Advanced technologies are deployed in the transit industry in an effort to improve the safety, reliability, and efficiency of public transportation services. The Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority's (CCRTA) Advanced Public Transportation System (APTS) project is an application of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to fixed route and paratransit operations in a rural setting. The Cape Cod APTS was initiated through a partnership between the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) and the Moakley Center for Technological Applications at Bridgewater State College. This report evaluates Phases I and 2 of the project, which were implemented between 1997 and 2000 and included the following components:
- An automatic vehicle location system (AVL) using global positioning systems (GPS) technology
- Mobile data computers (MDC) on transit vehicles
- A dedicated radio system for data transmission between MDCs and dispatchers
- A "silent alarm" feature
- A state of the art fast local area network (LAN) at the CCRTA operations center
- AVL/MDC host software that includes a geographic information system (GIS) mapping system to display real time vehicle locations at the operations center
- An Internet site with GIS mapping so that customers can view real-time bus locations
Among the main goals for the Cape Cod APTS were improving dispatch operations, reducing the cost per passenger trip, providing better transit information, enhancing the amount and quality of data available for planning and analysis, improving safety and security for transit operators and customers, and promoting open, interoperable systems in ITS.
This evaluation report provides findings on the benefits and impacts of the APTS to the CCRTA and its customers, including operational benefits, costs, impacts on system-wide performance measures, and technological, institutional and other issues related to the deployment. A set of lessons learned is also presented.
The deployment of an Advanced Public Transportation System (APTS) requires up-front planning and a significant commitment on the part of the transit agency. As part of the evaluation of the Cape Cod APTS, interviews were conducted with project staff and stakeholders, including CCRTA dispatchers and bus operators. Based on these interviews, the following set of lessons learned on planning for an APTS was developed.
- Invest in infrastructure to support the AVL and MDC. Infrastructure requirements include a fast and reliable local area network at the operations center; a redundant set of servers with expansive data storage capacity; and a data radio system separate from the existing voice radio system. Infrastructure design, development, and installation represent a significant cost of the APTS deployment.
- CCRTA invested up front in a thoroughly designed system that could take maximum advantage of the APTS capabilities. In 1998, the project team revised an initial plan for the LAN so that it would provide a very robust, fault-tolerant, fast LAN suitable for a full featured APTS deployment. Dell computers provided 14 Opti-Plex 266 MHz PCs and two Power edge 2200 servers with 27GB hard drives in a RAID 5 configuration. After failure in the main server's RAID 5 Controller card in the first week of operation, the LAN was redesigned with a third LAN server independent of the two high capacity applications servers for GIS and GPS. In 2001 (Phase 2), the CCRTA LAN underwent a major upgrade, with installation of two new servers and optimization of the network. An ISDN connection was installed between the operations center and the administrative headquarters, allowing administrative staff to view AVL data and query the AVL/MDC database.
- Using Phase 1 grants, CCRTA conducted an initial study of communications options. This was extremely helpful in clarifying their options and selecting the best option.
- Obtain a strong commitment from the transit agency and invest in a knowledge base. The transit agency must be fully committed to deploying its resources in support of the APTS, including a long-term commitment to information support technology in order to maintain the system and ensure use of its full capabilities.
- CCRTA administrative, operations, and maintenance staff made significant time commitments to the design, development, and deployment of the APTS. In addition, having a technologically savvy project manager from a local university was very helpful to the project. The project manager had over 25 years of experience in transit operations and technology and had closing working relationships with CCRTA administration and operations management. Agencies that do not have staff with the necessary technical knowledge will have to draw on expertise from outside the agency and possibly outside the area.
- CCRTA realized the need for a full time information technology/data analyst staff person to support both the hardware and the software associated with the system, and to take advantage of its data-related capabilities. There are hardware and software issues that constantly need attention, and having a person who is skilled with the technology helps to address problems quickly. Proficiency in Special Language Query (SLQ) is necessary to be able to write queries to extract data from the MDC database.
- Proceed incrementally.
- CCRTA's trial deployment of 20 AVL units demonstrated the limitations of their initial choice of technology. The agency determined that a different in-vehicle product (the Mentor system) would be cheaper, more responsive to their needs and have a broader range of capabilities. Similarly, they were able to use a zero-capital communications technology for this initial demonstration, but also determined that a communications technology with higher initial investment and lower operating cost would be preferable for the long term. If a similar system has not been previously installed by a vendor, a small scale test is recommended to ensure that the technology functions well.
Deployment of an APTS requires adequate up-front planning. Agencies must be willing to invest in the necessary infrastructure to support the system, must commit staff resources to the deployment and ongoing operations and maintenance of the APTS, and should consider proceeding incrementally. Adequate planning will enable agencies to maximize the operational, mobility and safety benefits of the APTS.