Evaluation of the South Lake Tahoe Coordinated Transit System (CTS) Project Phase III Evaluation Report
In 2000, the U.S. Congress earmarked funds for selected projects that were assessed as supporting improvements in transportation efficiency, promoting safety, increasing traffic flow, reducing emissions, improving traveler information, enhancing alternative transportation modes, building on existing intelligent transportation systems (ITS), and promoting tourism. Among the selected projects was the Tahoe Coordinated Transit System (CTS).
The CTS was viewed as a means of reducing congestion, protecting the environment and earning mitigation credits for redevelopment in the Lake Tahoe region. Through combining transit services offered by private and public sector stakeholders into one centrally dispatched operation that uses intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies, the CTS would also improve transit efficiency and create a more visitor friendly transit system. The CTS project spans the jurisdiction of two counties in two states, as well as one city, and incorporates the private transit resources of five casinos and one ski resort, with the aim of serving the market objectives of both the public and private sectors. The key features of the new system included:
- Automatic vehicle location (AVL)
- Mobile data terminals (MDT)
- Computer-aided dispatch (CAD)
- Automatic passenger counters (APC)
- Trip reservation/information kiosks
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system for trip booking by telephone
- Traffic surveillance cameras
A U.S. DOT evaluation report has summarized findings from a system impact study that focuses primarily on assessing the impacts on ridership, customer satisfaction and operating efficiency. Findings from an institutional issues review and a set of lessons learned on deploying and operating the various ITS transit technologies are also presented.
The Consolidated Transit System blended fixed route, flex-route, and demand-response operations into one system in order to provide a fully integrated system to maximize cost and operating efficiency. The evaluation report found that with CTS the casino shuttle service did operate with greater efficiency than the previous transit system; however, the results were inconclusive for the door-to-door service. Through the CTS, the casino shuttle service was able to provide a similar level of service with fewer vehicles. The following considerations need to be made, in order to achieve operating efficiencies through the use of ITS technologies.
- Consider the size of the service area when designing the Computer-Aided Dispatch system. The CST CAD system was designed for traditional paratransit systems where individuals are picked up and dropped off one at a time. This CAD system design was better suited for the casino shuttle, which had a limited service area, rather than the door-to-door service area, which was about 4 times the size. The large service area, longer distance trips, and limited funding for deployed vehicles created a situation where the CAD system provided minimal efficiency for the door-to-door service.
- Be cognizant of the processing time associated with scheduling rides through the automated system. The automated system used in CST provides little efficiency in scheduling rides. Dispatchers have found that they can address a trip request in approximately 5 to 6 seconds in person, whereas they have found that it requires approximately 90 seconds if the computer books the trip. While the automated system has reduced the number of calls coming into the dispatch center, the increased processing time affects the system efficiency.
Some of the ITS technologies used in the CST produced less efficiency gains than anticipated. The Computer-Aided Dispatch system was found to be most efficient when operating on the shorter, taxi-like trips of the casino shuttle rather than the longer distance trips of the door-to-door service. In addition, use of the automated system to book trips results in a longer processing time by dispatchers compared to bookings by phone. These lessons suggest that not all technological improvements will result in equal operating efficiencies across system types. It is important for agencies to consider how the technologies will function within each service type when designing integrated systems.