Be aware of technology and training issues when pioneering new transit technologies.

Experience from the Lake Tahoe Coordinated Transit System.

Date Posted

Evaluation of the South Lake Tahoe Coordinated Transit System (CTS) Project Phase III Evaluation Report

Summary Information

In 2000, 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 intelligent transportation systems (ITS), and promoting tourism. Among the selected projects was the Tahoe Coordinated Transit System (CTS).

The CTS was viewed as a means of reducing congestion, protecting the environment and earning mitigation credits for redevelopment in the Lake Tahoe region. Through combining transit services offered by private and public sector stakeholders into one centrally dispatched operation that uses intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies, the CTS would also improve transit efficiency and create a more visitor friendly transit system. The CTS project spans the jurisdiction of two counties in two states, as well as one city, and incorporates the private transit resources of five casinos and one ski resort, with the aim of serving the market objectives of both the public and private sectors. The key features of the new system included:

  • Automatic vehicle location (AVL)
  • Mobile data terminals (MDT)
  • Computer-aided dispatch (CAD)
  • Automatic passenger counters (APC)
  • Trip reservation/information kiosks
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system for trip booking by telephone
  • Traffic surveillance cameras

A U.S. DOT evaluation report has summarized findings from a system impact study that focuses primarily on assessing the impacts on ridership, customer satisfaction and operating efficiency. Findings from an institutional issues review and a set of lessons learned on deploying and operating the various ITS transit technologies are also presented.

The CTS project was the first deployment of transit ITS technologies in the Lake Tahoe region and involved a number of different technologies including, Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD), Mobile Data Terminals (MDT), Trip Reservation/Information Kiosks, and Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVR). In the stakeholder interviewers a number of challenges to implementing the technology for the CTS system were discussed.

  • Keep the technological solution simple. Transit is a basic concept that the public understands. When complex ITS technologies are incorporated into the operation of the transit system it takes additional time for the operators and public to understand and feel comfortable with the system.
  • Consider an extended software maintenance agreement if using customized software. The CTS utilized a customized software solution that tailored functionality to the specific needs of the project; however, the stakeholders underestimated the effect to which problems with software and hardware would affect the system performance. When problems with the software and hardware arose after the agreed upon service contract expired it was difficult to obtain help from the vendors.
  • Consider a phased implementation schedule. In the deployment of the CTS all of the new technological elements were introduced over a short period, which created challenges with driver training as well as communication with the public. Agencies planning a similar system would benefit from a phased implementation of the technology to allow for increased training to the drivers and the public on how to operate the technologies involved.
  • Incorporate training of operators and traveling public. In the case of the CTS neither the public nor the operators were familiar with how to use the new technologies. The CTS Board recognized the important role that the hotel front desk staff played in assisting the public with using the kiosks to book rides. Initially, the Board held training luncheons for hotel staff once during the summer, but due to the high turnover of hotel employees the Board increased the luncheons to each fall and spring. In addition, TRPA staff periodically check in with each hotel and resort served by the Casino to ensure that they are satisfied with the service. On the operators side, in addition to training on how use the software, additional training on repairing the hardware and re-installing it following repairs are critical in facilitating ongoing system maintenance efforts.
  • Select a contractor with expertise in the transit applications of your system. Many contractors have a specific area of specialization that may be different from the focus area of a transit system. In order to effectively address issues related to consolidating several transit services it is important to choose a vendor whose core business matches the transit services included in the system.

As the first project to utilize transit ITS technologies in the Lake Tahoe region, the CTS experienced challenges associated with pioneering the new technologies. A phased approach to deploying new technologies is recommended, coupled with outreach and training to both operators and the public on how to use the new technologies. Choosing simple technology and ensuring access to maintenance support for those technologies is also recommended. Following the guidance of the CTS experience will ease the challenges associated with pioneering the deployment of new technology

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