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

Practices for Improving the Coordination of Information Technology and Transportation Systems Management and Operations Resources: A Reference Document

Executive Summary

The role of information and communications technology is increasingly central to Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO), as leading-edge TSMO strategies involve ever more complex and interrelated systems, organizations, and institutions. Real-time and predictive TSMO strategies, such as active traffic management (ATM), integrated corridor management (ICM), and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) systems, are complex and depend on integrating information technology (IT) into TSMO strategies.

This document highlights the benefits of increased coordination between TSMO practitioners and IT resources, identifies common challenges experienced by public-sector agencies, and presents practices that allow agencies to learn from others that have already addressed similar challenges. The specific purpose of this document is to:

  • Describe the evolution and history of TSMO and IT within typical transportation agencies and the current organizational relationship.
  • Identify common challenges experienced within TSMO relative to the IT resources required to implement operational strategies.
  • Identify practices that transportation agencies have developed and implemented to resolve IT challenges.
  • Develop a solution matrix that links the common challenges to these practices for ease of reference.
  • Provide information on using these approaches toward emerging IT-related TSMO issues.

The advancement of technology has expanded significantly over the past decades and has created significant opportunities within all aspects of life, including Government agencies. The increased computing capability, infrastructure connectivity, data collection and analysis, and remote or web-based platforms have all contributed to new capabilities. Within public agencies, adoption and use of technology has increased in recent years as the public comes to expect increased functionality and convenience resulting from technology-based systems. These technology systems no longer provide ancillary support functions but provide critical aspects of an agency’s mission.

The increased use of technology from customers both internal and external to transportation agencies requires agencies to develop a robust IT support level that can develop, manage, and protect the systems. While technology costs continuously drop per given application, the overall investment remains high and presents a large asset for agencies. To protect their capital investment and ensure proper function, agencies often find it critical to have advanced technical expertise to maintain the systems and ensure seamless operation.

Key aspects of typical TSMO programs that utilize technology include traffic surveillance, vehicle detection, traveler information, traffic management centers, road weather sensors, and traffic signals among many other functions. These systems need hardware maintenance, software support, network IT, and communication knowledge, and generate significant amounts of data. IT staff can support TSMO programs in these areas.

Many agencies and organizations are experiencing similar challenges when it comes to the intersection of TSMO and IT while operating their transportation systems. These challenges can include disconnects, misunderstandings, and points of conflict on program priorities, risks, and differences in standards. This document includes a discussion of 36 specific challenges grouped into the following categories:

  • Institutional Challenges: Any challenge—from leadership decision-making to frontline implementation—that is encountered at all levels of the organization. The interaction between TSMO staff and IT staff is often influenced by the organization itself, including professional culture, organizational structure, staff capabilities, and resource allocation.
  • Culture: Any challenge that develops from the values and behaviors that influence personal relationships or interactions between the differing agency functions and groups.
  • Staff and Financial Resources: Any challenge that results from the availability, recruitment, retention, and training of staff or the availability, justification, and use of funding, both of which are critical components to fulfilling agency-identified needs.
  • Organizational Structure: Any challenge that develops from the formal and informal structural arrangements around the management of staffing, roles, and responsibilities.
  • Policy: Any challenge that results from legislation, executive-level directives, departmental policy, or requirements that are not directly related to TSMO or are outside the departments or divisions of either IT or TSMO.
  • Business and Technical Challenges: Any challenge encountered at any stage of project activity or development. Implementing technology within an agency can be impacted by the business and technical processes associated with developing systems, including planning, procurement, security and data, and new, technology-specific challenges.
  • Strategic Planning: Any challenge that develops from the vision, mission, and objectives of the different organizations or functions and their integration in agency planning and resource allocation.
  • Procurement: Any challenge that results from the processes and procedures associated with obtaining IT-intensive products or services.
  • Systems and Technology: Any challenge that involves the hardware and software components of data acquisition, management, and utilization technologies.
  • Risk and Security: Any challenge that is associated with network security, data sharing, third-party applications, hosted or cloud platforms, and automation.

As agencies respond to and resolve their TSMO IT challenges, they develop practices that can be shared with other agencies experiencing similar issues. This document includes discussion of 28 specific practices.

Finally, the transportation industry is experiencing a period of significant growth in technology development and adoption. While some of the emerging technologies are still being tested for viability and business need, foreseeable trends include reliance on edge computing, distributed hardware and networks, cloud-based services, mobile access, connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) integration, and a general exploration of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication.

While there is no way to know what these future developments will be, it is likely that they will include more reliance on technology and data, which will have impacts on both IT and TSMO groups individually, and their interactions with the other. Several practices are included in this effort that agencies can use to form a solid foundation for IT and TSMO collaboration ahead of emerging technologies, or to address challenges encountered when implementing emerging technologies.