Monday, June 10, 2013

Op-Ed: Integrated Corridor Management, transportation agencies can all be friends!

What’s the problem?
Didn’t get home in time to watch Jeopardy because you were stuck in traffic? Late to your bowling league because of a crash blocking two lanes? Missed your child being born due to unexpected lane closures?
Okay maybe that’s a little over the top but probably close to accurate for some people. The 2012 Urban Mobility Report released by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) calculates that the extra time that one must plan for a trip ranges from 9 minutes (Pensacola, FL) to almost 3 hours (Washington, DC) for a trip that usually takes 30 minutes on a freeway.

Beside time, there are other losses for motorists when sitting in traffic such as wasted fuel. TTI reported 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel from congestion in 2012. That is enough to fill the New Orleans Superdome 4 times! Their calculations also reported an average loss of $818 per commuter and an additional 380 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

We have all heard the saying about how we can’t build ourselves out of congestion so it makes sense to utilize our existing infrastructure and make it as efficient as possible. The United States Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration has been working on a new strategy that allows current systems to be as efficient as possible. The strategy is called Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) and aims to use many Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) strategies to minimize congestion.

I propose ICM as a method to reduce congestion in metropolitan corridors. ICM should be championed by a local agency whether it is the local metropolitan planning agency or transit authority.

How can ICM benefit our transportation system?
Integrated Corridor Management intends to operate the transportation system as a whole and not as separate links. It requires all transportation agencies in an area, including transit, to work together and communicate what is happening on their systems in real-time. ICM can reduce congestion and improve the reliability of travel times.

This strategy has been implemented at several pilot sites including the US 75 corridor networks in Dallas, Texas.  Their strategy included route diversion to frontage roads, local arterials and transit during congestion and incidents. They also informed travelers in advance so travelers could decide if they wanted to switch modes. Imagine driving into a metro area and a sign telling you how long it will take to get downtown if you drive or if you park and ride the light rail? Other strategies are responsive traffic signal systems, transit signal priority, arterial monitoring, parking management, real-time transit information and information dissemination to the public. Please see the Dallas Area Rapid Transit agency’s presentation online for more details on their specific strategies.  They project that the implementation will improve travel time reliability by 3% and a benefit/cost ratio of 20:1.

How would it be implemented?
Think about Interstate 84 in inner east Portland. The State DOT owns and operates the interstate while City of Portland owns and operates all of the parallel arterials (Burnside, Halsey, etc.). Trimet runs the MAX adjacent to I-84 and also runs busses on I-84 and local arterials. Oregon State Highway Patrol enforces the highway while city police enforce the arterials. There is a lot of disconnect and some overlap in the way these systems are being operated today. Each authority has their means and methods to operate their systems and it’s not the easiest to assimilate the different technologies. It’s also not the easiest to change the agency mindset from their specific corridor to the mindset of a network. ICM requires a technological integration but an institutional integration needs to take place primarily.

Essentially, in order for ICM to function, there needs to be “a Champion” on the local level. Ideally the champion would be the regional metropolitan planning agency or regional transit authority. Sometimes it can be a third-party such in the case of Dallas’ system. ICM should be incorporated into system plans and the Champion should coordinate the state, regional and local authorities. ICM requires buy-in from all stakeholders. Politically this can be a tough proposal. Most agencies are reluctant to give up control on their systems and many formal agreements will need to take place. ororif

ICM aims to integrate the technological systems so that all agencies can share the control and responsibility of the entire corridor. The USDOT has worked on best practices for integrating systems.
Here in Portland Metro
Metro brought in FHWA in December 2012 to do a technology transfer seminar of Integrated Corridor Management so it may be something we see in the future!

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