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.
Contractor’s availability to remain on site after the deployment of a comprehensive transit ITS is important, so is contractor’s ability to work with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Lessons learned from the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County’s transit ITS planning and deployment experience offers the following guidance:
Require the contractor to remain on-site after installation in order to ensure all systems are stable and robust.
- Ensure that on-site contractor staff be experienced and knowledgeable. Because of the complex nature of a transit ITS implementation, RTC recommends that agencies require the contractor to have staff on-site for a reasonable period of time after installation, depending upon the complexity and size of the implementation. The time the contractor should stay on-site to monitor the system after installation should be long enough to give both the agency and contractor assurance that all systems are stable and robust. The transit agency should require the on-site contractor staff be experienced and knowledgeable about all aspects of the transit ITS.
While the components of transit ITS may work well in a factory setting, their transition to the real-world environment may require numerous calibrations and adjustments. Most transit agencies have a variety of different vehicles and each may have slightly different characteristics that may not be anticipated during installation. Also, computer servers and communications hardware may integrate differently than expected with an agency’s existing networks. Some data communication issues may not appear until after a system is in use.
Recognize that on-site contractor staff are essential for quick resolutions while the agency staff are learning the system. While the RTC transit ITS mostly worked well after installation, and the RTC IT and maintenance staff said the installation was well done and correct, small issues still occurred. They included minor issues such as individual head signs that didn’t work correctly and automated passenger counters that were not well calibrated on some vehicles. Issues also included major problems such as a traveler information system that did not work. Many of these issues lingered because contractor staff were not present to address them.
Once transit ITS is installed, an agency will likely begin using it immediately. It will be relied on to perform many critical functions from the moment it is operational. For that reason, a failure of the system can be catastrophic for the agency, and must be remedied as quickly as possible. On-site contractor staff are essential for quick resolutions while the agency staff are learning the system.
Consider the value of supports an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can offer for equipping new vehicles.
- During the implementation of the transit ITS, RTC and its contractor installed new ITS equipment aboard RTC’s existing fleet of vehicles. Since the initial implementation in 2002-2003, RTC RIDE has replaced approximately half of its fleet with new vehicles. RTC’s contractor was able to work directly with the vehicle manufacturer to have the in-vehicle ITS hardware installed at the factory.
New vehicles arrive at RTC complete and do not require a trip by the contractor to install or oversee the installation of hardware. As previously noted, RTC RIDE Maintenance staff have corrected improper installations on a small number of vehicles, but the vast majority of vehicles arrive at RTC correct. The OEM process reduces the burden on RTC RIDE Maintenance staff, reduces costs by not requiring the contractor to be present for installs, and reduces delays in getting new vehicles into service.
RTC’s experience suggests that the agencies shall require the contractor remain on site after installation is necessary until the newly installed systems are in stable and robust operating conditions. Also, the contractor’s ability to work with the OEM for installation of relevant ITS devices before a transit bus is delivered will relieve the agency from many maintenance concerns. 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.