As we learned last week, the Transportation Management Center (TMC) monitors the flow of traffic through Springfield via its Intelligent Transportation System. But, who is actually behind the cameras and how do they respond if they see an issue?
Rena Rippe is a Traffic Technician II – TMC Operator with City of Springfield. Her primary responsibility is to monitor live feeds from CCTV cameras and the computer aided dispatch (CAD) interface.
“What I do is watch the cameras, both City and MoDOT, and if I see anything that is going to have any effect on traffic at all, then I have a decision to make,” Rippe said. “Do I need to call 911 because it is an accident, or is it just debris in the road?”
Most of the incidents Rippe sees on her monitors are non-injury accidents. Despite the lack of injuries, individuals are still reluctant to move their vehicles until a police officer arrives on scene. However, as of August 2014, Springfield Police are no longer responding to non-injury accidents.
Clearing vehicles after an accident is just one reason MoDOT’s incident response program was formed. According to Rippe, MoDOT personnel can arrive on scene, inform the motorists that no report will be taken, and help move vehicles and debris so traffic can start flowing.
Bruce Pettus, incident management coordinator, heads up MoDOT’s incident response program for the Springfield TMC. Pettus maintains a crew of two field personnel for Springfield and one for Joplin.
“This crew does what is commonly referred to as “Freeway Service Patrol” type activities where they patrol the roadway during peak times to assist stranded motorist with flat tires, an out of gas type situation or to provide traffic control and cleanup at crash scenes,” Pettus said.
As the TMC operator, Rippe has direct contact to the MoDOT crew and keeps them informed of issues she sees. Additionally, once the crew is on scene, they can provide further information to Rippe so she can update the CAD interface and the website OzarksTraffic.com.
“We don’t put any comments on anything that we don’t see or have the incident response people tell us about,” Rippe said.
Although incident response personnel work set hours, they are available 24/7 as needed. In an effort to keep response times low during nonscheduled hours, crew members drive their response vehicles home. These vehicles are classified as emergency vehicles and are equipped with a traffic arrow, warning lights and loud horn.
“[T]he trucks are equipped with a wide variety of traffic control devices such as cones and signs,” Pettus said. “In addition to this, there are numerous other items carried on the trucks such as power tools for cutting the guard cable or guard rail if needed.”
The vehicle’s equipment is there to help MoDOT crews not only do their jobs, but do it safely.
“The most difficult thing about this job is the on-scene safety of our personnel as they work in such a dangerous environment,” Pettus said. “We have had three of our employees statewide struck and killed doing this job.”
While the MoDOT incident response program is capable of handling a variety of situations, sometimes a police officer is required.
Not only does the CAD interface allow the TMC operator to post important traffic information for emergency crews and police, it also allows the operators to see incidents those groups have posted as well. Rippe explained sometimes an operator may not be aware of an incident until they see a post. Once they are aware, they can move the cameras accordingly to help give emergency personnel and police additional information.
Rippe said several officers know about the live traffic camera feed on OzarksTraffic.com, and use it to know more about an incident. Additionally, officers have started calling the TMC operators for assistance.
“They call us quite a bit,” Rippe said. “It is becoming more and more common for officers to call.”
Rippe described a recent call from an officer who responded to a call and could not find the incident based on the information he had. He asked Rippe if she could locate the incident with the help of the CCTV cameras. After moving one of the cameras, she was able to direct the officer to the incident’s location.
“I am excited about the police using the site and feeling comfortable in calling us,” Rippe said.
Officers also utilize the site and TMC operators to find the safest routes to an accident for responding emergency personnel.
The staff of the Transportation Management Center are constantly looking at how to improve communication, not only between their own personnel, but with outside agencies as well. The Missouri State Highway Patrol is working with the TMC to have CAD interfaced into their system as well.
Every aspect of the TMC, from projects and signal timing to ITS and incident response, all serve to keep Springfield’s pedestrians and motorists moving safely. Bruce Pettus said it best:
“Our roadways are only getting more congested and we must maximize their efficiency through good traffic incident management practices, which includes the motoris