cooperatively with project evaluations based on the responsiveness of proposals to the performance measures conducted by a team led by GTC and the NYSDOT Region 4. GTC is responsible for programming projects in the Rochester TMA, and projects outside of this area are programmed by NSYDOT Region 4 in coordination with GTC30. The TIP spans a four–year period and is typically updated every two years.
Recognizing their high levels of cost–effectiveness, GTC dedicates funding directly to two priority TSMO projects:
These projects receive funding "off the top" and do not compete for funding with all other projects. In the 2014–2017 TIP, these projects received approximately $2.61 million and $5.67 million in funding, respectively, over the four–year period, out of a total TIP of $401 million.
For the remainder of funding, GTC collaborates with NYSDOT Region 4 to solicit project proposals for the TIP from counties, municipalities and other eligible entities, including NYSDOT, NYSTA, and the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA). GTC and NYSDOT Region 4 staff have established a very structured, performance–based process to evaluate project submissions, using specific criteria to score how well a proposed project supports the region's goals and objectives. Funding is not divided up by mode or major category initially. Rather, all projects are ranked using a set of common criteria and mode–specific criteria in order to select the most beneficial projects for funding.
A project can score up to 130 points: up to 100 points on the common criteria and up to 30 points on the mode–specific criteria. Common criteria used for evaluating projects tie directly to the goals and performance measures in the LRTP and include:
Figure 1. GTC's Mode–Specific Project Evaluation Criteria for TSMO Projects.
Based on the overall ranking, typically TSMO projects are competitive with public transit and highway projects, and score much more favorably than highway expansion projects.
The outcome of the project scoring is a preliminary ranking of the projects. The ranking is reviewed by the TIP Development Committee (TDC), which is comprised of representatives from four counties (the counties in the region within the TMA), the City of Rochester, the RGRTA, and NYSDOT. The TDC may adjust the rankings to address geographic balance around the region, the capacity of sponsors to deliver their projects in a timely and cost–effective manner, or other considerations not factored into the evaluation criteria. Given funding restrictions, funding sources are then matched to projects in order to fund those most valuable to the region.
The draft TIP is then released for a 30–day public comment period. It contains two lists: one of projects recommended for funding and the other of proposed projects for which there is not funding anticipated to be available in the period covered by the TIP. Public comments are considered by the TDC and the GTC Planning Committee as they produce the (if necessary) revised draft TIP for GTC Board action. The Board considers the Planning Committee recommendation and adopts the final TIP. The Board is GTC's 27–member governing body, comprised of elected officials and representative of local, regional, State, and Federal agencies31.
In the latest TIP, TSMO projects made up about 6 percent of total funding. Over the years, operations projects programmed in the TIP have included purchasing and operating ITS improvements, roundabouts, RTOC staffing levels, traveler information, traffic signal modernization or optimization, and weather sensors. Examples of projects in the current TIP include ITS improvements along Interstate 490 ($191,000) and replacement of an old traffic control system in the City of Geneva with a modern system to improve traffic signal optimization at 16 signalized intersections ($128,000). The share of total funding dedicated to TSMO in the TIP is less than the 10 percent level suggested in the LRTP 2035. However, the funding allocated was based on a limited number of TSMO project applications submitted during this TIP round.
Funding Sources for TSMO Projects
FHWA programs are the primary source of funding for operations projects in the region, including the NHPP, STP (both Urban and Flex), and, to a lesser degree, CMAQ. Though GTC identifies funding sources for each project after the project selection phase (in order to best match funding to projects given any restrictions), typically the NHPP funds NYSDOT staff operations and the STP funds Monroe County staff operations at the RTOC. Though GTC has used the CMAQ program as a primary source of funding for non–motorized transportation projects, it did fund a traffic signal optimization project in the 2014–2017 TIP. The region's air quality nonattainment status is marginal, and the GTC will no longer receive CMAQ funds after FY2014.
As indicated in the LRTP, 10 percent of funds in the TIP are set aside for select operations projects, including the highway emergency patrol, regional traffic operations center staffing, and a police substation. Other operation projects (ITS, etc.) compete with other projects for remaining funds. The total amount programmed in the 2014–2017 TIP is $401,325,901, and about 6 percent of the total funds are programmed operations projects in the TIP.
Other TSMO–related Activities
TSMO is also addressed in the UPWP. GTC developed the 2013–2014 UPWP in alignment with the LRTP and Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP–21) planning objectives, which both support the efficient management and operations of transportation systems. GTC's 2013–2014 UPWP outlines key roles for staff in TSMO planning activities that will "maximize the safety, efficiency, and security of the transportation system by working with member agencies to identify appropriate management and operations strategies and initiatives, including ITS deployments, which result in fuller utilization of existing capacity.32 The TSMO staff supports the Transportation Management Committee (TMC), which focuses on managing and operating transportation infrastructure and services. The TMC is comprised of representatives from any interested agency; agencies that have participated in the committee include NYSDOT, NYSTA, the New York State Police, Monroe County DOT, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, the City of Rochester, the RGRTA, the Monroe County Supervisors Association, and GTC33. Other TSMO tasks outlined in the UPWP include identifying and advancing TSMO projects that align with Federal expectations and local conditions, implementing the ITS plan, and collecting and disseminating data and information on TSMO activities.
There is a high level of coordination between GTC and NYSDOT Region 4, which is located entirely within the MPO region. The two agencies collaborate on a joint call for projects and use the same Project Evaluation Form to review and rank submitted projects. They consult with each other on the final project program selection as well. This ensures the region receives the maximum benefit from transportation investments, which can be particularly critical for some operations projects, for which regional cooperation yields optimal deployment (i.e., traveler information, traffic control management, traffic signal synchronization, etc.).
For More Information
28 Though the MPO region is comprised of nine counties, seven are covered in the TIP. Return to note 28.
29 Genesee Transportation Council, Long Range Transportation Plan for the Genesee–Finger Lakes Region, June 2011. Available at: http://www.gtcmpo.org/docs/LRTP/2035/LRTP%202035%20(with%20Appendices).pdf Return to note 29.
33 Genesee Transportation Council, Transportation System Management and Operations. Available at: http://www.gtcmpo.org/Resources/Topics/TSMO.htm#TMC. Return to note 33.
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United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration