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

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 operations related lessons learned are presented below.
  • Encourage employees to find creative uses of transit ITS to improve operations.

    RTC has found that the uses for its transit ITS go beyond the planned functions. For example, the person at RTC who schedules vehicle operator shifts uses the system to send text messages to operators while they are on duty. The operator able to send them information about changes in their schedules, inform them of available shifts and ask if they would like to change existing assignments or accept additional assignments. Communicating this way is much simpler and more effective than leaving messages for operators, or waiting for them in the break room. It also gives the scheduler access to a much larger pool of operators than she could reach previously. This unplanned benefit of the transit ITS may be partially responsible for RTC's 30 percent reduction in overtime hours as a percentage of total operator hours since 2005.

    The planning staff also use the system to plan stop facilities, such as benches and shelters. Because boarding and alighting data is now available for each stop, RTC is able to view activity at each stop and accurately determine what is needed to improve the transit experience for its passengers.

    RTC Customer Service has also found a unique use for the system. When a customer calls to report a lost item, Customer Service staff can immediately identify the vehicle on which the passenger rode, and send a text message to the vehicle operator. The operator can then search the bus for the lost item at the next opportunity. This improves the chances the item will be found, and allows the operator to either hold the object or pass it to another operator or supervisor to return to the passenger.

    Agencies should allow their staff to explore the potential uses of the transit data and new communications capabilities of transit ITS. Agencies should not only focus on using the system as planned, but encourage their staff to create their own uses.
  • Consider allowing mobile supervisors to use the automatic vehicle location (AVL) system to monitor vehicle locations and schedule adherence.

    RTC's original plans called for a product called Mobile Supervisor that would give on-street supervisors the same ability as dispatchers to monitor real-time vehicle locations and schedule adherence. At the time of RTC's transit ITS implementation in 2003, no cost-effective means for providing high-speed wireless data communications was available and, hence, the Mobile Supervisor was not implemented, and RTC RIDE (fixed route service) on-street supervisors use an MDT (mobile data terminal) that provides them with limited capabilities to monitor bus activity.

    During peak hours and special events, RTC RIDE supervisors prefer being at a desk using the AVL workstation over being in a vehicle on-street because they can monitor more vehicles in more locations. However, vehicle operators indicated they prefer for the supervisors to be on-street so that they are more accessible.

    At RTC there are usually two supervisors on duty during the day. If one stays at the RTC RIDE office to monitor operations through the AVL workstation, the other supervisor must be the on-street supervisor for the entire RTC RIDE routes in operation. Clearly, the Mobile Supervisor application would have allowed RTC RIDE supervisors to be on-street while monitoring all vehicles. While RTC is interested in deploying this component of their ITS in the future, in the meantime the agency allows its on-duty supervisors to decide whether both will be on-street, or split between on-street and at a desk using an AVL workstation.

    Agencies are encouraged to develop a policy that maximizes the benefit of the transit ITS and the traditional responsibilities of supervisors. Besides the Mobile Supervisor, other solutions are to add a supervisor who is dedicated to monitoring vehicles from a workstation, and to give dispatchers some supervisor-duty authority to manage vehicles (note that current labor contracts define that directing vehicles en route is a supervisor’s responsibility, not a dispatcher’s). An agency should review its labor contracts before determining the most effective use of the transit ITS in supervising its fleet.

    Overtime RTC IT staff have developed a vehicle-mounted laptop for supervisors to use on the road. The laptop remotely runs TransitMasterTM AVL and CAD (computer aided dispatch) modules over cellular broadband.
Transit ITS enables agency employees to find creative and efficient uses of technology to improve operations. 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: 2012-00629