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.
The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County, Nevada involved the agency staff in its comprehensive ITS implementation process, which began with the selection of a contractor and continued for four years until the system was accepted as operational meeting the requirements set by the agency. The lessons learned from RTC’s efforts to prepare for and to manage the impending challenges posed by new technologies are presented below.
Prepare agency staff for implementation of new ITS technologies.
- Recognize disruptive changes: It is nearly impossible for a technical installation involving hundreds of vehicles, multiple communication networks, and dozens of computers to happen flawlessly. The agency Project Manager should prepare agency staff for the potential that installation may be disruptive and challenging. As noted in other lessons from this project, having champions for each transit ITS user group would provide a way to maintain enthusiasm and communicate with the agency staff. Proper preparation would reduce potential staff frustration.
Prepare staff for acceptance: In many agencies, some transit staff members are reluctant to change their current practices, regardless of the potential benefits of a new system. When the system has shortcomings or failures, the reluctant staff members may become more hesitant to accept new technologies, even after they are working well. By preparing staff and making them aware that the system is likely to have some issues at startup, it will help to encourage staff acceptance.
Include staff as co-participants: RTC’s staff was accepting of the new transit ITS. The agency Project Manager did an excellent job of involving staff in the planning and procurement process, and preparing them for potential issues. It was noted during interviews for this evaluation that dispatch and maintenance employees were fully accepting of the system from the beginning and expected debugging to be part of the implementation process. A small number of vehicle operators, however, did have technical issues with in-vehicle hardware. While those early issues have been resolved, the staff members that experienced them are still less likely to accept and fully utilize the transit ITS.
Listen to staff’s concerns: Some ways to prepare staff for the potential obstacles of the implementation process are to provide them with channels for voicing their complaints and frustrations. This can be a form for them to document system errors or functions that do not work properly. Such a form gives the contractor and agency Project Managers concrete examples to review and resolve. It also can help the staff feel a sense of ownership in the system because they are a part of the process to improve it.
Involve maintenance and information technology (IT) staff in the installation process.
- Work side by side with contractor: Many agencies expect a transit ITS system to be fully installed by the selected contractor. During the installation, RTC’s contractor worked side-by-side with RTC staff, and RTC believes it gave the agency a much better ability to diagnose and repair the transit ITS components on its own. As a result, the RTC RIDE (RTC’s fixed-route service) staff are able to resolve many issues in-house. That ability reduces potential delays while waiting for the contractor to do repairs.
Build in-house capability: Two members of RTC RIDE’s maintenance staff observed installations of hardware aboard all the fixed route vehicles. They participated in the wiring, placement and testing of hardware, so they are familiar with how to remove, diagnose and replace equipment. RTC ACCESS (RTC’s paratransit service) maintenance staff observed the installation on several buses, but did not participate. They frequently rely on the RTC RIDE Maintenance staff for support. The RTC RIDE expertise has also allowed them to inspect new vehicles that are shipped to RTC with the transit ITS installed. In some case, RTC RIDE Maintenance staff have been able to find and correct errors in the new vehicles.
RTC involved its staff extensively in the ITS implementation process, which prepared them well to manage the new technologies after implementation. 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.