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Unfortunately, participants indicated that SOM resources are spread thin, especially in the recent economic crisis, and it is often difficult to meet demand across all facets of a DOT. One participant cited that $50 million originally allocated to SOM out of a $20 billion bond was in fact used entirely to increase capacity. Participants suggested that a lack of SOM funding is often related to the general unawareness of the field. Thus, it is essential that SOM receives greater buy-in from senior management and the public in order to be effective and successful in operating and managing the system. Participants also agreed that there needs to be a greater emphasis on SOM, specifically aspects of it that will have a bigger impact for the public. Despite the buzz different DOTs receive from message signs that inform commuters on the expected travel time or other new technological advancements, participants shared the belief that the public is primarily unaware of SOM and its contributions, much less its potential. DOT interviewees primarily looked to university transportation centers to increase awareness; however, a DOT's own communication and outreach may be equally important, as well as communication at even higher levels such as the governor's office. Public awareness is critical because the public is the ultimate source to be convinced of the worth of the investment. Participants hoped that increasing outreach with the public would result in greater buy-in, leading to more efficient use of transportation funds for the benefit received and leading to greater funding and resources as awareness increases. TRB's Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) on Reliability may also produce resources. 3.2 OVERVIEW OF SOM CAREER FIELD Transportation SOM interfaces with many disciplines and transportation modes, both internal and external to the organization, as well as with functions such as emergency management and public safety, and the concerns of the general public (Michigan DOT, 2008; Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2010). As the emphasis on transportation management and operations increases, the demand for personnel with skills in these areas is also increasing. Transportation agencies are experiencing a shortage of SOM professionals with the suitable skills and knowledge to move beyond more traditional civil engineering functions to the broader and more diverse SOM activities. According to interview participants, the desired skill set and knowledge base cannot be acquired simply from college or university courses, but rather is obtained through on-the-job experiences. Currently, the SOM workforce is being depleted due to retirement of transportation practitioners and a shortage of graduates from education programs with the cross-disciplinary perspective and skills needed to meet the functional requirements of SOM tasks. A meeting of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Human Resources in 2005 sought to identify the competencies needed to carry out work in the modern-day state DOT. Although no worker is expected to possess the skills necessary to carry out all facets of a state DOT's mission, failure of an agency to staff for the different responsibilities with which it has been tasked can lead to reductions in efficiency and effectiveness with regards to operating the system. As a result, NCHRP Project 20-77 was initiated to identify the core functions and employment positions that characterize SOM activities, as well as many currently available SOM education and training 14
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resources for transportation professionals. The result of this identification between SOM core functions and positions produced a matrix that matched a total of five core functions, including: Policy and strategic considerations Program planning Systems development Project management Real-time operations These core functions are related to all job levels and job titles presented below. Exhibit 3 provides a snapshot of these relationships. Exhibit 3 Snapshot of Core SOM Job Functions by Position Level Transportation Management Mid-Level or Center Senior Project Related Technician/Field Core Functions Management (HQ or Regional) Personnel Policy and Strategic Considerations Program Planning Systems Development Project Management Real-Time Operations To better support the development and supply of SOM staff at the management, professional, and technical levels, it is important to understand how the career field is organized. According to the literature, the transportation SOM workforce is a group of professionals with a variety of backgrounds who are involved in the operations and management of U.S. highways. This finding is similar to the insights participants shared during interviews, but it is important to note that the organization and structure of SOM varies greatly across DOTs. As a result, participants agreed that domain issues are one of the biggest challenges of SOM, as there is no single agency that has total control over operations. To further complicate this issue, there were several participants who were not completely sure how to describe the organization of SOM even within their respective agencies (e.g., whether maintenance should be included in SOM or on its own). Participants suggested a need to develop a better understanding of SOM at the policy-making level in order to realize its importance to the DOTs' business structure. The aim of the current study was to better define SOM occupations and their relationships within DOT organizations. At a general level, Chief Engineers and/or District Engineers usually direct SOM programs within the state DOT and are supported by a variety of personnel in job categories such as: Transportation and traffic engineers 15
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Operations engineers Operations managers Safety specialists Traffic operators and technicians Intelligent transportation systems technicians Emergency response and incident management personnel Exhibit 4 provides an overview of the typical position/job titles that exist within SOM departments across DOTs with respect to their primary job function. The job titles presented resulted from data collected from the literature review and SOM experts who were interviewed. Primary job functions for the job titles listed were determined using the results of the NCHRP Project 20-77 study, which included a matrix of core functions and competencies. Exhibit 4 Typical SOM Positions by Level and Job Category Across DOTs Transportation Management Senior Management Mid-Level or Project Related Center Technician/Field Personnel Policy and Strategic Considerations Assistant Chief Section Head TMC/Field (Transportation) Engineer Operations Chief (Transportation) Engineer ITS Branch Manager Senior Transportation Engineer Transportation Director Program Planning Transportation Technical Traffic Data Analyst Engineer Transportation Specialist Transportation Data Analyst Systems Development Director of Traffic and Engineering Technician 3, 4, Electrical Mechanic Safety and 5 Implementation Support Electronics Supervisor Technician Engineering Technician 1 and Project Development Engineer 2 Traffic Systems Technician 1 Safety Specialist and 2 16
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Exhibit 4 (Continued) Typical SOM Positions by Level and Job Category Across DOTs Transportation Management Center Technician/Field Senior Management Mid-Level or Project Related Personnel Project Management Senior Transportation ITS Project Manager Project Manager Operations Manager Transportation Engineer Transportation Engineer Supervisor/Manager Real-Time Operations Assistant Director Assistant Engineer Communications Operator Maintenance Engineer Assistant Director Traffic Communications Officer Communications Operator Engineer Trainee State Maintenance Engineer ITS Technical Manager Communications Systems State Traffic Engineer Technician Emergency Response Maintenance Supervisor Technician Regional Supervisor Emergency Emergency Service Patrol Service Patrol Apprentice Emergency Service Patrol Traffic Incident Manager Operator Highway Maintenance Traffic Operations Engineer Worker Work Zone Managers ITS Technician 1 and 2 Junior Engineer Transportation Maintenance Technician Within each of the job functions listed, SOM personnel typically perform duties in many specialty areas and seasonally focus on different activities and responsibilities. Since the positions and activities associated with the SOM career field are so diverse and vary geographically, SOM managers and their subordinates need a broad set of skills, as well as overarching knowledge of how each activity operates and impacts other functions. Thus, while some of the job functions appear to contain more positions, it is common for SOM employees to work across each of the five functions. 17