Sponsored by the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office (JPO) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the objective of the study was to identify operational best practices and related technology for applying ITS to rural transit. The project team found that at the time of the study in 2002, few rural properties had moved from the ITS planning stage to procurement and implementation. The project team gathered information through case studies to produce the Best Practices recommendations. On-site case studies were performed at the following rural transit agencies:
- The Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) in Austin, TX;
- St. Johns County, Marion County, and Putnam County, FL;
- The Public Transportation Programs Bureau (PTPB), a division of the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department;
- Ottumwa Transit Authority (OTA) in Ottumwa, IA; and
- River Valley Transit in Williamsport, PA.
The case studies highlighted a number of benefits that have emerged from rural transit ITS deployments. The report presents overall benefits, as well as benefits for each specific technology deployed.
The Client Referral, Ridership, and Financial Tracking (CRRAFT) system is an inter-agency effort that grew out of the desire to better coordinate and monitor rural transportation funding. Access to transportation is critical to obtaining economic self-sufficiency for welfare clients. However, the State, community transit providers, and Tribal departments and agencies that serve these clients face barriers to coordinating transportation, particularly given the large size of New Mexico, the high poverty levels, and the low population densities. The different funding agencies and transportation providers saw a need to standardize client referral, ridership, and financial information to provide better information about usage and simplify reporting.
The CRRAFT system is a web-based software program designed to authorize and schedule trips, track riders, bill trips, and generate reports on a single application that can be accessed by users over the Internet. It was developed in-house by the Alliance for Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), with funding from the US Department of Transportation, ITS JPO. Once the system is implemented at all 26 of New Mexico’s transit systems, ATRI estimates that approximately 150 vehicles will be tracked and between 3,000 and 5,000 clients will be included in the system.
The project included procuring a multipurpose electronic farecard system and card readers for transit vehicles and incorporating them into the system. However, since this technology was not deployed at the time of the study, it is not included in this summary.
The research team conducted a two day site visit. The on-site visits consisted of conducting interviews with staff from the ATRI and with transportation administrators from the two beta test sites, Los Lunas Transit and the Zuni Reservation.
At the time of the case study, the transportation providers had only been using the CRRAFT system for approximately one week. However, they identified the following benefits of using the system:
- Increased efficiency – The system offers better schedule management, ease of reporting to funding agencies, ability to monitor performance measures such as on-time performance, improved client referral system, and better load balancing on vehicles. One transportation provider estimated that CRRAFTS will save 3-4 days of work per month just for reporting.
- Better customer service – The transportation providers will be able to use their vehicles more effectively which will reduce operating cost and help them provide more service for the same budget. Automating the client referral process will allow them to serve customers more effectively.
- Improved productivity in operations – The system helps operators detect potential maintenance problems more effectively so that they can be quickly corrected. The system will help them track the vehicle replacement cycle.
- Benefits to funding agency – CRRAFT will produce uniform reports from the transit systems which will allow the Public Transportation Program Bureau (PTPB) and other funding agencies to better monitor the level of service being provided.
In addition to these technology-specific benefits, the research team identified a number of benefits that were common to all of the five rural ITS deployments that they studied:
- Increased agency collaboration – ITS projects can foster the development of better working relationships and partnerships between agencies.
- Potential for increased ridership and revenue – ITS increases the attractiveness of the transit service, which could potentially increase ridership and farebox revenues.
- Increased community confidence – ITS deployments have the potential to increase community confidence in the agency’s ability to operate an efficient, effective transportation system.
- Increased self-confidence of agency staff – Through education and exposure to technology, agency staff self-confidence may increase
(Our website has many links to other organizations. While we offer these electronic linkages for your convenience in accessing transportation-related information, please be aware that when you exit our website, the privacy and accessibility policies stated on our website may not be the same as that on other websites.)