TMC Simulator Revolutionizes Traffic Management in California
Cal Poly’s Transportation Management Center (TMC) Simulator has helped revolutionize traffic management training in California. The Simulator is utilized as part of the TMC Academy, a unique program that combines classroom training with hands-on learning and has quickly become a statewide standard for traffic management operator training.
In 1992, Caltrans and Cal Poly hosted the first TMC operator training program. 28 years later, Cal Poly continues to host the year-round program that trains California transportation professionals to solve common traffic problems using simulated real-world incidents.
There are Caltrans Traffic Management Centers all over California where TMC operators work to manage traffic on state highways and coordinate appropriate responses to different transportation incidents. TMC operators manage congestion and determine the best solutions to help reduce traffic build-up after an incident. They are trained on a wide variety of scenarios ranging from hazardous materials to flat tires and everything in between.
The week-long TMC Academy has participants use a TMC simulator that mimics the tools and technology of a real Traffic Management Center. This allows operators to have hands-on training while practicing new techniques learned during the course.
Cal Poly’s hands-on approach has changed and improved traffic management and accident response in California. Having the only TMC simulator in the state, the TMC Academy has proven a “successful testbed for new and emerging tools for Caltrans,” according to current TMC Academy Director and Cal Poly Research Analyst, Neil Hockaday.
“The program is an essential part of the development of techniques and tools in the transportation industry,” Hockaday said.
Hockaday explained that all TMC operators in California eventually attend the TMC Academy and with Cal Poly’s help, traffic management has been improved.
Professor Anurag Pande of Cal Poly’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department is the Principal Investigator for the TMC Academy. He agrees that the academy has been beneficial for both participants and the state’s transportation industry.
“We have professionals working in the real Traffic Management Centers statewide who come here and learn to handle real-world traffic management scenarios with an experience as close to the real-world as simulation can get,” Pande said.
The TMC Academy has proven a successful project with the application of Cal Poly’s philosophy. With technology and tools constantly changing, the TMC Academy helps TMC operators stay up to date and ensure a safe transportation system throughout the state.
“We don’t tell them how to do their jobs. We train them to do their jobs better,” Hockaday said.