Encourage staff to find creative and efficient uses of ITS to improve operations through better communications.
Washoe County’s experience implementing a comprehensive transit ITS program.
Made Public Date


United States

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


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 operations related lessons learned are presented below.

  • Encourage employees to find creative uses of transit ITS to improve operations.

    RTC has found that the uses for its transit ITS go beyond the planned functions. For example, the person at RTC who schedules vehicle operator shifts uses the system to send text messages to operators while they are on duty. The operator able to send them information about changes in their schedules, inform them of available shifts and ask if they would like to change existing assignments or accept additional assignments. Communicating this way is much simpler and more effective than leaving messages for operators, or waiting for them in the break room. It also gives the scheduler access to a much larger pool of operators than she could reach previously. This unplanned benefit of the transit ITS may be partially responsible for RTC's 30 percent reduction in overtime hours as a percentage of total operator hours since 2005.

    The planning staff also use the system to plan stop facilities, such as benches and shelters. Because boarding and alighting data is now available for each stop, RTC is able to view activity at each stop and accurately determine what is needed to improve the transit experience for its passengers.

    RTC Customer Service has also found a unique use for the system. When a customer calls to report a lost item, Customer Service staff can immediately identify the vehicle on which the passenger rode, and send a text message to the vehicle operator. The operator can then search the bus for the lost item at the next opportunity. This improves the chances the item will be found, and allows the operator to either hold the object or pass it to another operator or supervisor to return to the passenger.

    Agencies should allow their staff to explore the potential uses of the transit data and new communications capabilities of transit ITS. Agencies should not only focus on using the system as planned, but encourage their staff to create their own uses.

  • Consider allowing mobile supervisors to use the automatic vehicle location (AVL) system to monitor vehicle locations and schedule adherence.

    RTC's original plans called for a product called Mobile Supervisor that would give on-street supervisors the same ability as dispatchers to monitor real-time vehicle locations and schedule adherence. At the time of RTC's transit ITS implementation in 2003, no cost-effective means for providing high-speed wireless data communications was available and, hence, the Mobile Supervisor was not implemented, and RTC RIDE (fixed route service) on-street supervisors use an MDT (mobile data terminal) that provides them with limited capabilities to monitor bus activity.

    During peak hours and special events, RTC RIDE supervisors prefer being at a desk using the AVL workstation over being in a vehicle on-street because they can monitor more vehicles in more locations. However, vehicle operators indicated they prefer for the supervisors to be on-street so that they are more accessible.

    At RTC there are usually two supervisors on duty during the day. If one stays at the RTC RIDE office to monitor operations through the AVL workstation, the other supervisor must be the on-street supervisor for the entire RTC RIDE routes in operation. Clearly, the Mobile Supervisor application would have allowed RTC RIDE supervisors to be on-street while monitoring all vehicles. While RTC is interested in deploying this component of their ITS in the future, in the meantime the agency allows its on-duty supervisors to decide whether both will be on-street, or split between on-street and at a desk using an AVL workstation.

    Agencies are encouraged to develop a policy that maximizes the benefit of the transit ITS and the traditional responsibilities of supervisors. Besides the Mobile Supervisor, other solutions are to add a supervisor who is dedicated to monitoring vehicles from a workstation, and to give dispatchers some supervisor-duty authority to manage vehicles (note that current labor contracts define that directing vehicles en route is a supervisor’s responsibility, not a dispatcher’s). An agency should review its labor contracts before determining the most effective use of the transit ITS in supervising its fleet.

    Overtime RTC IT staff have developed a vehicle-mounted laptop for supervisors to use on the road. The laptop remotely runs TransitMasterTM AVL and CAD (computer aided dispatch) modules over cellular broadband.

Transit ITS enables agency employees to find creative and efficient uses of technology to improve operations. 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
Tina Wu, Matt Weatherford, Ancila Kaiparambil, Linna Zhang
Federal Transit Administration U.S. Department of Transportation

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