The Riverside Transit Agency experience with the methods used to procure equipment and software for automatic vehicle location (AVL) and computer-aided dispatch (CAD).
In 1999, the U.S. Congress earmarked funds for selected projects that were assessed as supporting improvements in transportation efficiency, promoting safety, increasing traffic flow, reducing emissions, improving traveler information, enhancing alternative transportation modes, building on existing ITS, and promoting tourism. The USDOT selected a small number of these projects for national evaluation. The Riverside County, California Transit ITS Demonstration was among the selected projects.
The Riverside project proposed deploying several ITS applications to provide benefits in operations productivity, customer service, and traveler information for two transit agencies in Riverside County, California: Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) and SunLine Transit Agency. RTA and SunLine are medium and small sized providers, respectively, operating fixed route transit and demand response services. The major components of the project were automatic vehicle location (AVL) and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) technologies. The goals of the deployment were to provide the agencies with real-time fleet monitoring to promote on-route/on-time performance and to enhance customer information.
The national evaluation was originally intended to be a system impact study, but as the project experienced various deployment delays over time, it became apparent that there would be benefit in focusing the evaluation on lessons learned during the procurement phase. Therefore, the national evaluation was concluded in November 2005 prior to system deployment, and the lessons reported in the final report reflect the experiences of the stakeholders prior to actual deployment and operation of the system.
In some cases, it may be advantageous for two or more agencies to partner when procuring similar technologies or equipment. For example, multiple agencies procuring mobile data terminals (MDTs) for their demand response vehicles may find it beneficial to release a single request for proposals (RFP) for both agencies. Benefits can include reduced costs (e.g., one agency can take the lead in putting together the procurement documents), reduced risk, and greater industry participation (i.e., many vendors are more likely to respond to a larger-dollar value contract).
It was logical for RTA and SunLine to partner in this particular effort as they both intended to procure AVL and CAD technologies for their demand response and fixed route fleets. However, the two agencies’ needs diverged over time. One agency wanted to focus efforts on demand response operations while the other wanted to focus efforts on fixed route operations. Consequently, the procurement partnership was no longer a logical choice: many vendors who traditionally provide customized software for demand response are not particularly well-versed in fixed route operations; and, vice versa.
In addition to combining or separating procurements, the experience of the Riverside County project stakeholders provides the following suggestions that may be helpful to other agencies considering similar procurements.
- In the event that two or more agencies choose to issue an RFP jointly, despite the fact that they may have somewhat different needs, consider issuing multiple awards (i.e., one award for each distinct element of the procurement). In contrast to combining procurements, if the procurement involves diverse technologies, equipment, or services, or, if the needs of procuring agencies change, it may be less risky to the project to issue separate awards. Although RTA and SunLine did not go this route, one agency indicated that it would have been advantageous to allow for individual project bids for the fixed route versus demand response elements of the project. This would have enabled separate awards to vendors uniquely qualified in each of the two areas.
- Have clear goals and a clearly defined memorandum of understanding (MOU) in the event of a joint-procurement RFP. It can be advantageous for agencies to partner when procuring equipment or technology. However, it is important that the agencies have a clearly defined memorandum of understanding (MOU) that defines the roles and responsibilities of those involved, and that the individual entities involved have a clear sense of their own needs before discussing regional needs and goals.
The lesson presented here suggests that procuring agencies should consider whether or not it is beneficial to combine similar project elements (e.g., hardware, software, services). In some cases, procuring agencies may realize reduced costs, reduced risk, and greater industry participation. In other cases, procuring agencies may want to consider issuing multiple awards when project needs result in diverse or competing requirements. In addition, it is important to have similar needs and goals and a clearly defined MOU.