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.
Florida’s Rural ITS Demonstration Project was initiated by the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD) to address transportation access problems faced by Florida’s rural transit providers. These providers, called Community Transportation Coordinators (CTCs), are responsible for all rural transportation in Florida. They may provide transportation directly or contract with local transportation operators. The project was one of the first five rural ITS projects funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Florida’s rural ITS project entailed installation of hardware and software at select CTCs under the supervision of the CTD. The participating CTCs received start-up funding to purchase personal computers and various ITS technologies, including:
- Mobility management software applications which, in many cases, included Geographical Information Systems (GIS);
- Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) based Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) systems; and
- Mobile Data Terminals (MDT)
The research team visited three sites in rural Florida to conduct a case study of a statewide, phased ITS deployment. The sites chosen were:
- St. John’s County Council on Aging
- Putnam County Ride Solution, and
- Marion County Senior Services
Two of the sites (St. John’s County and Marion County) used the off-the-shelf software that the CTD selected. Putnam County continued to develop the proprietary mobility software in which it had already invested.
Meetings were held with key administrative and operations staff at each organization. In addition, the Program Manager for the statewide project funded by the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged accompanied the team and provided valuable insights.
The managers in CTCs noted a number of benefits resulting from their participation in the Rural ITS project:
- The new software allows schedulers to enter subscription routes (modified service routes) into the system, thereby reducing the amount of time to schedule trips, adding predictability to operations, and increasing vehicle productivity.
- The ITS project has allowed rural CTCs to establish cooperative agreements with each other to manage inter-county trips, leading to lower costs.
- Use of the scheduling software has reduced the administrative staff associated with call intake and reservations, scheduling, dispatch and billing from 8 to 4.5 positions (reported by St. John’s County).
- Use of the scheduling software has resulted in improved scheduling efficiency. Productivity has increased from .5 trips per vehicle hour three years ago to 2.5 trips per vehicle hour as reported in 2002 (reported by St. John’s County).
- The billing coordinator has been reduced from a 40-plus hour position to a 20-hour per week position (reported by St. John’s County).
- The CTC has been able to more efficiently schedule drivers, which has minimized driver costs, reduced vehicle time, and reduced the number of split shifts necessary to meet customer demand (reported by St. John’s County).
- The software has made it much easier for schedulers to schedule trips, and service has therefore become more productive.
- The technology also facilitated agency billing of Medicaid, by providing trip and usage data.
In addition to these 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.
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