Managing and operating ITS as a regional endeavor is a challenge. The study "Getting More by Working Together – Opportunities for Linking Planning and Operations" provides some insights to help planners and operators understand the value of working together and realize the benefits of pursuing management and operations (M&O) strategies at a regional scale. The lessons contained in the source were derived from an extensive review of literature and discussions with nearly 30 transportation professionals involved in planning and operations at all levels of government.
Lessons were formulated around the following linkage opportunities between transportation planning and operations:
- The Transportation Planning Process
- Data Sharing
- Performance Measures
- Congestion Management Systems
- Funding and Resource Sharing
- Institutional Arrangements
- Regional Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Architecture
- Regional Management and Operations Projects
- Regional Concept for Transportation Operations
Greater coordination and collaboration among planners and operators can help to focus attention on investments that more effectively and efficiently address short-term and long-term needs. Stronger linkages, therefore, help both planners and operators do their jobs better. Ultimately, greater coordination and collaboration among planners and operators improves transportation decision-making and benefits the traveling public, businesses, and communities.
Increasingly, local and regional transportation plans include language supporting improved transportation systems management, promoting more efficient use of existing infrastructure, and adopting a more customer-oriented approach to providing transportation services. Yet the funding and staff resources to support the implementation of such planning objectives are often lacking. For example, a plan might state that regional coordination to maximize efficiency of the existing system is a top priority, but no funding is then allocated toward regional incident management programs, corridor management strategies, or regional traveler information systems.
- Determine minimum budget requirements to support long-range transportation plan objectives in each program area. The Capital District Transportation Commission (CDTC), the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Albany, did exactly this and it was successful. From 1993 to 1997, the CDTC brought together a wide range of stakeholders to develop a new approach to long-term planning. This effort involved workshops, conferences, nine topical task forces, and a yearlong public review. The result was a more integrated approach to long-term planning. New funding prioritization procedures were implemented acknowledging the importance of a variety of transportation options including: management and operations (M&O) strategies, transportation demand management (TDM), and smart growth.
- Balance the distribution of funds in a way that is more consistent with the plan's stated priorities. One critical outcome of this long-range planning process was a new method for funding allocation. It defined the distribution of all regional funds among 17 project categories, consistent with the proportions agreed upon through the planning process. Projects in a given category could not be added to a new Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) if the current TIP projects exceeded the designated funding percentage for that category. For example, road construction projects have consistently used more than their target share of regional dollars because of a backlog of TIP projects in this category. Consequently, no new roadway construction projects have been added to the TIP, allowing other classes of projects (such as ITS) to come closer to their target share of regional funds.
- Employ a project prioritization process that deliberately assigns more weight to projects that support regional M&O objectives, as outlined in the region's long-range plan. This approach encourages planners and operators to work together when assessing the cost-effectiveness of M&O strategies. In these cases, the likelihood that M&O programs receive significant funds depends on how M&O criteria are weighted relative to other prioritization criteria. At a minimum, this approach will assist stakeholders in clearly articulating where M&O investments should be positioned amongst the region's competing transportation needs.
Albany's experience suggests that successful transportation planning links funding of M&O strategies and ITS to the regions planning process. By balancing the funding distribution and prioritizing projects that support operations objectives, the region benefits from improved efficiency, productivity, and mobility.
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