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L17 Academic White Paper


In a time when funding is shrinking and travel demand is growing, increasing congestion on our transportation system must be addressed with all available resources and strategies. Travel interruptions and delays resulting from unanticipated events contribute significantly to congestion and represent an area in which transportation agencies can make significant gains. The benefits of reducing non-recurring congestion – fewer crashes, reduced vehicle emissions and fuel consumption, and others – can be realized through better understanding of strategies, new technology and practices, as well as reducing institutional barriers. The main goal of the Transportation Research Board’s Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) Reliability focus area is to reduce non-recurring congestion and improve travel time reliability through incident reduction, management, response, and mitigation. As the capstone project for the Reliability program, L17 will play a critical role in integrating the findings, methods, and recommendations of all other Reliability research, in addition to providing a bridge to key elements of the SHRP2 Capacity program. The objective of L17 is to advance the integration of transportation systems operation and management (TSM&O) into mainstream transportation agency practice. The most important product of the L17 research, and the Reliability program overall, is a Knowledge Transfer System (KTS) that will serve as an effective means for moving research findings and products into everyday practice.7

An important facet of advancing TSM&O into mainstream agency practice is ensuring that there are professionals available to staff and support TSM&O activities. While there is a strong need for TSM&O practitioners to fill vacancies in transportation agencies, as well as in the consulting firms that support them, the number of qualified candidates is limited. As transportation agencies shift from construction to a more “operate and maintain” focus, the need for entry and mid-level TSM&O practitioners is anticipated to grow. This need will be exacerbated as practitioners in the Baby Boomer generation continue to retire. The resulting workforce gaps can be partly addressed through training for current transportation professionals, but it is also necessary to ensure that there are academic supports for developing future TSM&O professionals. Undergraduate and graduate programs provide the entry-level workforce necessary to support the TSM&O field in the long term.

There has been significant interest in academic support for TSM&O over the past several years. Research studies and working groups have addressed this issue either directly or indirectly. This paper compiles lessons learned and foundational support from prior National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) studies and industry-led efforts identified through the L17 research to present the current status of undergraduate and graduate level curricula to address the need for entry level TSM&O practitioners. First, the paper presents a framework of core competencies – the skills and knowledge (technical and non-technical) – generally required for entry-level positions within TSM&O. This framework is then used to analyze current TSM&O curriculum offerings with a focus on courses for undergraduate and graduate students. This analysis offers lessons learned that highlight gaps within the transportation engineering curriculum that need to be addressed to ensure that more students are exposed to and prepared for careers in TSM&O.This "Academic White Paper" was prepared by ICF International for Project L17. In preparing this white paper the L17 Team identified a number of research reports and resources developed by the transportation industry relevant to the topic of TSM&O curricula. The white paper focus on courses listed in the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) National Transportation Training Resource (NTTR) database, which includes 642 TSM&O-related courses, of which 378 are offered by academic institutions. There are 68 academic institutions with courses in the database. The NTTR database courses are focused on training for transportation engineers; the database contains a limited number of courses relevant to TSM&O outside of the traditional transportation (or civil) engineering field.

Operations Area of Practice

    SHRP2 Tools
    TSMO Culture

Organizational Capability Element

    Performance Management

Content Type

Standards & Recommended Practices

Role in Organization

Transportation Planner
Senior Engineer
Principal Engineer
Manager / First Line Supervisor
Director / Program Manager
CEO / GM / Commissioner
Senior Manager
Transit Professional
Associate Engineer

Publishing Organization

SHRP2 Program

Document Downloads

Project Website

Issue Date