Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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Methods and Procedures

Information is provided here on a number of methods that are widely used in network monitoring at all levels of operation.

Mobile Patrols

The responsibilities of patrol officers are to:

  • rapidly detect unplanned events on the network, especially in areas and at times susceptible to problems
  • implement the appropriate response
  • restore normal or optimal operations as soon as practicable

To carry out this task the patrol officer monitors the assigned network segment, reports and responds to minor incidents where appropriate. Patrols are developed only if an Operations Centre is capable of undertaking actions proposed by the patrol reports.

Patrol operating procedures, schedules and routes will depend on the department’s objectives and operating strategy, and they must be adjusted to meet actual needs (scope and frequency of problems) and resources available.

Patrols may be conducted in various patterns:

  • continuously throughout the network
  • periodically on major routes (from several times a day to a few times a month)
  • to target certain periods and/or roadways (weekends, for example)
  • in response to events, or alarms

Patrol officers must carry, in their vehicle, a procedures manual, automatic response sheets, a logbook, a communications device (radio, telephone), and possibly response equipment.

Patrol officer training must include an introduction to specific reporting procedures and the submission of reports in a standardised format (For example: I am arriving on the site / I am leaving the site, traffic is reduced to one vehicle approximately every five seconds, the traffic jam is at least 600 m long and growing). (See Mobile Service Patrols)

Aerial Observation

The purpose of aerial observation is to obtain comprehensive information in real time on events in progress in a broader area not systematically equipped to gather data. This essentially involves large migrations as well as serious traffic disruptions: events generating high traffic density, extensive flooding, etc. From the air, an observer can monitor the system, analyse the situation and send information to a central operations centre on traffic conditions as well as implementation of operating measures, which can be reconsidered or completed.

Aerial observation missions provide the opportunity to complement raw data with an analysis and potential solutions together with real-time observations of driver behaviour and the effectiveness of response actions. Nevertheless aerial observations are expensive and are viable only for exceptional events and heavily trafficked areas that routinely experience a high frequency of disruptive incidents.

After-hours Duty Desk

The after-hours duty desk ensures the continuation of some operational tasks outside business hours, with priority on roadway and equipment maintenance. The principle is to provide all external services with a point of contact (duty officer) to record the call and forward the information received to the appropriate department(s), potentially to initiate response or inform partners about the status of the network.

The duty desk essentially involves:

  • receiving, validating and enhancing information, circulating to the appropriate organisations and departments and forwarding it as requested
  • dispatching incident or emergency response and monitoring response actions

The specific resources for the duty desk include:

  • human resources (duty officers with specific training, on-going supervision)
  • material resources (such as CCTV, telephone, radio, procedures manual, maps and directories, event log, response requisitions, decision support systems)

This task requires an intense effort in terms of organisation and communication both internally and externally but it also contributes to improving the department’s efficiency as much from the perspective of users as of partners.

Keeping an event Log

The purpose of keeping a log is to improve management through the monitoring and tracking of events. The following must be chronologically recorded, in real time and using a reliable medium:
  • all calls concerning roadway events, whether within the section or from partners and users
  • all decisions made and actions taken

Calls may be recorded in a format that includes:

  • the date and time of the call
  • name and title of caller
  • reason for call
  • location of problem resulting in the call

The decisions made and actions taken must also be noted, including the date and time.

A log must be kept in real time and the information logged must be complete. The usefulness of a log is directly dependent on the experience and qualifications of the officer who writes it. In major events, a person must be assigned exclusively to this task.

Each participant in the operation of the road system must keep a log of their assigned tasks: after-hours duty officers, patrol officers, winter maintenance services, operating control centres, etc. The log may be kept in a notebook or electronically on a computer.

Since records may be used in legal proceedings, the log must be impossible to falsify (non-removable numbered pages or secure electronic copy).

Maintaining comprehensive logs (record everything in real time, as events unfold, with no possibility of changing entries after they are made) ensures:

  • accountability of officers
  • improved information on network vulnerabilities
  • contribution to critical analysis of a given organisation
  • improved cooperation with partners
  • improved circulation of information
  • reliable information in the event of legal proceedings

Managing Traffic Counts

The goal here is to obtain reliable, representative statistics to analyse traffic disruptions and propose solutions, thus providing road users with authoritative information on forecast events.

To do this, the network operations department needs the ability to provide well-informed solutions based on expert analysis of traffic volumes, traffic distribution and the evolution of traffic trends. It must collate and validate data for future operational planning and for the provision of valuable traffic statistics.

The data required for traffic studies differs according to the problem to be addressed, for example:

  • aggregate measurements over a variety of periods, such as: a few seconds, 1 minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 6 minutes , 1 hour, 1 day;
  • for each year, the average daily traffic and percentage of heavy trucks (for road maintenance programming, development studies and economic studies)
  • weekend outbound and return traffic
  • monthly traffic
  • peak period traffic (for identifying and implementing alternate routes)
  • hours with heavier average traffic (for planning road work periods or the need for patrols)
  • day and night traffic (for mapping traffic noise)

Interpretation of counts often requires consideration of other factors such as weather data, incidents, accidents, major events. It is therefore necessary to relate the collated traffic data to records and observations summarising the day’s events.

Conducting traffic count studies requires high-performance counting equipment, and computers to process the date including:

  • databases or files in standard formats to allow the use of common software in all sections
  • a location reference system that can be easily linked to a road reference framework

The complexity of data management, count evaluation and simulation tools, requires basic training in traffic engineering and in statistics to ensure credible, relevant results.

Traffic Forecasts

The network operator needs to forecast as accurately as possible, often in real-time, the anticipated traffic in the network in order to be prepared to manage the consequences. This is especially important during known high-risk periods.

The programme proceeds as follows:

  • identify comparable periods, networks or situations
  • identify factors likely to skew comparisons (such as the creation or closure of infrastructures, changes to police measures, adverse weather, special popular events)
  • survey corresponding traffic flows
  • apply potential corrective factors
  • study how traffic develops in reality
  • develop and revise forecasts as necessary
  • determine the margin for error in traffic estimates
  • make comparisons with any forecasts produced by other services

The programme requires:

  • consultation of relevant, reliable databases
  • customised software
  • complementary surveys

There is always the risk of an unexpected event (such as adverse weather, major disruptions on a neighbouring arterial) occurring at the last minute, making established forecasts totally irrelevant. Furthermore, some preventive operating measures may prove inadequate. However, regular attention to near-term and future traffic forecasts will reduce the likelihood and frequency of an emergency response being needed.


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