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
- 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 from the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County's experience with operations of its transit ITS information technology (IT) assets offer the following the following guidance:
- Anticipate increased budget needs for IT Operations: RTC deployed its transit ITS system at the same time that it increased the agency's overall use of information technology. As a result, the IT department network and hardware requirements increased. Because managing the transit ITS technologies requires additional or advanced skills, such as database and network management, implementation of transit ITS requires staff with advanced expertise. This causes agencies to make a stronger effort to retain experienced staff resulting in salary increases for IT staff. The RTC increased IT staff in anticipation of the ITS implementation. IT division has indicated about one-quarter of one staff member's time is required for the maintenance and administration of transit ITS hardware and software. If an agency's IT staff is already overworked, it may have to contract for technical support or hire additional staff, which will require additional budget.
Also note that RTC IT staff believe its costs for maintenance and operation of the transit ITS would be significantly higher if not for the technical expertise of its ITS project manager, RTC RIDE (fixed route service) electronics maintenance staff, and RTC ACCESS (paratransit service) IT staff. Agencies that do not have strong expertise in-house may see greater demands on their IT staff than RTC did.
- Budget for hardware and software upgrades: The network hardware and servers all have lifecycles and must be periodically replaced. For example, the servers used by transit ITS are scheduled to be replaced every three years. Agencies should plan for the cost of replacement hardware while also exploring cost efficiencies. As identified in the procurement lessons learned [see footnote 1, # 2011-00610], overall hardware costs can be reduced if an agency uses virtual servers or server capacity consolidation to reduce the amount of hardware required by transit ITS.
- Budget maintenance agreement separately from periodic upgrades: An agency should budget the costs for a support and maintenance agreement separate from the normal software upgrade costs. RTC's Trapeze ITS does not include the costs of software upgrade in their regular support and maintenance contract. There will be a large technology gap and potential loss of contractor/vendor support if sufficient time lapses between regular software upgrades. In addition, the staff training efforts will be significantly more intensive if the software is not upgraded on a regular basis.
- Purchase monitoring software to track the health and activities of the transit ITS servers. The procurement of transit ITS will likely significantly increase a transit agency's inventory of servers. The increase will require more effort from IT staff to monitor the health and activity of its systems. The servers must be monitored for multiple issues, including verifying they are fit to perform their functions, detecting intrusion from outside sources, and tracking processor speed, processor usage and storage space. RTC's IT staff purchased software that automates the monitoring of its servers. If the monitoring software detects an issue on a server, it can alert the IT staff via pager or text message. The alerts have eliminated the need for IT staff to dedicate time to actively observe the servers and helped them to maintain an increased amount of hardware with a relatively small staff. RTC IT staff believe the server monitoring software has provided far more benefit than its cost.
Agencies should plan for increased budgetary needs for operations and maintenance of information technology (IT) assets that are part and parcel of a comprehensive transit ITS deployment. 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.
 See also other IT related lessons learned from RTC transit ITS
# 2011-00610: http://www.itslessons.its.dot.gov/its/benecost.nsf/ID/24163932011B70908525796F004C04C9?OpenDocument
# 2011-00614: http://www.itslessons.its.dot.gov/its/benecost.nsf/ID/539B339F57A2C1398525796F0054FB41?OpenDocument