Recognize potential institutional issues when deploying an ITS system.
TriMet’s experience with the deployment of Transit Tracker in Portland Oregon.
Made Public Date


United States

OR0206 – Transit Tracker (Regional Intermodal Transit Traveler Information and Security System) Lessons Learned Report


The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) designed and implemented the Transit Tracker (Regional Intermodal Transit Traveler Information and Security Systems) project in May of 2000. The Transit Tracker is a real-time bus arrival estimation system that provides information to riders at bus stops and light rail stations using a count down system. The system provides information in minutes to the arrival time of the next bus and the actual arrival time of the next train. The overall objective of the Transit Tracker project was to provide a seamless regional multimodal traveler information system for the Portland area public transportation system that will result in providing accurate and timely information and enhanced public transportation security.

The Transit Tracker project was deployed in three phases. Phase 1 deployed a prototype system implementing LED electronic display signs at three locations representing different types of transit facilities. Accuracy testing was also included in Phase 1. Phase 2 consisted of the evaluation of the Phase 1 prototype and the deployment of some additional displays. Phase 3 completed the deployment installing the remaining LED sign displays, expanding the display content and presentation, and implementing additional modifications resulting from the Phase 2 evaluation.

Lessons Learned

Institutional issues are non-technical challenges that occur during the development and deployment of most projects. Recognizing and resolving these issues early and handling unforeseen issues timely are keys to deploying a successful project. This lesson demonstrates how the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) identified and resolved some typical institutional issues that occur during many ITS projects.

  • Look for innovative financing opportunities. Funding is always an issue on projects and the Transit Tracker project was no exception for TriMet. TriMet was successful in securing funding from several sources using a general transit enhancement grant, grants from the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) and an ITS Earmark grant. The general transit enhancement grant requires that every transit district spend 1% of its capital funds on transit enhancement projects. TriMet also identified other projects that were on-going so that some project elements could be combined and the costs could be shared.
  • Anticipate and plan for funding issues that may occur during a project. TriMet recognized that the installation and hardware costs to provide electric service to the LED electronic display signs would be very expensive. There was another project being deployed, the Ad Shelter Program, that was providing back-lit advertisement signs at bus stops with high volumes. TriMet’s original plan was to share the power connection costs with the other program; however, that program was discontinued and the Transit Tracker project had to bear the full power costs to each of the terminal facilities making their costs much higher than anticipated.
  • Foster interagency coordination and cooperation. The Transit Tracker project was an in-house project developed by TriMet, so there was not any interaction with other agencies. However, TriMet is a member of the regional ITS committee TransPort and the project was submitted to TransPort to ensure compatibility with the regional ITS goals and infrastructure development. TriMet also had some discussions with C-Tran, the local transit agency in Vancouver, Washington that is part of the region. At the time of the discussions C-Tran didn’t have the necessary infrastructure, including automated vehicle location (AVL) capability. However, they were pursuing an AVL system and discussions of integrating the two systems may be discussed in the future.
  • Understand the issues that revolve around software development, software coding and software rights and determine the most appropriate development approach for the agency. TriMet had an existing AVL bus dispatch system that the Transit Tracker project had to interface with. With a few minor upgrades TriMet was able to develop the internet product in-house and now they own the rights to the product. To develop the software for the LED sign display interface, TriMet chose to use Orbital TMS (Transportation Management System). TriMet has the right to install as many signs as they want without paying additional fees to Orbital, but Orbital still owns the software rights so TriMet cannot share the software with other agencies or companies in the region.
  • Anticipate schedule delays when implementing systems that require software development and plan accordingly. TriMet experienced a few minor delays during project implementation. The only delay worth noting was the time required for software development. Orbital TMS had to develop the LED sign display software for this project and the development took longer than expected. TriMet was aware that the time needed for software development is quite often an issue and is frequently underestimated.

Institutional issues can have significant impacts on both costs and schedule. Proper planning for regional coordination, funding, and schedule delay issues can lay the ground work for a successful project with little or no cost or schedule implications. The TriMet project contributed to the achievement of several ITS goals including safety, mobility, efficiency and customer satisfaction. TriMet recognized and prepared for some of these institutional issues early in the process, while there were other issues such as the power situation and software development that required countermeasures during project implementation. Recognizing and addressing these types of institutional issues during the planning stages can contribute to the execution of a successful ITS project and provide the agency with a positive project experience.

OR0206 – Transit Tracker (Regional Intermodal Transit Traveler Information and Security System) Lessons Learned Report

OR0206 – Transit Tracker (Regional Intermodal Transit Traveler Information and Security System) Lessons Learned Report
Publication Sort Date
David Evans and Associates, Inc
ODOT and Tri-Met

(Our website has many links to other organizations. While we offer these electronic linkages for your convenience in accessing transportation-related information, please be aware that when you exit our website, the privacy and accessibility policies stated on our website may not be the same as that on other websites.)

Focus Areas Taxonomy: