Computer-Aided Dispatch – Traffic Management Center Field Operational Test: State of Utah Final Report.
The Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) - Traffic Management Center (TMC) Integration Field Operations Test in the State of Utah document discusses evaluation findings for the CAD-TMC integration in the state of Utah. Utah has a very good reputation in the US for responding to and managing traffic incidents. Utah was fortunate to have such an active program in place prior to the field test. A joint process for handling incidents had been developed and refined over several years and included access to 911/CAD information for all types of incidents.
Qualitative data were collected through interviews with and observations of the following agencies:
- Utah Department of Transportation
- Utah Highway Patrol
- Utah Department of Public Safety
- Utah Transit Authority
- Valley Emergency Communications Center
- Salt Lake City Police Department
The lessons presented herein are intended to serve as a general guidance for other states to consider when planning similar CAD-TMC integration projects. The intent is to help states proactively identify issues that may impact deployment cost, schedule, and technical performance, and reflect the lessons learned by Utah during the FOT.
The integration of a Transportation Management Center (TMC) with Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems requires extensive involvement from a large number of people representing both the public and private sector. The agency(s) overseeing a TMC-CAD integration needs to foster ongoing coordination among all relevant parties in order to reduce the likelihood of future integration setbacks.
- Coordinate with IT staff during the initial stages of the planning process. Involving IT staff at the onset of planning for integration of CAD and TMC systems will help ensure that the computing and communication environment will fit within each participating agency.
- Interviewees from the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and their partnering agencies mentioned the importance of including IT staff early in the development of integrated systems.
- Foster close working relationships between all partnering agencies. Developing strong working relations will help facilitate a smooth integration process and lead to further ease of future coordination. All interviewees mentioned the importance of the close working relationship among the agencies involved. The close working relationship was strengthened by the work these agencies did in preparation for and during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Although not every region will have this sort of unique opportunity, agencies should consider how to build strong working relationships in advance of implementing an integrated system.
- UDOT and Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) have cultivated a long-standing relationship for sharing details of incidents that occur on the freeway system. UHP has provided UDOT with a CAD listing of incidents since the opening of its joint center with UDOT in 1999. The Incident Management Program that began in 1994 was moved to this joint center where the DOT field responders are dispatched by the UHP. The TMC monitors both the UHP CAD log and the radio frequencies used by UHP troopers and the Incident Management Team specialists.
- Conduct regular coordination meetings. Ongoing, periodic coordination meetings with partner agency staff helps keep communication open and emphasis on the project at hand.
- In Utah, regular project participant meetings helped keep the project momentum and open communications ongoing, along with providing a venue to promote emphasis on the project from each partner agency’s perspective. Agencies interested in pursuing an integrated CAD-TMC system should keep in mind the importance of these meetings. Schedules should be longer than initially anticipated and more effort should be budgeted for meetings and coordination.
- Dedicate staff to working on integration. When integrating CAD and TMC systems agency staff must fulfill their normal responsibilities on top of any integration duties. To not over work staff and assure that full attention is paid to integration activities, it is advisable to have staff with a priority on integrated system tasks. It is unreasonable to think that priorities will change during the development and implementation of an integrated system.
- One institutional challenge faced in Utah was that each agency had its own primary responsibility. Integrating the CAD and TMC functions was not a primary responsibility of any of the partner agencies, but was important to all agencies. As a result, sometimes individual agency priorities required that less attention be paid to the integrated system than would have been optimal.
- Build in short development cycles. For agencies planning an integrated system, it is recommended that they plan an initial implementation and at least one subsequent, incremental improvement. Any group of agencies is almost certain to learn how they would prefer to have the system operate. The project, and related contracts, should be arranged to allow the agencies to implement what they learn in the initial implementation. Furthermore, incremental implementation can help reduce the likelihood of staff turnover, which can be disruptive to implementation schedules and budgets, as new people have to come up to speed on the system. Staff turnover between cycles is not as disruptive as turnover during a development cycle.
- In the Utah system, agencies learned a lot in the initial implementation of the integrated system. The agencies are using that knowledge to plan improvements to the integrated system.
- Consider the role of business practices in the integrated system. It is important that integrated systems not require a change in the operator’s or dispatcher’s work process. However, if other aspects of an agency's business practice would improve the integrated system, it may need to be considered.
- In Utah there was concern that requiring dispatchers and/or operators to take additional actions, in addition to their normal work processes, had the potential to overload individuals during busy times. The decision was made by most agencies involved to give the individual dispatcher or operator the responsibility to determine what entries should be transferred to the integrated system. Operators at each agency are able to screen the entries in the integrated system and can decide whether to view a specific entry and whether or not to bring the entry into their systems. However, in the case of , UDOT and the Utah Department of Public Safety, it was determined that the existing level of integration was sufficient, since each agency already has access to the other’s system, as a result, neither agency adds their entries to the integrated system very often.
Making sure all involved parties are working on the same page is crucial to the success of a TMC-CAD integration. A step by step approach is recommended, with the appropriate agency staff being involved to the fullest extent possible. Conducting regular project meetings is also advisable, to keep the lines of communication open and the emphasis on the project at hand. Following the guidance indicated by these experiences will facilitate smoother and more effective integration of ITS technologies into computer aided dispatch and other critical systems.