Recognize the value of other agencies' experiences when planning an ITS project.
TriMet's experience with the deployment of Transit Tracker in Portland Oregon.
Made Public Date


United States

OR0206 – Transit Tracker (Regional Intermodal Transit Traveler Information and Security System) Lessons Learned Report


The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) designed and implemented the Transit Tracker (Regional Intermodal Transit Traveler Information and Security Systems) project in May of 2000. The Transit Tracker is a real-time bus arrival estimation system that provides information to riders at bus stops and light rail stations using a count down system. The system provides information in minutes to the arrival time of the next bus and the actual arrival time of the next train. The overall objective of the Transit Tracker project was to provide a seamless regional multimodal traveler information system for the Portland area public transportation system that will result in providing accurate and timely information and enhanced public transportation security.

The Transit Tracker project was deployed in three phases. Phase 1 deployed a prototype system implementing LED electronic display signs at three locations representing different types of transit facilities. Accuracy testing was also included in Phase 1. Phase 2 consisted of the evaluation of the Phase 1 prototype and the deployment of some additional displays. Phase 3 completed the deployment installing the remaining LED sign displays, expanding the display content and presentation, and implementing additional modifications resulting from the Phase 2 evaluation.

Lessons Learned

Many agencies can benefit from the experiences of other agencies when planning and designing an ITS project. There are usually many issues that should be addressed and resolved in the early stages of a project. Identifying other agencies with similar projects and discussing items that worked well and what they would or would not do again, can provide great benefits to an agency looking to deploy a project. The benefit of this approach is a more efficient system that meets expectations and is less costly.

The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) provides the following comments from their experience in deploying the Transit Tracker project.

  • Start with a small, prototype system. Starting with a small prototype and evaluating it prior to deploying a larger, expanded system provides the opportunity to determine problems early in the process and fix the problems before deploying the full system. It is virtually impossible to anticipate every issue that may occur when deploying an ITS system. Working with a smaller system allows the agency to effectively debug the system before expanding. As an example, TriMet put LED electronic display signs in several different environments during Phase 1. This allowed them to determine were the signs would perform the best, whether at bus shelters or rail platforms. If the signs performed better in one place over another, they would address the issue and act accordingly. Resolving this issue on a small system is much more cost effective than having to address it on the full expanded system. By the time they deployed the expanded system, they were doing it based on experience, minimizing project costs, and producing a better system overall.
  • Perform accuracy testing on prototype before deploying a larger system. TriMet felt that performing accuracy testing on a small prototype before deploying a larger system was extremely beneficial. This method assisted in identifying issues and fixing them before full project deployment. For example, TriMet was developing the Transit Tracker system over the existing AVL bus dispatch system that had already been in operation. When adding the traveler information system over the existing dispatch system they found that there were issues affecting the accuracy of the signs that needed to be corrected. One good example of this is a sign that is affected by a layover. A layover is when a driver takes a break. If he is late coming in on his layover, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be late leaving the layover. He will most likely shorten his break and leave on time. The system needs to be able to recognize this issue, assume that the driver will leave on time, and display the appropriate information on the sign. Identifying and fixing problems early on allowed the production of a more effective system and minimized costs.
  • Look at similar systems already in operation in other cities. TriMet felt that looking at similar systems already in operation in other cities, was very important. TriMet had come up with the idea of the Transit Tracker project by seeing a similar system in London. While visiting Gothenburg, Sweden, some TriMet staff members saw software running on a similar system and had some discussion with the operators. Staff members also saw other systems in place in other parts of Europe such as South Hampton, England and Paris, France. The United States did not have as many of these types of systems as Europe, but TriMet did contact New York about their traveler information system. Looking at and discussing lessons learned from other similar systems helped TriMet to develop ideas for their system as well as avoid some similar mistakes that occurred in past projects.

Most agencies consider an ITS project successful if it meets the requirements of the agency, the needs of the customer, and is deployed within the budget and schedule constraints. Agencies may be able to meet these expectations if they recognize the value of other agencies' experiences when planning a project. TriMet's Transit Tracker project was very successful because they consulted with other agencies with similar systems and started with a prototype before expanding their system. They were able to deploy a more efficient system that produced a high level of customer satisfaction.

OR0206 – Transit Tracker (Regional Intermodal Transit Traveler Information and Security System) Lessons Learned Report

OR0206 – Transit Tracker (Regional Intermodal Transit Traveler Information and Security System) Lessons Learned Report
Publication Sort Date
David Evans and Associates, Inc
ODOT and Tri-Met

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