Use a three level approach to identify the needs of the transit system: assess, analyze, and predict.
Nationwide experience with assisting transit system managers in deploying ITS.
Made Public Date


United States

Technology in Rural Transit: Linking people with their community


The source document is a report designed to act as a planning tool for implementing Transit ITS in rural systems. It includes four sections: a guidebook for planning rural transit ITS applications, best practices in rural transit ITS, transit ITS case studies and transit ITS resources. This review only covers the lessons highlighted in the guidebook section. The purpose of the guidebook is to assist transit systems, especially the managers, in identifying and addressing present and future needs using ITS technologies. Among the lessons learned is the importance of using a three level approach when deploying ITS, identifying and learning about the available ITS technologies, identifying financial resources and the need to develop a database.

Lessons Learned

The first step that a transit manager should take is to identify current needs of the system for improvement. It is important to recognize that not every need will best be met with a Transit ITS application. Careful examination of administrative processes often reveals outdated or redundant procedures that merely need to be reorganized or replaced. In identifying the needs for new technology, following a three level approach increased efficiency:

  • Assess the existing system for problems or opportunities for improvement: It is helpful to have objectives that will identify actions that lead toward the goal. Candidate activities for improvement include passenger booking, run scheduling, vehicle dispatching, vehicle routing, vehicle maintenance, and fare collection. Keep in mind that not every need uncovered is going to have a good solution among Transit ITS applications. The best approach would be to make a list of the problems that exist in the operation, to examine the files on customer complaints and suggestions, and to sit down with dispatchers, drivers, mechanics, and administrative staff to listen to their suggestions regarding what the system needs. Decisions regarding both software and hardware should depend on how the system's needs might be expected to evolve in the future.
  • Analyze current business processes: Business processes include business functions such as billing, cash management, procurement, payroll, personnel records, and training. Cost-reduction opportunities may not always be obvious, yet business processes and the functions they encompass can be inefficient. Benchmarking, comparing the performance of your system with that of other, similarly-sized systems, based on the prior experience of the managers or other staff members may be helpful. It is a good idea to check the performance of the business processes against that of other rural transit systems. It is possible to obtain measures of operating performance of other rural transit systems from the state DOT.
  • Predict future needs: It is important to consider the planning that you or someone else has already done for the future. People may have done planning for you as part of another organization or have a vision as to where they expect your system to be going as time progresses. Your system may not have its own long-term plan but may be a part of the plan of another organization. Expanding service to developing areas should be included in the list of future needs. It is important to be aware of what others are already doing with Transit ITS and its impacts on their operations. It might be a good idea to find assistance when estimating the future demographics and economic base of the system's location, which could impact the transit agency.

The expanding capabilities of computer hardware and software have created new and more powerful tools for rural transit managers. Better communications among drivers, dispatchers, and riders increase the potential for better service. Greater efficiencies can come from new routines for scheduling runs and trips. Even the use of e-mail and other features of the Internet can improve the productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness of transit systems. The challenge for rural transit managers is how to take advantage of these new capabilities. In order for a transit system to fully take advantage of the technologies and tools that are available do this, the requirements of the transit system need to be identified, the current business processes need to analyzed, and future needs predicted.