The Northeast Florida Rural Transit ITS project was a demonstration of ITS deployment in four rural transit Community Transportation Coordinator (CTC) agencies. The four CTCs included St. Johns County, Putnam County, Marion County, and Flagler County. These counties were chosen to participate because each had a population base that was rural, each had large urban medical facilities located outside its designated service areas, and their service areas were contiguous. The impact of ITS features on the mobility, efficiency, and productivity of rural paratransit service were of particular interest throughout project deployment.
The report, Northeast Florida Rural Transit Intelligent Transit System, describes the evaluation of the demonstration project. The evaluation is based on the framework specified in the Northeast Florida Rural Transit ITS Evaluation Plan, published in May, 2001. Detailed interviews with all the participating CTCs were conducted and analysis of data contained in the annual and quarterly reports were submitted to the commission by the agencies. The lack of quantitative data resulted in a more qualitative evaluation than that proposed in the Evaluation Plan.
The objectives of the deployment addressed the following immediate priorities:
- Improve scheduling operations by creating tighter driver assignments and reducing the workload associated with daily scheduling, call intake, and driver-manifest creation.
- Synchronize dispatch and scheduling operations to reduce the dispatcher’s workload by providing better information to the dispatcher.
- Automate billing into an electronic operation.
- Improve workforce management including driver assignments.
- Improve vehicle maintenance strategies.
The absence of accurate quantitative data and the presence of various confounding factors heightened the importance of the interview phase of the evaluation and diminished the emphasis on the analysis of operating and financial data. Interviews were conducted during two separate site visits. The first visit was for fact finding and the second visit included a detailed questionnaire that was used for formal interviews of personnel. Staff interviewed included call takers, dispatchers, operations supervisors, and project managers. The interviews and observations of ITS systems in operations provided most of the information used to analyze the outcomes of the project such as productivity increases, improvements in the skills of the staff, and efficiencies. The interview data was combined with the quantitative data where possible to evaluate the project.
The project's most profound effects were related to productivity, through more effective scheduling, dispatching, fleet control, and billing. Overall, staff time requirements decreased. Productivity improvements that were experienced in St. Johns County by implementing scheduling software include:
- Reducing office staff from 9 full time equivalents (FTEs) to 4.5 FTEs, resulting in a savings of $58,000 per year.
- A decrease in staff time from four full-time operators to two despite the increase of calls from 150 per day to 300 per day.
- An additional 15 person-hours per month have been reduced due to the implementation of the Medicaid billing module of the software.
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