In May, 2001 the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration published the Regional Traffic Incident Management Programs Implementation Guide to assist organizations and their leaders in implementing and sustaining regional traffic incident management programs, both by examining some successful models, and by considering some of the lessons learned by early implementers. The objective is to present a framework for developing a formal multiagency traffic incident management program, with endorsement by, participation from, and coordination by senior agency management, and which includes all of the participating agencies. The document presents the case for incident management and then provides a framework and series of steps for implementing and sustaining a regional traffic incident management program. The report then provides a series of lessons learned from nationally recognized traffic incident management programs around the country, and, finally, discusses the importance of program monitoring, evaluation and reporting, as well as the need for strategic planning throughout the process. This implementation guide is based on face-to-face interviews with incident management leaders in Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, Milwaukee, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, San Antonio, and the state of Maryland. Information was also gathered through an extensive review of literature about and from incident management efforts nationwide, which was then combined with business management best practices.
The primary goals of traffic incident management are to minimize the impact of incidents and reduce the probability of secondary incidents. One objective of a formal incident management program is identifying and building support from a full complement of stakeholders and with the
public. Providing timely, accurate information to the public enables them to make informed choices and will be essential in sustaining a successful incident management program. The following lessons are based on the experience of other ITS professionals on managing goals and identifying successes to maintain public and constituent agency support for a coordinated incident management program.
- Identify realistic goals and make sure that expectations are met. Formulating goals is always an exercise in balance. The goals must be aggressive enough that they will foster enthusiasm, but not so aggressive as to be unrealistic. They should create realizable expectations, whose achievement can be measured and communicated. The risk of setting goals too high is that the program may be perceived as a failure. Goals that cannot be measured may be viewed as a sign that the participants have no confidence in the program. Goals that are set too low may not be viewed as demonstrating a true value for the community or justifying the investment. In each case, the interest will wane, and participants are likely to withdraw their support.
- Ongoing successes are important. The program will need to have some ongoing, visible successes in order to sustain interest by participants and to keep the funding flowing. It is important to realize, however, that the full scope of benefits may not be immediately visible or easily measured. Because of this, effort must be focused on keeping the program moving forward and on identifying successes. Successes can sometimes be derived from special circumstances, such as a service patrol providing aid and comfort to a school bus full of stranded youngsters. If there are no visible winners, it will be difficult for some major participants to remain involved.
Defining goals and a set of objectives for the program is critical. The absence of clearly defined goals and corresponding objectives for the program can lead to difficulties in executing responsibilities during critical periods, and may lead to decreased program productivity. It is also important to make others aware of ongoing successes because if not, stakeholders may be unaware of the program’s activity until it is highlighted in the media (unfortunately seldom in a positive light) or until the annual budgetary cycle arrives.