Recognize the data requirements of an Advanced Public Transportation System (APTS).
Experience from the Cape Cod Advanced Public Transit System.
Made Public Date


Cape Cod, Massachusetts,
United States

Evaluation of the Cape Cod Advanced Public Transit System Phases I and II: Final Report


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.

Lessons Learned

The deployment of an Advanced Public Transportation System (APTS) requires a significant commitment to the collection of high quality data. As part of the evaluation of the Cod Regional Transit Authority's (CCRTA) APTS project, 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 data requirements was developed.

  • Ensure the quality of the data. A key benefit of the APTS system is due to its ability to collect and maintain data that can be used to optimize system operations and planning. Consequently, maintaining the integrity of the data is critical. If vehicle operators fail to log in or mis-enter boarding data, the benefits of the system of the system will be compromised. To ensure that high quality data is collected, vehicle operators as well as other users of the system must be trained on system operations and monitoring of the data must be ongoing.
    • During the summer 2001 some anomalies were reported in the electronic data collection of passenger counts. Operations management noted that due to the large number of temporary staff hired for the summer as well as barriers in training on the use of the MDC system (such as language and computer unfamiliarity), that not all operators may have been fully familiar with the system, especially near the beginning of the summer. As a result more aggressive training and data collection oversight were planned for the summer of 2002.
  • Expect start-up bugs. In particular, with new and untested technology, technical problems may be an issue.
    • The MDC and software implemented by CCRTA were an "alpha-release" by the manufacturer, which had not previously implemented a product for use on both paratransit and fixed route vehicles simultaneously. As a result, numerous software patches were required to fix bugs and to customize the system to meet CCRTA's needs. A design flaw also led to the replacement of a batch of MDCs under warranty. As manufacturers gain more experience with the design and implementation of APTS systems, such start-up glitches are likely to decrease dramatically.

The data collected through an APTS can be used to support service planning (such as route restructuring) as well as operational planning, but transit agencies must ensure the integrity of the data if it is used for such purposes. Agencies must also be prepared to address technology start-up bugs. Through the collection and use of high quality data, transit agencies are better equipped to make operational decisions that result in improvements to mobility, safety, productivity and efficiency.