Transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) agreements and policies are the fundamental frameworks that establish how organizations can coordinate effectively with one another on data, infrastructure, operations, equipment, and maintenance sharing.
Agreements and policies for operational improvements can help maintain and even restore the performance of an existing transportation system before extra capacity is needed. Doing so requires agencies to cut across traditional organizational structures, consider new approaches, and collaborate more extensively with multiple jurisdictions, agencies, and modes.
Institutional policies make it possible for organizations to administer and sustain TSMO strategies and to instill a culture of TSMO within the organization.
Sample internal policies from successful TSMO programs:
- Incorporate TSMO formally into planning and project development
Agencies use performance metrics-driven decision support for project and service selection, budgeting, and funding. The policy objective is to allow TSMO to compete for funds in an organization that may be more traditionally focused on construction, operations, and maintenance. An example is WSDOT’s “TSMO strategies first” policy, used when considering capacity investments.
- Include TSMO strategies in agency manuals and guidance documents
One of the most effective ways to mainstream TSMO is to include TSMO-focused actions in agency manuals and guidance documents
- Update business practices
Updated policies allow and encourage new approaches to contracting and procurement, data management, and partnerships with private business, service providers, and research entities
- TSMO-focused organizational structure
Agencies can use organizational restructuring to create positions and job functions focused on ensuring collaboration within and outside the organization
Interagency agreements and cooperation
In addition to developing internal policies supportive of TSMO approaches and strategies, agencies must establish ways to work in cooperation with other entities for these strategies to be effective.
Agreements between agencies can take many forms and involve a range of formality:
- For traffic incident management (TIM) coordination, DOTs and law enforcement agencies often use mutual assistance agreements to establish how resources from both agencies will work together during incidents
- As part of emergency management coordination, transportation and public safety agencies develop cooperation agreements, such as Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans, to agree on how critical functions can continue to be provided during emergencies and what critical infrastructure (e.g., hospitals) to prioritize
- When agencies come together to jointly manage a corridor, collaborative forums, including corridor management teams, are often used to provide a regular and structured way for those agencies to discuss operational practices, equipment standards and compatibility, data sharing policies, and joint funding strategies. Memorandums of understanding (MOU) between partner agencies are then often used to establish the policies and procedures discussed in the forums.
Finally, intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) can be used to formalize cooperation between jurisdictions or governments when multiple parties need to cooperate on things like joint land use planning or implementing regional transportation plans.
Establishing trusted relationships
Beyond formalizing the methods by which agencies coordinate with each other, agreements help to build relationships and establish trust among staff from different organizations. This in turn makes the partnerships more effective and adaptable for novel or unplanned for scenarios. An example of this is in the recovery operations during the 2017 Amtrak Cascades train derailment onto I-5 in DuPont, Washington. During the recovery, WSDOT was able to leverage its existing agreements and established relationship with the Joint Base Lewis–McChord (JBLM) to quickly establish a detour route through the military base to get traffic moving again.
When to use this strategy
Agreement and policy development makes sense for all strategies that require cooperation and coordination among groups within an organization or with external agencies and jurisdictions.
- Greater buy-in, with a larger base of support, for operational strategies that require coordination among various agencies
- Elevates visibility of TSMO strategies among agency decision makers
- Enables opportunities to share resources, including equipment, training, data, and expertise
- Standardization of protocols and procedures that allow more efficient management
What you need in order to implement
- Agreement on the vision and common goals of the organization and between agencies to guide policy and agreement development
- Coordination between internal organizational groups and agency partners to establish terms of agreement and new policies
Agency resources needs:
- Agency leadership and policymakers who can champion new organizational approaches and arrangements
Learn more about this strategy
Federal Highways Administration (FHWA), Developing and Sustaining a Transportation Systems Management & Operations Mission for Your Organization: A Primer For Program Planning.
Federal Highways Administration (FHWA), TSMO Factsheets: Communicating with Other Programs.
About key characteristics
Agreement and policy development is relevant for any location where strategies may require cooperation and coordination an organization or with other agencies and jurisdictions.
Costs associated with agreement and policy development can be relatively low as they relate to agency staff time developing policies and meeting with partner agencies.
Technology needs associated with agreement and policy development are minimal since the activities are mainly around collaboration and meetings with other agency staff, and the co-development of plans and policies.
High levels of collaboration are necessary to develop agreements and policies for groups within organizations and between multiple agencies.