Washoe County’s experience implementing a comprehensive transit ITS program.
Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County Intelligent Transportation System Implementation Evaluation Study
In 1999, the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County, Nevada entered into a cooperative agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to procure and implement Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) for its fixed-route and paratransit services. RTC's transit ITS deployment initiative was a multi-year funding project and the total cost agreed to was $4,750,000, with a funding split of 80 percent federal and 20 local. RTC began the procurement process in 2000, the implementation in 2002, and completed implementation and acceptance testing in 2007. RTC staff and its passengers have become accustomed to the system and its functionality. Key ITS technologies deployed were:
- Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) on fixed-route, paratransit and supervisor vehicles
- Computer-Aided Dispatch
- Paratransit Scheduling and Reservation Software
- Fixed-Route Scheduling Software
- Automated Passenger Counters
- Real-Time Traveler Information for Fixed-Route Vehicles
- Remote Engine Diagnostics
- Automated Stop Announcements
- Transit Signal Priority
- Mobile Supervisor
An evaluation report, entitled "Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County Transit Intelligent Transportation System Implementation Evaluation" was published in March 2010. The project evaluators compared baseline pre-transit ITS data and post-transit ITS data, measured the quantitative and qualitative impacts on operational efficiency, observed how RTC staff performed their responsibilities, and identified a set of lessons learned.
RTC’s transit ITS has presented the agency with several obstacles and opportunities. As the system has been procured, deployed and operated, RTC learned many lessons and adjusted its approach to maximize the system’s value. The intent of the lessons learned is for RTC to share the knowledge it gained through its transit ITS experience with other agencies. A planning lesson from RTC’s experience is to select an agency project manager with the right skill set.
- Identify a project manager early in the planning process. The agency’s project manager will represent the agency through planning, procurement, implementation and operations. The person should be identified as early in the planning process as possible. The project manager should have strong experience with the transit agency, or some other assurance the person will stay committed to the project throughout the planning, procurement and implementation processes.
The project manager must be enthusiastic about and committed to the transit ITS deployment. A strong commitment is essential in order to endure the obstacles and setbacks that are inevitable in large technology projects. The project manager must be supported by management with the understanding that the path to successful implementation will not be perfectly smooth. The project manager must also have the willingness and ability to communicate frequently with executive decision-makers and operations staff.
- Understand that experience in planning and/or IT is helpful. RTC selected a project manager from its planning department. The RTC project manager has extensive knowledge of daily paratransit and fixed-route operations, as well as RTC budgeting and planning processes. The advantage of the planning project manager approach is that the agency was able to plan the transit ITS from the service-needs perspective. The project manager was able to help plan a system from the viewpoint of how operators, dispatchers, maintenance, planning and administrative staff use it to improve RTC’s operations.
If a planning or administrative person serves as project Manager, an agency needs to ensure his or her willingness and ability to understand the Information Technology (IT) needs of ITS. At RTC, the project manager is the daily administrator of the system and manages such technical issues as reformatting corrupt memory cards and administering user accounts.
Another approach to project management is to select a project manager from the IT side of an agency. This approach may be advantageous during planning and implementation because of the project manager’s familiarity with the agency’s network and hardware. A project manager from IT may be able to more directly work and communicate with a Contractor during the procurement and installation of the ITS.
The potential disadvantage of a project manager from IT is that his/her knowledge may not provide a full understanding of the needs of operators, dispatchers, maintenance, planning and administrative staff. The focus may be on making the system function rather than on meeting the needs of the agency staff.
- Ensure that the project manager has strong communications skills. Shortcomings of either IT or Planning focused project management approach can and should be overcome through strong communication skills of the project manager within the agency. If a planning person is selected, he or she must have a strong relationship and ability to communicate with IT staff throughout the transit ITS project. Similarly, an IT project manager must be able and willing to spend the time working with agency staff to understand their needs and responsibilities.
RTC has largely achieved the goals of its transit ITS deployment program and benefited significantly in many ways including better schedule adherence, increased ridership, reduced emissions, and increased customer satisfaction.