Consider procuring computer and network hardware independently when feasible and procure right-sized systems.

Washoe County’s experience implementing a comprehensive transit ITS program.

May 2010
Reno,Nevada,United States

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Lesson Learned

Procuring computer and network hardware is a key activity in implementing a comprehensive transit ITS program. Lessons learned from the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County’s transit ITS planning and deployment experience offers the following guidance:

Consider independently procuring computer and network hardware when feasible.
    If the agency has in-house competency in information technology hardware, it may consider independently procuring computer and network hardware when feasible. RTC worked with its contractor to identify the computer and network hardware needs for running the transit ITS. The needs included servers, workstations, network routers and switches and other communications hardware. The contractor provided RTC with a list the hardware needs, which allowed the agency to procure the hardware itself. Note that this does not include system-specific hardware such as GPS (global positioning system) antennas, MDTs (mobile data terminals) and IVLUs (integrated vehicle logic units).

    Being able to procure its own computer and network hardware gave RTC several advantages. First, it allowed RTC to procure the hardware using relationships and advantageous pricing it had access to. Second, it allowed RTC to procure the brands of equipment with which it felt comfortable. It also allowed the agency to better manage the procurement through a process that tracks the inventory better. Finally, it allowed RTC to procure hardware that could be locally supported. A key potential disadvantage of this approach is that the transit ITS contractor may not provide technical support for hardware-related problems as they would if they were to provide the hardware.

    At RTC, all transit ITS servers and communication hardware were procured new. This gave the advantage of not requiring interfacing with legacy hardware and software, such as machines that used different operating systems or databases. If an agency chooses to procure its own hardware, it should follow the requirements of its contractor and procure new hardware when recommended.
Procure the right-sized systems of servers for transit ITS components.
    RTC procured separate servers for each of the following transit ITS components: TransitMaster, WebWatch, DataMart, HASTUS, Trapeze and the radio system. Individual servers add capital cost at procurement and at replacement and retirement. The cost of servers also goes beyond the price of the hardware as the addition of these servers and other network switches and routers necessitated the addition of at least one rack in the RTC computer room. More air conditioning was added to the room to keep the servers at the correct operating temperature, increasing the cost of electricity usage. The space they occupy has a cost because it now cannot be used for other purposes.
Consider using virtual servers in order to reduce the needed amount of hardware and to increase cost efficiency.
    RTC Information Technology (IT) staff believes that many of the servers RTC procured are underutilized. In fact, the WebWatch server is currently unused. The functionality of the servers could be combined on fewer machines running virtual servers. Virtual server allows a single machine to operate virtually as two or more separate servers, thereby reducing the needed amount of hardware, rack space and cooling.

    The reduction in machines would have resulted in a savings in capital acquisition and ongoing costs. Having fewer machines also simplifies the tasks of monitoring servers, performing data backup and disaster recovery. As servers become faster and more powerful, agencies should consider ways, such as virtual servers, to minimize the amount of hardware it must buy and maintain.
Agencies must strive to procure the right-sized and right-kind computer and network hardware for ITS. 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.

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Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County Intelligent Transportation System Implementation Evaluation Study

Author: Tina Wu, Matt Weatherford, Ancila Kaiparambil, Linna Zhang

Published By: Federal Transit Administration U.S. Department of Transportation

Source Date: May 2010

Other Reference Number: FTA Report FTA- NV-26-7005-2010.1

URL: http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/RTC_ITS_Eval_Study_section508.pdf

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Benefits From This Source

Automatic vehicle location (AVL) on Reno buses leads to nearly four percent increase in on-time performance for paratransit services and more comprehensive schedule adherence data to create more accurate schedules.

Estimated reduction of 9.37 million personal vehicle miles traveled and 4,252 metric tons of CO2 from increased transit ridership in Reno, Nevada.

Forty-five percent reduction in complaints by paratransit riders, 50 percent less missed trips due to mechanical problems, and a new trip planning tool for fixed-route riders introduced as part of ITS deployment in Reno.

Overtime hours for drivers reduced and no staff increase necessary to handle over 10 percent increase in transit ridership over six years.

Lessons From This Source

Be prepared to use local resources to service mission critical system components, and provide ongoing O&M training to maximize system benefits.

Consider procuring computer and network hardware independently when feasible and procure right-sized systems.

Define clear goals for a comprehensive transit ITS deployment program and track the achievement of those goals to evaluate program's success.

Designate the agency project manager as the single point of contact with the contractor and evaluate track record of contractor’s project management.

Develop requirements using widely accepted standards, preferably the open source compatible ones if available, and review those requirements immediately before requesting proposals from contractors.

Do not expect to see significant operations staff reductions due to implementing ITS technologies, but do expect service improvements using the same staff levels.

Encourage staff to find creative and efficient uses of ITS to improve operations through better communications.

Ensure that the management responsible for transit ITS planning is knowledgeable on agency’s labor contracts and how labor contracts affect effective utilization of ITS tools.

Expect agency's information technology (IT) operations and maintenance budget to increase in order to train qualified IT staff to maintain a new suite of hardware and software.

For a comprehensive transit ITS deployment program, select an agency project manager with skills in planning, information technology, and communications.

Identify champions early to facilitate communications, project management, and staff ownership for successful deployment of a comprehensive transit ITS program.

In deploying a comprehensive transit ITS program, develop strategies and requirements for planning, procurement, implementation, and ongoing operations.

Prepare agency staff for implementation of new ITS technologies and involve maintenance and information technology (IT) staff in the installation process.

To avoid project implementation delays and unanticipated costs, perform a thorough review of the existing technologies during the planning phase of a comprehensive transit ITS deployment.

To avoid surprises after implementation of a comprehensive transit ITS program, perform a detailed analysis of costs for operations and maintenance during the project planning phase.

Understand that the contractor’s availability to remain on site after the deployment of a comprehensive transit ITS is important, so is the contractor’s ability to work with the original equipment manufacturer.

Weigh in the advantages of procuring new information technology (IT) assets, and maintain an asset management system that details new IT inventory.

Lesson ID: 2011-00610