Traffic Incident Management
Various traffic incident management scenes - heavy traffic after accident, traffic planning, police car blocking road, overturned car on bridge, detour, rescue workers.
Office of Operations 21st Century Operations using 21st Century Technologies

Key Components of Performance Measurement and Evaluation

Evaluation metrics provide the necessary feedback to traffic incident management responders to allow them to improve performance. Equally important, they provide decision makers with the data to demonstrate the value of traffic incident management activities and justify their related expenditures.

Multi-Agency Agreements on Performance Measures

Many agencies track performance data to measure their performance toward meeting goals and objectives of their agencies. Measuring performance for a Traffic Incident Management Program requires collecting program performance data that may be different than agency-specific performance data. When TIM program performance objectives are developed, program measures of performance involving all participating parties should be developed to evaluate progress in achieving the program's objectives and not merely those of individual agencies.

Collection and Analysis of Performance Data

After measures of program performance are defined it is necessary to specify what data will be used to measure each objective, how it will be collected and analyzed, and who will do the work. It is likely that no one agency's data will have all of the information needed about an incident to track the various performance objectives. It may be necessary to combine and harmonize data from different agencies. It may also be necessary to define specific measures:

  • What is an "incident?"
  • What kinds of incidents will be tracked?
  • When does the incident begin and end and whose "clock" will be used?)
  • How will data from disparate transportation and public safety databases using different data standards be fused for analysis and evaluation of program objectives.

Thought should also be given to methods to identify the same incident from disparate agency databases.

Targets for Performance

Some regions are now establishing targets for performance for traffic incident management that specify response to or clearance of all incidents within a specified time frame. Several areas, for instance, have recently stated goals of clearing all incidents within 90 minutes. Such goals can be highly controversial and even political. It is important to understand that these goals are not meant to encourage reckless actions. It is not difficult to imagine a hazardous materials incident, even one handled efficiently, that takes considerably longer than 90 minutes to clear. The purpose of these goals is to encourage multi-agency reviews of the processes in play at an incident to see where procedural changes or coordination of activities at the incident can reduce clearance time.

Periodic Review of Progress

Performance measures are useful only if the data collected are analyzed and reported in a meaningful and timely manner to a program administrative team and a program steering committee. The program reviews based upon tracked data may indicate which program initiatives are succeeding and which need to be bolstered or modified.