Developing and Sustaining a Transportation Systems Management & Operations Mission for Your Organization: A Primer For Program Planning
Chapter 2. The Rationale for Transportation Systems Management and Operations Program Planning
While State, local, and regional agencies address transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) in a variety of ways, in many cases, TSMO has not been identified as a primary focus within an organization. Even in cases where TSMO has been elevated as a priority for an agency, it has often been acknowledged strategically (e.g., incorporated into goals) or in terms of specific needs, investments, or activities, but has not been mainstreamed into the agency's organizational responsibilities and business processes.
As noted in a series of white papers on "Improving Transportation System Management and Operations," research conducted through the Second Strategic Highway Research (SHRP2) Program determined that agencies with the most effective TSMO activities were differentiated not by budgets or technical skills alone, but by the existence of critical processes and institutional arrangements focused on TSMO applications. The significance of this finding was validated in over 40 State and regional self-assessment workshops.1
These assessments found that few States or regions had developed plans that describe TSMO activities comprehensively. While many States have plans for specific TSMO services, projects, and activities, such as ITS plans, traffic incident management plans, emergency response plans, or special event plans, these plans do not describe the role of TSMO in support of the agency's mission and do not address all TSMO functions. TSMO planning and budgeting have been largely limited to specific projects or initiatives, and initiatives have been limited based on available funding and program status.
Although some agencies have begun to elevate operations objectives, the business case for TSMO is not widely understood at the State or regional level. At the same time, emerging technology applications and approaches, such as integrated corridor management (ICM), active transportation and demand management (ATDM), and connected vehicles, highlight the need and value of a systematic approach to TSMO planning. Consequently, many of the action plans coming out of the SHRP2 self-assessment efforts identified the development of a TSMO program plan as a key action to guide organizations in advancing the institutional focus on TSMO.
A TSMO program planning process guides development of the structure, resources, business processes, and decision support systems needed to deliver the strategic vision for TSMO. Although a TSMO program plan is not required by Federal law, State and regional transportation agencies benefit from developing TSMO program plans to better mainstream TSMO within their agencies and to set priorities for activities and investments. Moreover, the TSMO program plan defines the programmatic structure for organizing activities, functions, and the workforce to accomplish the goals and objectives of the TSMO program.
A TSMO program plan, and the process of TSMO program planning, helps agencies in many ways, as described below.
Creating a Transportation Systems Management and Operations Mission
TSMO program planning can play a vital role in creating a TSMO mission within an agency by clearly articulating how TSMO supports the state or regional vision and the agency's core purpose. Specifically, a TSMO program plan:
Similar to developing a Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), which brings together the wide range of stakeholders involved in traffic safety across functional areas of the State department of transportation (DOT) and external partners (e.g., law enforcement, emergency management, and local governments), a State or regional TSMO program plan helps to focus agencies, their partners, and other stakeholders on strategies to improve transportation system performance, including mobility, reliability, and travel choices. As a result, the culture of the agency becomes more focused on TSMO, and TSMO considerations are integrated into all aspects of the agency, including long-range planning, specialized planning (e.g., freight planning, corridor planning), programming, project development and design, asset management, as well other program areas (e.g., safety, environment).
Sustaining and Institutionalizing the Transportation Systems Management and Operations Mission
By formalizing a TSMO program plan, the organization helps ensure that initiatives are not simply reactive or subject to leadership changes but are institutionalized. A TSMO program plan:
TSMO program planning is an active business administration and program management activity that is likely to be particularly vital during periods of rapid change caused by changes in leadership, expansion or contraction of available fiscal or human resources, staff turnover, changes in technology, or changes in programmatic emphasis (e.g., Towards Zero Deaths, transportation system resiliency, sustainability). A TSMO program plan provides an agency with a well-defined organizational structure and series of processes and procedures to sustain the TSMO mission.
Supporting Effective Program Delivery
TSMO program planning not only creates and sustains a TSMO mission within the agency but also helps to ensure effective delivery of TSMO program services by identifying the financial and staff resources needed and developing procedures for prioritizing TSMO investment needs. Specifically, TSMO program planning:
Moreover, with the rapid advances in technology that are taking place in the transportation industry, including connected and autonomous vehicles, new shared mobility options, and opportunities to more actively manage travel demand, TSMO program planning helps an agency to look beyond "today" to position for what is coming in the near future. It helps the organization to consider how system management and operations functions, roles, and needs are changing and better prepare to integrate new data sources, technologies, and approaches into the agency's investments and programs.
Responding to Unique Needs and Issues
There is no one-size-fits-all structure of a TSMO program plan, and a TSMO program plan may look different for a State DOT or MPO or other organization.
The process of and outcomes associated with developing a TSMO program plan help support the organization to better meet its customers' needs. A TSMO program plan provides the structure by which the organization coordinates to deliver enhanced system performance as a part of its mission. It serves as a business plan for TSMO activities, supporting organizational decisions and processes needed to proactively manage a safe, efficient, and reliable transportation system. As a result, TSMO program planning is a vital component of integrating TSMO into the culture of a transportation agency.
1 For information on the white papers, see Federal Highway Administration, "Organizing for Operations" web page at: https://ops.fhwa. dot.gov/plan4ops/focus_areas/organizing_for_op.htm. [ Return to note 1. ]
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration