Project funding was awarded to the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to build the system between 2004 and 2010. The U.S. DOT facilitated an evaluation of technical and institutional issues, system impacts, and lessons learned.
The evaluation of the MMTPS project was originally designed to examine whether or not the development of a customized tool to integrate single-mode information from various local databases using existing standards would provide additional benefits beyond a single-mode trip planning system. However, in response to a changing trip planning environment, the RTA decided to use a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) proprietary end-to-end traveler information product (Goroo.com) since the concept of a door-to-door multimodal trip planner incorporating seamless, comparative, multi-agency itineraries represented a significant innovation at the time. After a series of stakeholder trials, the Goroo was made available to the public in April 2009.
To accommodate the design change, the evaluation plan was revised to examine how multimodal trip planners can influence traveler behavior. Findings were primarily drawn from user surveys and interviews with project staff, partner agencies, and a peer advisory panel.
Although circumstances surrounding the demonstration project resulted in changes to the implementation plan that reduced the evaluation scope of work, researchers effectively documented the following useful lessons.
- Examine how changes to the technical, institutional, or external environment may impact the value of remaining project activities at each decision point throughout a project. These developments may be either internal to the project (e.g., the decision to go with COTS) or external (e.g., the introduction of Google Transit).
- Clearly define user needs. A diminished focus on the systems engineering process can result in a system acceptance and verification plan that focuses more on technical functionality rather than user needs.
Marketing and Communication
- Design a trip planning website to capture and convey real-world factors such as gas prices and congestion information. Market research reviewed during the project indicated that travel time information was important to travelers but it was not the sole reason for mode choice. Researchers indicated that a well designed trip planning website should be more than just an itinerary-trip planner, it should be able to effectively capture and convey real-world factors that make transit an increasingly attractive option. Researchers noted there was an increased desire for real-time vehicle location information, predictions, and disruption notification information, particularly when travelers were en-route and using mobile devices.
- Ensure that project partners share the same goals, and that cumulative small decisions do not move the project away from one partner's goals. Third party channels to market can be useful, but should be part of the overall mix rather than a stand-alone marketing solution. By relying solely on an existing marketing campaign, the RTA Goroo team lost the ability to control the message, target particular market segments, or clearly convey what the product was.
- Understand how to convert data between Transit Communications Interface Profiles Scheduling Business Area (TCIP-SCH) standards and General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). It can be difficult for agencies to implement standards before their software providers (vendors) build such features into their systems. In the last few years, GTFS has become a common implementation for transit schedule information; agencies looking to apply TCIP-SCH may already use GTFS.
Technical Challenges to Project Delivery
- Allow for time in the project schedule to address data integration issues. Data between autonomous agencies will differ in format and content. A demonstration project on a smaller scale can provide valuable insight into the consolidation of data feeds and issues with standards.
Trip Planning Environment
- Be prepared for revisions to GTFS which will enable more real-time integration of trip planning data. Currently, it only provides static information. Although some progress has been made in introducing real-time information in to transit trip planning, in the trip planners reviewed, most transit trip planning systems are based on static schedules and itineraries generated are not dynamically responding to transit or traffic delays.
Public Sector Role
- Implement multimodal trip planners for transportation organizations that are more multimodal in focus. Although trip planners were originally developed by the transit community, the demands and inputs needed to create a truly multimodal trip planner may go far beyond the scope of the transit agency mission or areas of expertise. While multimodal trip planners can encourage transit ridership by providing directions on walking, biking, or driving to transit, it may not be feasible for transit agencies to develop or even coordinate all of this information. Multimodal trip planners are better suited for transportation organizations with a more multimodal focus such as a regional transportation organization, a consortium of transportation stakeholders, as well as the private sector.