TSMO Strategies and Implementation Across Caltrans

California Department of Transportation District 7

In This Case Study You Will Learn

  1. Efforts to align Caltrans) with TSMO principals began in early 2013 with a multi- agency workshop at the FHWA California Division Office, followed by a more focused workshop in Caltrans District 7.
  2. Addressing the organizational structure and makeup was a major emphasis to achieve the successful deployments of the TSMO strategies.
  3. The TSMO-focused organizational structure enabled Caltrans to make major strides in this area where historically prior models with fragmented structures have shown noticeable shortfalls.

Background

As congestion spreads and intensifies and the level of incidents, delays and disruptions increase and the level of service and reliability on the roadway systems in many areas continues to deteriorate. In large metropolitan areas, more than half of the total delay results from system unreliability which brings about disruptions and incidents. Many of which are not substantially dealt with by adding new capacity.

Transportation System Management and Operations (TSMO) capitalizes on the full service potential and cost effectiveness of the complete range of the well-known strategies, such as the following: Traffic Incident Management, Work zone management, Traveler information services and demand management, Road weather information, Freeway management and managed lanes, Traffic signal operation, Electronic payment/toll collection, Emergency response, and Freight management.

The logic for aggressive pursuit of TSMO is compelling. TSMO strategies are cost-effective with relatively short lead time. There is a wide gap, however, among regions between state-of-the-practice applications and average practice regarding the effectiveness of their TSMO activities, reflecting differences in the degree of commitment in terms of organization, resources, program innovation. Research suggests that the key challenges to improved effectiveness are no longer primarily related to technology or understanding of best practices. The effectiveness of Departments of Transportation is closely related to development of equivalent specific processes and institutional arrangements for TSMO in the following six key dimensions: Business Processes (Planning, programming, resource allocation), Systems & Technology, Performance measurement, Culture, Organization/Staffing, and Collaboration. The interdependencies between the program-specific applications and the business and technical process dimensions is evident in supporting institutional arrangements needed for achieving full effectiveness and continual improvement; especially for agencies and regions with basic TSMO strategies already in place.

There is a wide gap, however, among regions between state-of-the-practice applications and average practice regarding the effectiveness of their TSMO activities, reflecting differences in the degree of commitment in terms of organization, resources, program innovation. California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 7, Los Angeles was selected as a pilot organization to experience the assessment and implement the findings of the capability maturity framework. This presented an ideal opportunity as the District 7 Division of Traffic Operations had already embarked on an organizational reformation to align its practices with the principals of TSMO. As such, the methodology focused on the institutional arrangements, namely organizational structure and staff capabilities to promote technical focus, efficiency and accountability.

TSMO Planning, Strategies and Deployment

Planning

Efforts to align the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) with TSMO principals and associated preparedness for organizational capability and professional capacity build-up began in early 2013 with a multi- agency workshop at the Federal Highway Administration California Division Office in Sacramento followed by a more focused workshop in Caltrans District 7.

The workshops provided the forum to develop a consensus evaluation of the state of practice and promising next steps in advancing the effectiveness of Caltrans’ TSMO efforts at the state and District levels, with potential consideration of conducting similar workshops at the regional level around the state.

The Workshop participants identified the current levels of capability as related to key processes, organization, staff collaboration and related actions in each area that could assist the region in defining the priorities among an array of possible actions to improve statewide and regional TSMO efforts. A Capability Maturity approach was utilized in the workshops that focused on the following key dimensions that impact program effectiveness: (i) business processes, (ii) systems and technology, (iii) performance measurement, (iv) culture, (v) organization/staffing, and (vi) collaboration. The group recognized that improving these capabilities is essential to continuous improvement of TSMO and its performance impacts.

A summary matrix of the consensus issues and views of the participants regarding current strengths and weaknesses, the levels of capability implied, and key improvement actions to get to the next levels of capability was developed. Next, these matrixes were used to identify the key actions needed to improve TSMO within Caltrans and among its partners statewide in each of the six key capability dimensions.

A “Capability Maturity Model” employed to support self-evaluation and identification of critical priority “next steps” to placing TSMO activities on a path to improved outcomes on a continuing basis. The Model focused on the aforementioned six key dimensions needed for improving efficiency and outcome effectiveness; recognized that improvements must be implemented in incremental and “doable” levels that can be managed; and identified priorities for management—in terms of the most highly leveraging actions that improve efficiency and effectiveness up to the next level.

The Process dimensions which were considered in the workshop were:

  • Planning, programming, and resource allocation for TSMO – Programs are planned and executed based on mobility needs. Capital, operating and maintenance costs are properly allocated to ensure that systems operations and management has its appropriate place in the agencies’ overall improvement programs.
  • Systems and Technology – Documentation of systems and procedures, including applications selection, ConOps, architecture and field procedures, are standardized to ensure consistency and reliability.
  • Performance measurement – Measurement, reporting, and use in continuous improvement to achieve customer service outcomes.
  • The Institutional dimensions considered were:
  • Culture that reflects an understanding of TSMO potential and its role in the transportation agencies customer service mission and investment context.
  • Organizational structure and staff capabilities to promote technical focus, efficiency and accountability.
  • Collaboration among partners who must be involved in TSMO service delivery, aligned to ensure effective application of TSMO strategies.

Deployment

The initiative referred to as “Organizing of District 7 Traffic Operations for Corridor Management,” was undertaken by the Caltrans to help align the Division of Traffic Operations in urban districts with the principles of system management. Its goal was to help foster a system TSMO culture in order to maximize the performance of the existing and future transportation system. The project addressed only District 7, the most congested Caltrans District in California. It was meant as a pilot that other urban Districts can and indeed are considering to implement now and into the future.

The project called for developing two to three prospective organizational charts, presenting these options to District management and revising them as appropriate, developing a more detailed organizational chart for the preferred option selected, and working with District management and staff to develop an implementation plan.

Based on input from the Strategic Team, the organizational options were to focus on the following priorities in order to align District 7’s organizational structure to support more effective and sustainable deployment of TSMO strategies:

  • Establish Accountability for Corridor Performance
  • Improve Planning for Operations
  • Expand Real-Time Active Traffic Management
  • Address Stovepipe Problems
  • Ensure Responsiveness to Partners

To address the priorities outlined above, four organizational options were developed and vetted through District 7 executive management, Operations Office Chiefs, Senior Operations staff, and the Strategic Team. The options are as follows:

  1. Traditional Matrix Organization (with sub-options for short and long term)
  2. Needs-Based Corridor Management Teams Organization
  3. Dedicated Corridor Management Staff Organization
  4. A TSMO-focused organization that relies heavily on system performance monitoring and evaluation and corridor management accountability (with sub-options for the short and long term)

Ultimately, the TSMO-focused organization structure was selected since in aligned best with current staffing structure, geographical organization, and scalability across Caltrans. The TSMO-focused organization option also supports the move to an organizational model that focuses on corridor and system management, provides a platform to respond to some of the issues raised in the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) review of Caltrans.

Conclusion

The TSMO-focused organizational structure enabled Caltrans to make major strides in this area where historically prior models with fragmented structures have shown noticeable shortfalls. The performance and ability to develop and sustain expertise to meet the challenges of a major metropolitan region over time, evidence suggests that the organization and public is better served by the TSMO/CM structure we have put in place. There is also inherent benefit to our ongoing succession planning and implementation efforts that take advantage of training and the development tied to both areas while getting exposed to real world problem solving opportunities.


Operations Area of Practice

  • Strategic Planning

Organizational Capability Element

  • Planning
  • Leadership/Championship
  • Program Status/Authorities
  • Organizational Structure/Staffing
  • Program Status

Content Type

  • Case Studies & Lessons Learned

Publishing Organization

  • NOCoE

Document Downloads

Issue Date
February 10th, 2019
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