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
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
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
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.
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.
Tom Larson, Wayne Shackelford, Walter Kraft
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)?
Larry Dahms, Dennis Keck, John Collins
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)
- 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.
Lillian Borrone, Michael Meyer, Robert Skinner
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
Anne Canby, Peter Ruane, William Millar
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
Joseph Sussman, Douglas Wiersig, David Hensing
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.
Phil Tarnoff, Dennis Christiansen, Beverly Kuhn
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