Minnesota

Overview of TIM Program

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) Incident Management Program, operated in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, contains three primary components:  the Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC), the Freeway Incident Response Safety Team (FIRST), and a 511 traveler information system. The RTMC houses the Minnesota State Patrol (MSP), MnDOT Maintenance, and MnDOT Freeway Operations, all of which work together to quickly detect, respond to, and remove incidents from the freeway systems. FIRST, MnDOT’s freeway service patrol program, dispatches units from the RTMC using a Global Positioning System-based automatic vehicle location system. This systems allows FIRST to track the location of all vehicles and assures that the closest trucks to incidents are dispatched, keeping response time to minimum. FIRST operates primarily between 3:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.; however, there is limited coverage on weekends. The 511 traveler information service provides real-time, accurate information to travelers regarding road conditions.[1]

Data Collection and Management

MnDOT is the leading agency in the state for collecting and reporting TIM performance measurement data. MnDOT started TIM performance measurement over a decade ago as a way of measuring the operational performance of the RTMC. In 2008, the Republican National Convention served as a catalyst towards formalization of TIM performance measurement within the department.

Around this same time, MnDOT provided funding to the MSP to upgrade its computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system, which included fully integrating the RTMC with the upgraded CAD system. Prior to the RTMC-CAD integration, MnDOT used an Access database to manage its incident data; TMC operators monitored the MSP radio, identified incidents, and manually entered data into the advanced traffic management system (ATMS). While this approach worked well and generated a large amount of data, it relied heavily on manual input and resulted in redundant data. The RTMC-CAD integration greatly facilitated the data collection and management process by removing particular steps of data entry, increasing efficiency. In addition, the RTMC-CAD integration provided MnDOT with more accurate incident start times, which are based on the times when events are created in the system, whether by MSP troopers, 911 dispatchers, TMC operators, or FIRST personnel. The RTMC receives incident start times, officer arrival times, and incident clearance times from the MSP. RTMC staff is responsible for entering time-stamped remarks for lane clearance times and tow arrival times. Additionally, RTMC operators can view remarks as they are entered into the CAD system. While these remarks are not automatically captured, TMC operators are able to monitor and input relevant information. From the time of the integration in 2008 through 2013, MnDOT received the data annually from the MSP on a compact disc. In 2013, MnDOT purchased a module from the CAD vendor that outputs a real-time Extensible Markup Language (XML) data feed directly to MnDOT.

Performance Analysis and Reporting

Figure 1 and Figure 2 below were generated using annual TIM performance data provided by MnDOT.[2] Figure 1 shows the six-year trend (2008-2013) for average roadway clearance time (RCT). Figure 2 shows the same six-year trend for average incident clearance time (ICT). The performance trends are shown separately by incident type, including crashes, injury crashes, rollovers, spinouts, blocking stalls, blocking unoccupied stalls, as well as the overall annual performance averages (indicated by the dashed trend lines). Not only do these graphs indicate how overall TIM performance is trending, but they also provide information on how performance is trending for different types of incidents in relation to the overall average and other incident types. This type of information can be useful in identifying if there are specific types of incidents that need special attention. For example, while the average RCTs for most incident types decreased or generally held steady over the six-year period, the average RCTs for spinouts gradually increased over the six-year period. Armed with this information, the TIM partners could explore ways to improve RCT for these types of incidents.

Figure 1. Minnesota Department of Transportation Traffic Incident Management Performance 6-Year Trend – Average RCT by Incident Type

Figure 1. Minnesota Department of Transportation Traffic Incident Management Performance 6-Year Trend – Average RCT by Incident Type

Figure 2. Minnesota Department of Transportation Traffic Incident Management Performance 6-Year Trend – Average ICT by Incident Type

Figure 2. Minnesota Department of Transportation Traffic Incident Management Performance 6-Year Trend – Average ICT by Incident Type

Benefits of TIM Performance Measurement

One of the benefits of the performance data has been the continued support of MnDOT’s FIRST program from upper management within the agency. A benefit-cost analysis was conducted on the performance of the FIRST program in order to make the case to MnDOT management. The analysis, conducted in 2004, shows the program at a 15.8:1 benefit/cost ratio..[3] In 2008, MnDOT reported 87 percent of the public as being supportive of the program.[4] Having this detailed information regarding both the monetized and anecdotal benefits of the program has been essential in maintaining financial support for FIRST.

Participation of the MSP at the RTMC also has been essential for the ongoing success of the Incident Management Program in Minnesota, and MnDOT’s processes, including the collection and analysis of TIM performance data, would not be as successful without the RTMC-CAD integration.

 

[1] Minnesota DOT, Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC), http://www.dot.state.mn.us/rtmc/. Accessed February 25, 2016.
[2] Minnesota DOT
[3] Minnesota DOT, FIRST Program Evaluation, November 2004, http://www.dot.state.mn.us/rtmc/reports/first/2004FIRSTprogramEvaluation.pdf.
[4] Minnesota DOT, FAQ – Freeway Incident Response Safety Team (FIRST): Frequently Asked Questions, May 2008, http://www.dot.state.mn.us/rtmc/pdf/firstfaq.pdf.