Ensure that the management responsible for transit ITS planning is knowledgeable on agency’s labor contracts and how labor contracts affect effective utilization of ITS tools.

Washoe County’s experience implementing a comprehensive transit ITS program.

Date Posted

Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County Intelligent Transportation System Implementation Evaluation Study

Summary Information

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
  • DataMart™
  • 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.

Lessons Learned

An agency’s human resources are key to the successful deployment and operations of an ITS program. The effective utilization of ITS tools is dependent on an agencies labor laws. The lessons learned from the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County’s labor contracts are presented below.

  • Beware of limitations of labor contracts that may adversely affect the efficiency of agency’s ITS operations. Transit ITS can provide a powerful set of tools to manage transit operations. However, the extent of effective utilization of the ITS tools can be limited by what agency staffs are allowed to do. RTC has experienced instances where the transit ITS could not be fully utilized due to labor rules. Two examples are provided below.
    • (a) With the implementation of transit ITS, RTC’s fixed-route service (RTC RIDE) dispatchers now have the ability to monitor vehicle locations and schedule adherence in real time. The transit ITS also gives them the ability to send text messages to vehicle operators. When a vehicle is off-route or schedule, the dispatchers can, in theory, alert the operator and give some instruction to help them get back on route or schedule. However, labor contracts define that directing vehicles in such a way is a supervisor’s responsibility. Even though the dispatcher is usually the first to see such issues, he or she must contact a supervisor. In this case, the labor contracts prevent a dispatcher from directly using the transit ITS to resolve an on-street issue.

      (b) The playback feature of the transit ITS allows RTC to view a “replay” of a vehicle on any specific time and route or route segment. RTC uses the feature for many purposes, including examining customer complaints or grievances against particular vehicle operators. The complaints and grievances usually concern late or early vehicles. While the replay tool is considered “very reliable” by supervisors, dispatchers and management, it is not allowed to be used as evidence in grievances. Regardless of whether it proves or disproves a grievance, the labor contract does not allow use of AVL data for grievances.
  • Ensure that the management responsible for ITS planning and operations is knowledgeable about the agency’s labor contracts. During the planning process, transit agencies considering ITS should review and be knowledgeable about the labor contracts that define the jobs of each potential ITS staff group. If the labor contracts may adversely affect the use of ITS, the agency should consider whether to attempt to change the labor contract, or whether to modify its ITS plans to accommodate the existing agreement.

Despite limitations placed by labor contracts, 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.