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.
Design factors that influence long-term control center operations and maintenance are very important. This lesson recommends addressing noise and disruptions to TMCs through effective anticipation and planning.
- Realize that noise and distractions can be a serious concern. Allow operators to choose between headsets and handsets for communication based on the preference and level of noise generated by radios, scanners, and incoming calls from cellular 911 or "DOT." Since tours may disrupt the TMC agency activity, testing teams, and system integrator, consider weighing the benefits of outreach from the tours against the significant interruptions that tours can cause to TMC operations.
In order to address noise and disruptions, operators should have the option of using headsets and handsets to appropriately respond to noise generated by outside sources. Consideration should also be given to accommodating tours that may be more distracting than beneficial. Reducing or eliminating noise and other distractions that hinder operators' ability to perform their duties should allow TMCs to operate more smoothly and efficiently.