Examine multiple funding sources and anticipate unforeseen costs associated with deploying transit ITS.

Five rural transit agencies' experiences in applying ITS to rural transit.

March 2003
Statewide,New Mexico,United States; Austin,Texas,United States; St. John's County,Florida,United States; Marion County,Florida,United States; Putnam County,Florida,United States; Ottumwa,Iowa,United States; Williamsport,Pennsylvania,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

As always, there are issues with funding any transportation project, and ITS in particular, that require recommendations and advice. The transit agencies in this case study brought forward a number of different funding and financial considerations important to rural transit agencies undertaking ITS deployments. Additionally, agencies need to realize ahead of time that costs may escalate throughout project deployment as well as during everyday operations. These rising costs make it important for transit agencies to explore all possible sources of funding to ensure budget constraints do not delay the installation process.

Based on the experiences of the rural transit agencies lessons learned have been developed in locating, securing, and allocating funding for transit ITS deployments.
  • Anticipate all costs when initiating an ITS project, including any unexpected expenses. ITS deployments contain numerous costs including those for initial start-up, capital, on-going maintenance and upgrades, and costs associated with staff time and effort.
    • In Florida two rural transit providers, (Community Transportation Coordinators (CTC)) experienced significant unexpected costs during the initial installation of ITS applications, including expenses for additional software and overtime as staff tried to get accustomed with the system and get it up and running.
  • Apply for funding from numerous sources. A number of different funding sources are available for deploying transit ITS in rural areas. The agencies in this study have typically used an assortment of Federal, State, and Local Funding.
    • The Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) in Austin, Texas secured funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for the installation of AVL/MDTs, scheduling and dispatch software and enhancements to the radio system.
    • In Florida, the participating CTCs are all part of statewide project undertaken by the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD), an independent commission housed within the Florida Department of Transportation. The ITS project undertaken by these CTCs included two phases of installing new scheduling and dispatch software and AVL/MDT systems. The first phase was funded by an FTA demonstration grant. Phase two was funded with additional FTA money as well as a CTD match, which required a 10 percent match from each participating CTC.
    • In New Mexico the Client Referral, Ridership, and Financial Tracking (CRRAFT) system received funding for the implementation of new scheduling and dispatch software and electronic fare card technology from the FTA, (through their ITS Joint Programs Office and the FTA 3037 program, the New Mexico Human Services Department (NMHSD), the New Mexico Department of Labor and from the Alliance for Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).
    • The Ottumwa Transit Authority (OTA), the rural transit provider in Ottumwa, Iowa set out to install a new radio system, scheduling and dispatch software, AVL/MDTs, and electronic fare card technology. They received an FTA demonstration project grant for the project and got Iowa DOT to provide a portion of the non-federal match, with OTA providing the remaining match money.
    • The Williamsport Bureau of Transportation (WBT) River Valley Transit, which provides transit service to the Williamsport, Pennsylvania area, set out to build a transit center and use AVL/MDTs to develop a Traveler Information System (TIS). A capital grant was awarded by the FTA to the WBT, with Penn. DOT, the City, and the County each providing a portion of the non-federal match. The grant also included contingency funds intended for the TIS project; therefore it would not need to compete with other ITS projects.
  • Do not expend all funds on a project; hold some funds for unexpected costs. As noted in the example of the two CTCs in Florida, rural transit agencies should "expect the unexpected" when installing new ITS technologies. It is crucial for agencies to remain flexible and know that everything will not run smoothly. With that in mind transit agencies need the ability to add enhancements or fix problems when they arise. Keeping contingency funds for such occurrences allows agencies to cope with these situations.
Funding for ITS deployments is available to rural transit agencies from a multitude of federal, state, local and even private sources. Rural transit agencies searching for funding need to be aware of the combinations of federal, state and local funding available to them and the ways in which match money can be obtained. Once funding has been identified, it is important that agencies budget for the unexpected as well as the anticipated costs of a project. Reserving small amounts of the available funding in a contingency account should also be considered.

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Rural Transit ITS Best Practices

Author: Joana Conklin, Carol Schweiger, Buck Marks, Yehuda Gross, William Wiggins, Karen Timpone

Published By: Federal Highway Administration, U.S. DOT

Source Date: March 2003

EDL Number: 13784

Other Reference Number: Report No.FHWA-OP-03-77

URL: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/3854

Other Lessons From this Source

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Lesson Analyst:

Jane Lappin
Volpe National Transportation Systems Center


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Benefits From This Source

Implementation of a two-way radio network with paratransit scheduling software provides better customer service, better scheduling, and more efficient staffing.

Implementation of paratransit software with Automatic Vehicle Location/Mobile Data Terminal (AVT/MDT) technologies leads to increase in trip productivity; reduction in administrative staff; and greater overall confidence in the transportation system.

Implementation of radio system combined with AVL/MDT technology leads to increase in trip productivity and better vehicle maintenance in a large service area with low population density.

Implementation of Real-time Customer Information System leads to better customer service; fewer customer inquires; and better access for persons with disabilities.

New Mexico's scheduling/billing sofware leads to better customer service, more efficient reporting and billing, and better coordination between transportation providers and funding agencies.

Costs From This Source

Client Referral, Ridership, and Financial Tracking (CRRAFT), a New Mexico Web-based system that provides coordination between funding agencies and their subgrantees cost about $1 million to implement. CRRAFT is one of five transit agency highlighted in a rural transit ITS best practices case study.

Lessons From This Source

Consider different operational strategies when deploying ITS.

Consider various technical applications and processes, such as using GIS, evaluating systems compatibility and the facility for upgrades, when deploying ITS.

Design an ITS procurement process carefully to ensure the best outcome for vendor selection and performance.

Develop a thorough installation and implementation process as part of the ITS deployment.

Establish and follow a comprehensive project plan in anticipation of the deployment of ITS resources.

Examine multiple funding sources and anticipate unforeseen costs associated with deploying transit ITS.

Recognize that institutional and organizational issues will require considerable attention throughout the ITS project deployment process.

Train staff throughout the deployment of transit ITS projects to ensure successful implementation and use of ITS resources.

Lesson ID: 2007-00345