Institutional Arrangements Toolbox
Institutional arrangements refer to agreements and organizational structures both within transportation agencies and between agencies. This can include forums that regularly bring together transportation planners and operations practitioners as well as agreements that promote involvement of management and operations practitioners in planning processes, or that promote a regional planning perspective within an operations environment. New institutional arrangements are created for a number of reasons. This can include the occurrence of a seminal event such as major national events or a disaster; the introduction of new programs; the response to new State or Federal mandates; or to take advantage of new funding sources.
Many regions have other types of institutional arrangements that focus on M&O more broadly, and can serve as a link to regional planning activities. Although the circumstances that lead to institutional innovation may differ across regions examples of arrangements that better tie together planning and operations include the following:
- Regional management and operations committees within the MPO or other regional body,
- Regional collaborations that function as independent partnerships between transportation and public safety organizations,
- Transportation agencies that include both operations and planning divisions (often State DOTs and transit agencies), or
- Regional traffic management centers co-managed by public safety officials and traffic operations staff.
Getting Started: Building Institutional Arrangements
Some common strategies have emerged for building institutional arrangements that can better link planning and operations. Changing institutional relationships and behavior is a tremendous challenge and requires a sustained effort. But laying the groundwork for such change can begin immediately. The following approaches can highlight opportunities for existing institutions to better coordinate planning and operations and prompt leaders to consider where new institutional arrangements may be needed.
Designate an MPO Stakeholder Forum on Regional Management and Operations
An increasing number of MPOs support interagency committees that deal directly and regularly with the management and operations of regional transportation systems. In hosting such committees, the MPO facilitates a vital forum where interjurisdictional coordination, funding strategies, and data sharing can be addressed. In addition, the MPO can use the committee's diverse operations expertise to inform M&O issues in regional planning documents and in the MPO's annual work program.
Attract Stakeholders with Specific Regional Operations Programs
One way to achieve greater stakeholder participation in stakeholder forums is to focus discussions on specific operations concerns. This makes it clear to both operations practitioners and policy makers when the forum is within their area of expertise.
Freight transportation planning is an area where focused forums have been successful. Some regions have successfully developed forums or task forces specifically to address regional freight operations planning. Part of the success has come from a committing funds toward short-term freight corridor improvements and making clear that the committee input would influence actual freight management investments.
Involve Regional Operations Forums in the Planning Process
Regional transportation operations collaborations and traffic management centers (TMCs) increasingly offer forums for integrated operations that are independent of other regional bodies. They often provide a unique opportunity to bring together the public safety and operations management communities, and thus are well positioned to address broader operations issues.
Beyond offering a forum for coordination on operations issues, a growing number of regional transportation operations collaborations are taking the lead in ensuring coordinated interagency operations planning to address challenges over the longer-term. Specifically, the functions of these organizations have grown to cover:
- Integration of personnel from multiple agencies into focused program implementation teams;
- Integration of equipment though sharing of communications infrastructure, specialized vehicles, and data; and
- Source of funding for coordinated operations activities, both through pooled funds from participating agencies and through direct State and Federal funding awards.
Define an Organizational Structure for the MPO that Reflects the Importance of Regional Operations
MPOs have historically been organized around long-range planning and programming of capital projects. In recent years, many MPOs have expanded their role to include greater involvement in regional systems management issues. Some agencies have chosen fundamental restructuring to reflect a growing responsibility for regional management and operations. MPOs should consider the potential benefits of an institutional structure that reflects a heightened focus on managing the regional network.
One option for such a restructuring is to develop a division within the MPO that is specifically responsible for regional system M&O activities. An operations arm of an MPO may appear more accessible and carry more legitimacy with operations staff in the other bodies such as the State DOT, local jurisdictions, transit agencies, and private fleet operators.
Link Planning and Operations within State DOTs and Transit Agencies
Unlike MPOs, most State DOTs and regional transit agencies traditionally have included both planning and operations functions. They have an opportunity to better coordinate planning and operations without some of the interjurisdictional and interagency challenges faced by MPOs. The development of the statewide plan offers additional opportunities to link planning and operations. In some cases, an operations committee or operations division has led development of portions of the statewide plan. This is a valuable means for raising awareness of the planning process within the operations community, while bringing operations expertise into the planning process.
Reinforce Institutional Links by Integrating Operations into Project Design and Delivery
Operations practitioners should be involved in project design at the earliest possible stage in order to ensure that projects support, or at the very least, do not conflict with regional operations strategies. Institutional relationships between planning and operating agencies are supported when practitioners collaborate to accommodate ITS, transit, and operations flexibility into design during the early stages of the project development process. To ensure that operations strategies are embedded in capital projects, MPOs should take steps to ensure that appropriate operations stakeholders become part of the early stages of the project development and design process.
- Bicycles & Transit: A Partnership that Works (PDF 1.2MB) – This Federal Transit Administration brochure describes how transit agencies around the country are building connections, and how Federal transportation programs may be used to support more of these efforts.
- Highway Safety and Public Health: State Legislative Action, 2004 – The National Conference of State Legislatures has released a report that summarizes the many bills on traffic safety issues that were considered by state legislatures during the 2004 legislative sessions. The report is designed to provide information about current traffic safety issues to legislators, federal officials, and other interested parties.
- Institutions for Transportation Operations with Recommendations for Reauthorization (DOC 272KB) – This report discusses the number of institutional and technical challenges that must be addressed in order to create effective transportation systems operations.
- Lessons Learned: Monitoring Highway Congestion and Reliability Using Archived Traffic Detector Data – This report summarizes the top 10 lessons learned from the Mobility Monitoring Program with respect to using archived traffic detector data for monitoring highway performance (e.g., traffic congestion and travel reliability). The top 10 lessons learned are centered on these three general areas: analytical methods, data quality, and institutional issues.
- Organizing for Regional Transportation Operations Conference (PDF 926KB) – This report describes the proceedings of a conference held to discuss the challenges of multi-jurisdictional partnerships for metropolitan regional transportation operations and to establish potential next steps for supporting and advancing these partnerships nationwide.
- Transportation Systems Management and Operations: Operating Cost Eligibility Under the Federal-Aid Highway Program – This guidance is meant to assist FHWA partners in determining applicability of Federal-Aid Funding for the operating costs of traffic monitoring, management, and control systems, such as integrated traffic control systems, incident management programs, and traffic control centers. This incorporates and updates information provided in information fliers discussing reimbursement of startup and operating costs for traffic control management projects provided in January 1998 and again in January 1999 by the Office of Traffic Management and Intelligent Transportation Systems Applications.
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