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 subject discussed based on these experiences is that map displays, computers, and software for transportation management centers (TMCs) should be selected based on minimizing cost and complexity.
- Acknowledge the attributes and limits of mapping and computer systems for operations. Avoid representing long-term construction lane closures as incidents. Instead, ongoing closings should ideally be displayed with a different demarcation, such as colors and/or icons on the system map. Because information is only useful if it is readily accessible, retrieval and reporting tools that are convenient and easy to use should be employed. Finally, it is important to take into consideration that automated detection and reporting of faults in the field equipment by the central computer system is valued by both operations and maintenance staff.
- Select software from sources that will minimize software design errors, large unplanned costs, unnecessary complexity, and unsatisfactory fulfillment of desired capabilities. TMCs are unique facilities, and engineers without familiarity with particular uses of the TMC are likely to make design errors that will create operational difficulties or require expensive software development rework. Thus, agencies should ensure that software is satisfactory before finalizing the end of the project with the developer. Additionally, it is recommended that an agency considers purchasing hardware directly from software developers (when TMC staff fully understands what is needed) instead of through contractors or consultants. This may reduce cost, simplify warranty and maintenance management, and streamline replacement of obsolete equipment.
These experiences provide several recommendations regarding the use of operations mapping and computer systems, as well as recommendations for software procurement. For agencies like TMCs, which rely heavily on technology, it is important that software error is minimized and that the usability and ease of use of a program is taken into consideration. Information on maps should be demarcated clearly and obtained easily. Software should be designed as completely as possible by developers who are familiar with the nuances specific to a TMC. Accomplishing these two aims may help in ensuring the efficiency of a TMC.
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