SPC Journal of Transportation Safety (JOTS)

July 2014 Issue:












Regional TIM Steering Committee


















































































This issue of JOTS has articles on work that SPC is doing with operations planning, traffic incident management, traffic signals, bluetooth technology, and freight planning. Enjoy!

SPC Moving Forward with Update of Regional Operations Plan

The Regional Operations Plan or the "ROP" provides the planning context and the link to the Long Range Plan for our Operations initiatives. An important first step to integrating operations into the overall planning process is to establish goals that focus on the efficient management and operation of the transportation system. The region's Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) includes the following overarching goal regarding transportation management and operations:

"The region's transportation system will be actively managed and operated to allow the system to function at its full potential."

SPC is in the process of updating the Regional Operations Plan. In the previous 2011 ROP, new and reestablished focus areas were discussed and finalized. They included improving the following:

  • ROP Meeting Traffic Signals
  • Incident and Emergency Management
  • Traveler Information
  • Operational Teamwork
  • Intermodal Connectivity
  • Freeway and Arterial Operations
  • Freight Management

In the past few months, SPC's Transportation Operations and Safety Committee and its ROP subcommittee have met to review progress on the above goals, identify future operational and safety needs within regional travelsheds, and establish a framework to update the ROP. Discussion has included how the new ROP would transform to a performance and outcome-based document and how it would align with federal (MAP-21) and state (Corridor Modernization) performance goals. Developing operational goals and objectives leads to establishing performance measures that can be used to assess and track regional system performance. Performance measures should be measurable, quantifiable, trackable, and most importantly, directly linked to an operational objective or goal.

In the next few months, the ROP subcommittee and SPC staff will be working to finalize broader based goals and detailed performance measures that tie into the overarching goal from the LRTP. These will be the blueprint for SPC and its planning partners to move forward with implementation strategies. If you have any questions/comments on the ROP update, please contact Doug Smith at dsmith@spctiptracker.org.

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SPC’s Traffic Incident Management (TIM) After Action Reviews

One of the most valuable activities for a Traffic Incident Management (TIM) program is the After Action Review (AAR). AARs give first responders an opportunity to get together after a major incident to review and evaluate the response activities. Many agencies do their own internal post-incident debriefings amongst their staff people, but like many other TIM initiatives, the idea behind an AAR is to make the activity multi-disciplinary, so responders from different agencies can share information and learn from each other. It is very important that participants understand that the purpose of an AAR is to foster continued improvement and is not meant to be a fault-finding or finger-pointing exercise. AARs are as much about identifying and building on successes as they are on correcting mistakes.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional TIM Steering Committee has developed a web-based survey tool that can be used to gather information from responders following a major incident. This tool is designed to get each responder’s unique perspective on the incident and to determine whether an in-person AAR meeting would be useful. To date, SPC has conducted 4 AARs:

  • July 5, 2012 - I-79/I-76 Local TIM Team - Water main break on NB U.S. 19 in Cranberry Township during the PM Peak
  • April 23, 2013 - I-79/I-76 Local TIM Team - Tractor trailer crash involving cable median barrier on SB I-79 in Marshall Township & secondary rear end crash on EB I-76 during the AM Peak
  • May 10, 2013 - I-79/I-76 Local TIM Team - Run off the road crash on EB I-76 in Cranberry Township where locating the crash (in a ravine) was difficult
  • January 6, 2014 - Airport Corridor Local TIM Team - Fatal tractor trailer rollover crash on WB I-376 (pictured below)

TIM stakeholders can request an AAR at any time by contacting Doug Smith at dsmith@spctiptracker.org.

SPC’s Regional TIM Steering Committee hosted 2 sessions of National TIM Responder Training in May 2014, which resulted in 76 responders receiving this training. For more information or to request additional training sessions visit /trans_ops_tim_train.shtml.


SPC's Regional Traffic Signal Program's 2nd Cycle Moves into Construction Phase

The 2nd cycle of SPC's Regional Traffic Signal Program has moved into the construction phase. Three contracts totaling approximately $3,000,000 were recently awarded to low bidder Bronder Technical Services of Prospect, PA (Butler County). Work commenced this past Spring and will be completed in mid 2015.

The current construction phase includes locations in Butler, Armstrong, Indiana, Allegheny, Lawrence, Westmoreland, and Fayette counties. For specific municipal/arterial locations, click here. Equipment upgrades vary by location and could include items such as new controllers and cabinets, new communications, new LED vehicular signals, new LED pedestrian countdown signals, new pedestrian pushbuttons, new pavement markings and signage, new detection, new adaptive signal systems, and new signal emergency preemption/priority systems.

As equipment upgrades are completed on each corridor, the SPC team, along with PennDOT, the participating municipality, and the contractor, will implement new optimized signal phasings and timings. Observations will be conducted of the new timing operations and adjustments will be made based on those observations and public feedback. Once all work is completed, the SPC team will perform after studies and video presentations to document actual benefits of the project. The Regional Traffic Signal Program's successful first cycle yielded a benefit-cost ratio of 90:1.

If you have any questions regarding the Regional Traffic Signal Program, please contact Dom D'Andrea at ddandrea@spctiptracker.org.


Regional Traffic Signal Program's installation of new pedestrian countdown signal indications in the City of Butler, PA

SPC Utilizing New Traffic Data Collection Technology for CMP

CMPTravel time and speed data are important elements when conducting a variety of transportation planning and engineering studies. For many years the "floating vehicle method" was standard for collecting this type of data. Using this method, a traffic engineer or technician would drive up and down the corridor and collect data, initially with a stop watch and later by using a computer connected to a global positioning system (GPS) device. The drawback to this methodology is that you gather a relatively small amount of data for the level of resources that must be expended.

In recent years, advancements in technology have provided new ways to gather greater volumes of data for lower cost and in less time. Therefore, SPC has made the transition away from the floating vehicle method of data collection in its Congestion Management Process (CMP) in order to take advantage of two of these new techniques: Bluetooth readers and private-source vehicle probe data.

Bluetooth is a wireless technology used for exchanging data over short distances and is found in many automobiles, cell phones, in-vehicle navigation systems, and hands-free devices. Each Bluetooth device has a unique identification code known as a media access control (MAC) address. For traffic data collection purposes, Bluetooth readers are installed at various locations along a corridor, and as a Bluetooth-enabled device travels past the readers, a time-stamp is created for that particular MAC address. By matching MAC address time-stamps from different locations, travel times and speeds can be calculated for various segments along a corridor. More detailed information on how this works can be found here.

Another emerging source of travel time and speed information is vehicle probe data gathered and compiled by private companies such as INRIX and NAVTEQ/Nokia/HERE. These companies amass huge amounts of real-time traffic data from public and private sources such as roadway sensors, commercial fleets, in-car navigation systems, and cell phone apps. They then synthesize this data and sell it for a variety of uses. PennDOT and FHWA currently have contracts to purchase this data, which allows partners like SPC to access it for planning purposes.

While vehicle probe data and Bluetooth readers don't capture all vehicles on the roadway (i.e. they don't do traffic counts), they do provide much larger sample sizes than the old floating vehicle method. They also have the distinct advantage of providing 24/7 information, as opposed to previous methods which typically focused on the peak hours. SPC is currently in the process of revamping its current CMP website and will be providing its planning partners with a wealth of new data and analysis in the coming months.

For questions regarding the new traffic data collection and the CMP website update, please contact Josh Spano at jspano@spctiptracker.org.

SPC's 3rd Annual Regional Freight Conference a Success!

Freight movement impacts many aspects of our lives. The efficiency of freight movement for goods such as food, clothing, manufactured materials and raw materials is of vital economic importance locally and globally.

FreightOn Wednesday, May 21, SPC hosted its 2014 Regional Freight Conference, a one-day event that brought in public and private sector decision-makers, planners and industry specialists from a five-state region.

The more than 100 conference participants heard what state and regional planners are doing to assess and enhance the movement of freight in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and beyond. They also learned what communities along the Ohio River are doing to redevelop riverfront brownfields, and how they plan to use water and rail transportation to drive local community redevelopment efforts.

Safety was also a central issue at the conference, with the all-too-recent memory of last summer's horrific derailment in the Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic and other more local derailments of trains carrying crude oil. Rudy Husband, Resident Vice President for Pennsylvania for Norfolk Southern, reported that transporting crude oil by rail is actually safer than moving it by pipeline, with total railroad crude oil spills equaling less than one percent of the total pipeline spills.

From 2002 through 2012, railroads spilled an amount equal to 2,268 barrels vs. pipelines' 474,441 barrels. To properly address safety concerns regarding the movement of crude oil by rail, Norfolk Southern will be hosting a series of training sessions for emergency first responders at their intermodal facility in Wall, PA on August 12th, 13th and 14th, 2014 (Day & Evening Classes, 4 Hours Each) Emergency responders, including: fire departments; law enforcement; emergency medical services; hazmat response teams, emergency management agencies, military, homeland security personnel, shippers and rail customers are invited to attend.

Registration information is available from Sara Walfoort at swalfoort@spctiptracker.org or Dom D'Andrea at ddandrea@spctiptracker.org.

SPC will take information from the Regional Freight Conference to communicate the freight transportation needs of our region with decision-makers at all levels, and will work to develop regional freight partnerships with our adjoining regions and state DOTs to facilitate more integrated freight planning across modes.

Presentations from the Regional Freight Conference are available in PDF format and can be found here.

For questions regarding freight planning activities, please contact Sara Walfoort at swalfoort@spctiptracker.org.


From Our Planning Partners . . .

US Department of TransportationFederal Highway Administration

Safety Compass Newsletter, Spring 2014
Pedestrian Forum Newsletter, Winter, 2014
Office of Operations Current News
Office of Freight Management and Operations Current News
Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office Newsletter, April, 2014 issue

Pennsylvania Department of TransportationPennsylvania Department of Transportation

e-Digest newsletter: April/May, 2014 edition, click here.
PennDOT's pedestrian safety video for elementary school students, "Walk this Way," recently won bronze in the training and safety categories for the 2014 Telly Awards. To view the video, click here.

Port Authority of Allegheny County

Pittsburgh Port Authority Bus Tracker Keeps Electronic Schedule

Other News . . .

Pittsburgh Selected as Host City for 25th ITS America Annual Meeting & Exposition in 2015: More than 2,000 high-tech transportation and business leaders to showcase intelligent transportation systems, discuss innovative solutions to national and regional infrastructure challenges. See official announcement here.

Pittsburgh Expands Use of High-Tech Traffic Signals: The city and Carnegie Mellon University are expanding a network of high-tech traffic signals that monitor flow and instantly react, changing their timing to move vehicles through intersections more efficiently. Click here for the full story.

Cranberry Road Crisis Eased By Early Plan: Planning for the worst helped Cranberry deal with last week's closure of one of its main arteries, the township's manager said. "Everybody has to work together in a crisis," Jerry Andree said. Planning guidance from the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission's Transportation Traffic Incident Management team, or TIM, helped the township develop a blueprint for a response to a major emergency, Public Safety Director Jeff Schueler said. Read full story here.

Upcoming 2014 SPC Meetings of Interest

Meeting dates and time are subject to change. Please check SPC's website or call 412-391-5590 for meeting confirmation. All meetings are held at SPC's 4th floor Conference Center unless otherwise noted.

July 17, 10:00 AM
SPC Transportation Technical Committee

July 30, 10:00 AM
SPC Regional Operations and Safety Committee

August 12 through 14
Norfolk Southern Rail Safety Training, Wall, PA

August 13
SPC Pedestrian-Bike Advisory Committee

August 19-20
FHWA/EPA/SPC/PennDOT Northern Transportation & Air Quality Summit--click here for more info

September 8-11
National Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place Conference, DL Lawrence Convention Center--click here for more info

September 16-17
FHWA/SPC ITS Architecture Workshop--click here for more info

October 15
Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia Joint Traffic Incident Management Conference in Wintersville, Ohio

We hope that you have enjoyed this edition of JOTS. We welcome your comments on this issue and ideas for future issues at JOTS@spctiptracker.org.

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Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission
Two Chatham Center, Suite 500
112 Washington Place
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-3451
Phone: 412-391-5590
Fax: 412-391-9160

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) is the cooperative forum for regional collaboration, planning, and public decision-making. The Commission serves as the official Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for a 10-county region including the City of Pittsburgh and the counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland. The Commission develops plans and programs for public investments; fulfills Federal and State requirements for transportation, economic development, and local government assistance programs; and operates with public involvement and trust.