Challenges Faced and Tactics Used to Integrate Real-Time State Police CAD Data with the VDOT Richmond District Smart Traffic Center: Lessons Learned Document
This lesson is learned from the experiences encountered while integrating the Transportation Management System (OpenTMS) deployed at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Richmond District Smart Traffic Center (STC) with real-time data from the Virginia State Police (VSP) computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system. This project had two thrusts: first, integrating data arriving from the VSP into the OpenTMS Traffic Control System, and second, updating and customizing the OpenTMS' Incident Management subsystem to utilize this integrated data more effectively.
The project began with a concept study, which found a significant benefit to integrating the VSP Division 1 CAD system and the Richmond STC. The study recommended sharing data from the VSP CAD system. On the VSP side, some software modifications and a modest amount of hardware would deliver near real-time data to the Richmond STC. The data would contain up–to-the-minute status of events dispatched to the police. On the STC side, more significant software modifications were required. The changes would allow VSP data to be tightly integrated into OpenTMS at a detailed level, allowing Richmond STC staff to use VSP-initiated traffic incidents as an integrated part of STC operations.
Lessons learned related to multi-partner cooperation, early deployment and prototyping, last-minute technical glitches, and post-deployment training.
Foster efficiency and joint commitment by promoting an open and cooperative relationship among all parties involved in the project. This project involved the participation and cooperation of the following public and private organizations:
- Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) – Sponsor
- Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) – Sponsor and Project Management
- Virginia State Police (VSP) – Sponsor and Project Management
- Open Roads Consulting, Inc. (ORCI): VDOT software development contractor
- Northrop Grumman Corp. (NGC): VSP software development contractor
Perhaps, the greatest key to the success of this project was the open exchange of ideas and information between all organizations involved. One quick example was when a developer from ORCI needed to talk to a developer at NGC, they could communicate directly without having to first go through VDOT, then to VSP, then to NGC. This saved innumerable amounts of time and provided for an efficient and beneficial exchange of information that was needed during the development phase.
FHWA and VDOT Cooperation
Cultivate commitment by the FHWA. While a contractual relationship existed between FHWA and VDOT, it became clear early on that FHWA was committed to the mission and success of the VDOT Richmond District during this project. For example, when issues were raised about the exact protocol to use for the exchange of information between VSP and VDOT, FHWA was willing to evaluate the available protocols. This evaluation is documented in the paper titled “Final VSP Standards Whitepaper.” After reviewing the candidate standards' stability, the current usage of the standards by others, the usability of the standards (considering the fact that the VSP legacy CAD system would not be changed), and other issues with standards (e.g. TMDD and the IEEE-1512 family of standards) as they relate to the VSP CAD system, FHWA concurred in VDOT's recommendation to use the Common Alert Protocol (CAP). This one decision contributed significantly to the timely completion and success of this project.
VDOT and VSP Cooperation
Foster enthusiasm and cooperation between project partners. Both VDOT and VSP shared a common commitment to the successful development of the integration between their two respective systems. Both organizations embodied a, "What can I do for you?" attitude. It was their joint commitment to the project that facilitated the rapid resolution of issues and the continued good morale on the project. The Richmond Regional Data Sharing Concept Study was undertaken at the start of the project. It provided for a common understanding of the project and established a common goal for both agencies. This document also aided in communicating these goals and understandings to the other members as they were added to the team.
In hindsight, one step that would have furthered cooperation even more between the two agencies would have been the use of a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). While there was a good understanding of the expectations of both agencies during the design, development, and deployment phases, there was some ambiguity regarding the on-going support required for the long term operations phase. This ambiguity was not intentional, but was simply an oversight of the support activities that would be required during the operational phase. If time had been taken up front to develop a formal MOU, it is possible that the operational needs might have been identified earlier on in the process so they could be properly addressed by both agencies.
VDOT and Contractor Cooperation
Build on relationships with contractors. This project benefited from the well-established relationship between VDOT and ORCI staff. In fact, many of the same staff responsible for the development of the Richmond STC central software also participated in the VDOT/VSP integration project. ORCI's intimate knowledge of the Richmond STC system and software allowed them to identify any technical issues related to the integration early in the design process. The existing working relationship between VDOT and ORCI helped facilitate open and effective communications between the two organizations.
ORCI and NGC Cooperation
Foster cooperation between contractors. The general atmosphere of cooperation that prevailed during this project encouraged direct communications and cooperation between the technical staff of ORCI and NGC. The ability for the technical counterparts of each organization to communicate and discuss issues on an ad hoc basis eliminated delays sometimes associated with asking and receiving information between contractors. Another key aspect to the cooperation between ORCI and NGC is that neither company was overly concerned with "defending their turf." Both parties related on a professional level and issues were resolved based on the needs of the client, not each other's system. Both companies realized that they could only be successful if the other company was also successful.