Regional Concept for Transportation Operations
Regional Concept for Transportation Operations Toolbox
A Regional Concept for Transportation Operations is derived through sustained collaboration among stakeholders. It contains the shared regional objective for transportation operations and what is needed to achieve that objective – specifically physical improvements, relationships and procedures, and resource arrangements.
An RCTO is created out of ongoing collaboration primarily between managers responsible for operating the transportation system on a day-to-day basis. The following key questions and answers on an RCTO provide a sense of its scope and nature: An RCTO serves three important purposes. First, it presents a mutual operations vision and direction for the future of transportation systems management and operations based on a holistic view of the region. It guides the collaborative effort by bringing together varied transportation operations perspectives from different agencies and jurisdictions to provide a common approach for a common objective. Through this effort, an RCTC assists participants in coordinating priorities, leveraging resources, and alleviating duplicative efforts. Second, it can garner commitment from agencies and jurisdictions for a common regional approach to transportation management and operations. Third, an RCTO provides an opportunity to strengthen the linkage between regional planners and managers responsible for transportation operations by providing a coherent operations strategy for consideration in the planning process.
Getting Started: Developing a Regional Concept for Transportation Operations
The four important elements of a Regional Concept for Transportation Operations are: 1) the desired operations objective; 2) the set of physical improvements, 3) the relationships and procedures, and 4) the resource arrangements needed to achieve the objective.
Regional Concept for Transportation Operations (for one or more specific activities or services)
Operations Objective: The desired operations outcome for one or more activities or services established through regional transportation operations collaboration and consistent with to regional goals expressed in regional planning documents.
Physical Improvements: The set of equipment, technology, facilities, people, and/or systems needed to achieve the operations objective.
Relationships and Procedures: The working agreements, institutional arrangements, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), and procedures needed to achieve the operations objective.
Resource Arrangements: The funding and other resource requirements (staff, equipment) and how those resources are to be obtained and applied to achieve the operations objective.
The objective is derived from the collaborative activity and sets the direction for its future. The operations objective defines the desired state of operations at the end of a set timeframe that is mutually agreed upon by all the participants. It is also what the stakeholders believe they can realistically achieve within that timeframe through a combination of physical improvements, relationships and procedures, and resource arrangements. The objective must support and help to actualize the overall regional vision and goals, if they exist, established through the regional transportation planning process.
The breadth of the operations objective depends on the functional scope of the collaborative activity. For example, the operations objective for an RCTO about road weather management may have the following operations objective: reduce speed limits with Variable Speed Limit signs during hazardous weather conditions on at least 75 percent of all major roads in the region. In cases where the collaborative activity driving the RCTO has a broader focus on operations, the objective will typically address numerous operational issues rather then a single service area. An operations objective of this nature may be to develop a regional traffic management center that coordinates the flow of traffic information between agencies and with the public during special events, hazardous weather, construction, and emergencies. As the nature of the sustained collaborative activity between stakeholders evolves, so should the objective stated in the RCTO.
The physical improvements defined in an RCTO describe the facilities, equipment, systems, staff, and services needed to be put in place to achieve the operations objective. Additionally, an RCTO shows what investments are needed for these improvements and how they fit together to deliver better customer service and system performance. To be accomplished in a three- to five-year time period, some or all of these improvements may be programmed locally in existing capital improvement programs or regionally in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) prepared through the regional transportation planning process.
Some of the critical physical improvements of an RCTO may include the following:
- Communications technology and equipment that connect police, fire, emergency medical, transit, maintenance, and traffic.
- Roadside technologies for collecting data and disseminating information to travelers along evacuation routes.
- Vehicles and equipment needed to respond to traffic incidents and emergencies on designated arterials and freeways.
- Hardware and software to monitor and manage traffic at a regional level.
Relationships and Procedures
The relationships and procedures of an RCTO define how the stakeholders participating in the collaborative activity will work together to achieve the operations objective. This includes multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional working agreements, institutional arrangements, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), and interoperability standards. Given the expectations of decisionmakers and the public for regional operations activity in the future, the challenge is to build and sustain the relationships that will be needed to meet these demands beyond just the operations objective at hand. Much of what it will take to achieve the operations objective of an RCTO depends on relationship building and information sharing.
The relationships and procedures in an RCTO should reflect the fact that although agencies and jurisdictions retain control of their operations, they may have responsibilities for operating and managing their systems and services in ways that provide for a more collective regional benefit. Areas where regional relationships and procedures are paramount include traffic incident management, traveler information services, road construction management, and emergency response.
Some of the critical relational or procedural aspects of an RCTO may include the following:
- Establishing the potential benefits through a commissioned study, modeling, or other cost/benefit analyses.
- Developing regional technical standards and protocols for data sharing, interfacing, and interoperability.
- Identifying a sequence for deployment, prioritizing areas or agencies for improvement.
- Developing agreements for procurement, ownership, or control.
- Developing agreements for ongoing management and operations to achieve expected benefits.
- Defining an approach to measure performance and track success.
The relationships and procedures may address:
- How will stakeholders achieve coordination, integration and/or interoperability for optimum performance?
- How is information obtained, managed, and shared?
- How do agencies and systems work together in specific situations?
- How can the RCTO leverage the regional ITS architecture, if one exists?
The resource arrangements identify the resources needed in order to actualize and sustain the operations objective. Resources may include investments in time, money, staff, and equipment for better operations and system performance. Some of these investments involve budget allocations; others are commitments of staffing, equipment, or facilities to support regionally significant activities. The resources may be made available for accomplishing a regional objective by participating agencies that will understand and realize benefits. Funding may also be pursued from local, State, and Federal sources.
Examples of resource arrangements are:
- Jurisdictions or agencies budgeting resources for a project that is under their control, yet also a key aspect of a joint regional initiative.
- Contributing funds and staff time to sustain regional collaboration and coordination activities.
- Exchanging or sharing staff or equipment during emergencies or as a result of budget limitations.
- Applying for state funds through the metropolitan planning process.
Resource arrangements may address:
- How can resources be allocated to allow computer systems to expand over time?
- What resources are needed to sustain and meet performance expectations?
- How can resource and investment decisions help to achieve a regional objective for operations?
- What staff will be needed to adequately operate and control joint systems?
- How will we prepare the system to adapt to external events that affect system performance such as security threats, natural disasters, or special events?
- Designing for Transportation Management and Operations: A Primer (HTML, PDF 2.9MB) - This primer is focused on the collaborative and systematic consideration of management and operations during transportation project design and development.
- Getting More by Working Together—Opportunities for Linking Planning and Operations: A Reference Manual (HTML, PDF 5MB) – This resource guide is designed to help planning and operations managers understand the value of working together and realize the benefits of pursuing management and operations strategies at the regional scale.
- Primer on Regional Transportation Operations Collaboration and Coordination – This primer was written for transportation professionals and public safety officials from cities, counties, and States who are responsible for day-to-day management and operations within a metropolitan region. It is intended to help agencies and organizations, and the operations people within them, understand the importance of regional collaboration and coordination, how it happens, and how to get started. This document may also be of interest to agencies such as metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) already involved in regional collaborative efforts by helping them build on previous success.
- Regional Concept for Transportation Operations: The Blueprint for Action - A Primer (HTML, PDF 5MB) - A Regional Concept for Transportation Operations (RCTO) is a management tool to assist in planning and implementing management and operations strategies in a collaborative and sustained manner. Developing an RCTO helps partnering agencies think through and reach consensus on what they want to achieve in the next 3 to 5 years and how they are going to get there. The purpose of this document is to explain what an RCTO is, the development of its elements, and its applicability.
- Regional Concept for Transportation Operations: A Tool for Strengthening and Guiding Regional Transportation Operations Collaboration and Coordination (HTML, DOC 205KB) – This paper focuses what a Regional Concept for Transportation Operations is, what it can look like, its benefits, and its important role in creating an opportunity for regional transportation operations collaboration and coordination to flourish.
- The Regional Concept for Transportation Operations: A Practitioner's Guide (HTML, PDF 2MB) - This practitioner's guide is a collection of the observed successes and lessons learned from four metropolitan regions as they developed Regional Concepts for Transportation Operations (RCTOs), a management tool used by planners and operations practitioners to define a strategic direction for implementing effective regional transportation management and operations in a collaborative manner. This document provides information on how to develop and implement an RCTO effectively and efficiently by highlighting practices that have been used successfully to overcome challenges by the four implementing regions that forged ahead into this new territory. This guide offers lessons from these pioneering sites that can help other implementing regions to select the methods that are most effective in improving regional transportation system performance.
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