The Synergy Between TSMO & ITS

An Indispensable Partnership

The Synergy Between TSMO & ITS

An Indispensable Partnership

Published: July 31, 2023

As agencies embrace Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) plans, doubts may arise about the necessity of Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) strategies. Some may feel disheartened as TSMO appears too closely tied to ITS solutions, or TSMO plans may resemble ITS plans. However, by combining their strengths, this partnership proves highly effective. Let’s explore the reasons behind this synergy.

What is a TSMO Strategy?

A Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) strategy encompasses a broad range of operational and management strategies for optimizing transportation systems. An impactful TSMO strategy will identify the vision, goals, and objectives that an agency would like to accomplish through better management of its transportation system. They should also include actions and performance metrics for measuring their progress toward that vision. They can, but don’t commonly include construction projects or expansion of existing infrastructure. Common outcomes include:

  • Travel demand management strategies
  • Incident management techniques
  • Solutions for active network management


Instead of responding reactively to the latest enticing technologies that promise to solve all sorts of transportation problems, a TSMO strategy identifies what problems an agency wants to solve and develops clear actions to reach those solutions.

For example, a TSMO strategy could identify missing data needed to monitor an agency’s progress toward its pedestrian safety goals. An action could be to identify and implement new ITS solutions needed to collect and monitor near-miss data at critical intersections.

What is an ITS Plan?

An Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) plan is one of the core strategies of a TSMO. ITS specifically refers to the application of advanced technologies that can be used to accomplish an agency’s TSMO objectives. An ITS plan is informed by and can be a part of an overall TSMO strategy and typically includes:

  • An assessment/inventory of the existing ITS infrastructure
  • An evaluation of available ITS technologies and systems
  • A list of potential projects and investments to deploy new or expand upon existing systems


A strong ITS plan identifies what ITS solutions a city will invest in, what solutions they will test, and what TSMO actions and objectives each project will advance.

An ITS Plan, for example, could identify the expansion of an existing video camera system to collect pedestrian safety data, identify the artificial intelligence software to process it, and create a dashboard relaying that data to operators. These would then be moved into the process of operations and systems engineering before the deployment of the proposed system. There could also be multiple ITS solutions related to a single TSMO action or objective, as several systems could work toward the common objective.

Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) Strategy   Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Plan  
Scope   Holistic strategy for managing the system Operational and tactical implementation of ITS 
Focus   Management and optimization of transportation systems in real-time  Deployment of advanced technologies and systems 
Goal   Optimization of the performance of the existing transportation infrastructure, enhancing the user experience, and reducing congestion and delays   Long-term vision for the deployment of ITS technologies and systems to enhance safety, mobility, and sustainability  
Components   Vision, goals, objectives, performance metrics, and actions to improve the holistic, active, and integrated operation and management of the system  Existing ITS inventory, evaluation available ITS technologies and systems, list of potential projects and investments, notes on what TSMO actions and objectives will be advanced by each system 
Level   MPO, regional, statewide  Regional, local agency, corridor, or network  

While there are certainly differences between the two tools, the important headline is that these two concepts are interrelated and complementary. ITS plans can be a key component of a TSMO strategy, as they provide a roadmap for the deployment of advanced technologies to achieve TSMO objectives. In turn, TSMO strategies provide the operational tools and techniques necessary to achieve the broader strategic goals outlined in an ITS plan. Ultimately, both concepts aim to improve the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of transportation systems. 

Could your agency use assistance in developing a scope of work for a TSMO Strategy or ITS plan? We’re here to help. Contact us!


Chris Grgich

Chris Grgich

Associate Transportation Engineer


Josh Peterman

Josh Peterman

Dallas Senior Market Leader