PTC Traffic Operations Center (PTC Ops Center)

Status

Existing

Descripton

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's Traffic Operations Center supports safe and efficient travel for the more-than-500,000 daily motorists using the 550-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike System. The Ops Center is located near Harrisburg in Middletown Borough, Dauphin County. The TOC is responsible for traffic management operations including monitoring and controlling traffic and the road network. The Ops Center also coordinates traffic information and control strategies with neighboring agencies, including PennDOT and adjacent states.  

The Ops Center monitors traffic operations 24 hours a day / 7 days a week using a network of more than 70 surveillance cameras and loop detectors. There is existing traffic coverage of all interchange areas excepting Beaver Valley / New Castle (as of November 2015). Traffic sensors are focused on the most heavily traveled sections of the Turnpike; coverage continues to expand on a regular basis.  

When an emergency situation is identified a staff of more than 50 operators manages incident response through a variety of responders from across the state: nine state police barracks; more than 100 contracted EMS companies; K-9 dogs, life-flight helicopters, and HazMat Teams. Emergency communications (roadside telephones) are provided every 1/10 mile. The center notifies motorists and partners 90 miles in each direction from an accident location or other identified congestion, enabling system users to avoid congestion and traffic backups while preventing secondary collisions. 

Future PTC Ops Center participation is anticipated supporting integrated traffic management solutions in several southwestern PA transportation hubs: Cranberry (junction of I-76, I-79, US-19); Monroeville (I-376, I-76 and US-22); and New Stanton (I-70, I-76, and US-119). PennDOT's Western Regional TMC in Collier Twp. and the Cranberry TMC have offered to partner with the PTC Ops Center in developing future regional traffic management strategies. 

PennDOT's scheduled conversion to Cashless Tolling technology also offers new possibilities for integrating the Turnpike Mainline into the region's highway grid and local traffic operations. New interchanges along the mainline at closer intervals /key highway locations potentially increase tolled highway usage and supports more-efficient local travel. SPC will initiate a planning study in 2016 to identify possible cost-effective locations. Regional traffic management strategies should be an integral part of any of these planned improvements. 
Variable tolling has been raised as a possible future regional traffic management response and strategic opportunity where the Turnpike mainline and regional non-tolled highways are mutually supportive and can be used to good effect in disaster response or emergency management situations. This strategy would be more effective when cashless tolling systems and supportive DMS are in place. 
 
Traveler Information. PTC's standard driver messaging systems, Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) traffic alerts and roadside Dynamic Message Signs, are supplemented by automated telephone services and smartphone applications. There is a voice-activated telephone hotline for travel alerts, 866-976-TRIP (8747). Hands-free, audio traffic advisories can be streamed through the TRIP Talk smartphone app, making equipped customers aware of incidents while assuring that both hands remain on the wheel. Download at www.paturnpike.com/triptalk.  

In 2015 the PTC partnered with private technology company WAZE (also a real-time, crowd-sourced navigation app) in the Connected Citizens Program, a program to improve the accuracy, timeliness and availability of roadway and traffic information. WAZE gets real-time live feeds from the Ops Center including incidents, road closures, construction alerts and estimated travel times. Information entered into the app by turnpike motorists (Wazers!) will be viewed and verified through the Ops Center.  

Increased app usage is expected to directly improve driver information especially on Turnpike segments not covered by existing PTC sensors. Waze.com also offers a sync-driving feature that displays through a Facebook connection other friends driving to the same destination. WAZE can also coordinate everyone's arrival times when picking up or meeting friends. Featured services such as these are expected to drive a private-sector increase in traveler information that may eventually surpass and supplant public sector travel information services.

Stakeholder

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)

Functionality

Emergency Management
Information Service Provider
Roadway
Traffic Management

Interfaces To

(View Context Diagram)

511PA Pittsburgh Traveler Information
511PA Traveler Information
City of Pittsburgh Police Vehicles
City/County Emergency Operations Center
County 911 Centers
County EMA Centers
Cranberry Traffic Management Center
Local Fire and Rescue Services
Local Police Departments
MMVTA Offices
PAAC Offices
PAAC Police and Security Services
PEMA Emergency Operation Center
PennDOT County Maintenance Offices
PennDOT District Maintenance Vehicles
PennDOT Parkway Service Patrol
PennDOT Statewide TMC
Personal Traveler Information Devices
PSP Offices
PSP Vehicles - Troop T
PTC Offices
PTC Service Plazas
Regional Media Outlets
Regional Travel Information System
Towing Industry Responders
Western Region Traffic Management Center (PennDOT)