January 10th, 2012
TOC AWARDOptimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.
Smart staffing changes have improved efficiency and provided better customer service at Traffic Operation Center.
The UDOT TOC is the nerve center for managing traffic flow across the state. Operators view real-time traffic cameras and computer models that show traffic movement and how signals operate. When problems arise, operators make quick and important decisions to prevent delay, un-snarl traffic and improve safety.
Making a few smart, customer focused changes in the way the group operates has helped improve efficiency at the TOC and in turn, helped reduce delay and improve safety for the traveling public. For improving the TOC, managers Glenn Blackwelder, Chris Siavrakas, Michael Evans have earned a WASHTO Award.
First, managers decided to staff the control room 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so customers can always reach someone an operator. Managers also defined very precise hand-off procedures to maintain communication and consistency from shift to shift. “By instituting shifts with defined hand-off procedures, we created small, cohesive groups that were selected to work well with each other,” according to Blackwelder.
Managers also increased the number of operators working each shift to three instead of two. With more operators insures that there is always someone to take action – like posting a warning message on the freeway signs – during a crash or other incident that causes delay. One of the three operators is an engineer/operator that helps out with operator tasks as needed but also does engineering work.
“We made the system work better,” says Blackwelder. Making the TOC Control Room work better has helped increase capacity by managing traffic during incidents, and helped improve safety by getting more effective warning messages out to the public more quickly.