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

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

Establishing a well-specified plan before embarking on any ITS project is key. As is typical with any well-managed project, it is important that during the initial planning process agencies define the projects' goals and objectives. This helps to ensure the end result will be concurrent with the agencies' vision. Thorough planning includes a number of steps to consider, as is outlined here:
  • Follow the steps of a technology-driven planning process for ITS deployment: Base your deployment on a systematic planning process, insuring that the technology (s) selected meets a specific agency need. A systematic planning process for ITS projects should include the following steps:
    • Issue/Problem Recognition
    • Project Definition
    • Needs Analysis
    • Planning and Design
    • Development/Procurement (includes Specifications Development)
    • Training
    • Installation and Testing
    • Implementation/Operation
    • Systems Maintenance/Upgrading and Evaluation
  • Consider the use of outside expertise. The use of outside professional expertise for activities such as writing system specifications or providing systems integration support may be helpful for rural transit agencies planning ITS procurements. It is important for agencies to provide consultants with a clear scope of work that is consistent with their contractual arrangements with vendors and their expectations. This scope should include roles and responsibilities for both the consultant and key agency staff. Additionally, agencies using outside consultants need to make sure that key agency staff continue to be involved in the deployment.
    • When planning their Transportation Information System (TIS), River Valley Transit in Williamsport, PA hired the architectural/engineering general contractor to develop the functional specifications as a way to solve their bus staging/space constraints.
    • The Florida Center for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD) required the demand-response software vendor to provide an explanation of the needs for data “scrubbing” and conversion, minimum hardware specifications, and training plans for the various rural transit providers known as Community Transportation Coordinators (CTC)
  • Address system expandability early in the process. It is important to keep expandability of the system in mind, as the needs of end-users will likely change over time. ITS systems should have the capability to handle changing needs.
    • In New Mexico the Client Referral, Ridership, and Financial Tracking (CRRAFT) system has not incorporated GIS into the software package. However, recognizing that it may become a priority in the future the Alliance for Transportation Research Institute designed the software in a way that will accommodate the integration of GIS capabilities in the future.
    • The Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) in Austin, Texas has future plans to implement a smart card system. CARTS would like to use that card as a smart card, tracking the customer's usage for the appropriate agency and using the information for billing purposes.
  • If your agency lacks technological expertise, use proven technologies. Agencies that are not technologically sophisticated may want to concentrate their planning and procurement efforts on proven technology.
    • CARTS felt that they needed a proven, successfully implemented technology and did not want to be a test site for new software. Therefore, they found an off-the-shelf product that met their needs and helped them "keep it simple."
  • Conduct formal technical and organizational needs assessment prior to beginning your ITS deployment. The needs assessment helps to determine exactly what technology is needed and can help identify the technical and organizational barriers that might hinder the successful deployment of the ITS technology. Additionally, the needs assessment can simply help agencies learn more about their own operations.
    • The Florida CTD conducted operational studies of each of the participating CTCs in order to identify their needs and changes that needed to be made prior to the ITS deployment. The results of the operational studies led to recommendations to upgrade computer hardware and software.
  • Realize that the integration of various ITS elements is critical to getting the most out of the technologies. It is important to address ITS integration issues early on in the planning stage, especially if the deployment is designed to take place incrementally.
    • Since each component of their system was installed separately, CARTS thought carefully about the integration of the different components prior to installation helping to avoid any integration problems later on
When deploying ITS technologies it is crucial, to ensure success, that a well-specified plan is in place. By clearly laying out goals and objective, agencies can evaluate the project both during and after deployment. The plan enables agency staff to measure success. By beginning the planning process early, transit agencies can make sure that they procure technologies that will not only satisfy their current needs but also be able to accommodate future additions. In any ITS deployment, proper planning can help ensure project goals are met within an acceptable timeframe and budget. There are well-defined steps each agency should follow in preparing their plan, and consistent adherence to the plan should result in a successful ITS deployment.

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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

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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: 2007-00346