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Applying TSMO at Southeast Michigan Transportation Operations Center



The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Southeast Michigan Transportation Operations Center (SEMTOC) is transitioning from solely managing and operating freeways to incorporating state-owned arterial corridors to becoming a network-based operations center.

In 2018, MDOT created a Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) implementation and strategic plan document to identify direction, actions, and recommendations for managing and operating an optimized, integrated transportation network.

TSMO strategies are being incorporated into daily operations to develop a cohesive and well-integrated hub in the region capable of managing roadways through coordination, communication, and collaboration with stakeholders, and through utilizing ITS tools and technologies.

This case study documents some TSMO initiatives that SEMTOC deployed to create a TSMO culture, develop the workforce, and meet MDOT’s overall TSMO vision in the MDOT control room and within the MDOT Safety Service Patrol (SSP) in the Metro Detroit area.

TSMO Planning, Strategies and Deployment

MDOT conducted a TSMO Capability Maturity Model (CMM) analysis and began incorporating TSMO strategies into operations by utilizing four of six dimensions (see CMM figure).This case study highlights advancements in two dimensions.

Workforce Development
An important component to delivering a successful TSMO program is having a workforce that possesses skills required to manage and operate technological advancements in ITS.
• TSMO engineer was appointed in 2020 to lead the TSMO program at SEMTOC, including creating an arterial management system, and transition towards network-based operations.
• Control room operators received training in various communication, coordination, and TSMO functions to develop them into specialists. They are empowered to make real-timeTIM decisions and provide recommendations regarding possible alternate operations. They also utilize data to make informed decisions to improve safety and mobility.
• SEMTOC also created a TSMO specialist position. They receive specialized training in freeway management systems and ITS solutions such as Advanced Traffic ManagementSystem (ATMS), Automated Incident Detection (AID), Wrong Way Driving (WWD), or Active Traffic Management (ATM) system. TSMO specialists support deployment of arterialmanagement systems. Specialists improved signal timing on Jefferson Avenue to improve mobility during emergency construction; see Jefferson case study.

Outcomes of workforce development efforts include:
• A clearly defined and realistic path in advancing SEMTOC operations set forth by TSMO engineer.
• Improved data utilization by control room specialists to report on mobility metrics and make informed decisions when managing crashes. • Developing a TSMO specialist improved SEMTOC’s ability to oversee systems and identify areas of improvement in operations.

TSMO Culture
Goals of a TSMO culture are to improve coordination, collaboration, and create an environment of knowledge sharing. This cultivates innovation, proactiveness and creativity.
• SEMTOC introduced the “TSMO Series,” which consists of several 15-minute presentations defining TSMO, its goals, why TSMO is important, its history, and other valuable information. Target audiences are control room specialists, with goals of providing information on TSMO and apply it in all facets of daily operations.
• TSMO tidbits were added to internal newsletters highlighting various TSMO applications from across the country, referencing case studies collected by National Operations Centerof Excellence (NOCoE).
• The “TSMO Talk” (videos emailed) videos are 20–30-minute discussions with a variety of experts (public and private) from TSMO-related fields where they are asked questions on a specific topic sparking casual conversation.

TSMO Talks aid in developing workforce staff at TOCs by growing knowledge and capabilities related to utilizing advancements in ITS. Providing the audience with answers on how TSMO concepts are perceived and applied from different perspectives.

These innovations improved knowledge and understanding of TSMO. Staff are taking proactive approaches in daily tasks by sharing knowledge, collaborating, and coordinating. TSMO Talk series greatly assisted in bridging gaps between SEMTOC staff and other stakeholders, as an example, staff are more cognizant of information that SSP deem necessary. Staff also has a better understanding of daily operations that SSP perform.

Communications Planning and Execution

Improving communication and coordination is crucial to create a cohesive and well-integrated TSMO program within operations. SEMTOC has been rigorously working on improving outreach, communication, and collaboration initiatives with City of Detroit Traffic Management Center (TMC); Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties; and many others.

An example of high-level coordination and communication is the management and operation of a freeway crash that led to a full closure. Successfully Managing this crash requiredhigh-level of collaboration. SEMTOC created and coordinated a traffic management plan with MDOT, first responders, Michigan State Police (MSP), and Macomb County. The goalof this plan is to improve mobility and safety. SEMTOC coordinated and collaborated with SSP that blocked part of the intersection to direct traffic. Macomb County operations centerwere informed, and they deployed signal timing changes to accommodate the influx in traffic volumes at surrounding signalized intersections. MSP supplemented the plan bydirecting traffic through the detour route. The high level of coordination and collaboration improved mobility and safety of the crash location and is a great example of multi-disciplinary and network-based operations. For more details, refer to the attached I-94 at 12 Mile case study.

Outcome, Learnings and Public Benefit

Implementing the innovative solutions mentioned in this document had immense positive impacts on operations at SEMTOC. The mindset of the staff transitioned from the traditional approach of operating to specializing in TIM, thus more involvement in decision-making and utilizing data to tailor an improved, proactive approach.

SEMTOC has witnessed a shift in culture with the staff and the ability to have a broader impact on the roadway network. For example:
- Higher morale from the intangible impacts, for example, control room specialists are more enthusiastic about providing solutions that positively impact mobility.
- Higher level of willingness to communicate and coordinate across partner agencies.
- Confidence levels of the staff are improved in decision making.
- Noticeable improvements in proactive behavior of staff in operations such as increased capabilities to suggest improvements and recommendations.
- Improved stakeholder engagement.
- Overall trust relationships between SEMTOC and stakeholders are cultivated through proven efforts. For example, SEMTOC has the capacity to deploy real-time operational changes to the arterial network in response to various events.
- Higher level of mobility metrics understanding and usage.

SEMTOC witnessed enormous improvements in staff capabilities from efforts discussed in this document. As a lesson learned from this experience, improving the TSMO CMM dimensions in operations is vital to advance SEMTOC. Also, an environment of creativity and innovation will foster the advancement in operations.

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