A Ride Through SAFIRES : Lessons Learned from SAFIRES : An APTS Operational Test in Prince William County, VA
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) sponsored an operational test of ITS technologies for OmniRide, a flexible-route, deviation transit service in Prince William County, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. The test, referred to as the Smart Flex-route Integrated Real-time Enhancement System (SaFIRES), deployed transit ITS applications, including Global Positioning System automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology, mobile data terminals (MDT), automated scheduling and dispatching software, and a digital radio communications system. SaFIRES, a private/public partnership, received $1.2 million in ISTEA funds from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, and Surface Transportation Programs to administer the test.
The deployment of ITS technologies for a flexible-route transit service (OmniLink), simplified the process involved in scheduling passenger pick-ups and drop-offs off the fixed route. Flexible-route service allows the bus to deviate from the fixed route for passenger pick-up or drop-off at locations off-route. This type of service can work well in districts like Prince William County that are characterized as urban/suburban sprawl due to dispersed development, inefficient street layouts and a lack of concentrated areas with potential riders.
Prior to the ITS deployment, passengers had to request off-route pick-up or drop-off two days ahead of time, with representatives scheduling the reservation by checking manifests and telephoning various contacts to determine whether a bus would be available at that time and location to make a deviation off the fixed route. These technologies streamlined the reservation process and reduced the time required to schedule pick-up and drop-off from two days to two hours. The systems allowed OmniLink customer representatives to make reservations and confirmations in real-time, with the caller still on the telephone line.