The transportation systems management and operations website

The TSMO website is an educational tool to help transportation professionals learn about concepts in planning, engineering, operations aimed at getting the most out of the transportation facilities we already have.

TSMO overview

TSMO is a philosophy that considers existing levels of safety and mobility across all our modes as an asset, one to be intentionally preserved, maintained and managed. While safety and mobility are not new goals to transportation agencies, historically identified deficiencies in these areas were addressed by major capital projects (e.g. adding a lane, building an interchange). For many reasons, including increasing travel demand, limited funding, physical constraints, and changing public opinion, expanding roadways is not as an immediate solution today as it once was. 

TSMO seeks to operate the existing transportation system as safely and efficiently as possible, many times maintaining or even regaining previous levels of capacity and improving safety performance levels. Implementation of TSMO focuses on cost-effective, near term solutions that are multi-modal, cross jurisdictional, and applicable on all roadway types.

“It’s essential to look outside of past experience. To be up to date with solutions. To think outside of the box.  We need to find what is the new right instead of the historical right.” 

- WSDOT staffer


Practical Solutions is WSDOT's performance-based approach to transportation decision making. Along with asset management, practical design, and other elements, TSMO is one of the tools in the 'Practical Solutions toolbox'.  The Practical Solutions approach explores and implements operational and demand management strategies (TSMO) before pursuit of capacity expansion. Through this approach, it often can be determined that TSMO solutions are able to address many performance gaps. 

What our leaders think

TSMO leaders believe in its simplistic but powerful approach

"Improving systems operations (TSMO) used to be what we did when we didn't have the money to do what we really wanted.  Now we want it to be done first because simply - it is the smart, right thing to do."

- Roger Millar, Secretary of Transportation, WSDOT

TSMO strategies encompass a wide range 

While certainly TSMO fundamentally utilizes technology, it is definitely about more than just that.  It involves all modes of transportation, relationships between organizations, planning for the future, and so much more. 

WSDOT defines the umbrella of TSMO to include the following:

  • Planning, partnering and policy development Land-use planning, utilization of the entire roadway network, and policy/agreement development
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Improvements ITS improvements are technology based and include strategies such as traveler information, ramp metering, incident response programs, traffic management centers, wrong-way driver notification, and work zone management
  • Travel Demand Management Travel Demand Management such as multi-modal development of transit, bicycle, and pedestrian facilities, commute trip reduction programs, high occupancy vehicle lanes, tolling and bus-on-shoulder lanes
  • Cooperative Automated Transportation (CAT) CAT strategies are based on connected and autonomous vehicles, or also be known as cooperative connected automated mobility (CCAM), and include driver assist truck platooning, machine readable signing and stripage, electric bike and scooter share programs, and vehicle occupancy detection
  • Traditional Traffic Operations Traditional traffic operations, such as access management, signal operations and optimization, safety analysis, signage, striping and minor physical roadway enhancements

Six pillars of TSMO

Successfully implementing the TSMO philosophy is about much more than just the number of projects built.  There are six dimensions by which continuous improvement of operations and reliability is measured. All six dimensions are essential and interrelated and this model requires executive support and leadership.

Three dimensions (pillars) are process oriented:

  1. Business processes  How is TSMO resourced within an agency? Does it have its own funding? Are TSMO strategies considered and prioritized in planning and programming? Are TSMO strategies considered before or in coordination with major capital projects? 
  2. Systems and technology   Are technology based projects designed using systems engineering? Does the agency have systems architecture standards? Is interoperability within an agency and partnering ones pursued?
  3. Performance measurement How are safety and mobility performance levels measured? Does the agency plan and maintain the data sources needed to support data acquisition and utilization? Are decisions, performance management, made based on measured performance?  

Three dimensions (foundation) are institutional oriented:

  1. Culture Does agency staff have the technical knowledge needed to implement TSMO? Does executive leadership support TSMO and assume accountability of its adoption? Is outreach done to local agencies, politicians, public, etc. to garner support of TSMO?
  2. Organization and staffing Are those staff responsible for delivering TSMO organized and elevated within the agency so that they can be successful? Are the specific needs of TSMO workforce addressed (e.g. staff development, recruitment and retention)?
  3. Collaboration Does the agency collaborate internally across divisions and externally with public agencies, local government and private sector to support TSMO?



When these six dimensions are taken into account, it is understood that embedding TSMO into an agency is one that takes time, commitment and iterations of process improvement.  

Contact us

TSMO does not represent a prescriptive, finite solution.  Rather, there may be numerous possible TSMO strategies that could address a condition.  As such, this website was not intended to be an all-inclusive, single answer providing resource. 

The TSMO website is meant to:

  • Educate about TSMO overall
  • Encourage thought about what the root condition might be and multiple possibilities might address it
  • Provide guidance to discussions about individual TSMO strategies
  • Allow various TSMO strategies to be compared
  • Provide resources for further exploration

All of this is intended to support not only WSDOT's efforts but our partner agencies, the private sector and the larger TSMO community.  This current version is the second edition of WSDOT's TSMO website and will continue to make improvements. We welcome your comments.

Monica Harwood Duncan

Statewide TSMO Development Engineer

(509) 324-6557



Website contributors:  Federal Highway Administration, Anthro-Tech, DKS Associates, and the Washington State Transportation Center