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What We Do

Houston TranStar is a unique partnership of representatives from the City of Houston, Harris County, METRO and TxDOT who share resources and exchange information under one roof to keep motorists informed, roadways clear and lives safe in the fourth most populated city in the United States.

Established in 1993, TranStar manages the region's transportation system and is the primary coordination site for state, county and local agencies when responding to incidents and emergencies.

A short video on What We Do

Transportation Management

At the core of TranStar operations is the Transportation Control Center, where partner representatives share access to state-of the-art monitoring systems to quickly identify problems, manage responses and provide the public with real-time traffic information for avoiding delays and improving safety.

A short video on how Houston TranStar manages transportation in the region

Houston TranStar, a national leader in freeway incident management, uses state-of-the-art technologies to reduce congestion on major roadways. Monitoring traffic incidents with more than 900 regional Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTVs), staff at the TranStar center dispatch vehicles to remove debris or hazardous materials, communicate with emergency vehicles about the most direct routes to an accident scene, and send tow trucks to stalled vehicles. Dynamic Message Signs (DMS), deployed from Houston TranStar, inform travelers about expected travel times and traffic issues ahead. Synchronized traffic signals, speed sensors, Highway Advisory Radio, ramp meters and other devices also help keep the region’s traffic moving.

Emergency Management

TranStar was the first center in the nation to combine transportation management and emergency management to improve public safety during natural and man-made disasters. Take a look inside the Emergency Operations Center to see how coordinated, advanced planning saves lives in a service area with more than six million people.

A short video on how Houston TranStar manages emergencies in the region

When emergency conditions arise such as hurricanes, floods, industrial explosions or terrorist attacks, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Houston TranStar is activated. Representatives from all four collaborating agencies—as well as such diverse entities as the U. S. Army, Salvation Army, Harris County Toll Road Authority, Amateur Radio Operator volunteers, the American Red Cross, and area local governments—come together to coordinate a quick, effective response. The Automated Flood Warning System, Doppler Radar Imagery, Satellite Weather Maps, Road Flood Warning Systems and the Regional Incident Management System (RIMS) comprise some of the tools used to address the emergency.

Leveraging Resources

The benefit of having multiple agencies under one roof for pooling information and resources gives Houston TranStar partners an advantage over other agencies who work alone. Because of joint transportation projects, combined emergency response efforts and general day-to-day cooperative operations, TranStar enjoys a worldwide reputation for innovation and efficient use of resources.

A short video on how TranStar is leveraging resources

TranStar’s collaborative partnership has eliminated costly duplication and saved billions of taxpayer dollars. Shared access to the latest transportation management technologies and life-saving communications means faster and more efficient response to the region’s transportation and emergency management issues.

Innovation

Houston TranStar was the first center in the nation to combine Transportation and Emergency Management centers, and the first to bring four agencies together under one roof. Houston TranStar’s web site, nationally and locally recognized for the breadth of information it offers the general public, allows subscribers to receive personalized travel time updates and incident warnings, as well as providing up-to-the-minute traffic and weather information.

A short video on Houston TranStar and innovation

State-of-the-art technology has fueled TranStar’s pioneering success and continues to benefit motorists every day. Use its real-time traffic map to plan routes and save time. Receive personalized email alerts or texts or subscribe to Twitter to receive traffic alerts.

Houston TranStar pioneered the use of traffic monitoring using Anonymous Wireless Address Matching (AWAM). AWAM currently uses anonymous addresses from Bluetooth™ network devices to identify probes and calculate travel times and speeds on instrumented roadway segments. This innovation allows Houston TranStar to provide travel updates to drivers during daily commutes as well as in emergency evacuation situations.

Partners

Harris County covers 1,788 square miles. As Harris County becomes more and more urbanized in this rapidly growing region, Transportation and Emergency Management issues have become a critical part of its responsibilities. As a partner of the Houston TranStar consortium, Harris County is expanding the existing systems from the freeways to the streets within its boundaries. Harris County currently has several departments working from the state-of-the-art Center: the Traffic Signal Section, the Sheriff’s Office MAP Unit, and the Office of Emergency Management.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) has been providing the mass transit operations for the region for many years. As a partner of the Houston TranStar consortium, this expertise has helped the center become a truly “multi-modal” operation. METRO currently has three operational sections conducting business at the center: High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) operations, Police Dispatch, state-of-the-art Bus Operations, and Rail Operations.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has been developing and implementing freeway management systems for many years. Under the Houston TranStar philosophy of “Sharing Resources and Expertise”, TxDOT has brought systems to the consortium that have become the backbone of many partnership operations.

The City of Houston is the fourth most populous city in the United States. As in any large municipality, Transportation and Emergency Management are vital to the economic development and public safety in the region. As a partner of the Houston TranStar consortium, the City will be expanding the existing systems from the freeways to surface streets within their boundaries. The City currently has sections of departments working from the state-of-the-art Center: the Traffic Signal Section, the Police Command Section, and various other key personnel.

Public and Private Partnerships

Motorist Assistance Program

The Motorist Assistance Program (MAP) is a partnership between the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, METRO, The Texas Department of Transportation, the Houston Automobile Dealer’s Association and Cingular Wireless Telephone Company. The Motorist Assistance Program is a traffic management strategy that utilizes 16 vans and trucks to assist more than 36,000 motorists every year with minor vehicle problems that impede the flow traffic on Houston area freeways. They assist motorists with changing flat tires, provide fuel or water, assist with minor engine repairs, jump start vehicles and transport motorists to safe locations.

Media

Houston TranStar has established a multi-media partnership with the major news outlets in Houston, Texas (the 11th largest media market in the country). Houston TranStar’s Closed Circuit Television images and Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI) speed data can be seen on ABC, CBS, NBC, News 24 and FOX seven days a week, 365 days a year. Houston TranStar also provides other outlets including Metro Traffic Network, Navteq Traffic, and the Houston Chronicle with traffic and weather-related information so citizens of the region can be kept up-to-date on current driving and weather conditions.

Operation Respond

Houston TranStar was the first management center in the nation to establish a partnership with the Washington D. C. based Operation Respond Institute for the use of the Operation Respond Emergency Information System (O. R.E. I.S). The O. R.E. I.S. affords Houston area emergency response personnel the opportunity to quickly access information concerning hazardous loads traveling on Houston’s freeways. With this system, Houston TranStar can access information on hazardous materials by container number, trailer number or carrier name. In the event of an accident, responding emergency personnel can quickly identify the materials at hand, the safety precautions they must employ and the correct methods to contain the hazardous situation.

Benefits

Houston TranStar’s benefits are well-documented and quantified by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. the transportation research arm of Texas A & M University.

TranStar’s transportation management activities have reduced the public’s travel times and fuel consumption (nearly than $5 billion saved since the program’s inception), and has lowered exhaust emissions (hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides). In 2015, the savings in travel time lowered fuel consumption by 38 million gallons.

In 2015, travel delays cost the region just under $534 million. However, by actively managing traffic incidents and providing travel information to the public, Houston TranStar offset travel delays in the region by almost 20.7 million vehicle hours, for a monetary benefit of $460 million.

Emergency management activities and warnings have decreased the number of injuries, deaths, and extensive property damage caused by floods and other weather-related and/or man-made events.

The annual cost to operate Houston TranStar is $34.3 million. Divided into TranStar's annual benefit of $546 million, the benefit/cost ratio is 15.9. So for every $1 spent on Houston TranStar, the region realizes a benefit of $15.90. Since its inception 20 years ago, TranStar has saved commuters nearly $5 billion in reduced traveler delays and fuel costs.

About Houston TranStar

Summary . The Houston TranStar consortium is a partnership of four government agencies that are responsible for providing Transportation Management and Emergency Management services to the Greater Houston Region. This video highlights the activities that TranStar is responsible for in the region and provides insight into some of the benefits that TranStar generates for the traveling public.