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Programming for Operations: MPO Examples of Prioritizing and Funding Transportation Systems Management & Operations Strategies

Genesee Transportation Council (Rochester, NY)

Background

FAQs about GTC

Population: 1.22 million
TSMO Dedicated Funding: Hybrid; Funds set aside for certain projects while others compete for funding
Dedicated Operations Staff: 1 FTE
Programmed Operations Funding: 6 percent of the 2014-2017 TIP
M&O included in UPWP: Yes

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:

  • Implementation of the Highway Emergency Local Patrol (HELP) Program, which provides emergency roadside service to disabled vehicles. This is an important initiative in minimizing non–recurring incident–based delay and in increasing safety on major highways by reducing the potential for secondary incidents. NYSDOT Region 4 found that the HELP Program had one of the highest benefit/cost ratios of any initiative assessed.
  • Funding for on–going staffing of the RTOC, including continued 24–hour operations and training of NYSDOT and Monroe County personnel at this facility.

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:

  • Safety (improve safety of the existing transportation system). Mobility (improve the efficiency and reliability of the existing transportation system; promote travel alternatives).
  • Community and Economic Development (enhance the region's attractiveness to new and existing businesses; align with land use, economic, housing, or other policies; support, enhance, or improve regional food system stability).
  • System Continuity and Optimization (support corridor–level/multi–modal solutions, especially across regional boundaries; advance the recommendation(s) of a UPWP study or other transportation plan consistent with LRTP 2035; improve the resiliency of the system).
  • Environment (encourage efficient use of non–renewable energy sources and/or promote renewable alternatives; reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and/or criteria pollutants).
  • Fiscal Responsibility (minimize lifetime maintenance and user costs; provide non–Federal match beyond the required amount; employ innovative funding/financing/partnerships).
  • Mode–specific project evaluation criteria are unique to the following types of projects: highway and bridge, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian, system management and operations, and goods movement. The mode–specific criteria for system management and operations projects are shown in Figure 1 below.

System management and operations project criteria

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.

Collaboration 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.).

Lessons Learned

  • There is broad recognition of the value of key operations activities, namely HELP and RTOC, which enables GTC to set aside dedicated funding for these ongoing activities.
  • GTC's project evaluation criteria allow for smaller operations projects to be competitive for funding. This may be attributed to the inclusion of criteria related to broader transportation goals and objectives (i.e. safety, mobility, fiscal responsibility, etc.) and mode–specific criteria.

For More Information

Contact Richard Perrin
rperrin@gtcmpo.org
TIP Link http://www.gtcmpo.org/Docs/TIP.htm
UPWP http://www.gtcmpo.org/Docs/UPWP.htm

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.

30 Genesee Transportation Council, Transportation Improvement Program 2014–2017, June 2013. Available at: http://www.gtcmpo.org/Docs/TIP.htm. Return to note 30.

31 Genesee Transportation Council, Transportation Improvement Program 2014–2017, June 2013. Available at: http://www.gtcmpo.org/Docs/TIP.htm Return to note 31.

32 Genesee Transportation Council, Unified Planning Work Program, 2013–2014, April 2013. Available at: http://www.gtcmpo.org/Docs/UPWP.htm. Return to note 32.

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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