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

Organizing for TSMO
Case Study 10: State Department of Transportation Examples 2 of 2

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 develop 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). 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, to determine their strengths and weaknesses in each dimension, 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 developed a series of case studies to showcase leading practices to assist other transportation professionals in advancing and 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

This case study describes the holistic perspective of successful TSMO programs at State departments of transportation (DOT). This study features two agencies; another set of two agencies is featured in case study 9.

Highlighting all aspects of specific State DOTs is important because it demonstrates how the culmination of several different TSMO activities support the broader objective to improve safety and mobility. Agencies highlighted for this case study have different approaches, providing beneficial lessons learned for development of TSMO divisions, integration of TSMO with planning activities, and taking advantage of opportunities to integrate strategies into projects.


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 diverse geographical locations and agency types (DOTs, 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. Permission was received from each agency to use information discussed during the interview and shared afterwards for the purpose of this case study.

Description of State Departments of Transportation

As the primary manager and operator of a State transportation system, State DOTs usually have a leading role in the execution of a TSMO program. How business is conducted in each State DOT affects the structure and delivery of TSMO programs in varying ways. Elements such as the DOT's organizational structure, involvement of executive staff, existing relationships with partner agencies, the DOT's culture, and other factors greatly impact development and integration of TSMO within an agency's existing work flow. It is the responsibility of all partner agencies to advocate for and help enhance TSMO planning in their regions. State DOTs can play a leading role in promoting TSMO in the following capacities:

  • Program Structure - With their wide range of staff and responsibilities, State DOTs can be responsible for developing the structure and organization of a TSMO program. In this role, State DOTs are also responsible for developing TSMO goals and a unified vision for the program.
  • Processes and Institutional Arrangements - Having a broad perspective, State DOTs can identify strategic partnerships, develop processes to improve collaboration or design, and establish maintenance or operations agreements.
  • Safety and Mobility Strategies - State DOTs can identify specific strategies for deployment to improve safety and mobility. This requires close collaboration with MPOs and local agencies to produce seamless travel experiences between jurisdictions.
  • Funding - State DOT's funding opportunities can guide their role in developing a TSMO program. TSMO can help inform a transportation investment plan to support specific programs, or they may have access to different federal options to fund projects or initiatives.
  • Communication with Stakeholders - With statewide coverage, State DOTs have the opportunity to communicate with all MPOs, local agencies, multimodal agencies, and other stakeholders across various jurisdictions. State DOTs can leverage these relationships to share information about a TSMO program and unify the goals of regions with a wide range of participants.

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

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