Implementation of Real-time Customer Information System leads to better customer service; fewer customer inquires; and better access for persons with disabilities.

March 2003
Williamsport,Pennsylvania,United States

Summary Information

Sponsored by the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office (JPO) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the objective of the study was to identify operational best practices and related technology for applying ITS to rural transit. The project team found that at the time of the study in 2002, few rural properties had moved from the ITS planning stage to procurement and implementation. The project team gathered information through case studies to produce the Best Practices recommendations. On-site case studies were performed at the following rural transit agencies:
  • The Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) in Austin, TX;
  • St. Johns County, Marion County, and Putnam County, FL;
  • The Public Transportation Programs Bureau (PTPB), a division of the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department;
  • Ottumwa Transit Authority (OTA) in Ottumwa, IA; and
  • River Valley Transit in Williamsport, PA.
The case studies highlighted a number of benefits that have emerged from rural transit ITS deployments. The report presents overall benefits, as well as benefits for each specific technology deployed.

Located in Williamsport, PA, River Valley Transit (RVT) provides real-time customer information at its transit center. River Valley Transit uses a combination of automatic vehicle location (AVL) and mobile data terminals (MDT) technology to provide real-time in-terminal customer information. The Traveler Information System (TIS) informs customers both visually and audibly as to which of the 10 loading bays buses will arrive at and depart from. It also gives customers a 20-second notification before buses depart on their next trip. The system even notifies drivers when they have pulled into the wrong bus bay. River Valley Transit is looking at ways to extend the utility of the system and has investigated other ITS technologies.

The TIS was initiated as part of construction of a downtown transit center, designed to streamline transit operations in the downtown area, make River Valley Transit more accessible and convenient for riders, improve traffic, and stimulate economic development in the downtown area. In FY 1999, River Valley Transit provided over one million passenger trips on its fixed route system. At the time of the study, RVT had thirteen fixed routes, most of which operated out of the transit center building. Approximately 94% of the trips taken on RVT’s system flowed through the transit center.


The case study involved two researchers and a two day site visit. The on-site visits consisted of conducting interviews with staff from different levels of the agency, including operations, management and maintenance staff. The team also spoke with passengers using the Traveler Information System (TIS). As a result, the benefits described were primarily anecdotal in nature.


The successful implementation of the TIS had a number of benefits for customers and the transit agency:
  • Better customer service – Customers receive better information, leading to increased satisfaction and possibly increased ridership. The in-terminal information system helps customers find the appropriate vehicle.
  • Fewer inquiries to agency staff since customers are provided with better and timelier information.
  • Better operations data allows agency staff to better manage customer complaints and revise bus schedules based on data from TIS reports.
  • Increased accessibility for persons with disabilities – Customer information systems that include visual and audio announcements are especially helpful to people with disabilities.
  • The transit center and the TIS project were a critical element in successful downtown development.
In addition to these technology-specific benefits, the research team identified a number of benefits that were common to all of the five rural ITS deployments that they studied:
  • Potential for increased ridership and revenue – ITS increases the attractiveness of the transit service, which could potentially increase ridership and farebox revenues.
  • Increased community confidence – ITS deployments have the potential to increase community confidence in the agency’s ability to operate an efficient, effective transportation system.
  • Increased self-confidence of agency staff – Through education and exposure to technology, agency staff self-confidence may increase.

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Rural Transit ITS Best Practices

Author: Joana Conklin, Carol Schweiger, Buck Marks, Yehuda Gross, William Wiggins, Karen Timpone

Published By: Federal Highway Administration, U.S. DOT

Source Date: March 2003

EDL Number: 13784

Other Reference Number: Report No.FHWA-OP-03-77



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Benefits From This Source

Implementation of a two-way radio network with paratransit scheduling software provides better customer service, better scheduling, and more efficient staffing.

Implementation of paratransit software with Automatic Vehicle Location/Mobile Data Terminal (AVT/MDT) technologies leads to increase in trip productivity; reduction in administrative staff; and greater overall confidence in the transportation system.

Implementation of radio system combined with AVL/MDT technology leads to increase in trip productivity and better vehicle maintenance in a large service area with low population density.

Implementation of Real-time Customer Information System leads to better customer service; fewer customer inquires; and better access for persons with disabilities.

New Mexico's scheduling/billing sofware leads to better customer service, more efficient reporting and billing, and better coordination between transportation providers and funding agencies.

Costs From This Source

Client Referral, Ridership, and Financial Tracking (CRRAFT), a New Mexico Web-based system that provides coordination between funding agencies and their subgrantees cost about $1 million to implement. CRRAFT is one of five transit agency highlighted in a rural transit ITS best practices case study.

Lessons From This Source

Consider different operational strategies when deploying ITS.

Consider various technical applications and processes, such as using GIS, evaluating systems compatibility and the facility for upgrades, when deploying ITS.

Design an ITS procurement process carefully to ensure the best outcome for vendor selection and performance.

Develop a thorough installation and implementation process as part of the ITS deployment.

Establish and follow a comprehensive project plan in anticipation of the deployment of ITS resources.

Examine multiple funding sources and anticipate unforeseen costs associated with deploying transit ITS.

Recognize that institutional and organizational issues will require considerable attention throughout the ITS project deployment process.

Train staff throughout the deployment of transit ITS projects to ensure successful implementation and use of ITS resources.

Typical Deployment Locations

Rural Areas


Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Rural ITS, Transit ITS, Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL), Mobile Data Terminal (MDT)

Benefit ID: 2010-00635