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.
One important topic highlighted by these experiences is the use of contractors for TMC maintenance support.
- Recognize that contractors can be effectively used for TMC maintenance support. It is important, that TMCs have knowledge of what they desire before contracting for warranty or maintenance support since significant differences exists between these two services. Note that warranties typically do not include repairs of damage from weather, vandalism, improper operation, or vehicle impact; the type of service will vary depending on contract specifications. In addition, if possible, an on-site presence should be encouraged as it is preferable to maximize desired value from contract support personnel. It may also be helpful to separate maintenance contracts based on the type of device being maintained.
- Pre-qualify maintenance contractors since it is essential for hiring an effective maintenance support. Carefully specify skills in categories, technology, and equipment needed since general contractor categories might not offer a full set of the needed skills. For example, avoid situations where a contractor is supposed to reach installed equipment, but does not have the appropriate bucket trucks to reach the installations. TMCs may also benefit by overseeing the traffic control and safety practices of maintenance contractors to ensure that appropriate regulations and practices are followed.
When using contractors for TMC maintenance, several recommendations should be taken into consideration. First of all, agencies should realize that TMC maintenance support can be outsourced to contractors. However, the significant difference between"warranty" and"maintenance" should be acknowledged. Secondly, before hiring a contractor, it is recommended that there be a pre-qualification stage to filter through candidates for the most suitable contractor. After determining that the contractor has the specific skills set needed, the agency can hire and use the service to increase productivity and efficiency.
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