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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Active Traffic Management Feasibility and Screening Guide

Chapter 3. Assess Agency Policies and Capabilities for Active Traffic Management

The activities associated with this step are shown in Figure 5. The initial activity shown is ensuring that ATM concepts and strategies help achieve regional goals and objectives, as discussed in the previous chapter (Sections 2.1 and 2.2). The other activities are discussed below. This step can occur either concurrently with, or upon completion of the "Get Started — Preparation" step.

Flow chart and decision tree of the activities associated with Assessing Agency Policies and Capabilities for Active Traffic Management.


3.1 Define Applicable ATM Strategies in Terms of Network Features, Project Scope, Agency Policies, and Legal Considerations

This step involves several activities and considerations as noted below.

3.1.1 Roadway Network and Facility Type

The types of roadway facilities included in the network that will be analyzed can potentially filter out some of the ATM strategies. For example, if the network only includes limited access roadways (as may be the case if this ATM screening process is being performed by a state DOT), then ATSC and TSP may be eliminated from consideration. Similarly, if the network being analyzed consists of only arterials, then some of the more-freeway oriented strategies (e.g., dynamic shoulder lanes, queue warning, dynamic speed limits) may not be appropriate (although not necessarily).

3.1.2 Agency Policies and Practices

Another important consideration includes the agency's operations and facility policies—both formal and informal ones—and practices. These may eliminate one or more ATM strategies. For example, some agencies have tended to avoid ramp metering or shoulder use due to earlier unsuccessful deployments or because agency management is unconvinced of the benefits or perceive high public resistance. Nevertheless, it still may be worthwhile to include such strategies in this initial screening as a way to show the possible benefits (and making a business case) for moving forward. The practitioner needs to be sensitive to such informal policies and high resistance to some ATM concepts and strategies and gauge whether it is worth eliminating them from the process at this point.

3.1.3 Legal Considerations

In addition to any policy considerations, state and local laws and regulations should be reviewed to determine whether some ATM strategies are even possible and/or how they might need to be implemented. This effort may result in initiating the process to modify certain laws and regulations to better accommodate ATM. Possible legal and regulatory restrictions might impact the following ATM strategies:

  • Dynamic speed limits —The speed displays in Minneapolis are "advisories" because there is no statutory authority for variable legal limits. On the other hand, the Pennsylvania Code 212.108, Speed Limits, permits using variable speed limits, stating "…to improve safety, speed limits may be changed as a function of traffic speeds or densities, weather or roadway conditions or other factors." The code also states that "…variable speed limit sign shall be placed … at intervals not greater than 1/2 mile throughout the area with the speed limit," a legal requirement that will impact spacing and the associated costs.
  • Dynamic shoulder lanes and dynamic junction control —Using the shoulder for purposes other than as a temporary vehicle refuge may not be allowed. A related issue is that some states may have statutes making it illegal to pass a vehicle by using the shoulder (e.g., "In no event shall such movement be made by driving off of the pavement or main traveled portion of the roadway.") The issue becomes one of whether the shoulder is considered part of the main traveled portion of the roadway when dynamic shoulder lanes are in operation. Another potential legal concern involves lane restrictions for trucks. If trucks are restricted from specific lanes and/or allowed in only certain lanes (e.g., outside or inside lanes), then opening the shoulder to traffic (in essence, adding a lane during certain periods of the day) may change how these restrictions can be interpreted from an operational perspective. It is probably best to check state statutes and get a legal opinion as may be appropriate.

3.2 Confirm Supporting Institutional Framework Is in Place

Having the appropriate institutional framework in place to support ATM operations (as well as other TSM&O activities) is very important. The Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) has found that reaching the full potential of TSM&O is not primarily a "technology" issue or knowledge of best operations practices. The key is to put in place and manage specific supportive business and technical processes and supporting institutional arrangements—in essence, to “mainstream operations” into the institutional framework of the transportation agency.

The SHRP2 L06 product,(22) Institutional Architectures to Advance Operational Strategies, identifies the following six dimensions of organizational capability:

  • Business processes — Formal scoping, planning and programming, and budgeting (resources).
  • Systems and technology — Using systems engineering, systems architectures, standards (and standardization), and interoperability.
  • Performance — Defining measures, data acquisition and analytics, and utilization.
  • Culture — Technical understanding, leadership, outreach, and program legal authority.
  • Organization and staffing — Programmatic status, organizational structure, staff development, recruitment and retention.
  • Collaboration — Relationships and partnering among levels of government and with public safety agencies, local governments, MPOs, and the private sector.

For each of these six dimensions, four levels of capability maturity have been defined, where the term "maturity" is related to the degree of formality and optimization of these processes in support of effective operations, with the maturity increasing from level 1 (Performed), to level 2 (Managed), to level 3 (Integrated), and to level 4 (Optimized).

FHWA is currently developing capability maturity frameworks for various operations activities, including incident management, work zone management, special event management, road weather management, traffic signal management, and traffic management. These frameworks should be available soon on the FHWA Planning for Operations website. Per a beta version of the matrix for assessing the capability maturity framework for "traffic management," proper deployment of ATM strategies as defined herein, with their dynamic nature and reliance on automation, would place an agency at Level 4 for the “Systems and Technology” dimension, which reads as follows:

"Automation of traffic management processes is based on historical, current, and predicted data. New and emerging technologies are deployed on a continuous basis to improve system efficiency."

Accordingly, it may be best for any agencies wishing to pursue ATM (and any ATDM-related activity for that matter) to be moving towards Level 2, and preferably Level 3, for several of the dimensions defined under the "Traffic Management Capability Maturity Framework."7 Relevant examples of these capability maturity levels—per the draft traffic management framework— are described below:

  • Business Processes — "Traffic management development and deployment processes are standardized and have a more system-wide approach that is well documented" (Level 3).
  • Performance Measurement — "Agencies identify desired outcome measures and consistently utilize performance measure analyses to improve strategy deployment and overall operations" (Level 3).
  • Organization and Workforce — "Core staff knowledge, skills, and abilities are identified within the traffic management arena, and roles are linked across various responsible groups" (Level 2).
  • Culture — "Traffic management is recognized as valuable and a key role of the agency. Select agency managers lead efforts for traffic management" (Level 2).
  • Collaboration — "Agencies collaborate on traffic management at a high level via engagement of regional stakeholders" (Level 3).

It is probably not essential for agencies to be at these traffic management capability maturity levels to pursue ATM, but it will likely make the life-cycle process and management of ATM strategies much easier and more effective.

7 This should not be confused with the more general TSM&O program-oriented CMM framework that several DOTs and other transportation entities are using as part of a FHWA/AASHTO SHRP-2 Implementation program. This broad CMM framework addresses the institutional aspects of an agency's program. The Traffic Management Capability Maturity Frameworks uses the same six CMM dimensions but provides more focused agency guidance for traffic management.

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