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

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

May 2010
Reno,Nevada,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

RTC’s transit ITS has presented the agency with several obstacles and opportunities. As the system has been procured, deployed and operated, RTC learned many lessons and adjusted its approach to maximize the system’s value. The intent of the lessons learned is for RTC to share the knowledge it gained through its transit ITS experience with other agencies. A planning lesson from RTC’s experience is to select an agency project manager with the right skill set.
  • Identify a project manager early in the planning process. The agency’s project manager will represent the agency through planning, procurement, implementation and operations. The person should be identified as early in the planning process as possible. The project manager should have strong experience with the transit agency, or some other assurance the person will stay committed to the project throughout the planning, procurement and implementation processes.

    The project manager must be enthusiastic about and committed to the transit ITS deployment. A strong commitment is essential in order to endure the obstacles and setbacks that are inevitable in large technology projects. The project manager must be supported by management with the understanding that the path to successful implementation will not be perfectly smooth. The project manager must also have the willingness and ability to communicate frequently with executive decision-makers and operations staff.
  • Understand that experience in planning and/or IT is helpful. RTC selected a project manager from its planning department. The RTC project manager has extensive knowledge of daily paratransit and fixed-route operations, as well as RTC budgeting and planning processes. The advantage of the planning project manager approach is that the agency was able to plan the transit ITS from the service-needs perspective. The project manager was able to help plan a system from the viewpoint of how operators, dispatchers, maintenance, planning and administrative staff use it to improve RTC’s operations.

    If a planning or administrative person serves as project Manager, an agency needs to ensure his or her willingness and ability to understand the Information Technology (IT) needs of ITS. At RTC, the project manager is the daily administrator of the system and manages such technical issues as reformatting corrupt memory cards and administering user accounts.

    Another approach to project management is to select a project manager from the IT side of an agency. This approach may be advantageous during planning and implementation because of the project manager’s familiarity with the agency’s network and hardware. A project manager from IT may be able to more directly work and communicate with a Contractor during the procurement and installation of the ITS.

    The potential disadvantage of a project manager from IT is that his/her knowledge may not provide a full understanding of the needs of operators, dispatchers, maintenance, planning and administrative staff. The focus may be on making the system function rather than on meeting the needs of the agency staff.
  • Ensure that the project manager has strong communications skills. Shortcomings of either IT or Planning focused project management approach can and should be overcome through strong communication skills of the project manager within the agency. If a planning person is selected, he or she must have a strong relationship and ability to communicate with IT staff throughout the transit ITS project. Similarly, an IT project manager must be able and willing to spend the time working with agency staff to understand their needs and responsibilities.
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: 2011-00604