When deploying ITS for transit service, perform a technology assessment during the planning phase, gather technology operator input, and designate a project manager with adequate decision-making authority.
Experience deploying ITS for transit service in a suburban area
In 1993, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) sponsored an operational test of ITS for a flexible-route service. The test, entitled Smart Flex-route Integrated Real-time Enhancement System (SaFIRES), supported the deployment of a flexible-route service (OmniLink) in Prince William County. OmniLink can deviate from its fixed route up to three-quarters of a mile on either side to pick-up and drop-off passengers.
The objectives of SaFIRES were to provide mobility to a transit-dependent population, test and implement a flexible-route transit service in a low population density area, and support the integration of a new transit service into a pre-existing transit service. An evaluation of SaFIRES from the perspective of key stakeholders provides key lessons learned as follows.
- Ensure that the radio system for enabling communications between the components of the transit service is reliable and performs adequately. Radio communications are central to the transit system because they allow the various system components, such as the Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL), Mobile Data Terminal (MDT), and dispatch, to communicate with each other. Delays or error in transmission will compromise the value of the information. The radio system used in SaFIRES performed poorly. It had a congested radio bandwidth and “dead spots” in which vehicles could not receive or send messages, resulting in delayed and/or inaccurate transmissions, and preventing system components from functioning in an integrated way. This limitation was significant, and prevented the transit service from reaching its potential.
- Involve the end users in the development and deployment of new scheduling software and system hardware. It is important to obtain user input -in this case, from schedulers and dispatchers - on their task needs and usability requirements before asking them to work with new systems. SaFIRES installed an automated scheduling system to replace an inefficient paper-based process, which had the positive result of reducing processing time required to schedule passenger pick-ups from two days to two hours. (The software accelerates the process by automating an analysis of routing alternatives and the availability of vehicles.) However, the deployment of the software had met with difficulty initially due to poor training and inadequate briefing of the users. Stakeholders believe that providing timely, effective training would have served the project, employees and managers better and helped instill employee confidence, skill and acceptance of the new technology.
- Perform a technology assessment when planning a multi-year project. As the SaFIRES project unfolded, some of the already-deployed technologies became obsolete by the time the project added additional technologies. This artifact of scheduling frequently created problems due to incompatibility between systems or aging technology. For example, the OmniLink scheduling software required an MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) platform, but over time, the project installed computers with a Windows 95 platform.
- Designate one project manager with authority for the overall project. SaFIRES had an organizational weakness because it lacked having one project manager with overall authority or responsibility. SaFIRES stakeholders believe that this organizational structure created an environment in which individuals had the capability of identifying problems, but not the responsibility for fixing them. For example, the team had identified significant technical problems in the communications system but there was no mechanism for a central figure to take control over a budget, implement or oversee a solution. Eventually, in 1996, the Director of Planning of the transit commission responsible for OmniLink took on the project manager role for the project.
Author: Michael Harris, Matthew Hardy, Robert Casey, and Judith Schwenk
Published By: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration
Source Date: 1/5/2002
EDL Number: 13698URL: http://ntl.bts.gov/lib//jpodocs/repts_te//13698.html
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Intelligent Transportation Systems > Transit Management > Transportation Demand Management > Dynamic Routing/Scheduling
Intelligent Transportation Systems > Transit Management > Operations & Fleet Management > Automatic Vehicle Location / Computer-Aided Dispatch
Intelligent Transportation Systems > Transit Management > Information Dissemination > In-Vehicle Systems
paratransit, demand-responsive transit, automated vehicle location, computer aided dispatch, automatic vehicle locator, AVL, CAD, AVL/CAD