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Transportation Management through the application of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) in Montgomery County, Maryland


Montgomery County, Maryland with a population of 800,000 and 3,000 miles of roads, has established a transportation management program that includes processes, functions and systems that provide real time control, monitoring and information capabilities.


The safe and efficient management of Montgomery County's transportation system requires the ability to identify, respond to, adjust for, and provide information on a variety of problems that impact the transportation system on a daily basis. These problems include:

  • Incidents : An incident is any event that reduces the normal capacity of the transportation system. An incident can include anything from debris in the road disabled vehicles, accidents, to an overturned tanker truck on fire. These non-recurring incidents have been shown nationally to create over 60% of delay on urban roads.
  • Special Events : Special events such as parades, fairs, golf tournaments, etc. impact the transportation system and the resources of Montgomery County on a more and more frequent basis.
  • Weather and Natural Disasters : The impact of weather and other natural disasters on Montgomery County's transportation system increases with the growth of the county and surrounding jurisdictions.
  • New Road Construction : The construction of new roads in Montgomery County has been impacted by reduced construction budgets, environmental issues, land availability and other factors. This makes it increasingly necessary to more efficiently manage the county's existing transportation system.
  • Transit : The growth in and around Montgomery County will require increased use of transit systems.
  • Livable Neighborhoods : Increased citizen demand for safe and livable neighborhoods free of "cut-thru" traffic places increased demand on the Montgomery County's 1000 mile major arterial road system.
  • Parking Management: The ever increasing demand for parking and the reduced ability to provide sufficient parking in the county's central business districts will increasingly impact the county's transportation system.
  • Economic Viability : Montgomery County's economic viability is closely related to the efficiency of the county's transportation system. The quality of the transportation system has a direct impact on keeping businesses in and attracting businesses to Montgomery County. Delays incurred by users of the transportation system causes loss of work productivity.
  • Environmental Impact : Congestion caused by an inefficient transportation system adds to air pollution and wasted fuel.
  • Health and Welfare : An inefficient and poorly managed transportation system increases the likelihood of accidents and an increase in health risks associated with the stress that is attributed to excessive delays. Other health impacts can be associated with environmental issues.
  • Future : Montgomery County's existing transportation infrastructure must be adaptable to the transportation system of the future if Montgomery County is to maintain its ability to manage the transportation demands into the 21st century.

Transportation Management:

Montgomery County has determined that through a continually improving and adaptable transportation management program the county can effectively eliminate, reduce, and respond to a variety of transportation related problems. Transportation management can be divided into three major functions:

  • Control : Systems and processes that provide for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods through the transportation system by effectively controlling those movements.
  • Monitoring : Systems and processes that monitor and identify the condition, performance, use, and safety of the transportation system.
  • Information : Multiple systems and processes that provide historical and real time information on the use and status of the transportation system to government agencies, the media and the public.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) :

In 1980, Montgomery County started the development of the county's transportation management program with the implementation of a real time traffic responsive computerized signal system. The computerized signal system, which started with 10 intersections associated with the construction of a major shopping mall, has been expanded to a system that now controls and monitors all the 700 plus county maintained signals. As the computerized signal system grew in size it became evident that the system provided the capability to manage traffic on a real time basis. Incidents and special events were managed more effectively and with less impact on resources through the capabilities of the signal system and coordination with police, fire, and other state and local transportation agencies.

The experience gained from the computerized signal system generated several enhancements through the 1980's that provided improved capabilities to Manage and coordinate activities and functions associated with the transportation system. In 1992 a contract was awarded to implement an enhancement to the computerized signal system that would form the base system for Montgomery County's Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS).

Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS) :

Montgomery County's Advanced Transportation Management System is composed of multiple subsystems that provide real time control, monitoring, and information capabilities. Montgomery County has encouraged and facilitated inter and intra-agency coordination as part of the county's transportation management program. To fund the development and implementation of the Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS) a capital improvement program (CIP) project was approved as part of the county's multi-year program.

The Advanced Transportation Management System provides the tools to support the county's ability to implement an effective transportation management program. The ATMS serves as the catalyst for improved coordination and cooperation between multiple agencies, the media, and the public on issues associated with managing the transportation system.

The ATMS features an open architecture that allows for new technologies to be readily added to the system. Some of the major components of the ATMS include :

  • Advanced traffic responsive traffic signal control for up to 1,500 signals. (All 700+ traffic signals in the county are presently under computer control.)
  • Automated variable message and route guidance sign control. (Under design with testing in a controlled area during 1998).
  • 200 camera video surveillance system. (46 cameras operational with 60 planned for operation by the end of 1997 and 20 to 25 added each year).
  • Capability to monitor 3000 sampling detectors utilizing various technologies. (1000 loop detectors planned for operation during 1997. Machine vision and other detector technologies under test.)
  • Automated Transportation Information System (ATIS) to include:
    • Travelers Advisory Radio System (TARS) (operational).
    • Live Transportation broadcasts on cable television's County Cable 55. (Operational)
    • Direct connection to commercial television broadcast stations. (Operational)
    • Coordination and information sharing with traffic information services (Metro Traffic and Shadow Traffic). (Operational) Internet connection. (Operational spring of 1996).
    • Telephone based voice recognition transportation information system (Development and implementation 1997).
    • Kiosks and information centers (Operational 1997).
  • Integrated transit and traffic operations and management. (Development and testing 1995, full deployment by the end of 1997).
  • GPS based automatic vehicle locating system. (Operational. Enhancements scheduled for 1997).
  • Automated incident detection and management system. (Operational. Enhancements during 1997).
  • Aerial surveillance program including the capability to directly coordinate response with multiple agencies and the capability to transmit 'live' video from the aircraft to the Transportation Management Center. (Operational)
  • Automated integration with police / fire computer aided dispatch system. (In progress, 1998)
  • Automated transportation planning support. (Operational. Enhancements 1997).

Since 1980, Montgomery County has been constructing a several hundred mile communication system to support the communication requirements of the computerized signal system and now the ATMS. The original twisted pair copper based communication system is being enhanced with fiber optics. The fiber optic based system will use the Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) standard to support data, voice, and video requirements. The fiber optic system is being implemented with the capacity to connect all government, public schools, and college facilities in Montgomery County. Future connection of the county's FiberNet to private communication systems will provide the capability for citizens to remotely access Montgomery County Government and other public agencies.


The success of Montgomery County's transportation management program is dependent on the coordination and cooperation of multiple agencies. These agencies include police, fire and rescue, environmental, planning, and transportation at the federal, state, and local levels. Existing and future ATMS systems do and will improve the coordination between these agencies.

An excellent example of coordination related to transportation management in Montgomery County is the Transportation Operations and Incident Management Team, composed of representatives from Montgomery County police, fire and rescue, environmental protection, and transportation departments. The team meets on a monthly basis to develop and implement transportation management improvements. Members of the team jointly manage the response to major incidents that impact the transportation system.

Information Sharing:

Providing information to the users of the transportation system is a critical function of transportation management. Real time and accurate information distributed in a variety of formats by public agencies, the media and private information companies ill provide the information that will be used by those responsible for and those that use the system to make group and individual transportation related decisions. Montgomery County has and will develop information systems that use a variety of formats. Montgomery County believes that accurate and timely information on transit and traffic conditions and status may help to encourage increased use of transit and car pools. The ATMS will have multiple subsystems to gather and disseminate transportation information.

Transit / Traffic Integration:

Montgomery County has determined that to properly manage the transportation system the county must apply advanced technologies that integrate transit management and traffic management into a cohesive transportation management system. Montgomery County's ATMS provides integrated transit and traffic management. The county's Transportation Management Center has been enlarged to house traffic and transit personnel. Traffic and transit personnel will work side-by-side and share a central system to more effectively manage transportation. Advanced technologies monitor the location of the county's RIDE-ON bus fleet using the global positioning system (GPS) and automatically adjust traffic signals on a system wide basis to provide priority to buses that are behind schedule. Real time schedule status will be available to users of the transit system. Initial development of the system began in 1994 with full implementation of the 250 RIDE-ON buses by the end of 1998.

Incident Management:

The ATMS is the key to Montgomery County's transportation incident management program. Through the system's control monitoring, and information capabilities, incidents are quickly detected, responded to, adjusted for, and cleared as safely and effectively as possible. The computerized signal system and the county's aerial surveillance program have proven to be critical tools in managing incidents. Anticipated improvements in detection technologies will further enhance the county's ability to identify incidents.

Special Events:

The ATMS's capabilities to manage incidents are readily adaptable to managing special events that impact the transportation system with either closures and or large volumes of traffic, both people and vehicles. The Transportation Operations and Incident Management Team is used to plan and manage special events and the related transportation needs.

Weather and Natural Disasters:

Weather and natural disasters impact transportation systems in the northeast on a frequent basis.The ATMS will feature systems that monitor weather, condition of roadway surfaces, adjust for delays and closures, and provide information on transportation conditions. County Cable 55 has proven to be valuable information tool to advise county citizens of the status of the transportation system through the use of "live" video from surveillance cameras. text and graphics. Other information such as school closures, impacts to government services, status of plowing, etc. is also broadcast into homes and businesses.

Public / Private Partnerships:

Montgomery County believes that various opportunities exist for partnerships to be formed by public agencies and private industry in the development, testing, and implementation of intelligent transportation system technologies. Cost and revenue sharing arrangements are practicable. Montgomery County offers experience, existing infrastructure, cost sharing, established test sites, a working transportation management system and excellent location near Washington, D.C..


Transportation management requires dedication, qualified personnel, public and political support, and properly applied advanced technologies. Montgomery County's experience indicates that good transportation management requires multiple capabilities that are combined and coordinated to form a systems approach to transportation problems. Montgomery County's Advanced Transportation Management System combines the latest in technology, a dedicated and experienced staff, coordination between multiple agencies, and public support to provide real time and effective transportation management.

Properly applied intelligent transportation system technologies can significantly enhance a jurisdiction's ability to provide a safe and efficient transportation system. Technology alone is doomed to failure if the technology is not supported by trained and dedicated personnel. Transportation management requires multiple systems and procedures that are integrated into a coordinated system. Montgomery County's experience is that there is no single or easy solution to transportation management.

An advanced transportation management system can be built overtime in phases. As each phase is added more capabilities are realized. At the heart of any transportation management system will be a computerized signal system and an extensive communication network. These two systems form the base of a transportation management system.

Montgomery County's transportation management system is designed to provide control, monitoring and information. Each of these three functions form a continuous loop. A failure of one of the functions will dramatically limit the ability to provide safe and efficient transportation management.


For further information on Montgomery County's Advanced Transportation Management System please contact:

Emil J. Wolanin, 
Department of Transportation 
Tel: (240) 777-2190




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 Director's Office · Montgomery County Department of Transportation
101 Monroe Street, 10th Floor · Rockville, Maryland 20850 ·
· telephone: 240-777-7170 · fax: 240-777-7178 ·