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.

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

May 2010
Reno,Nevada,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

Lessons learned from the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County's experience with operations of its transit ITS information technology (IT) assets offer the following the following guidance:
  • Anticipate increased budget needs for IT Operations: RTC deployed its transit ITS system at the same time that it increased the agency's overall use of information technology. As a result, the IT department network and hardware requirements increased. Because managing the transit ITS technologies requires additional or advanced skills, such as database and network management, implementation of transit ITS requires staff with advanced expertise. This causes agencies to make a stronger effort to retain experienced staff resulting in salary increases for IT staff. The RTC increased IT staff in anticipation of the ITS implementation. IT division has indicated about one-quarter of one staff member's time is required for the maintenance and administration of transit ITS hardware and software. If an agency's IT staff is already overworked, it may have to contract for technical support or hire additional staff, which will require additional budget.

    Also note that RTC IT staff believe its costs for maintenance and operation of the transit ITS would be significantly higher if not for the technical expertise of its ITS project manager, RTC RIDE (fixed route service) electronics maintenance staff, and RTC ACCESS (paratransit service) IT staff. Agencies that do not have strong expertise in-house may see greater demands on their IT staff than RTC did.
  • Budget for hardware and software upgrades: The network hardware and servers all have lifecycles and must be periodically replaced. For example, the servers used by transit ITS are scheduled to be replaced every three years. Agencies should plan for the cost of replacement hardware while also exploring cost efficiencies. As identified in the procurement lessons learned [see footnote 1, # 2011-00610], overall hardware costs can be reduced if an agency uses virtual servers or server capacity consolidation to reduce the amount of hardware required by transit ITS.
  • Budget maintenance agreement separately from periodic upgrades: An agency should budget the costs for a support and maintenance agreement separate from the normal software upgrade costs. RTC's Trapeze ITS does not include the costs of software upgrade in their regular support and maintenance contract. There will be a large technology gap and potential loss of contractor/vendor support if sufficient time lapses between regular software upgrades. In addition, the staff training efforts will be significantly more intensive if the software is not upgraded on a regular basis.
  • Purchase monitoring software to track the health and activities of the transit ITS servers. The procurement of transit ITS will likely significantly increase a transit agency's inventory of servers. The increase will require more effort from IT staff to monitor the health and activity of its systems. The servers must be monitored for multiple issues, including verifying they are fit to perform their functions, detecting intrusion from outside sources, and tracking processor speed, processor usage and storage space. RTC's IT staff purchased software that automates the monitoring of its servers. If the monitoring software detects an issue on a server, it can alert the IT staff via pager or text message. The alerts have eliminated the need for IT staff to dedicate time to actively observe the servers and helped them to maintain an increased amount of hardware with a relatively small staff. RTC IT staff believe the server monitoring software has provided far more benefit than its cost.
Agencies should plan for increased budgetary needs for operations and maintenance of information technology (IT) assets that are part and parcel of a comprehensive transit ITS deployment. 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.

[1] See also other IT related lessons learned from RTC transit ITS
# 2011-00610: http://www.itslessons.its.dot.gov/its/benecost.nsf/ID/24163932011B70908525796F004C04C9?OpenDocument
# 2011-00614: http://www.itslessons.its.dot.gov/its/benecost.nsf/ID/539B339F57A2C1398525796F0054FB41?OpenDocument

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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: 2012-00627