The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Highway Traffic Monitoring Committee is a standing committee that was originally formed in 1985 as a Weigh-In-Motion Task Force and that developed into an ITS-oriented committee that studies all functions of traffic monitoring programs. In anticipation of the release of a new Transportation Research Circular, the committee surveyed the state of the practice, best practices, current issues, needs, and research gaps for topics covered in the Circular.
Traffic monitoring programs are typically managed by the planning department of a state DOT or other regional transportation agency. Such departments typically have responsibility over data collection, processing, analysis, and reporting. The committee identified a mix of unique and common approaches that are used by states to manage their traffic monitoring programs. These unique solutions may be instructive for other agencies that are looking to expand or refine their operations. Some examples include:
Customized guides and manuals that explain the policies, organization structure, business processes, and technology tools (including traffic databases) that support and manage traffic monitoring programs.
- Data business plans and self-assessment tools to improve management of traffic monitoring programs.
- Traffic data programs that leverage operations and ITS data collection or local data collection. Examples include collecting both traffic data for the traffic monitoring staff and speed data for the ITS staff and collecting data from regional agencies around the state.
- Emerging trends that include complete or partial privatization of traffic monitoring programs and coordination with asset management and ITS programs regarding maintenance of traffic monitoring program equipment.
Additionally, the Committee identified major issues and research gaps that remain to be addressed. Some possible solutions for the identified gaps include:
- Stay on top of federal guidance or mandates relating to data collection or reporting requirements, even when they change.
- Aggressively respond to business practices that are rooted in agency culture--adherence to inefficient manual processes just because "that's how it's been done" can be harmful and difficult to solve without substantial changes to an agency's operations.
- Be mindful of overly siloed business areas, as this can inhibit the sharing of traffic data and information between business units.
- Coordinate with ITS staff for maintenance of ITS equipment, rather than inefficiently using staff resources.
- Maintain a specific traffic monitoring program data business plan and ensure that traffic monitoring program manuals and handbooks are up to date.
- Build robust knowledge-transfer infrastructure to prevent "brain drain" from staff retirements or turnover. New staff should be able to be integrated quickly and effectively into the organization.
- Establish formal protocol for sharing traffic data between the state DOT and local government agencies.
- Identify the advantages and challenges to full or partial privatization of traffic monitoring programs.