Transportation System Management & Operations (TSM&O) is emerging as a core business area of transportation agencies. Since the mid-Twentieth Century, technologies and tactics have been applied to enhance the safety, reliability, and security of traffic operations on the nation’s highway system, as well as multimodal movement of people and goods. In the 1990s, a National Dialogue on Operations began to formalize the national strategic deployment of technologies and the federal, state, and local programmatic structures supporting TSM&O.
The national program structure for TSM&O has included the formation of national organizations such as the National Transportation Operations Coalition, the National Traffic Incident Management Coalition, the Transportation Safety Advancement Group (formerly the Public Safety Advisory Group), the Transportation Public Safety Executive Leadership Group, the TRB Regional TSM&O Committee, and the AASHTO Highway Subcommittee on System Operations and Management (SSOM).
National transportation research has been vital in catalyzing TSM&O programmatic development and implementation. For example, the TRB Freeway Operations Committee spawned pivotal research projects in the 1970’s and 1980’s that established national best practice in freeway traffic management and traffic incident management (TIM) techniques and technology systems. The second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) Focus Area on Travel Time Reliability produced many valuable tools (e.g., capability maturity model, performance data analysis, traffic incident management training resources). Plans are currently underway to expand the SHRP 2 Knowledge Transfer System into a TSM&O Center of Excellence (NCHRP 20-07/352B).
Since the initial planning for SHRP 2 nearly 15 years ago; there have been dramatic programmatic, fiscal, technological, and institutional changes—some of which could be characterized as transformational. For example:
- Privatization of functions ranging from program support services to traffic surveillance and data collection.
- Development of technologies such as Connected/Autonomous Vehicles, cloud computing, and wireless communications.
- Megaregions and multistate corridors emerging as institutional foundations for TSM&O.
- Increasing emphasis on the movement of freight.
There is an urgent need for a coordinated assessment of current and emerging TSM&O knowledge gaps and associated critical research issues. This assessment should establish a basis for coordinating national TSM&O research and development projects across multiple organizations through 2025. TSM&O topics need to be broadly characterized to encompass relevant aspects of transportation security and emergency management, freight operations and supply chain logistics, and active transportation and demand management along with other established areas of traffic and incident management and Intelligent Transportation Systems.
The objective of this research is to create a plan for developing a sustainable transportation system management and operation (TSM&O) research program.
A workshop was held in May 2014. Work is underway on several tasks.
Task 1. Define TSM&O for the purposes of this project, based on the MAP-21 definition but looking ahead to where agencies are headed with TSM&O (including multimodal, intermodal, and freight aspects). Clarify boundaries and overlaps with related approaches such as demand management, integrated corridor management, transportation security, emergency management, and active traffic (& demand) management.
Task 2. Complete a literature search and national community scan to identify practitioner needs and issues related to TSM&O and research efforts addressing those needs and issues.
Task 3. Identify trends in technologies, processes, and society (e.g., connected/automated vehicles, public-private partnerships, climate change adaptation, shared vehicles, cell phone apps) that could influence or disrupt the TSM&O research path.
Task 4. Comparatively review national research program planning approaches from other disciplines and technical areas to identify practices that may be transferable to TSM&O research program planning. TRB Special Report 313, Framing Surface Transportation Research for the Nation’s Future, should be included in the review.
Task 5. Evaluate alternative approaches to carrying out the research in the plan and mechanisms for sustaining TSM&O research coordination. Potential roles for the nascent Operations Center of Excellence should be explored.
Task 6. Develop concepts for a TSM&O research plan. These concepts could include:
- Topics, program areas, and projects
- Process and schedule for ongoing management of the plan
- Updating the plan
- Coordination of research projects
- Tracking of deployment and implementation efforts
- Quantification of benefits and costs associated with the research efforts
- Provisions for stakeholder involvement and oversight
- Concepts for funding and resourcing research projects