Cities, Technology, Transportation, United States

Traffic congestion in our cities continues to be a problem — resulting in delays, accidents, economic loss and environmental impacts. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute publishes an annual Urban Mobility Report that tracks several indicators of congestion in U.S. cities. Summary highlights of the 2012 Urban Mobility Report, which reported on travel data during the year 2011, include the following findings:

  • 56 billion pounds: Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions attributed to traffic congestion.
  • Four: Number of times that the total fuel wasted in congested traffic (2.9 billion gallons) could fill the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
  • $121 trillion: The total financial cost of congestion in 2011, up one billion dollars from the year before and translating to $818 per U.S. commuter.
  • 572 percent: Projected possible traffic delay for a trip in Washington D.C.

As it is recognized that we cannot build our way out of congestion, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) have been deployed in most major cities throughout the world in an attempt to manage our way out of congestion. Next-generation (NextGen) ITS applications are enabling agencies to cross jurisdictional boundaries and share information to make more informed decisions for multi-modal transportation networks.  NextGen ITS applications include integrated corridor management; transportation systems management and operations; active traffic management; managed lanes; connected vehicles initiatives and others.

Transportation Management Centers (TMCs) serve as command and control centers, using ITS technologies and strategies to manage traffic congestion along our surface transportation networks.

During the past two years, I have been developing and promoting the concept of “TMCs of the Future” that will transform existing TMCs and use a performance management approach to manage regional multi-modal transportation networks more effectively.  The “TMC of the Future” will use software applications, simulations, predictive models and decision support systems to enable operations staff to make informed decisions before congestion occurs.

Beyond transportation, the “TMCs of the Future” could transition into “Smart City Command Centers.” Smart City Command Centers would create operational efficiencies in monitoring, operating and managing a city’s assets, including smart parking systems; smart buildings; smart electric grids; water and wastewater treatment systems; telecommunications systems; and public safety and crime prevention systems. This will require development of integrated decision support tools to enable real-time information to be shared among different functional areas.

Addressing our congestion issues though integrated, performance-driven TMCs of the Future opens a path to more effective management of the entire city and all of its technical systems.

Bob Edelstein ( is an AECOM vice president and Intelligent Transportation Systems practice leader for the Americas in Coral Springs.

Originally published Apr 30, 2013

Author: Bob Edelstein