The effects of both weather and emergency events on transportation operations can be significant, and require an effective, coordinated response. The Transportation Management Center (TMC) Integration Study, published in 2006, examines how weather and emergency information and systems are being integrated into transportation operations. It is part of an ongoing research effort by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to identify strategies for enhancing the operational effectiveness of transportation management systems in general and TMCs in particular.
TMC integration reflects how TMC operators, agencies internal to the TMC, external agencies, and support systems interact to improve transportation operations. It is the thesis of this study that integration of weather and emergency systems and information into transportation operations, coupled with effective deployment of ITS, will improve performance and offers benefits in increased public mobility, safety and security.
Thirty-eight TMCs that demonstrated current best practices in weather and emergency integration were interviewed for this study, and ten of those were selected for on-site visits. Based on observations from these TMCs, this study documents an integration framework and describes concepts and methods for improved integration. The study identifies both potential benefits of integration, as well as its challenges, and includes recommendations to enhance the development and deployment of weather and emergency integration in TMCs.
Transportation Management Centers are established around the country to integrate data, information, and systems in support of day-to-day traffic and emergency operations. A primary challenge that the TMCs face in effectively integrating emergency information into their operations is a lack of communication and coordination between TMCs and other emergency agencies. Based on interviews with thirty-eight TMCs, this study identified best practices for TMC integration. These best practices are offered as a set of lessons learned to provide other TMCs with useful information for enhancing their transportation operations during emergency situations.
- Place TMC workstations in related Emergency Operation Center (EOC). Locating TMC workstations in EOCs provides emergency management, dispatch, and operations full access to TMC resources and helps to facilitate smooth operations during an emergency event.
- In Maryland, connection of the statewide emergency management center to the Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART) system using Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) protocols on commercial communication infrastructure gives the CHART workstation at the EOC full functionality and acceptable video quality.
- Location of the TMC on the same campus as the statewide EOC allows TMCs in Georgia to connect to the NaviGator system in Atlanta with full functionality.
- Establish formal interagency agreements. Such agreements signal management’s commitment to establishing and continuously improving operational cooperation. Topics may include common interpretation of operational goals, operational policies, organizational roles, processes for review, and funding formulae.
- In Houston and Austin formal agreements were established among local and state government agencies covering establishment, funding, management, and operations of the combined center.
- Orlando developed a general memorandum of understanding establishing an organizational structure and documenting commitment for information sharing and implementation coordination.
- Install a private data network available only to cooperating regional agencies. With a shared network, participating agencies are able to share traffic and video data and use client software to access remote servers. Based on the study, once a base network is established, agencies are able to connect at a minimal cost while bringing additional data to the network.
- In Orlando, fiber owned by individual consortium members is interconnected to establish a region-wide Ethernet network, private to the consortium, used for sharing video, data, and remote server access.
- Encourage regular interaction among agencies. This includes both task and casual interaction among staff. Established relationships can facilitate improved response during the rapid activity of an emergency situation.
In addition, two of the lessons learned were of high relevance during regional emergencies (and assessed as low relevance for local emergencies). These include:
- Co-locate operations from multiple agencies. The physical integration of operations leverages the resources of each agency to develop a center with more capabilities. The benefits of shared operations include reduced costs and increased awareness of the actions of other agencies.
- Create a restricted-access website. A website restricted to participating agencies can overcome issues of reliability stemming from peaks in demand and accuracy of incoming information. In addition to participating agencies, trained observers entrusted with password accounts may also enter valuable information.
- Along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, TMCs and other authorized organizations access a website operated by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. It allows for a two-way flow of highly accurate incident information, with higher reliability than publicly available websites.
By using these best practices and lessons learned, the state of the practice in TMC emergency integration can be significantly improved. Examples of integration methods include increased communication and coordination between TMCs and emergency agencies through site relocation and the creation of accessible shared data networks. Improvements in integration enable TMCs to more efficiently coordinate their response in emergency situations, resulting in improved public mobility, safety, and security.