Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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Planning Procedures

Planning for Road Network Operations involves consideration of the organisational requirements for the operational activities including preventive actions. Practical constraints (such as inter-agency demarcations) and on-going local factors must be defined together with the supporting information systems and decision-making or control systems that are needed. The success of a plan depends on the distribution of activities between partners and on their full knowledge and understanding of their assigned tasks.

Generally, design procedures require the following:

  • identify underlying traffic and road environmental problems
  • identify the road network section to be covered in the project
  • define objectives including performance criteria
  • select functions and services, including vehicle detection and traffic monitoring
  • identify the information strategy to best achieve the goals
  • identify partners to be involved in the project
  • select technologies based on functional requirements
  • determine funding resources
  • obtain any inter-agency agreements needed
  • implement the project

Establishing a Reference Database

The lead organisation for traffic management on the network will need a reliable database for preparing, organising, implementing, managing and assessing operations more effectively. This will enable the organisation to become a valuable resource for addressing ad hoc issues concerning the network, the need for studies and for providing statistical material for publications. (See Data Management and Archiving)

Data includes:

  • details of the infrastructure
  • sensitive points
  • equipment, including static and mobile equipment
  • traffic data used by computerised systems
  • accident and traffic statistics
  • past events and their consequences
  • events in progress or planned
  • operating partners and players
  • tools and methodologies

This data will be supplemented with:

  • traffic management plans
  • a series of instructions and automatic response sheets
  • a collection of ad hoc data (travel time, occasional traffic counts)
  • assessments and survey results
  • feedback on experience

The tools needed to establish the database are:

  • computers and software for developing, processing and viewing computer databases (geographic information systems)
  • map coverage of the network to a suitable scale
  • video recordings and digital imaging

The network management database is not static: there will be a continual, on-going requirement for up-dates.

Maintenance of the data files is a meticulous, time-consuming process that demands specific training to achieve the results required. Theoretical knowledge of the network and its environment must be supplemented with hands-on experience and local knowledge. For example, to determine whether a planned detour is realistic, it is necessary to know as accurately as possible the level of traffic on each road segment. Lessons learnt from the analysis and response of actual situations must be factored into establishing response procedures for future events.

Events Database

The purpose of an events database is to forecast periods when the probability of traffic disruption is high. The task consists of studying the calendar (dates of public holidays, school holidays and major planned sporting, cultural and entertainment events) and comparing it with previous years, comparable past situations and/or weather forecasts.

Implementation involves specific stages:

  • information gathering (holidays, traffic data, weather conditions, planned events, unplanned events)
  • ranking the information by event typology (based on the type of intervention and methods to be applied)
  • analysing previous similar situations
  • producing calendar-type documents:
    • annual – for risks attributable to seasonal variations in traffic volumes;
    • shorter term – for risks linked to weather conditions, popular sporting, leisure or cultural events

The task requires painstaking attention to detail in collecting and analysing data, particularly keeping logs. It is vital work and helps improve the management of the road network – thereby decreasing the number of unplanned incident and emergency response situations.

Procedure Manuals

The purpose of a procedures manual is to define the operating actions of all roadway partners and guide their implementation. A procedure manual consists of listing all tasks to be performed and all resources required to carry out the task specified for each event or incident scenario. Procedure manuals can be produced for roadworks, mobile traffic patrols, traffic monitoring and traffic management plans. The production of procedure manuals is a good subject for initiating and fostering cooperation with partners.

The events to be handled and their consequences will sometimes differ slightly from the scenarios studied. Although procedure manuals need to be detailed, they can and should leave room for some initiative by those at whom they are aimed.

Since procedures manuals are tools common to many partners, it is important to ensure that the reference framework and vocabulary are understood by all. The design of manuals that link to various plans – must be consistent and support cross-referencing. They must be periodically updated and the updates to all documents must be distributed. The provision of procedure manuals on-line may be the best way of keeping them current and available.

Performance Monitoring

There is a twofold objective in tracking the performance of the operating measures:

  • to determine whether the measures taken have achieved and continue to achieve their objectives, with resources that are sufficient and proportionate
  • to adapt future measures accordingly

Monitoring methods must be developed to quantify the impact of the measures implemented and detect dysfunctions or serious variance from anticipated results.

This approach relies on information gathering that must be a systematic and a planned part of routine documenting procedure (logs, fact sheets and other reports).

A small number of basic performance indicators must be defined case-by-case and changes tracked over time. To define these indicators without overlooking key points, the following factors can serve as a guide:

  • relevance: are the actions, decisions, information, interventions, scenarios, instructions or procedures relevant?
  • communication: is information provided where this would be useful – and do users understand it?
  • knowledge of events: are partners informed of all relevant events; is the information adequate and correct – and if not – what are the consequences?
  • timing: is information gathered and disseminated when needed to support effective decision making and actions?
  • comparison of forecasts and actual data: where forecasts are made are they accurate – and what are the consequences of variances from forecasts (unnecessary work, improvised or poorly adapted measures)?
  • updates: are various components periodically updated (manuals of procedure, work procedures, databases, reporting mechanisms, directories, maps or information bulletins)?
  • staff: are officers adequately trained for their duties?
  • costs: what costs can be identified (time spent and budget) – how are they changing and are they proportionate?

See Measuring Performance

Updating RNO Procedures

The purpose of updating the operating procedures is to plan for, and justify, the resources appropriate to the context. Resources can include hardware, software and documents as well as personnel organisation and training. The context will cover the traffic situation, incident response infrastructure, organisation of other services, user needs and available technologies.

Updating procedures and operating methods extend to physical assets as well as documentation and service organisation. It specifically requires:

  • defining and applying systematic procedures for monitoring existing operating methods (for example – annual information/motivation sessions for officers, annual document updates)
  • remaining attentive, and anticipating changes, to the context (infrastructure, traffic, operating policy, service changes, user needs, technologies, partners) and analysing their impact on operations
  • gathering specific data (counts, compliance rates with VMS recommendations) and monitoring a few simple indicators (frequency of use, availability of equipment and/or organisations)

This work requires effort that is rarely spontaneous – and ultimately may highlight needs for specific resources (studies and production of documents). The outcome may be elimination of unnecessary or out-dated working methods. It is also fairly common for objectives and strategies that are initially defined – to be revised in light of experience gained.


Reference sources

Seymour, E.J. J.D. Carvell, Jr., J.L. Carson, and R.E. Brydia (Texas Transportation Institute 2005) Handbook for Developing a TMC Operations Manual FHWA-HOP-06-015 US Federal Highways Agency Washington D.C.