Secure high level management support and broad participation throughout an organization during the implementation and operation of transit automatic vehicle location systems.
A synthesis of transit agency experience with bus AVL systems
Made Public Date


United States


North Carolina
United States


United States


United States

AVL Systems for Bus Transit: Update (TCRP Synthesis 73)


A synthesis report entitled AVL Systems for Bus Transit: Update (TCRP Synthesis 73), published by the Transportation Research Board, documented the current state-of-practice of fixed-route and demand responsive automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems. A literature review was conducted and the results of on-line surveys and case study telephone interviews were evaluated to collect information on the characteristics of implemented bus AVL systems, and examine agency experiences during the design, procurement, implementation, and integration of these systems.

Using an on-line survey software tool, questionnaires were distributed to 107 different transit agencies in the United States and Internationally. Thirty-two (32) agencies responded to the survey. Researchers consolidated participant responses to each of the survey questions and highlighted important findings documenting benefits, costs, and lessons learned.

Follow-up case study telephone interviews were conducted to obtain additional details on selected systems. Experienced staff (1 to 2 persons) from each from each of the following agencies provided comments. The selected agencies provided for a broad range of diversity in terms of geographic location, fleet size, systems integrator, and AVL system functionality.

  • Beaver County Transit Authority (BCTA) in Rochester, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh region)
  • King County Metro in Seattle, Washington
  • Triangle Transit Authority in Raleigh–Durham, North Carolina
  • Valley Metro in Phoenix, Arizona

Lessons Learned

The synthesis included the findings of a literature review, agency survey responses, and case study telephone interviews with agency personnel involved in the development and operation of bus AVL systems. The lessons below represent experience from multiple agencies and focus on issues related to the leadership and management of AVL systems and initiatives.

  • Secure stakeholder participation throughout an agency organization. Top management backing is critical to facilitate cooperation and information gathering among agency business units that do not interact on day-to-day basis. Leadership should present a vision for transit technology development and clearly define the purpose of the implementation.
  • Provide an executive-level project champion to ensure access to required resources, training, and staff for both implementation and operations. Business units throughout an agency are involved in a variety of ways in an AVL system implementation. Evaluate the effects of the implementation on the operations of each business unit, including its practices, organizational structure, and staffing. Involve these business units accordingly in the acquisition of the AVL system and once the system is in revenue service.
  • Be ready to adapt resources towards new projects. Successful agencies are readily able to allocate resources towards new projects. The most commonly reported specific changes undertaken by agencies to adapt operations to the effective use of AVL systems is altering procedures and providing training to staff. Training and Human Resources personnel will have a critical role preparing to train a large number of departments and staff (i.e., operators, dispatchers, supervisors, maintenance technicians, Information Technology staff, customer service, and marketing personnel). Assistance from experienced consultants can be helpful as they are aware of the functional capabilities of a wide variety of vendor systems.

Overall, this research recognized the need for business processes that enable staff to coordinate and share information across functional areas of an agency to enable more efficient system support and better management.