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

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

May 2010
Reno,Nevada,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County, Nevada has been using transit ITS to improve its operations since 2003. The agency has learned many lessons that have helped it more effectively operate its system and maximize the benefit of the ITS. The administrative lessons learned are presented below.
  • Do not expect to observe staff reductions as a result of efficiencies from transit ITS technologies.

    RTC has not seen significant staff reductions as a result of implementing transit ITS. There are a few exceptions, such as RTC ACCESS (paratransit service) reducing its reservations staff from seven to five. That reduction was in part a result of the transit ITS improved scheduling and dispatching capabilities; however, it is also the result of a change in the paratransit service contractor. Over the same period, RTC RIDE (fixed route service) maintenance has increased its staff by dedicating two staff members to technology maintenance. The technology maintenance staff spend only one-third of their time on transit ITS, while the rest of its time is dedicated to other technologies, including fare boxes and video security systems.

    It is noted that the service level and ridership have steadily increased on RTC RIDE and RTC ACCESS between 2003 and 2007, while staff have not increased. Overall, RTC's operations, maintenance, and administrative staff have not seen appreciable increases or decreases as a result of transit ITS. Departments, at both RTC RIDE and ACCESS, report that they are more productive as a result of transit ITS. The value to RTC of the transit ITS is not in cost reduction, but in service improvement using the same human resources.
  • Acquire the ability to customize administrative reports from data collected by agency's information technology (IT) systems.

    The IT capabilities of RTC's transit ITS included generating a series of "canned" reports for administrative and management staff to use to track operation performance and efficiency. Formats for canned reports have been prepared in advance and that allow for little or no customization. The canned reports cover a small set of typical transit performance and operational efficiency data, including ridership, schedule adherence and passenger counts. However, one of the strongest attributes of transit ITS is the large amount of data it creates. Data can be analyzed in a myriad of ways, including microscopic data analysis of single trips of a route on a specific day, and macroscopic analyses, such as all ridership on all routes for extended periods of time. RTC determined the canned reports gave access to only a small fraction of the data being generated by ITS. The canned reports also limited the ways the data could be analyzed. In addition, RTC indicated that many of the canned reports were not in a format that was easily usable for them.

    The RTC transit ITS data are stored on a server acting in a database accessible through the Crystal Reports reporting application. Several RTC staff members have gone through Crystal Report training. This gave the staff the ability to access the transit data through customized reporting. However, report customization is a complex and time-consuming process. The staff's other responsibilities prevent them from having time to design customized reports to extract the needed data. Recognizing the high value of the data stored within its transit AVL (automatic vehicle location) technology, RTC hired a consultant at additional cost to develop customized reports in the agency's preferred formats. The customized reports will provide data for analysis beyond that accessible through the canned reports.

    Because transit ITS generates a very rich data set for analysis, it is difficult to anticipate how an agency will use the data. RTC believes it would be difficult to predict and request all the report types needed during the procurement process. For that reason, RTC recommends that agencies plan to either have someone on staff who is properly trained in customizing reports and can spend the time creating them, or plan to hire a consultant who will work closely with agency staff to create customized reports. Report customization generation is a key to maximizing the benefit of the data generated by transit ITS.
  • Have an independent dialog with other agencies that are using the same contractor, and share experiences.

    RTC's contractor organizes annual conferences and user group sessions for transit agencies using their transit ITS components. This provides agencies with an opportunity to speak to each other and support each other through implementation and operations. It also allows the agency representatives to speak as a group with the contractor to discuss system changes.

    RTC has found additional value in speaking to the same agencies outside of the channels created by the contractor. An independent communications channel allows the agencies to speak without involvement of the contractor. Through direct communication, RTC has been able to identify problems that occurred in other agencies' implementations, but were not known or revealed by the contractor. It also provides RTC and other agencies the opportunity to share findings and information that may benefit the agencies.

    The independent dialog should take place in addition to, and not instead of, participation in the contractor's formal channels and user groups. Agencies are encouraged to seek out and make contact with other agencies who have deployed similar transit ITS, and continue to stay in contact. E-mail lists or web site forums are two low-cost means for holding an ongoing dialog among transit ITS users.
A comprehensive transit ITS enhances an agency's operational capabilities and efficiencies although it is unlikely that ITS will cause reduction in staff. Agency's administration shall benefit from generating customized administrative reports from data collected by ITS as well as from having independent dialog with other agencies using the same or similar technologies deployed by the same contractor. 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: 2012-00628