Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Organizing for TSMO
Case Study 6: Collaboration - Partnering for Traffic Incident Management

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Historically, transportation agencies have managed congestion primarily by funding major capital projects that focused on adding capacity to address physical constraints such as bottlenecks. Operational improvements were typically an afterthought and considered after the new infrastructure was already added to the system. Given the changing transportation landscape that includes increased customer expectations, a better understanding of the sources of congestion, and constraints in resources, alternative approaches were needed. Transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) provides such an approach to overcome these challenges and address a broader range of congestion issues to improve overall system performance. With agencies needing to stretch transportation funding further and demand for reliable travel increasing, TSMO activities can help agencies maximize the use of available capacity and implement solutions with a high benefit-cost ratio. This approach supports agencies' abilities to address changing system demands and be flexible for a wide range of conditions.

Effective TSMO efforts require full integration within a transportation agency and should be supported by partner agencies. This can be achieved by identifying opportunities for improving processes, instituting data-driven decision-making, establishing proactive collaboration, and developing actionable activities to implement processes that optimize performance.

Through the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2), a national partnership between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the Transportation Research Board, (TRB), a self-assessment framework was developed based on a model from the software industry. SHRP2 developed a framework for agencies to assess their critical processes and institutional arrangements through a capability maturity model (CMM). The CMM uses six dimensions of capability to allow agencies to self-assess their implementation of TSMO principles2:

  1. Business processes - planning, programming, and budgeting.
  2. Systems and technology - systems engineering, systems architecture standards, interoperability, and standardization.
  3. Performance measurement - measures definition, data acquisition, and utilization.
  4. Culture - technical understanding, leadership, outreach, and program authority.
  5. Organization and workforce - programmatic status, organizational structure, staff development, recruitment, and retention.
  6. Collaboration - relationships with public safety agencies, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), and the private sector.

Within each capability dimension, there are four levels of maturity (performed, managed, integrated, and optimized), as shown in Figure 1. An agency uses the CMM self-assessment to identify their level of maturity in each dimension as well as their strengths and weaknesses and to determine actions they can take to improve their capabilities.

Chart showing the four levels of maturity from FHWA's Jan 2012 document - Creating an Effective Program to Advance Transportation System Management and Operations
Figure 1. Chart. Four Levels of Maturity
Source: Creating an Effective Program to Advance Transportation System Management and Operations, FHWA Jan 2012

Purpose of Case Studies

In the first 10 years of implementation of the TSMO CMM, more than 50 States and regions used the tool to assess and improve their TSMO capabilities. With the many benefits experienced by these agencies, FHWA identified the need to develop case studies through previous efforts in SHRP2 to showcase leading practices to assist other transportation professionals in mainstreaming TSMO into their agencies. The purposes of the case studies are to:

  • Communicate the value of changing the culture and standard practices towards TSMO to stakeholders and decision-makers.
  • Provide examples of best-practices and lessons learned by other State and local agencies during their adoption, implementation, and mainstreaming of TSMO.

These case studies support transportation agencies by showing a wide range of challenges, opportunities, and results to provide proof for the potential benefits of implementing TSMO. Each case study was identified to address challenges faced by TSMO professionals when implementing new or expanding existing practices in the agency and to provide lessons learned.

Identified Topics of Importance

The TSMO collaboration component is important because the ability for organizations, partner agencies, and other local stakeholders to work together directly affects their ability to meet regional transportation goals. The agencies highlighted for this case study addressed those challenges through consistent collaboration with first responders.


Agencies were selected for each case study based on prior research indicating that the agency was excelling in particular TSMO capabilities. Care was taken to include a diversity of geographical locations and agency types (departments of transportation, cities, and MPOs) to develop case studies that other agencies could easily relate to and learn from. Interviews were conducted with selected agencies to collect information on the topic for each case study.

Description of Collaboration

Collaboration takes place in every aspect of TSMO programming. Early in program development, internal and external stakeholders work together to develop TSMO strategic elements such as vision, mission, goals, and objectives. Collaboration continues throughout development all the way to implementation of projects, programs, and services. The collaboration dimension of TSMO includes:

  • Partnerships among levels of government.
  • Stakeholder collaboration.
  • Partnerships with public safety agencies.
  • Internal agency collaboration.
  • Partnerships with private sector.

Traffic incident management and safety patrol programs are critical to the success of TSMO and are most effective with collaboration. These programs include multi-discipline collaboration and execution from:

  • Hazardous materials experts.
  • Emergency medical services.
  • Public information media.
  • Emergency management.
  • Towing and recovery.
  • Law enforcement.
  • Fire services.
  • Transportation.
  • Public and safety.3

Any of the listed service participants can be a first responder on the scene of an accident. For example, a traffic management center operator is alerted to a queue forming, caused by an incident on a major corridor. The operator can send information to the proper emergency services resulting in faster incident response and clearance and improved safety. The relationship between transportation professionals and emergency services can be an organized and documented process through TSMO programming. This promotes a shared understanding of the purpose and goals of an incident management program and defines the necessary roles and responsibilities for success. It increases incident response efficiency both in the field and at the operations center. The collaboration component of TSMO enables multi-discipline solutions to common transportation challenges.

Data shared between agencies can be used to make more informed decisions on project prioritization and design. It can also be shared with the public for success or safety purposes. Most importantly, agency collaboration and shared data can help save lives.

2 FHWA, Office of Operations, "Organizing for Reliability - Capability Maturity Model Assessment and Implementation Plans Executive Summary," May 2015. [ Return to Note 2 ]

3 [ Return to Note 3 ]

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