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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Developing and Sustaining a Transportation Systems Management & Operations Mission for Your Organization: A Primer For Program Planning

Chapter 7. Tactical Elements: Identifying Priority Services, Activities, and Projects

Transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) program planning addresses tactical issues that lay the groundwork for TSMO deployment, including the identification of prioritized services, activities, and projects.

The tactical component of transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) program planning focuses on identifying the packages of TSMO services, activities, and projects to accomplish the organization's adopted mission, vision, goals, and objectives. In this phase, transportation agencies also describe implementation policies and decision-making guidelines that will direct deployment for services, activities, and projects. In effect, this component should establish the foundation for subsequent TSMO deployment. Often, this phase of TSMO program planning involves a near-term focus of 3 to 5 years, and is used by metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) to identify priorities to move forward as investments and programs within a transportation improvement program (TIP) or by States to identify key priorities for the statewide TIP.

While tactical program planning focuses on identifying a set of investment or service priorities, it should involve more than simply identifying a list of projects. This component of planning ideally should involve establishing clear organizational responsibilities for each set or package of services, projects, or activities. It also must recognize that TSMO implementation goes beyond just deploying ITS infrastructure and implementing programs, but has to include field procedures and protocols, adjustments to the systems architecture, staff training, and performance measurement.

It is important to note that several organizational units may need to share responsibilities for a particular service, activity, or project, and collaboration with specific external partners may be critical to success. Any unique organizational or system-related needs for business processes should be identified and addressed. In addition, tactical planning should involve developing a financial plan to identify funding sources for services and/or investments, as well as other categories of resources (e.g., staffing, capabilities) needed.

Identifying Prioritized Services, Activities, and Projects

"No service, project and activity should be a candidate for subsequent deployment planning without systematic screening through the TSMO Program Plan."

NCHRP Project Number 20-07/345: Program Planning and Development for Transportation System Management and Operations in State Departments of Transportation

Planning for the implementation or deployment of TSMO identifies the services, activities, and projects needed to meet the TSMO strategic and programmatic goals and objectives. Each of these areas should be developed more fully to prioritize, program, and deploy specific services and activities.

Unlike more traditional transportation agency programming, TSMO deployment goes beyond projects to include a broad range of activities and services that support operations and management of the transportation system. For example, traffic incident management (TIM) involves not only deployment of cameras or other infrastructure to detect incidents, but also procedures, communications, interagency coordination, and scene management practices. TIM programs may identify specific technology investments or intelligent transportation system (ITS) applications that support these activities, but the focus is generally not on project construction or technology procurement alone. Program plans should discuss in more depth, or link to more specific plans that address, the structure, relationships, and procedures needed to advance each service or function, as well as funding.

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Questions for Consideration

  • What services, activities and projects provide the greatest return on investment in meeting our TSMO goals and objectives?
  • What services and activities are we performing today that can be leveraged or enhanced to support TSMO?
  • What gaps do we currently have that need to be addressed to meet our TSMO mission and vision?
  • What is the structure of the service delivery program?
  • Who should we engage to develop strong multi-agency, multidisciplinary deployment?

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) Identification of Specific Strategies to Support Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) Goals and Objectives

DVRPC, the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the Philadelphia region, developed a Transportation Operations Master Plan, which outlines a long-range vision of transportation operations for the region. It presents transportation operations goals, objectives, and operational strategies, including plans and programs to accomplish the regional goals and vision. A financial analysis was conducted to estimate the costs to construct, operate, and maintain these initiatives. The table below highlights strategies, which include projects, policies, programs, and activities designed to support one goal associated with reducing traffic congestion through improved incident management and associated objectives.

Goal Reduce Traffic Congestion Through Improved Incident Management
Objectives Improve Incident Detection and Verification Improve Response Times Improve Interagency Coordination and Cooperation Improve Incident Clearance

Implement and/ or upgrade traffic operations centers

Construct traffic surveillance systems, fill in missing gaps

Share 9-1-1 and State police Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) information with traffic operations centers

Install reference location signs

Construct Regional Integrated Multi-Modal Information Sharing (RIMIS) data interfaces with traffic operations center (TOC) field-to-center (F2C) software to collect traffic speeds

Share traffic surveillance information with emergency responders

Incorporate real-time traffic

information into CAD systems and emergency vehicle mobile data terminals

Operate and maintain RIMIS

Establish and maintain incident management task forces

Create incident management response teams (IMRT)

Conduct training programs, post-incident reviews

Develop regional evacuation plan, and disaster response and recovery plan

TOC/County 9-1-1 centers act as a communication hub for emergency traffic text alerts

Deploy emergency service patrols

Pass quick clearance legislation

Develop and promote "Move It" policies, erect "Move It" signs

Identify and sign prearranged detour routes

Develop policy and procedures to modify signal timings on detour routes, upgrade traffic controllers/F2C communication systems

Pre-deploy traffic control equipment

Install ramp gates and barrier gates

Develop tow truck incentive program

Source: DVRPC, Transportation Operations Master Plan, 2009.

Defining Implementation Policies and Guidelines to Support Service Functions

In the tactical stage of TSMO program development, policies and guidelines are needed for services and strategies. These may include State level policies such as quick clearance for TIM, standards specifications for communications technologies, guidelines for selection or deployment of ITS devices, policies guidance on public/private initiatives in data sharing, decision- making guidelines for implementation of services, projects, and activities, and service levels standards for devices.

Regional Transportation Operations Plan for Southeast Wisconsin – Short Range Priorities

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, the metropolitan planning organization for the Milwaukee area, developed a Regional Transportation Operations Plan (RTOP) as a short– range plan identifying system operations measures and actions recommended for implementation over a five year period. The RTOP builds on the recommendations from the region's long–range regional transportation plan, and identifies the operations measures in the regional transportation plan recommended for priority implementation in the five–year period, along with potential funding sources, and the relationship of each measure to the regional intelligent transportation system architecture.

Source: Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Regional Transportation Operations Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin: 2012–2016. Available at:

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Questions for Consideration

  • What statewide or regional implementation policies are needed to support and enhance TSMO?
  • What guidelines would be helpful to coordinate and cooperate across multiple agencies and disciplines?

Developing an Investment Plan or Financial Plan

Effective planning for TSMO involves identifying the costs associated with deployment of services, which may include new infrastructure investments, technology purchases, staff time and resources, or other resources. The TSMO program plan may identify general funding levels, resource needs, and funding sources to support a sustainable program by major function over a 5- or 10-year period. It also could identify specific types of project priorities and estimated costs, which could be incorporated into the MPO's TIP or State DOT's STIP.

Prioritizing specific TSMO services and projects typically depends on data and analysis tools. Benefit/cost analysis or multi-criteria analysis methods can be developed to support this project- level or service-level prioritization. For example, Federal Highway Administration's Tool for Operations Benefit Cost Analysis (TOPS-BC) can be used to help support identification of specific TSMO strategies or investments that may be most cost-effective. Alternatively, multiple factors or criteria may be used to prioritize investments.

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Questions for Consideration

  • What are the current funding resources for TSMO deployment for each service area?
  • What are the priority or highest value investments needed for each service area?
  • What funding sources can be matched to individual project priorities?

Developing Annual Action Plans and Deployment

Identification and prioritization of TSMO services, activities and projects provide the basis for annualized actions and deployment. Based on funding resources, and opportunities to integrate TSMO in other activities and projects, annual deployment plans provide the basis for actualizing TSMO. Annual plans should be developed in coordination with larger agency planning efforts and integrated in standard programs, which often have a 5-year timeframe.

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Questions for Consideration

  • What operational projects or initiatives are needed in the near-term to address specific needs?
  • What are the highest ranked priorities for implementation in the next year? Two years? Five years?

Tracking Progress: Performance Assessment

For each of the service areas, performance analysis should be conducted to measure the effectiveness of tactics in meeting program objectives. Using metrics identified in strategic planning, on-going monitoring of system performance, together with evaluation of specific projects and investments, will provide the basis for informed, performance-oriented decision-making and program improvements. It will also provide data useful for justifying future TSMO investments.

Dallas Region Annual Evaluation of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Priorities

The ITS strategic deployment plan developed by the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) is a living document, which the organization seeks to improve continuously. On an annual basis, NCTCOG leads a stakeholder task force in a review of the ITS plan. As part of this process, the task force uses performance measurement data to make decisions about whether to add or remove regional ITS projects and proposed deployments from the plan.

Source: North Central Texas Council of Governments, Available at:

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Questions for Consideration

  • How will we measure how well we are meeting the program's stated objectives?
  • What data are available and what additional data needs do we have?
  • How can we capture effectiveness data and success stories to help justify future TSMO investments and build a case and culture for TSMO?
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