Apply system engineering principles for the success of complex ITS projects.

Colorado DOT's experience implementing an integrated TMC.

Date Posted

Colorado Transportation Management Center (CTMC) Integration Project (FY01 Earmark) Local Evaluation Report

Summary Information

The Colorado Transportation Management Center (CTMC) Integration Project is the result of a FY01 federally funded project to improve transportation efficiency, promote safety, increase traffic flow, reduce emissions, improve traveler information dissemination, enhance alternate transportation modes, promote tourism and build on existing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).

The project funding supported work for the design and construction of Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) new CTMC facility, including electrical, communications and computer equipment. The new building comfortably houses CDOT’s operation and has capacity for substantial future growth. Via a Request for Proposal (RFP) process, CDOT obtained the services of a Systems Integrator to develop the statewide ATMS/ATIS "umbrella" software. Work was prioritized and broken into phases with the first three software deployment iterations funded by this project, including the "core" system; and DMS, speed and travel time subsystems. Project funds supported systems engineering, software development, documentation and testing, and hardware purchases.

The CDOT now has a state-of-the-art CTMC as well as the first three modules of its new statewide ITS management software. The CTMC increased efficiency in transportation management by reducing demands on CDOT staff; simplifying data sharing; and boosting amount, accuracy and timeliness of data in and out of the system. The CTMC Integration Project was a critical building block for Colorado, providing critically needed facilities, hardware, software and systems integration.

Lessons Learned

Systems engineering is a structured mechanism in complex project development with checks and balances that accomplishes the following:

  • Reduce risk
  • Control costs and schedules
  • Satisfy needs
  • Improve quality
  • Meet regulations and rules

The CTMC Integration Project used systems engineering principles in varying intensities depending on the specific activity as applicable, for example, to an extensive level relating to development of the ATMS/ATIS and to a minimal extent pertaining to the new CTMC building. The application of systems engineering principles benefited CDOT in a number of ways. Lessons learned include the following:

  • Identify and evaluate alternatives at each step of building the system based on cost, political or technical considerations, and customer need. Early evaluation of proposed ATMS/ATIS architecture requirements revealed an area of potential risk in the communications architecture component of the system. To mitigate risk and better understand the issues, several architecture prototypes were constructed and compared. The four prototypes were evaluated based on CDOT-generated architecture goals of: scalability, maintainability, availability, prevalence, ease of implementation, and standards. Based on the results of the assessment, CDOT determined what architecture to be used.
  • Consider what risks exist throughout the process and plan for their management. CDOT applied risk management principles during the CTMC Integration Project as outlined in the Risk Management Plan developed at the project outset. The plan allowed CDOT to identify possible risks, assign probabilities and priorities to each, and track these throughout development of the ATMS/ATIS. The document allowed CDOT to address individual risks proactively – before they impacted schedule and projected costs.
  • Consider developing requirements with hierarchy. CDOT has had success developing requirements with a hierarchy – beginning with high-level requirements and developing those in ever-increasing detail. Initially, high-level requirements were developed by CDOT to provide the integrator with enough information to identify CDOT’s intent. Once the integrator began work on a given module, detailed requirements were developed to address specific functionality. Requirements were written to address multiple aspects of a system such as functional performance and interfaces, as well as enabling requirements such as speed, testing, deployment, and support.
  • Identify applicable ITS standards and testing procedures. For the CTMC project, the CDOT formed a team that included private sector participants, including a System Integrator and a Program (Systems) Manager. The systems integrator was responsible for the design and construction, procurement, software development, and integration. The program manager provided technical oversight, completed portions of selected task orders, and otherwise assisted CDOT with coordinating, managing and reporting aspects of the program, including evaluation, as well as other administrative duties. The program manager was actively involved in the independent testing of the system integrator's work. Tests were undertaken to determine whether the specific module(s) functioned as intended. Once the program manager provided a written report summarizing the test results, CDOT and the integrator developed a prioritized list of issues to be addressed immediately; as well as other items to be addressed on a non-priority basis. All such items found to be missing or otherwise incomplete were addressed and adjusted accordingly by the integrator prior to final acceptance.

The lessons learned reveal that evaluating alternatives, developing a risk management plan, identifying detailed requirements, and applying applicable standards in testing are some of the key steps in the successful completion of an ITS project. The system engineering lessons experienced by the CDOT above shall be helpful to other agencies to ensure the success and improve the efficiency and productivity of their complex ITS projects.

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