T3 Webinar Question and Answer Transcript

Using ITS to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Program (October 30, 2013)

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Q. What's the URL for the Federal Highway report?
A.

Paul Jodoin: That was not a TIM performance measures report. That was an overall Federal Highway performance measures report, an overall performance measures I believe that Brian Hoeft had mentioned. Here it is: www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/performance_based_planning/pbpp_guidebook/pbppguidebook.pdf.

Brian Hoeft: I will find it and type it in the chat box in a couple of minutes.

Q. What is your budget for the overall for all the data used to analyze your data performance measures and how did you fund this?
A.

Brian Hoeft: We were fortunate to make a very strategic and excellent hire in a project engineer who has developed that dashboard in-house and it's something that we continue to update and bring in new features as we see the need for them and it's also something that he designed and developed using off-the-shelf software. We have and I can make this available as well. There was something in a transportation research record a couple of years ago that describes the dashboard and so that can be put out to the group. The thing that makes it work is the investment that MnDOT has made and our ability to keep all the detectors and all the devices operating.

Paul Jodoin: And Brian Kary, I know you have a similar setup. Don't you do a lot of your software in-house versus contractor?

Brian Kary: Yeah that's correct, we have our ATMS system we have an Iris software that we developed in-house and it's now available open source and so like Caltrans has actually deployed it in a couple of their centers. The TMS software that I mentioned in my presentation is actually an Iteris product originally Berkeley Transportation Systems so that one we actually did purchase I think we spent about $250,000 for the purchase of the software and the integration into our system and then it's about $70,000 a year to maintain it so we had gotten some ITS funds for the original deployment and then we were just kind of using our operating budget right now to cover the ongoing maintenance and operations but the way we kind of see it is we can do a lot more with fewer staff so it's really helped us a lot. Things that used to take people hours can now be done in practically seconds so it really kind of helps better utilize the folks we have.

Q. How did you manage the software upgrade path with so much technology that quickly gets out of date? How do you keep it updated every couple of years?
A.

Paul Jodoin: That's a very good question. Anyone want to take a stab at that?

Brian Kary: This is Brian Kary from Minnesota. For us, because we've got the in-house software developers, I think it makes it a little bit easier for us because we incorporate those new technologies, those new devices, into our Iris software. And then Iris provides a feed into the TMS software, which as long as we're providing a feed that TMS recognizes, then it makes it a little bit easier for any kind of integration with that third party vendor software. So that's kind of how we've managed it.

Q. MnDOT has 550 cameras time three to five days of video. How much storage space do you need?
A.

Brian Kary: Yes it's a lot. I had to run and ask somebody quick during Rick's presentation but we have basically seven servers and the seven servers can handle one hundred cameras each so we just got our seventh server so that one has got a few on it. But we reserve about forty gigabytes per camera and I think we said it was about three to four terabytes per server. So it's a substantial amount, but the seven servers then reside in our computer room here at the RTMC.

Q. Variable speed limit is shown in Minneapolis. In California we have not been able to get the Highway Patrol to agree with force of variable speed limits so we plan to advertise it as variable speed limit speed. Do you have any resistance to the variable speed limit?
A.

Brian Kary: Actually, ours is the same. I probably neglected to say that. It is actually advisory, it is not regulatory.

Paul Jodoin: I don't know what everyone else's experience is with advisory, but it doesn't have the same hook to it. But it does in a way accomplish what we're trying to accomplish with the variable speed limits because I had, we used to reduce the speed in Massachusetts during snow and ice operations and the police used to say “Well that's alright. We can still ticket them because if we recommend a speed limit and they're exceeding it, then they are probably driving to endanger or something like that.” So we had some pretty good cooperation with the Massachusetts State Police. Even if it was advisory, they'd find another way to hit someone if it was necessary…

Q. What ATMS system do you use?
A.

Ricky Via: We predominantly use Open Roads at this time but we'll be merging through a system offered through Delcan.

Brian Hoeft: In Las Vegas, we use a version of Kimley-Horn's KITS system.

Brian Kary: And from Minnesota I already kind of mentioned that the Iris software.

Brian Hoeft: Also, getting back to that previous question about data upgrades and how do we avoid having to overhaul everything every couple of years, I can get answers to that, but I would have to consult with some of my experts. My answers here. Probably wouldn't be worth everybody's time, but I can definitely do some follow up if anybody is interested.

Q. Is the information shown for the work zone incident shared with the Virginia state or local police? And is any new information entered by the police dispatchers into their CAD system or automatically into your software system?
A.

Ricky Via: Yeah. The first part of the question in response would be yes. State Police typically work our work zone accidents because it usually involves a state common interest there, so state police is engaged from the investigative aspect as well as engaged. Each region has what you call a safety work zone coordinator who also is required to participate in these initial investigations and come up with an internal review of the process as well. To compliment that whole process is anything that goes on within a particular region, we have what you call these traffic incident management committee meetings and they talk about some of these events that do occur and so they are work zone issues are considered high profile to us as well. So we re-discuss those at a regional level within those TIMs meetings as well to see any preventive things we could do. As far as the CAD information, the CAD information is a separate distinctive system that we are porting in obviously. It is filtered to traffic-only. It is not currently integrated within our current TMS Traffic Management System. But what we are wanting to do in the future is have that integrated and then populate parent event and then it creates sub-events under that so eventually that will be the future vision to tie it all together. But it is a separate distinct system at this time.

Q. Are you performing TIM in managing data on the arterials?
A.

Ricky Via: I'd say in Virginia, absolutely. We want to partner because we realize that these events do create issues within the local communities and so they are actively engaged with wanting the data, wanting to better understand how we can partner. And then also when we divert traffic and things of that nature so we're definitely keeping them engaged and we want to monitor that. There's also that additional participation of optimizing the signals and then making sure we have advanced coordinated plans in play to engage during periods of crashes and things of that nature.

Brian Hoeft: This is Brian in Las Vegas. Our TIM coalition does include metro PD and the local entities. In terms of some of the data, we don't have the arterials instrumented like we have the freeways instrumented so we can't do quite the same thing that we do on the arterials. We are exploring some opportunities with our dashboard to see what we can quantify and then also because we do control timing plans with most of the signalized intersections. There's some work we can do there when those incidents occur, plus our camera coverage on a lot of the arterials is really, really good.

Brian Kary: From Minnesota, it's probably an area that we're kind of expanding, too. Our focus has mainly been on freeways, historically. Now we're getting more cameras, more data on the arterials and then we'll have to certainly bring in more of the local responders and such that are on those corridors as well. So it's probably more of a growing area for us.

Q. Do you see the benefit of an automated decision support tool for traffic data analysis or response plan suggestions? Any experience of plans using such a tool? Anybody?
A.

Brian Kary: From Minnesota, I've always been a little skeptical of some of those type of systems—just seeing the cost of them and the complexities of them and then wondering how would we, if we were to ever actually create something like that, maintain it, having the staff knowledgeable enough to use it and keep it up to date? So I've always been a little bit leery of them.

Brian Hoeft: Yeah. I would say from the Las Vegas perspective, now that we're really rolling up our sleeves with the data, there may be an opportunity to look at the incidents and the diversions and the secondaries and see if there's an opportunity. But what we would want to do is use the real data that we have and see how that could help shape these efforts. In the past, they've kind of come down from big picture ideas, but now we have the opportunity to vet them carefully with the data that we're gathering.

Ricky Via: Paul, from Virginia's perspective, I can see it certainly is a potential opportunity. But one of the challenges is having quality data and making sure you are drawing from the apples to apples and oranges to oranges aspect and not having issues of missing data out there that mislead you.

Paul Jodoin: Yeah, that's frankly always the challenge isn't it? That's an ongoing challenge that I think we all probably experience, so good point.

Q. Are the snapshots taken automatically or are they a manual effort by a TMC operator? And I think that might be referring to slide 28.
A.

Brian Hoeft: Okay, that is something that we set up that is automatic. When the technician right-clicks on the link where the incident is, it starts archiving the snapshots and it's based on the location and then cameras are automatically selected.

Q. Why is MnDOT recording video? Are you prepared to handle all of the subpoenas for that information?
A.

Brian Kary: We've had the system for probably five years and I think we've only been subpoenaed once and it never went to court so it's been more of a fear than an actual reality I think at this point.

Paul Jodoin: That's going to be discussed on the webinar on November 21st but that's been our experience. We've had this discussion a couple of dozen times throughout the country when I had the opportunity to do the advanced workshops and the reality is that you don't get the subpoenas and the requests for the data as much as you might think. Wisconsin, for example, records. I know them pretty well, and they do get some information. But most of the people have addressed the information by kind of what Brian said that it's on a little twenty-four hours, forty-eight, three to five days, whatever that loop is that the video is actually gone by the time the lawyers or anybody else is looking for the information who wants it. But the video is extremely valuable for training and we emphasize that for after-action reviews and for training. So we do encourage the use of recorded video but what we've heard from around the country the fears are not have not come to what has always been the fear, what's expected.

Q. National transportation performance measures rules are currently in development NPRM process. A number of speakers alluded to using data from the ITS equipment to detail system performance. Any coordination with DOT planners to additional data needs from ITS?
A.

Paul Jodoin: Why would we coordinate with planners? For crying out loud, I don't know. Anybody have that?

Brian Hoeft: You know that report that I referenced made some very valid points. So I think it's worth exploring. One of the things that the planners have to do is put together the plans and the programming documents that are linked to the funding that goes into these things so that's an opportunity to grab some additional funding to help our efforts.

Brian Kary: Yeah, I think certainly from Minnesota, too. I meet with our planners quite a bit—talking about performance measures and what kind of data we can provide. So there's a pretty close working relationship between operations and planning.

Ricky Via: And from Virginia's perspective, we have an operation planning division so basically what happens is it kind of starts at the central office level and migrates to the field and we have annual needs assessments taking place as well as we look at project scoping and we look at long-term range planning and we look at the overall ITS architecture so there's lots of high level involvement that migrates to the field and then there's regional input to push our priorities as well in partnership to make sure we can deliver what is needed.

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