Develop a long term vision for an Advanced Public Transportation System (APTS).
Experience from the Cape Cod Advanced Public Transit System.
Made Public Date


Cape Cod, Massachusetts,
United States

Evaluation of the Cape Cod Advanced Public Transit System Phases I and II: Final Report


Advanced technologies are deployed in the transit industry in an effort to improve the safety, reliability, and efficiency of public transportation services. The Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority's (CCRTA) Advanced Public Transportation System (APTS) project is an application of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to fixed route and paratransit operations in a rural setting. The Cape Cod APTS was initiated through a partnership between the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) and the Moakley Center for Technological Applications at Bridgewater State College. This report evaluates Phases I and 2 of the project, which were implemented between 1997 and 2000 and included the following components:

  • An automatic vehicle location system (AVL) using global positioning systems (GPS) technology
  • Mobile data computers (MDC) on transit vehicles
  • A dedicated radio system for data transmission between MDCs and dispatchers
  • A "silent alarm" feature
  • A state of the art fast local area network (LAN) at the CCRTA operations center
  • AVL/MDC host software that includes a geographic information system (GIS) mapping system to display real time vehicle locations at the operations center
  • An Internet site with GIS mapping so that customers can view real-time bus locations

Among the main goals for the Cape Cod APTS were improving dispatch operations, reducing the cost per passenger trip, providing better transit information, enhancing the amount and quality of data available for planning and analysis, improving safety and security for transit operators and customers, and promoting open, interoperable systems in ITS.

This evaluation report provides findings on the benefits and impacts of the APTS to the CCRTA and its customers, including operational benefits, costs, impacts on system-wide performance measures, and technological, institutional and other issues related to the deployment. A set of lessons learned is also presented.

Lessons Learned

An Advanced Public Transportation System (APTS) offers the opportunity for improved safety, mobility, productivity, and efficiency of public transportation services, but these benefits are not likely to be realized in the short term. Transit agencies must be committed to a long term vision for a fully-integrated APTS, and they must be willing to use the APTS data to innovate their services. Based on the evaluation findings, the following set of lessons learned on the potential benefits of an APTS in a rural transit environment is highlighted.

  • Develop a long-term vision for the APTS. Transit agencies must be willing to "think outside the box," and to use the data from the APTS to achieve service innovations, such as route restructuring, integrated fare payment systems, and real-time customer information. Making use of the data (rather than just collecting it) is the only way to maximize the value of an APTS.
    • Based on the availability of AVL passenger boarding and disembarking data from the APTS, CCRTA reconfigured its Hyannis area route, and evaluation findings suggest that this reconfiguration has resulted in an increase in ridership on the route.
  • Recognize that the benefits of an integrated system are likely to be greater than the sum of the benefits of individual components.
    • One of CCRTA's primary objectives for the project was to shift customers from paratransit to fixed route services through more effective fixed route service provision and structured fare incentives using electronic fare payments (EFP). This objective has not yet been realized, largely because the EFP demonstration is in the early stages, and CCRTA is just beginning to make use of the data provided by the APTS. As use of EFP is expanded and fully integrated into the APTS, it is anticipated that the benefits of the system will be greater.
  • Recognize that many of the benefits of the APTS may not be immediate, but may accrue over time. As system components are integrated and operations refined, and service changes are implemented, it is anticipated that these innovations will ultimately increase productivity, ridership and quality of service.
    • The CCRTA evaluation reveals some evidence of impacts on service productivity and safety, but in other areas (such as ridership) the impacts or benefits have yet to be established.
    • For paratransit trips, CCRTA has not changed its 24-hour advance notice system for scheduling trips; but CCRTA believes that in the long term, the combination of electronic manifest communication via the MDCs and a computerized routing and scheduling program could potentially reduce the advance scheduling window to three to four hours. However, operations staff and management need to feel completely comfortable with both the reliability of the MDCs and the capabilities of an automated routing/scheduling program before making this conversion.

Based on its experience deploying an APTS, CCRTA learned that the potential benefits of the system (such as improved safety, mobility, productivity, and efficiency of public transportation services) are likely to accrue over time, as the system becomes fully integrated. In addition, to maximize the value of the APTS, the transit agency must have a long-term vision for the system and must be willing to make operational improvements based on the data that are collected.

System Engineering Elements