Traffic management center

Traffic management centers (TMCs) are the control centers where municipal or regional transportation operations are coordinated. They support agency coordination and collaboration by collecting various functions within a single location, which allows for a more holistic, system-wide management of regional transportation.

Key characteristics





WSDOT regions

Strategy description

Traffic management centers (TMCs) operate as control centers for municipal or regional transportation operations. They can oversee operations such as traffic signal systems, traffic incident management, tolling systems, managed lanes and traveler information strategies to ensure that roadways operate smoothly. The collection of all TMC functions within a single location allows more comprehensive, system-wide management of regional transportation.

There are many options for arranging TMCs in terms of collaboration, geography, and disciplines.

TMCs can involve:

  • A single agency (e.g., a city’s traffic department)
  • Multiple transportation agencies (e.g., highway department plus various cities)
  • Multiple disciplines (including transit, emergency responders, and combined corridor management teams).

There are multi-department or multi-agency entity examples where multiple departments within one city or multiple cities in a region may fund and operate them jointly. In terms of geography, TMCs can serve a single jurisdiction, multiple jurisdictions, a region/district, or even statewide. In many cases, they may serve as a good place to gather different agencies that work together as a corridor management team. In staffing and operations, agencies may use their own staff or contract out to private sector service providers.

When to use this strategy

A TMC makes sense for:

  • Jurisdictions that want to combine traffic monitoring and management within a single entity
  • Operating complicated and data-intensive traffic management strategies
  • Monitoring traffic conditions within the jurisdiction

Strategy benefits:

  • Streamlined multi-agency traffic operations and traffic incident management
  • Constant monitoring of data and quick observation of congestion and traffic incidents
  • Ability to observe system-wide operations and quickly implement detours and travel time predictions
  • Ability to aggregate and share traveler information to the public

What you need in order to implement

Planning needs:

  • Capital and operational funding to implement and sustain a TMC, ideally through dedicated funding sources
  • Identification of the proper location and facility type given the needs and scope of the planned TMC

Coordination needs:

  • Agreement among participating agencies and jurisdictions on systems and technologies that are compatible with one another
  • Policies and agreements among TMC partners on data collection, use, and ownership
  • Multi-agency collaboration is needed to provide incident response

Equipment needs:

  • Advanced transportation management systems to enable centralized control of regional systems and equipment
  • Communications systems to link systems and equipment in the field to the TMC

Agency resources needs:

  • Dedicated public agency staff to operate TMC
  • Alternately, funds to hire private sector staff

Learn more about this strategy

FHWA Freeway Operations and Traffic Management publication, Transportation Management Centers (TMC) subsection

FHWA TMC Pooled Fund Study website

About key characteristics

Location notes:

TMCs are used in a wide variety of geographies and contexts, and are suitable for any location where centralized management of traffic or safety operations would be beneficial.

Cost notes:

TMC costs vary depending on the size and sophistication of its operations, the extent of new construction required, and the amount of equipment upgrades and communications investments that are needed on systems and equipment in the field. However, cost efficiencies can be realized by the sharing of resources between participating agencies.

Technology notes:

TMC technology needs vary depending on the sophistication of the operations, the functions it manages, and the desired level of automation. Typical technologies used by TMCs are: a central traffic management system, communications to partner systems and equipment, and a data input, processing, and a distribution component. 

Collaboration notes:

Generally, one agency will be responsible for implementing a TMC, but will work with numerous local and regional partners, including metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), cities, counties, transit providers, and emergency responders.