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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Strengthening Linkages between Transportation Demand Management and Traffic Management

Context 2. Linking Transportation Demand Management and Traffic Management as Part of Transit Disruption

When an area relies heavily on transit services as a key option for transporting people to and from their destinations, loss of transit can put enormous pressure on the roadways as travelers choose to use a single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) as an alternative. Traffic managers recognize that transit disruptions lead to not only an increase of vehicles on the roadways, but possibly an increase of bicycles and pedestrians too. Providing the safe infrastructure to accommodate everyone and making sure travelers know about those alternatives are important. This effort requires the combined effort of traffic managers who are mitigating the effects of the transit outage on the roadways and transportation demand management (TDM) professionals who can help travelers understand the broader range of alternative travel options available.

Planned transit disruptions can run the gamut of bypassing a small number specific stations or stops for a short number of days, to having an entire line or lines suspended for several months. Regardless of the duration or severity of the disruption, travelers must find an alternative way to travel, and the key is to help them avoid SOV travel as much as possible.

When traffic managers and transit service operators put together a response to a planned transit disruption, they look at where the diverted transit passengers will go. Based on these assessments, example alternatives they may implement include:

  • Offering a substitute mass transit mode that services roughly the same area.

  • Implementing temporary high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) requirements.

  • Implementing temporary bus priority lanes.

  • Expanding bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

  • Considering creative partnerships with shared mobility providers to address first- and last-mile impacts.

The two case studies for this context show how linkages between TDM and traffic management have been used during planned transit disruptions. SafeTrack in Washington, DC, had planned transit outages spread over one year and coordinated with other agencies to provide reliable transit service when possible to mitigate road congestion. During the emergency fixes at New York's Pennsylvania Station, park-and-ride lots were promoted to encourage transit and carpool use.

Having the alternatives identified and implemented to address the supply aspect is important, but if travelers are not aware of the changes, or if the changes also affect the upstream or downstream portion of their trip, the alternatives may not provide the anticipated relief. This is where TDM managers must be integrated into the planning process.

TDM managers are familiar with the whole gamut of transportation options available in an area, have connections to employers who may be most impacted by disruptions, and can offer various incentives from their toolbox to encourage travelers to use the alternatives. TDM managers can drill down to the individual level and help that person understand all the options.

If TDM managers are involved at the planning stage, they can bring:

  • Partnership opportunities with vanpools.

  • Contingency planning ideas for employer partners.

  • Unique ways to communicate with travelers in a specific region.

Collaborating to Provide Strategies to Accommodate a Major Transit Disruption

In 2019, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is planning to suspend a large portion of the L train subway line in New York City for 15 months to repair damage caused by a 2012 hurricane. This subway line shuttles passengers between the Manhattan and Brooklyn boroughs and, as one of only three lines between these two boroughs, services almost 400,000 daily riders. The suspension will affect an estimated 275,000 riders. Different agencies, including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the New York City Department of Transportation, are looking at different strategies to accommodate the diversion of these riders to other modes, including expansion of bicycle and pedestrian facilities, bus-only access, and shuttle service. The TDM professionals supporting the New York City area have already been discussing contingency plans with employers affected by the suspension and encouraging use of the TDM program's incentives, such as the Guaranteed Ride Home program and aid in developing teleworking, vanpooling, and commute programs. While it is inevitable that the overall transportation system will be stressed during the L train suspension, problems can be eased if strategies are put into place to accommodate a variety of transportation modes, people are made aware of these accommodations, and they find it easy to switch to an alternative during the suspension.

Sources Used: New York City Department of Transportation.(10)

Destination choice Mode choice Route choice Time-of-day choice Case 3. Safetrack—Washington, DC

All hands on deck to provide a variety of alternatives during a long-term transit service suspension

In summer 2016, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) initiated SafeTrack, "an accelerated one-year track work plan to address safety recommendations and rehabilitate the Metrorail system (also known as Metro) to improve safety and reliability."(11) The process included 16 surges—one to two week-long track outages for major projects at various points in the Washington (DC) metropolitan region's Metrorail (subway) system. Prior to SafeTrack, improvement projects were uncoordinated and rail system reliability and schedule adherence dipped in part because of poor track maintenance.

This necessary repair effort meant that Metro passengers faced significant closures and delays, and ultimately were pushed toward other modes, including SOV travel, potentially exacerbating the region's existing congestion and affecting travel reliability across all modes for many months. The planned nature of these outages allowed WMATA, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), and a host of state and local government partnering agencies to plan creatively to inform travelers of the routes and stations affected in each surge, provide bus, carpool, bike, and walk options, and provide a measure of reliability for Metro riders who would need or choose to continue using Metrorail.

Given the vital role that the Metro system played in Washington, DC's transportation system, no single alternative could have accommodated the spillover. Instead, the situation required a mixture of both traffic management and TDM responses and an ongoing coordinated effort of many state and local transportation agencies and transit service providers.

WMATA, along with a large array of partners, such as MWCOG, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and city and county governments, and local commuter assistance organizations worked diligently to provide thorough and timely information on the expected rail system delays and available travel alternatives (figure 8). These partners posted SafeTrack information on their websites, provided links to WMATA's website, geo-targeted messaging to residents in affected areas, and conducted outreach to employers, property managers, residents, and others in their individual networks through both traditional media and social media channels.

Figure 8. Photo of a pick and carry on a railroad track picking up a rail tie.
Figure 8. Photo. WMATA tie replacement during SafeTrack maintenance.(12)
(Source: WMATA).

To coordinate outreach and service efforts and share information, WMATA and MWCOG organized regular conference calls of the SafeTrack Work Group, comprised of representatives of governments and transportation organizations in the affected jurisdictions. Held one to two weeks before the start of each surge, team members reviewed ridership reports and WMATA's plans for the upcoming surge, debriefed on the results of informational and mode shifting initiatives from the previous surge, and reported on strategies their organizations planned for the upcoming period.

Overall, more than 500 WMATA staff were involved in the effort, along with many others from other agencies. Since SafeTrack began, there has been a 45 percent reduction in hours of service disruption, compared to previous improvement projects.

strategy icon

Noteworthy Strategy

The hours for street parking restriction were extended to keep lanes open to accommodate more traffic later in the day.

Destination choice Strategies Providing Destination Choice

Expanded telework provided commuting relief for some workers. For example, the Federal Office of Personnel Management published guidance for federal agencies to evaluate if and how to offer teleworking to federal employees during surges.(13) The Washington, DC, government developed telework plans tailored to employees based upon their commutes.(14) VDOT, which sponsors the Telework!VA program, and county governments also encouraged local businesses to implement teleworking programs for their employees, with one county even hosting webinars to guide businesses in this process.(15)

Time-of-day choice Strategies Providing Time Choice

WMATA's Trip Planner webtool was updated to include information from each maintenance cycle to include adjusted travel time suggestions. To reduce congestion from drivers looking for parking spaces, DDOT extended street parking restrictions in busy bus corridors by 30 minutes: restrictions were in place from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. (rather than their normal ending time of 9:30 a.m.) and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (rather than their normal ending time of 6:30 p.m.).(16) Local government restricted its designated core hours for employees, giving them more flexibility to schedule their commutes outside the peak congested times.(17)

Mode choice Strategies Providing Mode Choice

One primary method employed to compensate for lost Metro service miles was to steer travelers to other modes. MWCOG, local governments and commuter assistance organizations, and county and city transit providers coordinated to provide travelers with alternate modal options during times of decreased service. MWCOG and commuter organizations provided information about bus and commuter rail transit, carpooling, vanpooling, and casual carpooling ("slugging"); several local governments expanded bikeshare and bike support services. DDOT provided information about carsharing, bikesharing, and other transit modes on its webpages and in public announcements. One of the options was a social carpooling app created by MWCOG. The app, Carpoolnow, was launched during the SafeTrack project.

DDOT also added a cheaper option for Capital Bikeshare users (a $2 trip option instead of $8 per day), and surrounding city governments added bikeshare stations at subway stations unaffected by surges, thereby making it easier to commute via an alternate line. Further, temporary allowances were made for cab drivers to pick up multiple unaffiliated riders within 1 mile ofa subway station, essentially allowing them to function similarly to UberPOOL or Lyft Line. Usually, cab drivers are not allowed to group strangers together in one vehicle for a shared trip.

Adjustments to transit service and operations also helped to replace lost subway service by providing an alternative mass transit option. Bus systems in Alexandria, Arlington County, and Fairfax County (Fairfax Connector), Prince William County (PRTC OmniRide), Montgomery County (RideOn), and commuter rail and bus systems all added service for the surges that affected riders in their areas, DDOT extended the D.C. Circulator's operating hours until 3 a.m. on weekends to make up for Metro's early closing, and WMATA added additional shuttle routes at targeted locations that had reduced rail service, basically running shuttles in parallel to the rail routes for affected segments. (See for example reference (18).)

Route choice Strategies Providing Route Choice

DDOT also implemented a moratorium on construction work on key corridors during SafeTrack updates, to improve traffic flow at these already-strained times. VDOT monitored traffic operations on state roads in the affected areas and adjusted signal timing to improve traffic flow. VDOT also reinforced HOV lane enforcement to encourage carpooling.

Success Supportive of the Integration of Transportation Demand Management and Traffic Management

The SafeTrack Work Group, run by Commuter Connections at MWCOG, was instrumental in assisting local governments to coordinate cross-border efforts and make adjustments in their transit systems. For example, Fairfax County was able to adjust its bus routes to utilize an existing HOV lane network on an alternate roadway. This method of replacement for lost rail service was generally positively reviewed by riders. Inter-organizational familiarity and relationships, fostered largely through MWCOG activities, made it easier for authorities to collaborate during SafeTrack.

Additionally, several previously-existing MWCOG regional coordinating committees, such as the Transportation Emergency Preparedness Committee, Regional Public Transportation Subcommittee, Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee, and Management, Systems Management, Operations, and Technology Subcommittee served as forums for regional information exchange, an opportunity to provide information to local elected officials, and collect and share travel data.

City of Ottawa, Canada, Transit Strike in 2008

In late December 2008, drivers and maintenance workers with Ottawa-Carleton Transportation Commission, Ottawa's transit authority, went on strike for more than 50 days during some of the coldest weather of the year. At the beginning of the strike, the City of Ottawa launched a series of initiatives, with substantial focus on active transportation and carpooling, to help commuters cope with the loss of transit. The city provided the ridematching website and erected new signage for meeting spots for carpools at park-and-ride lots and along bus-only lanes in the downtown. The city opened 3,000 additional all-day parking stalls in previously one- to three-hour unmetered parking spots and discounted parking rates for carpoolers at allof their municipal parking lots. To provide options for active transportation, the city expanded snow- and ice-clearing efforts to provide a higher standard of safety for walkers and cyclists, and modified its website to allow people to search for walking and cycling partners. The city opened a portion of a bus-only lane on Highway 174 to improve traffic flow from the eastern portion of the city.

Sources Used: City of Ottawa, Urban Transportation Showcase Program, Issue Paper 75.

Direction choice Mode choice Route choice Facility or lane choice Case 4. Amtrak New York Pennsylvania Station Emergency Repair Work

Multi-pronged mitigation plan brings together different agencies to manage travel disruptions

In summer 2017, Amtrak was forced to make emergency repairs to rail lines into and out of New York Pennsylvania Station (Penn Station), which caused the cancellation or diversion of 15 morning rush hour trains of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Long Island Railroad (LIRR) service and impacted approximately 9,600 riders.(19) To facilitate a coordinated response to this event, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo established the Penn Station Task Force, which included representatives from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), New York City Department of Transportation, New York State Congressmen, Nassau and Suffolk County Executives, and other key stakeholders. The Task Force increased collaboration among the agencies and stakeholders to help develop the mitigation plan.

MTA, with support of the Penn Station Task Force, developed a multi-pronged mitigation plan to manage travel during the construction. MTA provided several alternative transportation options to accommodate rush-hour passenger capacities and reduce delays. NYSDOT coordinated multiple roadside and traffic management actions to reduce road congestion as well as TDM, outreach, and marketing efforts through the 511NY Rideshare TDM outreach program. NYSDOT documented these efforts in the Pennsylvania Station Emergency Repair Work Traffic Management Playbook (figure 9). A robust public awareness campaign communicated these efforts and ensured commuters had the information needed to plan ahead.

Figure 9. Screenshot of a table showing the list of traffic management strategies/actions. The text says, 'To support MTA, the following actions/strategies will be in place. Please click on each strategy for implementation details. Click on the hyperlink to go directly to the strategy.' The table has four columns: number, strategy, status (operational/planning/available), and last updated. In Number column, the numbers range from 2.1 to 2.7. The status for all rows is operational and the last updated column has dates in June and July 2017. Strategy 2.1 is emergency local patrol (HELP) coverage and frequency expansion. Strategy 2.2 is pre-deployment of maintenance crews and tow trucks. Strategy 2.3 is traffic signal timeline adjustments. Strategy 2.4 is messaging on variable message signs. Strategy 2.5 is HOV enforcement. Strategy 2.6 is park and ride lot monitoring and messaging. Strategy 2.7 is incident command structure and staffing.
Figure 9. Screenshot. A sample of strategies included in NYSDOT's traffic management playbook.(20)
(Source: NYSDOT).

After the strategies were carried out, most commuters chose to continue commuting by train on altered routes with expanded capacity. One month after the construction started, MTA reduced the temporary express bus and ferry services to reflect consumer demand. The construction turned out to be less disruptive than anticipated. The planning and collaboration among the agencies and stakeholders to execute the mitigation plan prevented major disruptions. After eight weeks of construction, normal train service resumed. Overall efforts by various agencies resulted in positive reaction to what was dubbed the "summer of hell." The New York Times ran an article titled "Summer Was Not So Hellish for Commuters at Penn Station."(21)

Direction choice Strategies Providing Destination Choice

Mass transit was still a desired mode choice, but it was important to try to alleviate usage across the different mass transit lines. MTA offered a 25 percent fare reduction to passengers traveling to alternate LIRR stations including Hunterspoint Avenue in Queens and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.

NYSDOT staffed 14 express bus and park-and-ride lots to monitor parking capacity. Parking status updates were reported to NYSDOT's transportation management center and MTA's Emergency Operations Center key staff every 30 minutes. Over 100 message signs were temporarily placed at key locations to inform motorists of traffic restrictions and real-time express bus and park-and-ride lot parking capacities.

Mode choice Strategies Providing Mode Choice

To accommodate commuter capacities, MTA established several transportation alternatives including a modified train schedule, free LIRR-to-subway transfers, and the creation of a temporary bus and ferry network. MTA even lengthened trains with additional cars. MTA facilitated a widespread, multi-channel information campaign throughout the summer including mailings to employers to inform them of the service changes, informative commercials and newspaper advertisements, flyers on every seat of the LIRR, electronic messages direct to customers via text and email, social media announcements, and a significant increase in the number of LIRR representatives on trains and at stations. Both MTA and 511NY Rideshare maintained dedicated websites for the event, with up-to-date information about service changes and transportation alternatives, and communicated with employers to inform them of the service disruptions and alternative mode options. 511NY Rideshare also promoted its ridematching services and park-and-ride lot information to encourage carpooling, and added telework resources to inform travelers about the mode.

Route choice Strategies Providing Route Choice

MTA implemented half-price tolls for trucks at all MTA crossings from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to encourage off-peak travel. The New York Governor's Office announced that all non-emergency road construction was suspended from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and that all lanes would remain open on major roadways in the New York City area.

Facility or lane choice Strategies Providing Facility or Lane Choice

To encourage use of the HOV lanes as a way to reduce congestion, NYSDOT implemented messaging to remind motorists of the HOV regulations.

Success Supportive of the Integration of Transportation Demand Management and Traffic Management

During these emergency repairs, NYSDOT shared, for the first time, real-time parking lot capacity updates with motorists. The data were also shared across agencies. 511NY Rideshare fed the data to its park-and-ride lot map tool. Customers were able to easily check parking lot capacities and consider carpooling.

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