A U.S. Department of Transportation report, entitled Metropolitan Transportation Management Center Concepts of Operation: A Cross-Cutting Study, published in 1999, provides extensive information on operations at eight TMCs within the United States and Canada. While a primary focus of each TMC studied is freeway management, several are also responsible for traffic signal system operation and various aspects of transit system management. The study began with a review of existing published TMC operations material. The following eight centers, chosen for detailed investigation and documentation, represent a broad range in their systems’ size, age, purpose, and technical approach:
- Detroit, Michigan, Intelligent Transportation Systems Center
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin, MONITOR
- Long Island, New York, INFORM
- Boston, Massachusetts, Integrated Project Control System
- Houston, Texas, TranStar
- Phoenix, Arizona, TrailMaster
- Atlanta, Georgia, NaviGAtor
- Toronto, Ontario, COMPASS
Major issues challenging most existing centers, such as staffing and the relationship between operations and maintenance functions, were identified, providing potential TMC implementers and existing TMC managers with real-world examples of how their peers are addressing daily operational issues. Some of the lessons learned (e.g., underestimation of operator workload, transition from video monitor walls) are indicative of human factors issues which are concerned with the design of TMC system elements.
An important challenge that the TMCs noted was related to selecting staff training and documentation methods to match individual Transportation Management Center (TMC) needs.
- Implement sufficient training infrastructure and educational experiences for TMC staff. One example can be found in Atlanta, which has a training unit in its planning department that provides 2-week formal training on the operator console and software; the training progresses to a series of 3-4 day more specific classes on various duties, procedures, and response plans. New hires are given tours of the project area to gain familiarity with the road network and device locations and ride with the motorist assistance patrol during the "new hire" training period. Similarly, Milwaukee provides a tailored training for its law enforcement partner and has developed a manual for the course. In addition, Milwaukee has a system work station at the law enforcement dispatch site, generating positive feedback from law enforcement dispatchers regarding the access.
- Commit adequate time and resources to create and implement an effective training and documentation process. Training in operations and maintenance for the areas of TMC special equipment, such as uninterruptible power supply (UPS), video switches, and projection units, is essential. Since training and documentation is critical for operations, it is important to create user-friendly documentation that is consistent and complete, will improve the quality of operator performance, and will enhance training of personnel. Also, when possible, specify training for both systems and field equipment in the respective procurement documents. Another important guideline is to choose the optimal timing of training on field equipment operations and related procedures, and avoid conducting the training too early or too late. For personnel who arrive later, include workable training materials with initial training to make the catching up process more efficient. TMC managers should also realize there is an ongoing need to update design documents to reflect their systems' "as-installed" configuration. As such, agencies should adopt an affordable tool to maintain thorough systems documentation as advanced traffic management is modified. Lastly, documentation of the updates should ideally be submitted electronically and in-print from software providers.
The experiences outlined here reinforce the importance of addressing two critical operational elements of TMCs. The first is to make sure that staff training for the TMC is sufficiently comprehensive. Also be sure to plan for adequate time and resources specifically when training on how to document TMC operational activities. There are a number of issues to consider in operating TMCs, including the appropriate timing of the training, the development of good training materials, and the recognition that updates will be necessary. Working on these key areas may help TMCs achieve increased efficiency and productivity in their operations.
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