In Southeast Michigan, operating a freeway service patrol program ($2.4 million for 2005) proves cost effective.

August 2006
Wayne County,Michigan,United States; Oakland County,Michigan,United States; Macomb County,Michigan,United States

Summary Information

In response to congestion problems caused by incidents, the Alliance for a Safer Greater Detroit implemented a Freeway Courtesy Patrol (FCP) program on a pilot basis in September 1994. Since its inception, the FCP program has focused on motorist safety and security while reducing congestion due to crashes and breakdowns on the Detroit area freeways. The program offers assistance to thousands of motorists on freeways in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) administers the program as part of its larger freeway incident management program out of the Michigan Intelligent Transportation Systems Center (MITSC) in Detroit.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) with support from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) through the MDOT; the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with the assistance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning; and local membership contributions produced a report on the MDOT Freeway Courtesy Patrol (FCP) program. The report summarizes operational changes and provides statistics on the FCP activities for the 2005 operation year. The FCP is part of a comprehensive incident management initiative to reduce delay caused by non-recurring congestion and improve operations of the freeway system. The MDOT manages the FCP program that provides services to Detroit area motorists during the weekday commute.

For 2005, the program employed 32 drivers and consisted of a fleet of 34 vans. From January 2005 through September 2005, the standard hours of patrolling were from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Beginning October 2005, the patrol expanded its hours of operation to 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a reduced work force during the midnight shift. The patrol also operates on special-event days (e.g., major community public events and sporting events). In addition to detecting and marking unoccupied vehicles and removing debris from the roadway, FCP drivers offer the following services, free-of-charge, to stranded motorists:
    • Changing tires
    • Providing gas and other fluids
    • Providing other mechanical assistance
    • Providing five miles of tow service at no charge
    • Securing and providing assistance to accident scenes
The actual annual operating cost for the FCP program for 2005 was just over $2.4 million, just slightly lower than the annual costs experienced for 2004. The $2.4 million cost translates into $200,000 a month. The amount can vary depending on the number of workdays per month and/or overtime hours beyond regularly scheduled shifts. Drivers’ salaries and benefits, as well as administrative, towing, and operating costs are included in the monthly total.

Using modeling tools that focus on travel-time savings to motorists, a benefit cost analysis was conducted. The analysis yielded a benefit-cost ratio of 15 to 1.

For 2005, $3 million was programmed in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for the FCP. The majority of funding for the Freeway Courtesy Patrol comes from the USDOT Surface Transportation Program (STP) with a smaller amount from the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF). The breakout of funding in the TIP included $2.4 million from STP and $600,000 from the MTF.

Link to the SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, MDOT Freeway Courtesy Patrol in Southeast Michigan: 2003 Evaluation Report system cost summary.

Link to the SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, MDOT Freeway Courtesy Patrol in Southeast Michigan: 2004 Evaluation Report system cost summary.

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MDOT Freeway Courtesy Patrol in Southeast Michigan: 2005 Evaluation Report

Author: SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments

Published By: SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments

Source Date: August 2006


System Cost

2005 Operations: $2.4 million.


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Related Unit Cost Subsystems

Transportation Management Center (TM)


freeway service patrol, courtesy patrols, highway helpers, freeway service patrols

Cost ID: 2006-00105