Transportation Operations‑Moving Into the 21st Century

 

National Dialogue on Transportation Operations

National Steering Committee on Transportation Operations

Task Force White Paper Summaries for Discussion

April 2-5, 2000, Irvine, CA

By Steve Lockwood

Background -- New Driving Forces for Improved Operations

Twentieth Century surface transportation programs were substantially focused on the development of basic infrastructure networks. The U.S. Interstate Highway network and major rail transit systems symbolize the achievements of this construction-orientation. The new challenge for transportation in the 21st century is introducing active management of this system and operating it to maximum advantage on a continuing sustainable basis. This evolution reflects the reality that today's economy and quality of life are critically dependent on maintaining the service on the basic network in the face of growing travel demand and capacity limitations. The imperative need for a consistent and integrated approach to management and operations results from a series of forces including:

·        Growing and Changing Demands: Urban areas are facing a 50 percent growth in travel over the next 20 years. System reliability has become increasingly important

·        Constraints on Traditional Approaches : The fiscal and environmental constraints of new facility construction continue to increase

·        Growing Impacts of Disruptions: In addition to spreading peak conditions, the disruption caused by the high frequency of breakdown, crash or weather-related incidents is widespread.

·        Increased Customer Expectations : The service orientation of the economy is generating customer expectations for a broader range of system performance and service options.

·        Introduction of Information Technology and Systems Engineering: The introduction of new computation, communication and control technology now provides the basis for intelligent transportation systems which can support a wide range of user services based on operational and management features

In the United States, this evolution was recognized at the federal level with the passage of Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991, and has been further accelerated with the passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). This legislation introduced and supported intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and placed increased emphasis on operations. In addition, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has recently implemented a major reorganization of its headquarters and field offices, establishing a core business unit on Operations to provide national leadership in the operation of the nation’s surface transportation system.

 

During 1999, the Institute of Transportation Engineers and FHWA's new Operations Unit convened a series of discussion groups involving individuals with extensive knowledge and experience in transportation management and operations. The discussion groups identified the following set of objectives to advance the state-of-the-art and improve the state-of-the-practice in transportation  management and operations:

·        Develop a vision that will support a long-term mission for transportation management and operations including appropriate succinct, distinctive definitions 

·        Educate national leaders on needs and issues of the stakeholders

·        Establish an authorizing environment based on a commitment to improved measurable performance and a clear sense of the necessary resources

·        Foster coalitions at local, regional and national levels to carry out the mission that includes a broad range of stakeholders whose cooperation is required as well as the institutional framework to accomplish the operations mission

·        Define and deliver the appropriate legislative, research and education agendas

 

The National Steering Committee on Transportation Operations

In December 1999, the National Steering Committee on Transportation Operations was created by ITE and FHWA to support the program of advancing the operations of the nation’s surface transportation system. The Committee represents a broad spectrum of interests from all levels of government the private sector and the research community.

The Committee is charged with carrying out a national dialogue among the broad range of parties whose participation is deemed essential to increase the national commitment to operations and to identify an educational, research and consensus-based agenda to support this policy. Towards that end task forces have been formed focussing on 6 key arenas for action.

·        Setting the Vision

·        Building a Constituency

·        Development National Benchmarks of Systems Performance

·        Sources and Levels of Funding

·        Facilitating Institutional Change

·        Setting the Research Agenda

 

Task Force Issue Papers

The task forces were charged with the job of identifying principal problems and needs, the current state of the practice vs. state of the art, how the needs can best be met and what stakeholders should be involved, what products, tools an/or actions are required to make an immediate difference and what steps are needed in the long term. Each task forces has developed a “white paper” identifying key issues and suggesting an agenda for stakeholder participation, state of the practice/art reviews, consensus development, education and research. These papers are not intended to be definitive, but represent a point of departure for further discussion, input, refinement and consensus.

The white papers are summarized briefly in the material that follows. They will be presented at the ITE 2000 Conference in Irvine California. A set of open review panels will also be held to generate further dialog and input regarding each task force topic area. Following the Conference, the papers will be revised to reflect the input received. The National Steering Committee will meet to consider the appropriate follow-on in terms of refinement, outreach, consensus building and an action program to foster a broad cooperative program of improved operations.

 

Issues Paper Questions

Each white paper raises a number of issues and questions relating to its scope area. Input is solicited in further developing and refining the issues and appropriate response.  Therefore following the individual paper summaries is a section presenting a with a rel set of common questions designed to stimulate discussion of the issues raised.  These questions are:

1.      What are the key Issues?

2.      What is the state-of-the-art vs. the state-of-the-practice?

3.      Who are the principal stakeholders who need to be involved?

4.      What are recommendations for follow-up (actions, tools, etc)

These questions and the associated discussion are provided to stimulate the reader’s participation in the Conference discussions and the broader dialogue to follow.

SURFACE TRANSPORTATION ASSET MANAGEMENT: MISSION AND VISION

Tom Larson, Wayne Shackelford, Walter Kraft

Paper Summary

The paper suggests that the vision as an image of ultimate success must recognize that nothing less that a massive redirection of our transportation energies will do. However the paper recognizes that transportation provider constituency is made up of both visionaries and realists.  Visionaries see the potential in great leaps forwards while realists focus on the challenges to be overcome. Setting the vision must respond to both theses perspectives – recognize the complexities and increments of the necessary authorizing environment and “organization capacity” without losing the “singular power of vision”

 

The paper takes a broad view of the term “Operations” and reflects on Committee discussion suggesting:

·        The word “Operations” doesn’t work. Already means too many things to too many people.

·        “Management” might be more important than” Operations”.

·        (It should be ) driven by performance, not problem solving and not projects, (i.e., “optimizing performance”)

·        Focus—Avoid letting Operations become an “all things to all people” concept. Concentrate resources and energy on a limited set of major initiatives that are doable and that potentially can make a big difference in mobility.

·        Determine where safety fits into the picture.

 

A strawman vision statement is offered, a view of “what might be accomplished”:

“Surface transportation systems providing services at levels of safety, effectiveness, and social and environmental impact commensurate with ever evolving user/customer expectations”

.

An accompanying strawman mission state is also proposed – recognizing it must be suitable to a wide range of organizations:

“Without abandoning the historically appropriate focus on capacity additions through construction, to embrace, systematically, all available, appropriate human, technical, policy and financial resources, public and private, to achieve sustained, measurable enhancements of surface transportation system performance and safety across local, state, and national levels.”

 

The paper poses a set of tough tests for these “strawman” statements:

·        Are the statements operational will they drive the broad range of (different) stakeholders towards a shared, visceral understanding and acceptance of what our customers expect NOW? (i.e., mobility-related performance improvement)

·        Will it drive a redirection of surface transportation assets?

·        Do they meet the tests of clarity and brevity while staying credible to both visionaries and realists? Will “the persons in the street” have an understanding of these words and what they mean to them?

·        Can a related authorizing environment support be mobilized (harnessed in a way that can be measured and evaluated in customer-sufficing ways)?

 

Vision Questions

1. Key Issues

Scope:

·        What is the appropriate definition of the scope of “Operations” as the basis for articulating the Vision and Mission?
·        What are the linkages/differences between “operations”, “ITS”, “systems management”, “asset management”, “maintenance”?
·        Does “Operations” include individual local government traffic engineering and signalization?
·        To what degree should the scope and definition of “Operations represent a distinctive break with the past and with “business as usual”?
Comment: The paper does not address this question of scope directly but does ask whether the Vision and Mission statements
·         “differentiate Operations from the current capacity augmentation program thrusts”
·         “indicate the unique features of Operations which differentiate it from the previous policies and programs associated with TOPICS, TSM, CMS, etc? (such as use of information, real time management, systems integration, regional scale, etc)?”
·        Actual vs. ideal: What is the general state-of-the-practice of transportation operations?
·        What do we believe would be improved with better operations, and what evidence do we have?
·        What would be the ideal experience/vision of travelers and stakeholders?  What are the best examples we have today?

Terminology:

·        Is the term “Operations” (and the definition implied) adequate and will it “resonate with the broad range of stakeholders?”
Comment: The suggestion is made to link Operations to “asset management” (Note: there is an on-going initiative re asset management in both FHWA and AASHTO that are focussing on physical issues)

Mobilizing Effect

·        How can mission and vision statements be related to specific organizations?
Comment: The paper points our that strategic orientation must be organization-specific, but that the statements can embody certain key features that can provide a focus for the changes in practice that the paper suggests are implied – evaluation, measurement of progress 

2. State of the Art/State of the Practice

·        What is your reaction to the vision/mission statements included in the white paper?
·        What is your reaction to the following vision/mission statement for operations?
·         “Managing the performance of transportation resources to deliver integrated transportation services to customers under varying conditions (FHWA)
·         “Application of techniques to optimize the flow and safety of vehicles, travelers and goods on the existing transportation system” (Research White Paper)
·         “Mobilization, deployment and management of the institutional, financial and technical resources to improve the customer-related performance of the existing transportation infrastructure on an integrated regional basis” (FHWA earlier)
·         “Facilitation of the flow of vehicles, travelers and goods on the transportation system” (March 2000 Operations Research Workshop Group 1)
·         “The management of resources and activities to satisfy users/customers and others’ needs and safely facilitate the efficient movement of vehicles, travelers, and goods on the existing transportation infrastructure” (March 2000 Operations Research Workshop Group 3)
·         “The application of strategies to enhance the safe and efficient movement of people and goods” (March 2000 Operations Research Workshop Group 4)
·         “Application of strategies to improve the performance of the existing transportation system on an integrated regional basis” (Summary of White papers)

3. Stakeholders

·        [See “terminology” discussion/questions above]

4. Recommendations

Technical:

·        Do the strawman statements need to be analyzed and discussed?
·        Are there alternative approaches to vision and mission content?
·        Is the vision sufficiently fundamental, precise, inspirational, .etc? Does the mission create a clear compelling goal?

Institutional:

·        [See “Mobilizing Effect” discussion/questions above]

Building a Constituency

Larry Dahms, Dennis Keck, John Collins

Paper Summary

The paper recognizes the range of constituencies and the different roles they must play if the “TSM of today is to have more punch than the prior version”

The paper highlights the very different interests that stakholders can have vertically in the process:

·        Decision-makers (policy level – influenced by externals)

·        Producers

-        Public transportation agency staff leaderships (all levels of government)

-        Public non-transportation agency staff leadership (law enforcement, EMS, etc.)

-        Private transportation service providers (Truckers, information services)

·        Customer-users (drivers)

·        Interest groups (environment, econamic development

Each group has different interest (provision planer/broker, production of infrastructure or services, lobby for interest groups, utilize) as well has natural partners/allies in terms of other constituencies. However there has not yet been an a priori overarching “common thread” that focuses attention on Operations.

The paper suggests that – in the past -- new concept have followed a top-down progression from initiators who define and sell (typically USDOT and associations) with states and local entities carrying out the demonstration and deployment, gradually gaining support

This evolutionary path can be illustrated through examples of “new partnerships”:

·        Mobility 2000 – represented professional leaders focused on developing legislation to support ITS

·        The Bay Area Partnership -- developed a multiagency partnerships to deliver TSM projects based on revenue sharing

·        TRANSCOM , recognizing the interdependence of fragment regional systems developed a cooperative approach to share incident management-related information

·        STPP established a coalition of environmental groups focus on lobby for changes in transportation program

Among these and other groups, much of the success to date has been appropriately focussed on the benefits of cooperation (partnership) to produce outcomes otherwise unachievable.  The principal challenges have not been understanding advanced technology or lack of funds. Rather, their success has been founded on:

·        Solving common problems including some external events

·        Project –specific focus and continuing gains made during initial tests

·        And developing in scope and participants in an incremental fashion

The paper calls for a clear definition of the Operations mission at the concept of Operations level to clarify the mission. While admittedly beyond ITS deployment and less that comprehensive metropolitan plan, what is TSM/Operations?  If systems management – narrowly defined -- is the focus, than the national audience of transportation managers is the target. In this case clear champions, direct funding and good success stories are crucial.  If the agenda is broader than systems management (substantially provided by transportation agencies), then additional constituencies need to be energized and perhaps additional legislation is necessary.

 

Constituency Questions

1. Key Issues

Scope vs. involvement:

·        Are we building a “constituency for Operations” or building a “constituency for building constituencies”?
Comment: A very evolutionary view would suggest the former – that our focus should be on professional, industry and state/local associations through their own communication mechanisms. Another view would be that we should attempt to address the constituencies directly where they exist
 
On the one hand broad definitions require wider stakeholder involvement.  At the same time, the program objectives, scope and payoff, as well as the timing and depth of expected involvement required by potential constituencies will all influence who chooses to join and the measure of their enthusiasm

Local conditions:

·        How can a strong bottoms-up constituency be developed? How can we foster a shared understanding of the operations vision among different constituencies?
Comment: At the national level, an Operations emphasis may seen like a top-down initiative (although in some regions there has been local championship). The ITS-America paper on New Organizations suggests a set of local conditions to create a demand for something different:
·         (customer, stakeholder) pressure or other stimulus
·         Basic Understanding of concept
·         Positive relationship to organization’s self-interest
·         Availability of sufficient resources
·         A non-threatening venue for cooperation
·         Persuasive leadership
·         An incremental process
·         Early payoffs

Consensus Creators

·        What are the most common “hot button” issues that can be addressed through improved operations (i.e., congestion, predictability, incident management, emergency response, safety, sprawl, livability, clean air, economic development)?
·        How can we foster regional constituencies for operations (regional conferences, focus groups, build around specific issues)?
·        What do we believe would be improved for various constituencies through better operations?
·        What are the “shared self interests” that can be built upon to foster operations constituencies?

2. State of the Art/State of the Practice

·        Can the well-known (and admirable) “models” cited in the paper can be replicated?
Comment: They appear to have been substantially dependent on unique circumstances: articulate champions, and control of (some) resources – in addition to the necessary (but not sufficient) preconditions of performing a valuable service which solves problems and demonstrates gains.  More research may be in order.

3. Stakeholders

·        At what level do constituencies need to be/can be mobilized, who mobilizes them and where and what stimulates their involvement?.
·        How can we foster a national constituency for operations (national coalition of stakeholders, national summit)?
·        Who are the other stakeholders that need to be brought into the next phase of the national dialogue? Later phases? (See list developed by National Steering Committee)
·        Is it feasible to reach out to ALL the identified constituencies? Is it necessary? If not, what are the priorities? What about the freight constituency?
·        Who are the potential “champions”?
·        Would a national summit meeting on operations involving the identified constituencies be useful? What would be the product of such of summit?

4. Recommendations

·        Should the experience of existing coalitions – both real and virtual – be analyzed for key relevance, especially in the light of broader definitions of operations that would involve entities with limited history of cooperation?

Benchmarking System Performance

Lillian Borrone, Michael Meyer, Robert Skinner

 

Paper Summary

The paper points out that historically the highway program has an “overemphasis on initial construction … and a failure to develop detailed goals and objectives that wold be the foundation of performance  measurements” In addition, “the fear of “inappropriate” comparison among systems and jurisdictions make states and local government wary of standardized an mandatory approaches to performance measurement.  National data bases focus on physical conditions, crashes and volumes.  At the national level, HPMS is the principal data base and is used to report ”congestion” in terms of sample section counts. compared to assumed capacity. NHTSA maintains a data base on fatalities and crashes on a sample basis.  Many states and a few local governments track levels of service in a similar fashion.

A variety of forces have led to an increase in performance measurement of which ITS and operations are only one. Furthermore, the various potential stakeholders in both delivering and benefiting from improved operations will have varying performance indication interests.  The interest in congestion management has led to a research interest in measuring transportation outcomes in terms of performance measures -- as well as inputs and outputs.  A very few states report level of service in terms of delay. Most recently, ITS has brought real time service reporting directly to the traveling public, potential increasing public awareness of systems performance.

Placing the increased interest in performance measurement in the broadest context, requires a considered strategy that targets the most consumer-responsive information and minimizes unnecessary data-intensiveness and relates to realistic operational strategies. This five-step strategy must (1) find the measures that connect operations with broad social-economic purposes, (2) research the best measures for operations service attributes, (3) identify benchmarks to support performance-based decision-,making, (4) determine data collection/analysis procedures (5) develop effective reporting approaches.

In this process, several barriers must be confronted. These include the need for clearer articulation of goals, grappling with the complex performance measurement and analysis challenges, the importance of more direct feedback from performance monitoring in a constituency-responsive manner and, the cost and coordination burdens of both performance measurement and benchmarking

Benchmarking Questions:

1. Key Issues

The right measures:

·        What is the most promising small set of performance measures to support the operations mission?
Comment: Most of the research syntheses in performance measures has been developed around capital facility planning – rather than with the presumption that they would be used to guide contemporary real time systems operations (through monitoring and real-time feedback to operations).  These analyses have included principally the conventional service attributes (average peak period delay, typically as LOS) rather than speed, (travel times), reliability (shown to be of higher economic value than time savings to consumers), security, navigation support, crashes and breakdowns, CVO regulatory costs, etc. Nor are they reported at the fine grain appropriate for operational management. The IDAS project is introducing a more level playing field for operational investment analysis

Benchmarking:

·        Is establishment of conditions-responsive standards for what constitutes a reasonable operations program a key component of an operations initiative?
·        Should peer-to-peer comparisons be encouraged as an appropriate measure of the priority agencies place on customer service?
·        Should a series of regional and statewide operations audits be undertaken? If so, how?
·        Can performance based measures and audits be used to build support for operations? If so, how?
Comment: The new focus on performance, the customer-driven perspective and widespread availability of information suggests a driving force may be public accountability from widespread availability of info about “how the system is doing”.  Comparisons may be inevitable. Reasonable context-sensitive targets could be set for most of the basic operations and management strategies.

2. State of the Art/State of the Practice

·        What are the performance measures and benchmarks (minimum standards for surveillance on the NHS, for operating procedures, response times, tools, etc.?) and what measurement tools are needed?
·        Can a uniform approach to monitoring system performance through commonly applied performance measures succeed?
·        How can ITS be used for the most cost effective collection of relevant performance measures?
Comment: There is considerable discussion of the use of ITS system-collected data for operations planning and investment and for systems management protocol evaluation purposes.  There are no strong state of the art candidates as of yet.  However, a regional commitment to data collection and evaluation –especially in real time --  may require strong federal support to demonstrate its effectiveness

3. Stakeholders

·        How can the interests of the broad range of potential stakeholders be involved?
Comment: The performance data requirements of service supplier stakeholders (transportation agencies, law enforcement, EMS, private service providers) vary and collaboration is a precondition to a cost-effective approach

4. Recommendations

Technical:

·        What is your reaction to the five step agenda and the list of barriers in the white paper?
·        Can the suggestions in the paper be tested by selecting a sample region and determining the most robust small set of performance measures and developing a prototypical data collection, reduction and analysis program?

Institutional:

·        Wouldn’t it be necessary to work with the complete range of stakeholders to determine performance measure interest and level of cooperation potential?

Sources and Levels of Funding

Anne Canby, Peter Ruane, William Millar

Paper Summary

The paper points out that the historic capital construction orientation of Federal policy may have discouraged operations because “operations” – involving staff costs -- was an ineligible use of federal aid.

Federal and state capital funds are still largely dominated by facility improvements and preservation.  Operations hardware (ITS) is funded substantially through discretionary funds and/or buried in routine facility improvements.  There are few relatively few statistics about the national investment in ITS and more routine traffic engineering improvements and staffing. Although federal funds are now available for most operational purposes, resources for operations are therefore largely state and local.  Costs for staffing, modest upgrades of operation hardware, software and control regimes, and maintenance of operation equipment are buried in other budgets.  Operations competes with more traditional uses as well as with an expanding agenda of non-mobility transportation-related demands. Resources are accumulated at the district level by program managers on an ad hoc basis

About one-quarter of total national investment in transportation infrastructure is federal and that the various funding-related instruments could be used to encourage greater state and local investment in operations including apportionment formulas, categorical flexibility, set asides for high priority initiatives, pilot programs incentive grants, special research funds, grant conditions in the form of standards and other mandates, and non-tradition funding sources.  The paper suggests several strategies that could draw on these features to incentive greater total investment in operations including

·        Dedicated federal aid for operations

·        Apportionment’s incorporated an operations needs factor and with a dedicated component

·        Apportionment formulas with an incentive for reduced congestion

·        Innovative finance program (loans and credit support )dedicated to operations

·        Required performance reporting

 

Other strategies are presented that would require and/or encourage performance reporting including seeding monitoring systems.  Discretionary grants for “model” operation programs is another potential approach, with competitive awards and performance monitor requirements.  Such incentives could also be used to convene and link regional transportation service providers linking provision with planning and a lead agency concept. Incentive could also be developed that would support a range of new types of partnership public-private and public-public that would overcome some of the short-term market and technical uncertainties

Another set of strategies presented relates to linking operations with land use planing -- both sort term and long term that wold focus on building in strong reliance on operation al strategies and deliberately visioned futures that were operations-based

The paper ends with the perspective that there is no one solution and that a coordinated approach is essential

 

Funding Questions

1. Key Issues:

Overall Funding availability:

·        Is availability of funds the problem -- or simply resource allocation priorities and coordination?
Comment: It is estimated that only 1-2% (approximately $1-2 B of $100B in public highway expenditures) are being spent nationwide on Systems Operations (capital and operating). Yet the cost of a basic operations program in the (75) major metro areas (such as Operation TimeSaver in 10 year frame) exceeds the current level of expenditures by a factor of 2-3. A proprietary analysis last year estimated expenditures on “transportation Management” (freeway, arterial and ATIS) at about $260m for capital. With 30% for planning, design and SI and 20% for operations and maintenance, this suggests a public sector expenditure in these areas of $500m max (exclusive of ETC and CVO).

Funding Options:

·        What is your response to the various federal funding options presented in the white paper?
·        Is new legislation needed at the national level, or does TEA-21 contain the necessary flexibility and elements to pursue the operations vision?
·        What role can operations play in setting the themes for the TEA-21 reauthorization?
·        What specific funding programs should be considered in the TEA-21 reauthorization to promote operations?
·        What can be done at the state/regional/local level to generate funding resources for operations?

Lack of Business Plan:

·        To what degree are the current state and local budget categories and resource allocation procedures a barrier to accumulating the necessary operations resources at the regional program level?
Comment: Very few states have a strategy for operations (as we use the term) that includes a business plan identifying the needed resources (and necessary institutional arrangements).  Discussion of funding constraints are therefore not carried out within a program context. Operations requires several streams of financial resources.  Within state and local resource allocation, these funds usually come from different sources and are allocated at different levels – often by parties and units not communicating with each other and certainly not within the framework of a common operations program-based capital and operating budget. Some of the processes operate top-down and others bottoms-up.  Just within state DOTs -- 5 major resource streams are typically tapped for operations and ITS
1.       Major capital funds
2.       Minor capital funds
3.       Operations (staffing)
4.       Slots (FTEs)
5.       Maintenance and upgrades

Policy:

·        Is the federal aid program – in terms of funding program categories and administration a significant barrier to increase resources to operations? Should non-capital cost components of operations rely on federal funds?

2. State of the Art/State of the Practice

·        Is there a region, state or local government that offers a model of how funds for a new program can be assembled?

3. Stakeholders

·        Without strong external stakeholder intervention, will sufficient funds be diverted from other felt priority needs such as preservation, capacity and safety capital improvements?
·        How can the resource required of each of the various partners in delivery operations services (law enforcement, transportation, emergency services, etc) be coordinated?
·        Are there opportunities for cross-subsidies or cost-sharing?

4. Recommendations

Technical:

·        Do we need a study regarding the resource requirements of a good operations program? (What is a “good program” – without some kind of benchmarks?)

Institutional:

·        How can we overcome the differential abilities of stakeholders to mobilize resources for operations given the variance in priorities and resource strength?
·        Can a system be developed that will allow elected leaders to attend operations “ribbon cuttings”?

Facilitating Institutional Change

Joseph Sussman, Douglas Wiersig, David Hensing

Paper Summary

The paper points out that a focus on transportation operations is critical to the future of transportation.  With the limits on providing conventional infrastructure, an operations perspective that utilizes that infrastructure as effectively as possible is critical.  The technologies to allow us to do this, namely ITS, are now widely available.  But the institutions that can take that operations perspective are, for the most part, still a gleam in our collective eye. 

 

Moving toward the institutional change that will be necessary is a long-term and difficult venture.  It will require strong leadership and a vision for the future, both of how organizations are internally structured and how they relate to other organizations.  It will require substantial education and professional capacity building at various levels, and it may well require a new view of transportation at a regional scale.

 

All this is required if transportation in the 21st century is to be driven by a customer perspective, providing services appropriate to particular customers who are willing to pay a price for those services.  An operations perspective suggests that we will no longer have a “one size fits all” transportation system, and the institutional implications of that are profound, as are the changes to a customer orientation for individual transportation professionals.

 

So the institutional change that the paper advocates occurs at various levels.  It occurs at the individual level, where professional capacity building to develop “new transportation professionals” for our new institutional forms will be essential.  On the organizational scale, our institutions must change internally to give greater profile to operations and to connections to other organizations.  In a sense, the paper calls for a fundamental rethinking of our transportation organizations for the future, asking them to participate in regionally-scaled transportation operations, utilizing new kinds of public-private partnerships and creating intermodal services for travelers and freight.  This is no small thing to accomplish.  The paper concludes that facilitating that kind of change through education and through strong leadership is at the heart of the future of the transportation professional and our transportation institutions.

 

Institutional Questions

Scope

Changing the Institutional Paradigm:

·        How can we change the paradigm from focusing on “constructing projects” to include “providing continuous service through operations” as a major mission for transportation providers?
·        How can we establish operations as a continuous activity with permanent organizational, institutional and fiscal support in transportation agencies?

Formal vs. informal structures:

·        Is it important to distinguish between organizations (formal structure, agencies, etc) and the broader term “institutions” (including values, traditions, informal decision-making, virtual entities, etc.) in our consideration of “Institutional Change”?

Institutional preconditions:

·        What are the key institutional preconditions to an effective operations activity?
·        Which of the following is more or less important?
a)       An understanding of operational concepts, elements and strategies, and the rationale for institutional change.
b)       An authorizing environment formalizing the mission, providing the leadership, decision-making support and organizational structure
c)       New roles and relationships among various stakeholder agencies and entities necessary for effective deployment and operations (responding to concepts of operations)
d)       A planning and programming process adjusted to accommodate operations-related strategies and investments, competing for available resources
e)       Technology, staff and financial resources sufficient to support the deployment and operations program
f)         New public private relationships as well as new private sector business models responding to the specific potential of operations

Policy:

·        Is there a federal role in fostering institutional change?

2. State of the Art/State of the Practice

·        What are the best examples of organizational models?
Comment: Institutional change is difficult—change occurs usually at a slower pace that in technology. We need to provide a positive institutional setting for the adaptation of technology needed for the operations mission. A range of evolutionary possibilities include:
·         Existing organizations (MPOs
·         New ad hoc organizations (such as in Constituencies paper)
·         Virtual entities with informal arrangements
·         New formally established (federal aid program) operations oriented organizations , parallel to or augmentations of MPOs (like transit authorities)
·        What are some desirable end-states for these organizations and their inter-relationships?
·         What are barriers to reaching these end-states?
·         What are some strategies for achieving the needed institutional change?

3. Stakeholders

·        Do all key stakeholders have to be related in a formal way?
·        If Multi-organizational cooperation at a new level is essential for integrated regional operations, how far down the “4-C spectrum” can we get?
Comment: The range of possibilities includes:
·         Communication
·         Cooperation
·         Coordination
·         Consolidation

4. Recommendations

Technical:

·        What among institutional preconditions (a-f) is amenable to research?
·        What knowledge, skills and abilities will be needed by those who will be essential to the delivery of the vision and mission?
·        What are the products, tools and actions that will make an immediate difference?

Institutional:

·        What are the next steps that need to be taken to prepare for the long term?

An Agenda for Transportation Operations Research

Phil Tarnoff, Dennis Christiansen, Beverly Kuhn

 

Paper Summary

The paper begins with a definition of operations from which its conclusions are derived: “Application of techniques to optimize the flow and safety of vehicles, travelers and goods on the existing transportation system” [revised by Tarnoff post-submission] The underlined words frame the scope of research: techniques (automated and manual), flow (speed and reliability), multimodal, exclusion of new facilities

The paper suggests that it is “unlikely that the U.S. taxpayers are receiving a fair return on their investment due to deficient training, insufficient equipment and inadequate numbers of personnel, the traditional focus on more visible construction and the lack of standards and traditions in operations.

A comprehensive national research agenda includes both a wide range of crosscutting issues in evaluation, training and new technology as well as certain operations-specific research issues such as:

·        The broadest range of congestion management measures

·        Operations  integration – including jurisdiction and modal

·        Expanded public role in CVO operations

·        Technologies to improve coordination/communication  with non-transportation agencies

A key issue in refining this agenda is to differentiate between state of the art needs and state of the practice shortcomings that are training –rather than research- based

The modest and largely uncoordinated nature of transportation research is reflected in the 10-15% that is operations-related. There are a range of ongoing research program , the most significant of which is the FHWA ITS program -- $200m in research deployment and operational tests including the IVI program, advanced traffic simulation and control systems. Other federal research programs constituting another $120-plus million (NCHRP, IDEA, TCRP, UTCs) devote about 10% of their funds to operations-related research.  About 15% of the remaining state-supported research efforts (derived from federal SPR funds) appear to be operations-oriented with a few state investing heavily in ITS and related operations activities.

The paper suggests a range of approaches to categorizing research themes – program area, function, modes, etc and recognizes the cross-cutting issues such as basis research benefits, data, modal integration, institutional integration, traveler information, modal interfaces, enforcement, emergency services, program trade-offs, etc

A process for developing a national research agenda is presented covering short, medium and long term categories with appropriate roles for the public and private sectors and academic research.  This process would be build around the principal client for the research (presumed to be state and local government) and the community of researchers and practitioners. The paper suggests this process should begin immediately if the necessary national consensus is to reached in a timely fashion

 

Research Questions

1. Scope

·        Will a modification in the definition of operations materially affect the needed research?
·        To what degree can operations receive its appropriate share in the overall national research budget by policy as distinct from bottoms up research community consensus?

2. State of the Art/State of the Practice

·        What relationship does the state of the practice play to the state of the art in terms of short vs. long-term improvements in operations?  What is the relative priority of training and benchmarking to real research?

3. Stakeholders

·        How can local government be brought into the research dialogue? How can non-transportation entities (law enforcement, EMS) be brought into the research dialogue?
·        Given the challenges presented both by the AHS public-private consortia experience and the IVI experience, is there a more promising approach to timely public-private cooperative research?

4. Recommendations

Technical:

·        What are the key priority research issues for research focus, not currently part of any program?
·        What are the implications of the recent explosion in web-based wireless consumer applications.  Is there a public sector role?

Institutional:

·        How can operations receive the appropriate attention in the upcoming F-SHRP program?
·        What comments do you have on the 6-step strawman process proposed in the research white paper?
·        What are the major themes that should make up an operations research program?
·        How can we increase funding available for transportation operations?
·        What are the next steps that need to be taken to prepare for the long term?