The SmartBus Project was chosen for national evaluation by the ITS Joint Program Office and Federal Transit Administration evaluation as it is an opportunity to evaluate the impacts of the use of extensive data warehousing and reporting software, as well as to document the benefits of applying a systems engineering approach when designing a comprehensive transit ITS program with a suite of integrated technologies. This document is the Phase III evaluation and evaluates all deployments within the SmartBus Project through October 2009.
The SmartBus Project demonstrates how ITS can improve the function of transit agencies when it is accompanied by careful planning and rigorous testing prior to deployment. The importance of these elements is critical when seeking internal and external support. Another successful approach to earn support for ITS deployments is to start with smaller technologies, prove their value, and then work on implementing larger and more involved technologies. For example, CARTA deployed a vehicle fuel usage system that simplified and increased the accuracy of a fundamental task. The success of this deployment could be cited when more ambitious technologies were later considered.
The CARTA SmartBus Project is also able to provide several suggestions for the deployment of specific ITS technologies within public transit agencies:
- Achieve a reliable level of accuracy with bus arrival time systems by considering that adjustments to bus schedules and additional timing points may be required. For example, CARTA had to add a number of new timing checkpoints and recalibrate some fixed-route bus schedules to ensure a minimum level of accuracy in the system.
- Overestimate the number of users who will use the media as a disposable fare card when introducing reusable fare media to ensure there is a sufficient supply. For example, CARTA ran out of fare cards sooner than anticipated due to many riders treating them as disposable. Despite this, CARTA still saved money by shortening the time it takes to analyze data and prepare reports.
- Set remote diagnostic systems to focus on significant failure codes. For example, the initial settings of the remote diagnostic maintenance system yielded a large number of minor or routine maintenance alerts, which overwhelmed and distracted from major issues.
- Install ticket vending machines to improve data collection for planning purposes, improve loss prevention, and expedite settlement of credit card disputes.
- Understand the limitations of the software deployed to automate operations. For example, CARTA was able to enter most, but not all, of its business practices and operating procedures into its paratransit operations software. Consequently, staff sometimes have to override recommendations made by the system, adding extra time to make reservations and plan routes.
- Implement in-house data warehousing to help streamline reporting and support agency decision-making. For example, deployment of an in-house data warehouse at CARTA has supported automation of monthly and annual reports, compiling data from multiple sources into a single database, opening up data within the agency, and generating custom reports on demand.
- Provide wireless internet to passengers with little additional cost when providing cellular network connectivity to transit buses.
- Implement fixed route operations software to help determine where to make service cuts and identify areas where cuts can be made without impacting service. For example, this type of software has produced run cuts reducing operating time by 60 hours per week while still satisfying CARTA’s fixed route schedule.
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