To avoid surprises after implementation of a comprehensive transit ITS program, perform a detailed analysis of costs for operations and maintenance during the project planning phase.
Washoe County’s experience implementing a comprehensive transit ITS program.
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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

A comprehensive transit ITS deployment must include a detailed analysis of operations and maintenance costs. Lessons learned from the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County’s transit ITS planning and deployment experience offers the following guidance:

Plan for operations and maintenance costs, as well as for contingencies.

  • As important the capital costs to install the transit ITS technologies are as the costs for ongoing operations and maintenance (O & M). While an agency’s request for proposal (RFP) will likely ask the contractor for estimated operation and maintenance costs, there are costs besides the contractor’s to consider.

    At RTC, operations and maintenance costs directly related to the transit ITS implementation, but not covered by the contractor, include digital maps, hardware the agency procured, space and cooling for that hardware, and additional applications required to interface with the transit ITS.

    RTC provides its own digital map backgrounds for the AVL workstations. Because Washoe County’s population has grown so rapidly, new streets and subdivisions have developed since the transit ITS implementation. Updating the digital maps costs approximately $8,000 annually. This cost was not planned for and RTC has not updated its base maps for approximately four years. Both RTC RIDE and RTC ACCESS staff note that the maps are not current with the road network on which RTC operates.

    As mentioned previously, RTC has incurred additional cost in space and cooling for transit ITS servers and communications hardware. While not significant, the cost was not anticipated and planned for as part of the transit ITS operations and maintenance.

    RTC had to procure two additional software applications that were not anticipated when it procured its transit ITS. In order to fully utilize its transit ITS, RTC purchased an upgraded version of Trapeze™ paratransit scheduling software, and shared the cost of the HASTUS™ fixed-route scheduling application with the contractor. Both of these systems require ongoing costs for training, support and licensing that are in addition to the direct costs of the transit ITS.

To avoid surprises after implementation, perform a detailed analysis of costs during the project planning phase.

  • During the planning process, RTC conducted a cost/benefit analysis. However, after implementation, the RTC information technology (IT) staff realized that agencies would benefit from doing a detailed analysis of costs. In fact, the IT department stated that the ongoing operations and maintenance costs of the ITS system still surprises the agency because many costs were not identified before procurement and implementation. RTC IT staff stated that they will not enter into a project of this magnitude in the future without a detailed cost/benefit analysis.

Agencies planning for comprehensive ITS deployment must conduct detailed analysis of costs as reflected in the lessons learned from RTC’s experience. 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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System Engineering Elements

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