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

Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

Agency Overview

FAQs about Pikes Peak Area COG

MPO Population: 684,000
TSMO Dedicated Funding: Yes
Dedicated Operations Staff: 0.5 FTE
TSMO included in UPWP: No

The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) is an association of 16 county and municipal governments in a three-county area in central Colorado, which includes the City of Colorado Springs. PPACG serves as the MPO for the region, which has experienced considerable growth in the past few decades — particularly in Colorado Springs41 — and with it, increased traffic. As a result, reducing congestion and improving regional mobility are two of the region's top priorities. Though PPACG does not have a formal operations policy, their focus on cost-effectiveness allows TSMO projects to score highly during the project selection process. Of the more than 60 percent of programmed transportation projects that involve improvements to existing roadways,42 close to one–fifth are solely operations projects. A third of the remaining projects have operations components.

TSMO is also a key component in the Regional Transportation Plan, as well as the CMP. PPACG has developed a comprehensive congestion management approach that identifies a suite of TSMO, TDM, non–motorized, land development and roadway capacity strategies that may be implemented to address congestion along a given corridor. PPACG places an emphasis on using an outcomes–driven, performance–based planning process. TSMO and other congestion management strategies are evaluated based on broader transportation objectives. Specific performance measures pertinent to CMP strategies include:

  • Travel Time: Measures include average travel time, average travel speeds, and travel time index.
  • Delay: Measures include vehicle hours of recurring delay, vehicle hours of delay associated with recurring congestion, and vehicle hours of delay associated with non–recurring congestion.
  • Volume–to–Capacity Ratio (V/C): Measures include level of recurring congestion, daily average V/C ratio, and number of vehicles affected.
  • Incident Occurrence/Duration: Measures include median minutes of incident clearance times, total number of bus breakdowns, and average number of transit rail delays in excess of a certain amount of time.
  • Travel Time Reliability: Measures include additional buffer time added to ensure that travelers reach their destination on time, percentage of total actual time versus how long a trip should take, and percentage of time when travel time exceeds average travel time by a certain amount.
  • Person Throughput: Measures include number of persons moved during peak–hour and number of persons on transit services during peak–hour.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Measures include percentage of population reporting being satisfied or highly satisfied with travel conditions, access to traveler information, and reliability of transit services.
  • Traveler Information Access: Measures focus on public knowledge of travel alternatives or traveler information.43

Project Prioritization and Selection Process

In Colorado, the State DOT plays a leading role in the selection of projects. PPACG conducts a two–step project prioritization process and then presents a ranked list of projects to Colorado DOT (CDOT) for consideration in final project selection decisions.

In the first step of the process, PPACG solicits projects from potential project sponsors within the MPO region and screens submitted projects using minimum eligibility criteria regarding consistency with the Regional Transportation Plan, accuracy of project cost estimates, and compliance with Federal funding requirements. Those projects that pass the preliminary screening are prioritized by MPO staff in a second step using criteria related to the project's ability to fulfill the goals of the Regional Transportation Plan. The goals address efficient system management and operation and preservation of the existing transportation system, in addition to economic vitality, safety and security of users, accessibility and mobility, environmental protection, and intermodal connectivity. Criteria are also identified for each specific funding program; generally the same criteria are used, but they are weighted differently based on the specific program.

Local Funding Source for TSMO: Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority

In 2004, voters in the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, City of Manitou Springs, and the Town of Green Mountain Falls approved a one percent sales tax to fund transportation projects. The annual revenue is divided into three dedicated funding streams; 35 percent is used for maintenance projects and operations projects.

The project prioritization process informs the development of the draft TIP that PPACG presents to the Transportation Advisory Committee and the Community Advisory Committee for review and feedback. At the end of a 30–day public comment period, PPACG votes to approve the TIP. CDOT takes the lead on selecting projects for implementation for each funding category, in consultation with PPACG.

Funding Sources for TSMO Projects

PPACG demonstrates its commitment to operations by using Federal, State and local funding for operations projects. Federal funds used for TSMO projects come from the STP and CMAQ Programs. Typically, about 70 to 80 percent of CMAQ funds are allocated to TSMO activities. For instance, CMAQ is used to fund consultants PPACG hires to conduct signal timing work and for the regional travel demand management program. Additional funding is available from the local sales tax revenue for roadway maintenance and operations. TMC staff is paid from these funds. CDOT also provides funds for maintenance and operations projects.

The current TIP (2010–2017) includes a total of $903 million in transportation investments. PPACG does not specifically track overall TSMO funding. Operations projects are grouped in a Maintenance and Operations category ($382 million over the TIP period), as well as integrated into a number of other categories in the document (such as CMAQ, Local/Private, Metro). In both the Maintenance and Operations and CMAQ categories, there are line items for unspecified projects; this pooled funding is reserved for projects to be determined later.44 The most common TSMO project in the region is signal synchronization, which is incorporated into many roadway projects. Other types of TSMO projects funded by PPACG are roundabouts, intersection improvements, incident detection improvements, signal installation and replacement, and variable message signs.

Measuring the Benefits of TSMO Strategies

Given PPACG's emphasis on outcomes–driven, performance–based planning, the MPO is interested in quantifying the benefits of TSMO strategies. To consider the impacts of operations strategies on the efficiency of the transportation system, PPACAG has used two tools: the Intelligent Transportation Systems Deployment Analysis System (IDAS) and DYNASMART–P. IDAS is compatible with traditional transportation planning models and produces a benefit–cost analysis of ITS investments that allows PPACG to compare ITS projects with more traditional infrastructure investments. DYNASMART–P is used to predict the impact of operational improvements on traffic flows.

Lessons Learned

  • Given PPACG's emphasis on the cost–effectiveness of transportation investments, operations projects are very competitive. The MPO Board understands the benefits of operations projects. Even without a formal policy to advance operations, TSMO plays a significant role in the region through stand–alone projects and integration into other transportation improvements.
  • PPACG's TIP includes pooled funds in CMAQ and Maintenance and Operations for projects to be added at a later date. This allows flexibility in implementing TSMO projects.
  • PPACG has found that the tools and models available for conducting benefit–cost analysis for operations projects require extensive expertise. PPACG staff turnover makes it difficult to continuously quantify project benefits for performance measurement.

For More Information

Contact Craig Casper
PPACG Regional Transportation Plan

41 CensusScope, Colorado Springs, CO Population Growth, 2000. Available at: Return to note 41.

42 Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, Moving Forward Update 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, January 2012. Available at: Return to note 42.

43 Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, Moving Forward Update 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, January 2012. Available at: Return to note 43.

44 Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, 2010-2017 Transportation Improvement Program, September 2010. Available at: Return to note 44.

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