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55 nificant input into defining the systems' functionality, as well have a need for in-house support to deal with ongoing, as hardware-specific issues (such as placement of hardware minor changes. in the vehicle). It is also important for key staff to participate in the procurement process so that they can provide input Training staff in the use of transit ITS is important no while the system(s) proposed by the vendors is (are) being matter the size of the agency. Some ITS deployments have reviewed and assessed. focused heavily on training, but many agencies have fallen Further, the agency must ensure that operations and main- short in this area. Agencies should realize that vendor train- tenance staff understand their role vis-à-vis the technology ing is not the only option available. Peer-to-peer training can and the agency must obtain their buy-in. Understanding the be a very useful and cost-efficient training method. However, positive impacts of the technology on their job functions will when using this method, agencies need to keep in mind that ensure not only their buy-in, but also will position staff as different operators have different needs, so they must think carefully about the transferability of knowledge. Additionally, mentors for those staff who may be apprehensive about using Web-based training should be considered as it becomes avail- the technology. able. This type of training may not take the place of individual Implementation should include a pilot phase, in which or on-site training, but it can be a useful supplemental tool hardware is installed on only a portion of the fleet or system and is a cost-effective way to provide ongoing training as the and fully tested, before full installation is completed. Pilot- system evolves. ing allows an agency to work out any "bugs" in the system Agencies should analyze their in-house maintenance prior to installing hardware on all vehicles. This is particularly capabilities. Agencies will need to review their staffing and important since, once full installation occurs, all vehicles must budgetary constraints before implementation in order to be brought into the maintenance facility in order to repair determine whether maintenance should be conducted in-house problems with the in-vehicle equipment (although regular or whether outsourcing will be necessary. mechanical repairs may be done at the local sites). Establish clear sign-off and acceptance procedures and a 2.3 Prerequisites for Improved formal process to track problems during implementation Technology Implementations and operations. Contracts with vendors should include an This section discusses the concept of agency "prerequi- acceptance testing phase as part of the implementation process sites" for successful technology adoption. These prerequisites for new technology. In this way, the agency is not left with a describe conditions, capabilities, or assets that must be pres- system that does not function properly once the vendor has ent for maximum technology success and to allow an agency left the picture. to employ and fully benefit from all of the more specific best There are several techniques that should be utilized through- practices described in Section 2.2.3. The genesis and valida- out a technology deployment in order to ensure that every- tion of the prerequisite concept in this study are described, one involved in the project understands the status of the followed by an exploratory discussion of the implications of project at any point in time; the current action items, who "the prerequisite challenge" for the dissemination of these is responsible for resolving them, and when they will be re- study findings. solved; and how each issue is being addressed. This formal Transit agencies should note that although deserving of process can utilize simple tools, such as a spreadsheet (often priority consideration, prerequisites need not be the exclu- called an action item list or "punch list") that notes each ac- sive focus of initial efforts to improve technology deploy- tion item as the project progresses, the date that it is ex- ment. Many of the specific best practices recommended in pected to be resolved, and who is responsible for resolving Section 2.2.3 can be applied in the absence of some of the pre- the item. requisites and can still help improve technology deployment. For this reason, agencies are encouraged to begin utilizing as Technical support is very important in any ITS deploy- many of the practices as possible while they work to establish ment. It is important for agencies to maintain support all of the prerequisites for maximum success in technology agreements with vendors and/or develop the necessary in- deployment. Indeed, working to adopt the best practices will house expertise to deal with technical issues. For example, be helpful in cultivating the prerequisites. Overall, the pur- ITS deployments that include a GIS component may re- pose in identifying prerequisites is not so much to suggest to quire ongoing staff support for data maintenance functions. individual agencies that these factors should be their exclu- Agencies' service areas are continuously changing, requir- sive focus, but rather to suggest to those who fund technol- ing ongoing changes to underlying GIS data. While agencies ogy investments that agencies lacking these prerequisites are may be able to rely on vendors for some changes, they may unlikely to achieve full success.
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56 2.3.1 Identifying Prerequisites concern was the fact that struggling agencies not only appear and Their Significance to already know what they "should" be doing, they also are becoming frustrated with recommendations that lack recog- Over the course of this study, the project team began to nition of their fundamental challenges. There seems to be a suspect that simply knowing the "right things to do" (best growing sense of helplessness resulting from hearing, again practices) would not be enough for the many public trans- and again, over more than a decade, that the keys to success portation agencies who have long struggled to fully capitalize are the things that they do not have and can't seem to acquire. on technologies. This tentative conclusion was based on three This was certainly the sentiment--expressed off the record-- observations: of several practitioners who participated in or sat in on the ITS America 2005 Transit GM Summit (the ITS America · Many best practices are known. Not all, but many, of the 2005 Transit GM Summit is summarized in Appendix B). individual best practices seem to be already well docu- Based on these observations, the project team formulated mented in the literature, and, most importantly, have been a hypothesis. That hypothesis is that there are a number of understood and discussed by transit agencies for a number important preexisting conditions, attributes, or capabilities of years. The sentiment that "we (transit agencies) have been that must be present at a given agency in order for the IT, talking about this stuff for years and nothing changes" has planning, and operations personnel--the target audience for often been expressed in the agency interviews and other dis- most of the best practices--to be able to effectively apply those cussions that have occurred over the course of this multi- best practices. This hypothesis was presented to the participants year study. Many agencies seem to be keenly aware of what in the transit agency leadership focus group conducted for this they are lacking and what they should be doing, but they study. The hypothesis, which came to be referred to as "prereq- still can't seem to get there. uisites," was widely supported by focus group participants, · Some key "new" best practices require major shifts in phi- who generally validated the three project team observations losophy and supporting policy. Some of the critical "newer" described above. practices, like SE or EAP, aren't things that an agency IT, The list of prerequisites that emerged from the focus group planning or operations manager can necessarily just start discussion (supported by the other research conducted for "doing." These practices represent significant departures this study) is as follows: from past approaches--they're more rigorous and resource intensive--and require supporting policy. The move to SE · Agency leadership (CEO, GM, and/or board) that under- constitutes a revolution in industry standard practice and stands and supports technology. a paradigm shift in the way agencies approach projects. · A vision for how technology will permeate and benefit Lacking the proper agency leadership and organizational the agency directly linked to a realistic and phased plan-- culture, a technology project manager or strategic planner developed from the input of a very wide range of cannot pursue an SE or EAP approach; these approaches can stakeholders--for realizing the vision. be an order of magnitude more resource intensive than the · An organizational culture that supports technology and traditional (much less effective) methods deeply embedded accepts change. in agency standard operating procedure. · A supportive community that values transit and supports · Many practices describe necessary "conditions" rather investments, including technology investments, to improve than actions. A number of the "practices" which agen- transit. cies and experts feel are most critical--those pertaining · Resources or the ability to access them (e.g., through good to organizational/institutional/cultural and other "people" grant-writing skills and leveraging a wide range of resources, issues--really describe ways that an agency must "be" to such as partnerships). succeed with technology, rather than things they should "do." For example, the most commonly cited and seem- Part of the reason that it is so difficult for agencies that lack ingly most critical issues--having supportive agency lead- one or more of these prerequisites to succeed at technology ership and a visionary project champion--are not things deployment is that these prerequisites are so interrelated. The agencies can do, but rather are conditions, capabilities, or presence of one is often a key requirement for another, and attributes that they must possess. they reinforce and perpetuate one another. This leads to ei- ther a downward or upward cycle; if an agency is challenged As these observations accumulated, the project team became in fundamental ways, it will probably not fare well with tech- increasingly concerned that the practices identified in this nologies and vice versa. Lacking a prerequisite is difficult study might become "just another good report" that failed to enough, but what's worse is that it's harder to establish any really help the agencies most in need of help. Fueling this one of these prerequisites if another is missing. For example,
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57 without supportive leadership, it's very difficult to establish to practices presented in reports that represented the practices and maintain a pro-technology, change-tolerant organiza- as the "complete solution." tional culture. Realizing that these prerequisites are impor- tant and that they are interrelated and self-reinforcing makes 2.3.4 Implications for Dissemination the frustration and disillusionment evidenced by some agen- of Study Findings cies quite understandable. Recognition of the existence of and defining role played by prerequisites indicates that, although appropriate, traditional 2.3.2 The Size and Significance of methods for disseminating the best practices portion of this "The Prerequisite Challenge" study are insufficient. Those methods--dissemination of After validating the prerequisite concept with the focus reports, brochures, fact sheets, and pamphlets through tradi- group participants and delineating the prerequisites, the tional channels; training courses; conference presentations; project team pressed the focus group participants to speculate and so forth--must be combined with other activities. Those on the size of the prerequisite challenge--the proportion of other activities include additional, highly targeted knowl- agencies that lack prerequisites. The reasoning is that as cru- edge transfer and actions in the transportation policy arena. cial as the notion of prerequisites may be, the real significance These activities are described in detail in Section 4.2. of this finding lies in the number of agencies that are chal- lenged in this manner. If it's a big problem for just a handful 2.3.5 Other Implications of agencies, then it is not, at an overall industry level, a very big problem, which should impact how it is approached. As the above efforts to establish prerequisites are pursued, Agreeing that there was no good quantitative data on the it may also be useful for the FTA and other funding entities prevalence of prerequisites, the focus group participants were to consider how they may adjust their approaches in light of somewhat hesitant to venture a guess. They did agree, however, "the prerequisite challenge." One such adjustment would be that it is not an isolated, small-scale problem: many, many to give greater consideration to the presence or absence of agencies lack prerequisites. One participant suggested that prerequisites in awarding technology implementation grants. 50 percent of all FTA grantees may lack the prerequisites. His Agencies lacking prerequisites might, rather than receiving assertion was not disputed by the other participants. technology deployment funds, receive resources that will as- sist them in establishing prerequisites such as the following: 2.3.3 Improvement Starts with Realization · Various peer-to-peer activities, such as scanning tours to These findings may seem to be sobering news for transit. In successful agencies; reality, they are the first critical steps toward improvement. · Assistance in developing community and/or board under- These conclusions about prerequisites, sobering as they may standing and support for transit technology investment, be, actually greatly increase the value of the best practices including help in developing and making presentations; and presented in this report. · Assistance to technical staff in developing CEO/GM under- Simply telling agencies "what works" or "what to do" isn't standing and support for transit technology planning, the whole answer. Therefore, it is now clear that in addition implementation, and operation. to the traditional dissemination strategies for reports like this one, additional dissemination and other strategies must be Conversely, deployment funds might be better focused on pursued, and they must be accompanied by other actions those agencies fully prepared and able to achieve success. In focusing on establishing prerequisites. Those additional, par- the short term, as the other, broader actions are pursued to allel strategies--discussed further below and in Chapter 4-- propagate prerequisites, these sorts of changes in grant deci- transcend traditional knowledge transfer activities. sions could be the single most effective way to increase the It's also worth considering that rather than discouraging cumulative ROI on government transit technology. agencies, the somewhat somber conclusions related to prereq- Of course, if such a strategy (focusing funding on agencies uisites might actually invigorate agencies, lend further credence possessing the prerequisites for success) were to be pursued, it to this research, and thereby increase the chances that agencies would become absolutely essential that the other strategies fo- will adopt the recommended practices that they can. How is this cused squarely on establishing prerequisites be vigorously pur- possible? This research study's validation of the factors that sued and successful. If those strategies to develop necessary have prevented many agencies from succeeding at technology prerequisites are not successful, reducing technology deploy- deployment may inspire those agencies to give greater consid- ment funds for the more challenged agencies could widen the eration to the best practices recommended here than they gave gap between successful and unsuccessful technology adopters.
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58 2.3.6 Agencies Helping Agencies in this study. That reasoning is summarized by UTA in its July 2006 Draft Proposal for the Applied Transit Technology In the preceding section, peer-to-peer activities were identi- Center: fied as one category of outreach and assistance recommended for agencies that lack prerequisites. One particular type of A special organization or institution is needed to engender col- peer-to-peer strategy--one not currently common in public laboration among agencies for projects of common interest; pro- transportation--holds particular promise. This strategy is vide structure in methodology, documentation and evaluation so noteworthy not only because of its potential assistance with that the results are easily and effectively transferable; and provide many of the challenges faced by transit agencies, but because mechanisms and support for technology transfer acceptance, adaptation and adoption among other properties.87 it is currently underway. UTA is leading efforts to establish the Applied Transit Technology Center. UTA describes the effort as a "collaborative Potential program areas for the Applied Transit Technology effort or consortium among transit agencies to foster the appli- Center include the following: cation of technological innovation."86 The Applied Transit · A "skunk works" laboratory where off-the-shelf technolo- Technology Center is expected to involve four to eight agen- cies and will be directed by transit agency GM. The center gies and products available in other contexts (industries) will be a "virtual" institution, that is, a number of its proj- are installed and tested in a transit context. Example tech- ects, programs, and activities will take place at the sites of its nologies include commercial trucking lane keeping systems member agencies. and maintenance monitoring applications. The aims of the Applied Transit Technology Center, as · Collection and dissemination of information, including identified by UTA, are the following: technology transfer, from the activities of participating agencies. · Foster the application of technological innovation into the · Providing a venue for a variety of peer-to-peer activities such operations of American transit agencies, especially medium- as roundtables devoted to specific technology topics of size and small properties that cannot afford large technical interest to members. and engineering staffs. · Provision of short-term, on-site technical assistance to indi- · Identify current problems and apply technology to solve vidual agencies to accelerate deployment or troubleshoot them, rather than develop new technology. problems, through assignment of staff or arrangement of · Adapt existing technologies to the transit environment support from other agencies. through prototyping, testing, and piloting. · Providing a platform for creating consortia among transit · Document and popularize current innovation being under- agencies, universities, and firms and preparing joint, applied taken within agencies. research proposals. · Provide support for adoption of such innovations among · Spearheading development of common specifications for agencies. technology acquisition in the absence of mature standards. · Technically sophisticated representation of the perspectives The reasons for developing the Applied Transit Technol- and concerns of medium-size and small transit agencies in ogy Center dovetail with many of the conclusions presented national and international settings. 86 Utah Transit Authority, "DRAFT Utah Transit Authority Proposal to Create 87 an Applied Transit Technology Center, Version 0.71" (July 12, 2006). Ibid.