US Department of Transportation
FHWA Planworks: Better Planning, Better Projects
Linking Planning and Operations
Operations and the Decision Guide
Increasing financial, environmental, and right of way constraints and the public's growing demand for reliable travel have transportation agencies searching for ways to do more with less. Transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) encompasses a broad set of strategies that aim to optimize the safe, efficient, and reliable use of existing and planned transportation infrastructure for all modes. This approach offers real-time operational strategies to address congestion as well as travel time reliability in the near term — often at a lower cost than capacity improvements. TSMO strategies are particularly effective when agencies are seeking targeted solutions to non-recurring congestion and events such as work zones, planned special events, inclement weather, and traffic incidents and emergencies.
Three areas of information support this integration:
- Operations and the Decision Guide (below). Each of the four transportation decision-making phases provides opportunities to educate and engage partners and stakeholders about TSMO strategies. The Decision Guide describes when and how to consider TSMO approaches, including questions to consider, data, relationships to other topics, and examples from current practice. See The Decision Guide below to understand when and how TSMO can integrate into the planning process.
- Congestion and Reliability. TSMO offers strategies for addressing both unpredictable and recurring congestion.
- Planning for Operations. Guidance documents and practical examples of success can help advance operations in planning.
Hover over the highlighted Key Decisions to understand the specific relationship of TSMO to the decision. Click on any highlighted Key Decision for more information about questions, data, and relationships that support this interface. Key Decisions that are greyed-out have no specific relevance to the individual application or topic area but are still accessible from this graphic.
Congestion and Reliability
Congestion and Reliability - Are they different or just two sides of the same coin? A "just in time" way of life demands reliable travel. The many causes of congestion include both recurring and temporary, unexpected (non-recurring) disruptions to normal routine that impact reliability.
To address congestion, transportation professionals increasingly look to TSMO strategies for dealing with unpredictable as well as recurring causes. Congestion management planning offers many options to implement operational improvements. Use these ideas to get started:
- The Minnesota DOT Congestion Management Safety Plan identifies how "lower-cost/high-benefit projects" have been effective in the Metro District.
- Incorporating Reliability into Key Decision Points for the Congestion Management Process identifies specific points in the CMP where reliability can be considered and implemented.
- Learn more about TSMO strategies that address recurring congestionand non-recurring congestion from FHWA.
- Incorporating Travel-Time Reliability into the Congestion Management Process (CMP): A Primer from FHWA identifies opportunities to better manage congestion in urban areas.
Planning for Operations
Use the examples below to get started or to take your agency to the next level.
Regional Operations Coordination and Collaboration
A Regional Concept for Transportation Operations (RCTO) can help agencies collaboratively plan and implement management and operation strategies. An RCTO can be used by agencies to reach consensus on goals for the next 3 to 5 years and map out how they will get there. This primer describes in detail the purpose of an RCTO, how to develop one, and its relevance to regional planning.
This guide is a collection of lessons learned and observations from four different metropolitan regions as they developed Regional Concepts for Transportation Operations . It can be used by transportation practitioners and planners to provide strategic direction for implementing effective regional transportation systems management and operations (TSMO). Successful examples from the four RCTO implementing regions show readers where challenges were overcome.
The guide provides the methods that are deemed most effective in improving regional transportation system performance. http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop11032/index.htm
The Collaborative Advantage: Realizing the Tangible Benefits of Regional Transportation Operations Collaboration
This manual helps public agencies identify tangible benefits of collaborating with other agencies to improve transportation system operations. The benefits include access to funding and other resources, improvements in agency operations and productivity,and outcomes that help agencies achieve their mobility and safety goals. The manual also describes the six-step process that agencies can use to determine what benefits they could achieve through collaboration.
Regional Transportation Operations Collaboration and Coordination: A Primer for Working Together to Improve Transportation Safety, Reliability, and Security
It is important for all members of a region to work together and understand the importance of collaboration and coordination. This document is aimed at public safety officials and transportation professionals that are responsible for managing operations in cities, counties, and regions. The primer includes a self-assessment readers can use to determine how they are doing in terms of regional collaboration/coordination.Examples of well-run transportation TSMO procedures from across the country are presented as case studies.
Planning for Operations Guidance
Advancing Metropolitan Planning for Operations: An Objectives-Driven, Performance-Based Approach - A Guidebook
By incorporating TSMO strategies into an existing or developing transportation planning process, metropolitan areas can maximize their systems' performance. This fulfills a Federal planning requirement, but also ensures that the metropolitan transportation plan is more adaptive to residents needs, and allows TSMO strategies to be more easily incorporated into projects selected for the transportation improvement program (TIP).
Advancing Metropolitan Planning for Operations: The Building Blocks of a Model Transportation Plan - A Desk Reference
This resource enables transportation planners and practitioners to build plans that include operations objectives, performance measures, and strategies that will improve their region. It also explains that plans can reflect a community's values, while moving the region towards improved mobility and safety. It includes a variety of options for incorporating operations into plans, organized as a collection of operation objectives and performance measures.
This guidebook provides insight into the creation of an objectives-driven, performance-based CMP. It offers up a framework of eight recommended actions to include in the development of a CMP. The CMP helps to support multiple metropolitan transportation planning decisions, including issues such as livability, collaboration, and demand management.
Showcasing Visualization Tools in Congestion Management
Visualization practices are an important part of congestion management, and this publication has been created as a supplement to the CMP Guidebook. Visualization can include anything from maps, charts, and graphs to videos, photos, and computer simulations. The report includes information on what visualization techniques agencies are using and what type of data is needed for them, and a discussion about sources of data.
Getting More by Working Together - Opportunities for Linking Planning and Operations:A Reference Manual
This manual was created to help planners and agency managers understand the importance of working together and realize the values and benefits of doing so. Many positive opportunities arise when implementing management and operational strategies at the regional scale. This document identifies 10 such opportunities, such as data sharing,performance measures, and funding, to show the strong connection between planning and operations functions. It also includes a self-assessment for readers to gauge their current progress in linking planning and operations.
Incorporating Reliability Performance Measures into the Transportation Planning and Programming Processes
This TRB research project developed three different resources that address aspects of incorporating travel time reliability. The products of this research range from process improvement to analysis support. Each of these publications is detailed below.
Agencies are now required to adopt a performance-based approach to planning and programming. This high-level reference document was developed to help planners,practitioners, and operations managers apply the concept of travel-time reliability to programs and projects across a metropolitan area. The purpose of the guide is to help agencies using reliability performance measurement to better understand and communicate it. It also identifies tools and methods needed to track reliability and presents emerging analysis tools that will help evaluate the progress and investments being made.
This technical reference supports the Guide to Incorporating Reliability Performance Measures into the Transportation Planning and Programming Processes. The reference discusses the choices involved in integrating reliability into planning and programming, and was created to guide technical staff in identifying performance measures that support the development of key planning products.
The report summarizes all the research done in the Incorporating Reliability Performance Measures project. It includes a summary of the literature review, a state-of-the-practice survey, and case studies that were piloted to verify concepts and methods evaluated as part of the project. The detailed appendix describes how the project links to PlanWorks.
The Role of Transportation Systems Management & Operations in Supporting Livability and Sustainability: A Primer
TSMO can play an important role in supporting livability and sustainability. This primer shows the connections between TSMO and livability and sustainability objectives,and describes the best way to manage and capitalize on them. The primer provides an example of a transportation system with regional TSMO strategies that have cohesively advanced livability and sustainability goals. Case studies guide practitioners on implementing these tactics in their own communities.
This primer gives planners and transportation practitioners a variety of options for applying the regional ITS architecture to enhance planning for operations. It specifically provides entry points for leveraging the regional ITS architecture into the planning process. The primer uses an objectives-driven, performance-based approach to planning for operations, which emphasizes operational objectives and performance measures. Techniques for making a regional ITS architecture relevant and more accessible in planning for operations are also included.
This document provides insight and lessons learned from both private companies and public organizations that used a strategic approach to advance transportation planning for operations. The use of specific objectives and performance measures to accomplish operational performance was found to be commonplace among those meeting costs or even generating profit. Many useful practices were identified for consideration in transportation planning for operation.
Management & Operations in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan - A Guidebook for Creating an Objectives-Driven, Performance-Based Approach
This guidebook helps MPOs meet the federal requirements of SAFETEA-LU that call for TSMO strategies to be incorporated into a metropolitan transportation plan.The document provides an overview of how to go about this integration and highlights effective practices for mixing infrastructure and operation strategies.
This desk reference was created as an aid to integrating demand management into the transportation planning process. It addresses policy objectives and the scope of the planning effort. The desk reference includes a description of seven key policy objectives that could integrate demand management, explanations of how demand management could work into the four levels of transportation planning, and tools for evaluating the effectiveness of the demand management strategies being discussed.
Statewide Opportunities for Integrating Operations, Safety, and Multimodal Planning:A Reference Manual
This "how-to" manual is intended to help transportation professionals and practitioners integrate operations, safety, and multimodal planning. The document describes the available opportunities at different levels of decision making, whether for statewide,regional, or corridor projects. It also highlights the benefits of such approaches and recommends implementation actions. Real-life examples, a toolkit, and multiple self-assessment checklists for each decision making level are included.
This reference, which is targeted at SM&O-related activity managers, provides guidance on the program, process, and organizational capabilities that are necessary for developing effective TSMO strategies. It is intended to provide an understanding among these activity-level managers of the opportunities that exist for improving State and local TSMO activities.
Examples in Practice
Six different case studies from regions across the country represent some of the work that agencies are doing to apply elements of an objectives-driven, performance-based approach to planning for operations. These methods, guided by specific objectives and agreed-upon performance measures, help ensure that the best operations strategies are incorporated into transportation plans.
Developing Decisionmaker Support for Transportation Systems Management and Operations at MetroPlan Orlando
TSMO has strong backing from MetroPlan Orlando's 19 voting board members, because they have worked hard over several years to gain support for further TSMO strategies in the region. A successful 2003 traffic incident management campaign encouraged the MPO board's efforts. With this early TSMO accomplishment, the MPO has dedicated funding annually, and even created an M&O subcommittee.
Metro, the metropolitan planning organization for the Portland, Oregon region, took a new approach for its 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, focusing on desired outcomes and measurable performance. The region went forward with an outcomes-based framework that included policy-level performance targets that will guide investments and demonstrate measureable results. Metro also established a performance monitoring program that can assess system performance periodically to help make more educated implementation decisions.
The Use of an Objectives-Driven, Performance-Based Approach at the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission
The Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study (CUUATS) developed its own objectives-driven, performance-based approach to metropolitan transportation planning in their recent plan, Choices 2035. CUUATS and its partners were able to directly tie TSMO into several of their 12 regional goals, identifying specific objectives to help support each of them. All objectives and goals have measures to track progress and effectiveness. Positive results of this new approach have included increased public engagement, more accountability, and a safer, transit-oriented community.
Regional Concept for Transportation Operations Fosters Planning for Operations in the Tucson Metropolitan Area
An FHWA initiative to advance regional collaboration for operations inspired the Tucson region to embark on the development of a RCTO; allowing transportation practitioners to strategically plan for improving operations in their region. Participants identified specific objectives and performance measurements they wanted included in arterial management, traveler information, and work zone management. These objectives guided the selection of strategies and approaches for implementation.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission chose to use an objectives-driven, performance-based approach for transportation planning in the Bay Area. This approach highlights the most important transportation investments and those deemed highest priority. Regional performance is more valued than individual project-level performance, and broad targets have been set by the agency. Objectives also help provide a quantitative assessment of a project's costs and benefits using project-level analysis.
The Traffic Signal System Improvement Program in the Denver region is a collection of TSMO strategies to help coordinate efficient traffic signals. The Denver Regional Council of Governments works through a collaborative planning process to identify critical needs throughout regionally significant arterials. The program has seen improved operations of more than a thousand traffic signals, which has led to reduced travel time for commuters, less fuel consumption, and lower vehicle emissions.
For its metropolitan transportation plan, the Wilmington Area Planning Council took an objectives-driven, performance-based approach, even integrating a congestion management process into the plan. Because the agency has a close working relationship with the region's public transportation provider, transit has become a true partner in the regional planning process. This allows transit data to be used as a performance measure for congestion and helps to provide a toolbox of solutions that include better transit options.
Crash data has also been incorporated into the congested corridor identification process, and there are plans to further enhance partnerships with regional leaders and improve the assessment of costs and benefits of transportation investments. http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop09045/index.htm
This case study describes how the Capital District Transportation Committee linked their CMP with the metropolitan transportation plan. Issues such as land use planning,development patterns, and general quality of life are now reflected in planning decisions, and the plan will focus on transportation investments such as urban reinvestment and context-sensitive design. Performance measurement will help to assess congestion mitigation within a range of other measures. Linking the CMP and the planning process resulted in a broader regional scope, creating goals that generate greater public interest.
Managing traffic congestion and monitoring system performance is a systematic process for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Aided by an advisory team of practitioners, the agency determines the congested roads of the region, and then develops appropriate multimodal strategies to help mitigate the issues. Performance indicators are set to help the agency track its progress in hitting long-range goals.In the future, the agency hopes to increase its focus on systems TSMO to measure reliability.
Tools and Analysis
This primer is focused on the collaborative considerations needed when incorporating TSMO into transportation project design and development. The term "designing for operations" involves the development as well as the application of design policies,procedures, and strategies that support TSMO. This process encompasses a broad range of transportation practitioners including ITS staff, transit professionals,and traffic incident management employees, among others.
The FHWA Operations Benefit/Cost Analysis Desk Reference provides transportation professionals with guidance on how to most efficiently estimate the benefits and costs of operational strategies. The guidance includes basic background information on benefit/cost analysis for those who are unfamiliar with the concepts and terminology of the subject. More advanced analytical concepts are also included to support the more complex analysis needed for measuring TSMO factors such as travel time reliability,traffic surveillance, and communications.
This brochure and collection of case studies stresses the importance of using analysis tools to strengthen the links between planning and operations. "Tools" here refers to basic analysis methods and procedures, and not to physical software or applications.The guidance in these case studies is intended to help planners better use existing transportation planning and operations analysis tools and methods. By being more systematic with these methods, they can analyze, evaluate, and report the benefits of needed investments in transportation operations.
FHWA Operations Benefit/Cost Analysis Desk Reference: Conducting Benefit/Cost Analysis of Strategies Impacting Non-Typical Traffic Conditions
This reference was created to provide practitioners with analytical methods that can be used to assess impacts and benefits of various operations strategies for reducing traffic congestion caused by atypical conditions. Atypical circumstances include incidents, high demand from special events, weather, and other unusual causes.A different approach is needed for analyzing the benefit/cost estimation of operations strategies related to atypical conditions.