Traffic Incident Management Gap Analysis Primer
6. Conclusions and Recommendations
Overall the research conducted for this gap analysis determined that there is no one-size-fits-all traffic incident management (TIM) program, so the recommendations contained within this document should be tailored towards the needs of the area in which the TIM program will be implemented. Not only should the needs of that area be considered but the capabilities and available resources of that area are equally important to understand the level of customization needed. It does not matter how big or small a TIM program is but rather how successful the program is at engaging stakeholders and managing incidents. Whether a TIM program has already been established or is just beginning, it is essential to identify the overall needs of the local area and determine the TIM program elements necessary to fulfill these needs. If a program has already been deployed, a key driver is identifying the existing gaps in the program and identifying activities/actions to bridge these gaps.
It is important to emphasize the fact that the success of a TIM program is not measured by how long the program has been implemented or by how many people are involved in the TIM process but rather by how effective the program is accomplishing the goals of TIM. Key elements of a successful TIM program include a number of strategic, tactical, and support activities.
Specific TIM activities associated with each element are summarized in Table 23.
Table 23. Summary of Traffic Incident Management Activities within Different Traffic Incident Management Program Elements
It is not necessary for every activity outlined in Table 23 to be implemented as part of the TIM program, but rather these items are example activities that have been identified in successful TIM programs. It is important that before an activity is implemented, there should be a great level of consideration for how useful and effective that activity will be for TIM in the local deployment area. In reviewing the current status of TIM programs across the nation, it is clear that there is no “one-size-fits-all” TIM program so it is possible that many of the components listed contain multiple elements and/or relate to activities that can be implemented in varying degrees depending on the needs of an area.
This primer identifies the elements of a comprehensive TIM program as well as how stakeholders can benchmark their progress and identify gaps within their existing program. Many factors incorporated into a typical TIM program include the following:
If a TIM program has not already been established, an important preliminary first step is determining that a more coordinated effort for managing incidents is needed. After making this determination transportation agencies typically take the lead role in establishing and implementing local/regional TIM programs. Although this typically occurs, other TIM stakeholders are not precluded from taking the initiative in leading the effort to form a program. To accomplish this, a streamlined eight stage process for establishing a TIM program has been outlined.
Identifying relevant stakeholders is a critical first step to the success of a TIM program. Developing a cooperative spirit and consensus among the various stakeholders is quite essential. Once these stakeholders commit to establishing a TIM program, they can sponsor a TIM Task Force that meets periodically to enhance and guide the program.
Define the Problem
A clear understanding of the severity, impacts, and locations of incident-related problems is imperative before even attempting to identify or determine a solution. Defining the problem can be accomplished through a combination of data collection, data compilation, brainstorming, and a constructive assessment of existing practices.
Set Goals and Objectives
Guiding principles for the program development should be established by the TIM Task Force. These "guiding principles" usually consist of a mission statement with goals and objectives based on the identified problems. These goals and objectives describe what the program is designed to accomplish and are meant to reflect multiagency efforts and not those of individual agencies.
TIM programs consist of numerous individual practices, tools and infrastructure elements. Based on the goals and objectives developed previously, alternatives should be determined to combine available TIM tools and techniques into program packages for evaluation.
Evaluate and Select Alternatives
The developed alternatives should be evaluated based on prioritization, high-level cost estimates, and expected benefits.
As alternatives are being implemented, mechanisms for resolving the issues associated with incident management must be developed. Example issues include: jurisdictional boundaries, operational responsibilities, funding sources, joint training, field communications, onsite command and approval of alternate routes.
Since TIM is an ongoing process, changes in the local operational, technological, political, and funding environment should be evaluated and taken into account. An initial program evaluation and the subsequent revaluation of alternatives to refocus or refine an existing system require the routine collection of appropriate data (e.g., detection time, response time, clearance time, delay and costs).
Refine the System
For a TIM program to continuously mature and improve, effective feedback is needed from both upper management and field-level personnel. Constant communication and coordination from both levels will improve the TIM process; adapt to the changing needs of the area; and meet the needs of the participating agencies, affected jurisdictions, and the motoring public.
For optimal implementation, specific actions from the above stages may be followed:
These actions will help identify the level of involvement necessary from transportation department staff as well as other TIM stakeholders within the different TIM-related activities, in addition to the new roles and positions that need to be fully dedicated to the TIM program.
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration