Fixed-route transit ITS solutions were created to help transit agencies deal with the unexpected, including everything from sick employees to traffic jams. A thorough solution should keep your agency running smoothly and efficiently, no matter the reason.
To that end, we’ve created a demo that shows how the various functionalities of an ITS solution can keep an agency on track in one of the most outrageous situations we could imagine: an attack by a group of giant lizards. They’ve invaded the town of Quietville and are making life rather challenging for the local transit agency and its passengers.
While this is obviously a touch on the fanciful side, if a mob of oversized reptiles bent on chaos can’t disrupt the Quietville transit agency, what can? Check out the demo and see who wins.
The HOP, operated by the Hill Country Transit District, delivers both fixed-route transit and paratransit services throughout Central Texas. Serving both rural and urban areas, and coordinating trips between paratransit vehicles and the fixed-route service, meant The HOP needed an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) to keep up with demand. Luis Pino, Technology Manager at The HOP, speaks about the need for ITS and the challenges faced along the path of implementation.
Why did The HOP decide it was time to implement an ITS solution?
Before our ITS solution, we were manually entering data into Excel spreadsheets. Drivers used clipboards to track things like passenger counts and miles travelled, and they communicated with dispatchers via radios.
These tools were time consuming and error prone. We decided that an automated system for scheduling, route planning and driver/dispatcher communication was necessary so that we could make better use our resources—from staff to vehicles—and improve the quality of our service.
What did you look for in vendors in order to realize these objectives?
It came down to cost, how easy the technology was to use, and the relationship between vendors. The fact that our two key vendors are long-time partners and have worked together before helped in the decision. Also, the fact that one system was already compatible with the other, and that the companies seem to be in synch meant a lot.
What does your ITS solution include?
On the fixed-route side, the ITS solution delivers Computer-Aided Dispatch and Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL) capabilities with schedule and route adherence monitoring and reporting applications. Our paratransit vehicles are now equipped with in-vehicle computers that integrate with back-office software to facilitate same-day scheduling, electronic job manifests, and real-time messaging.
What challenges did you face during implementation?
Initially our paratransit drivers disliked the system as they adjusted to a new way of doing things. But now they are accustomed to logging in and having their inbound/outbound trips squared away for the day. I don’t think they could go back to the way we did things before; they’ve become dependent on it.
Riders also noticed bumps early on. A lot of our paratransit riders have been with us for years, and when this technology was first installed and our schedulers, dispatchers and drivers were still learning, there was an increase in rider complaints. Now that we know how to use the technology, I haven’t heard many complaints.
In what areas have you seen the greatest benefit from this ITS system?
We’ve seen the greatest benefit in terms of scheduling. One scheduler used to work until 6pm everyday scheduling buses for the next day. Now he’s finished by 2pm. We’ve also been able to increase the roles and responsibilities of our schedulers with this technology. Now they take care of billing and cleaning up data.
Route planning for our fixed-route service is now much faster. We don’t have to physically drive the route and manually count passengers to determine which bus stops need to be added or eliminated. All that information is instantly available to us. We have more data and more data accuracy, which gives us the ability to operate more efficient routes and runs. This software has allowed us to add runs, without increasing the number of drivers. We’ve improved the run/driver ratio so that we’re more efficient.
If you could go back and do the implementation over again, what would you do differently?
Well, we don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to these types of projects, but if we did I’d like to slow down the pace of the implementation. Extra time would better allow for the kinks to be worked out and let us better prepare our staff for the technology.
Imagine if you could reduce your operational costs by 20% based largely on existing resources and communications infrastructure. The American Public Transportation Association has indicated that poor data quality can potentially add between 10 and 20 percent to your operational budget. They have put together a self-assessment questionnaire that underscores best practices and helps organizations to identify areas of inefficiency. It is designed to generate discussion and help stimulate action. Click here to take the questionnaire
It’s true that AVL/GPS systems now come with more capabilities than ever before, like the ability to collect telemetry and other data from the vehicle, and to support richer applications. As this article points out, they also deliver route optimization and planning, and when connected to navigation, allow fleet operators to realize efficiency improvements of 15 to 20%.
A blog for those of us who live and work in fleet management. Topics include engine diagnostics, driver safety, mobile workforce management, CAD/AVL, vehicle maintenance, truck distribution, global computing, work order management, and field services.
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