Do not expect to see significant operations staff reductions due to implementing ITS technologies, but do expect service improvements using the same staff levels.
Washoe County’s experience implementing a comprehensive transit ITS program.
Made Public Date
01/02/2013

250

Reno
Nevada
United States
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Identifier
2012-00628

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

Background

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

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County, Nevada has been using transit ITS to improve its operations since 2003. The agency has learned many lessons that have helped it more effectively operate its system and maximize the benefit of the ITS. The administrative lessons learned are presented below.

  • Do not expect to observe staff reductions as a result of efficiencies from transit ITS technologies.

    RTC has not seen significant staff reductions as a result of implementing transit ITS. There are a few exceptions, such as RTC ACCESS (paratransit service) reducing its reservations staff from seven to five. That reduction was in part a result of the transit ITS improved scheduling and dispatching capabilities; however, it is also the result of a change in the paratransit service contractor. Over the same period, RTC RIDE (fixed route service) maintenance has increased its staff by dedicating two staff members to technology maintenance. The technology maintenance staff spend only one-third of their time on transit ITS, while the rest of its time is dedicated to other technologies, including fare boxes and video security systems.

    It is noted that the service level and ridership have steadily increased on RTC RIDE and RTC ACCESS between 2003 and 2007, while staff have not increased. Overall, RTC's operations, maintenance, and administrative staff have not seen appreciable increases or decreases as a result of transit ITS. Departments, at both RTC RIDE and ACCESS, report that they are more productive as a result of transit ITS. The value to RTC of the transit ITS is not in cost reduction, but in service improvement using the same human resources.

  • Acquire the ability to customize administrative reports from data collected by agency's information technology (IT) systems.

    The IT capabilities of RTC's transit ITS included generating a series of "canned" reports for administrative and management staff to use to track operation performance and efficiency. Formats for canned reports have been prepared in advance and that allow for little or no customization. The canned reports cover a small set of typical transit performance and operational efficiency data, including ridership, schedule adherence and passenger counts. However, one of the strongest attributes of transit ITS is the large amount of data it creates. Data can be analyzed in a myriad of ways, including microscopic data analysis of single trips of a route on a specific day, and macroscopic analyses, such as all ridership on all routes for extended periods of time. RTC determined the canned reports gave access to only a small fraction of the data being generated by ITS. The canned reports also limited the ways the data could be analyzed. In addition, RTC indicated that many of the canned reports were not in a format that was easily usable for them.

    The RTC transit ITS data are stored on a server acting in a database accessible through the Crystal Reports reporting application. Several RTC staff members have gone through Crystal Report training. This gave the staff the ability to access the transit data through customized reporting. However, report customization is a complex and time-consuming process. The staff's other responsibilities prevent them from having time to design customized reports to extract the needed data. Recognizing the high value of the data stored within its transit AVL (automatic vehicle location) technology, RTC hired a consultant at additional cost to develop customized reports in the agency's preferred formats. The customized reports will provide data for analysis beyond that accessible through the canned reports.

    Because transit ITS generates a very rich data set for analysis, it is difficult to anticipate how an agency will use the data. RTC believes it would be difficult to predict and request all the report types needed during the procurement process. For that reason, RTC recommends that agencies plan to either have someone on staff who is properly trained in customizing reports and can spend the time creating them, or plan to hire a consultant who will work closely with agency staff to create customized reports. Report customization generation is a key to maximizing the benefit of the data generated by transit ITS.

  • Have an independent dialog with other agencies that are using the same contractor, and share experiences.

    RTC's contractor organizes annual conferences and user group sessions for transit agencies using their transit ITS components. This provides agencies with an opportunity to speak to each other and support each other through implementation and operations. It also allows the agency representatives to speak as a group with the contractor to discuss system changes.

    RTC has found additional value in speaking to the same agencies outside of the channels created by the contractor. An independent communications channel allows the agencies to speak without involvement of the contractor. Through direct communication, RTC has been able to identify problems that occurred in other agencies' implementations, but were not known or revealed by the contractor. It also provides RTC and other agencies the opportunity to share findings and information that may benefit the agencies.

    The independent dialog should take place in addition to, and not instead of, participation in the contractor's formal channels and user groups. Agencies are encouraged to seek out and make contact with other agencies who have deployed similar transit ITS, and continue to stay in contact. E-mail lists or web site forums are two low-cost means for holding an ongoing dialog among transit ITS users.

A comprehensive transit ITS enhances an agency's operational capabilities and efficiencies although it is unlikely that ITS will cause reduction in staff. Agency's administration shall benefit from generating customized administrative reports from data collected by ITS as well as from having independent dialog with other agencies using the same or similar technologies deployed by the same contractor. 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.

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

Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County Intelligent Transportation System Implementation Evaluation Study
Publication Sort Date
05/01/2010
Author
Tina Wu, Matt Weatherford, Ancila Kaiparambil, Linna Zhang
Publisher
Federal Transit Administration U.S. Department of Transportation

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