Phase III (Final) Evaluation Report National Evaluation of FY01 Earmark: Area Transportation Authority of North Central Pennsylvania – Regional GIS/ITS Initiative
The Area Transportation Authority of North Central Pennsylvania (ATA) provides fixed-route and demand-response service to a mostly rural six-county area covering 5,000 square miles with a population of about 290,000. The ATA operates 133 routes, including fixed-route and demand-response, and serves about 372,000 passenger trips every year. The ITS implementation studied occurred as part of FY2001 federal earmark ITS funding. Because of the earmark funding, ATA was able to implement data and voice radio, mobile data computers (MDC), automatic vehicle location (AVL), and computer-aided reservation, scheduling and dispatch (CARSD) components. Other components such as reorganized maintenance management and financial systems were implemented as part of this funding, which may have led to improvements that cannot be separated from those benefits gained from ITS improvements alone.
The authors utilized pre-deployment and post-deployment data in order to determine system improvements as a result of the implementation of ITS technologies. Findings attributed to ITS technologies have been highlighted below. Surveys were also conducted with customer study groups for the demand-response service and with driver, staff, and administration.
- Utilization of scheduling software has reduced non-revenue vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by demand service vehicles by 5.6 percent to 18 percent of VMT putting ATA below the national average of 24 percent for similar, mostly rural agencies.
- AVL data shows that on-time pick-ups improved nine percent and are now over 80 percent.
- The scheduling software has yet to be fully utilized and performance is likely to improve as ATA implements "batch scheduling."
- Reservationists also reported that the scheduling software has reduced the amount of time spent on each reservation phone call.
- The implementation of AVL /MDC technologies provided many benefits to the ATA, especially because they were able to reach agreements with five of the six counties they serve to improve their radio coverage. Using AVL/MDC allows dispatchers to schedule more same-day trips than was previously possible. It also decreased the amount of time spent by dispatchers on radio communication by 28 percent due to text messages being sent to drivers on the MDC rather than repeating instructions over radio. Drivers use the MDC to conduct pre-trip inspections, which are uploaded to the maintenance department daily. This is a task that used to be a two week process when paper forms were used. The maintenance department attributes the 69 percent decrease of in-service breakdowns to the use of MDCs for pre-trip inspections. When breakdowns and crashes do occur, the AVL technology allows the dispatcher to know the exact location of the vehicle and send the necessary resources to deal with the problem.
- Surveys indicated that passengers had high levels of satisfaction with the ATA service prior to ITS implementation and the addition of ITS technology left the level of customer satisfaction largely unchanged. Staff and administration were satisfied with the improvements to their work flows due to the help of the CARSD software. This was also helped by the administrative changes as well.