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40 market researchers are sometimes not included in the devel- passenger counts. In the 2 years since Madison implemented opment of the data archiving architecture, and may not even ITS on its buses, it has not yet fulfilled all the goals of the know what data exist. Even when they become aware of the agency. Staff at Madison Metro seek to get a better under- existence of ITS data, they may not have the skills to extract standing of the university student population and their trip the data that could assist in market research activities. IT staff patterns when school is in session. This understanding would are typically assigned to tasks considered higher priority help the agency better cope with the tremendous change in (e.g., operations support or financial systems) and provide ridership numbers when school is not in session. The rider- market research support only as time is available. Two ap- ship numbers also support the negotiation of pass program proaches to mitigating these impacts are described. agreements. One approach is to create a data manager. The role of a Another option that is especially applicable to small districts data manager is to abstract and summarize data--making in university towns is to enlist the help of the educational in- data available and legible for all users to understand and use. stitution. Interns can be a way to capitalize on the intellectual Potential users include the public, peer transit agencies, resources of nearby universities, although it must be recog- market researchers, and in-house groups. The need to find nized that such programs will require agency staff time to common ground for culling and presenting these data to the support the program. The investment can have a secondary varied users makes decisionmaking capabilities and team- benefit, however, in providing a potential pool of transit-savvy building skills desirable for data mangers, although these are employees after graduation. not necessarily sought after in data-oriented positions. The data manager may want to create a collaborative process that ensures the needs of all users are met through ITS data Improving the Use of ITS Data collection--coordination with service planners, market re- for Market Research searchers, analysts--to generate a comprehensive database Once ITS data are archived in a database, it is a challenge that serves many needs. to integrate the data into operations and market research re- The CTA provides a successful alternative approach, using porting and decisionmaking. The CTA discusses other rea- technically savvy staff within the market research area to pro- sons for the ongoing success of its program. One is the series vide data support. When the case study was conducted, the of "what's new" brown bag seminars that allow data services CTA had been using ITS data for 3 years. Despite its large size, staff to show agency staff new applications and uses of data. the CTA maintained an effective market research department Similarly, these seminars provide an open forum for staff to with a staff comparable in numbers to smaller agencies. Dur- make requests so that data services has a better understand- ing the initial deployment of smart cards, AVL, and APCs, the ing of what is needed for the future. CTA created the Data Services unit, which was responsible for Another positive aspect of Chicago's ITS approach is the for- post processing, merging data from various systems, and de- mal relationship with MIT and University of Illinois-Chicago, veloping tools for data analysis. Recently, staff from data ser- through which CTA employs master's program interns. Those vices was transferred to IT for the post-processing function, still in school are in the mindset to think critically about prob- while several analysts remained in Data Services to conduct lems and help develop innovative approaches to solving them. actual analysis. The effect of splitting these related job func- In the same spirit, thesis students are brought on for two sum- tions into separate departments is unclear, but CTA staff point mers. In the first, they learn about the industry and agency to the data services unit as crucial in their success. They said it while identifying an underlying problem and, in the second, helped bridge the gap between the Management & Perfor- they attempt to solve it in their thesis. This research develops mance division (where IT resides) and market research staff. innovative prototype applications of ITS data that can eventu- ally evolve into adopted practices. This helps bridge the gap Opportunities for Properties between innovation and implementation. The program is also That Outsource Market Research Activities a good source for qualified full-time staff candidates. ITS data analysis and market research are often viewed as activities that are only for larger districts, such as Portland Staffing Issues and Chicago. Madison Metro provides an example of how a Bridging the Gap Between smaller agency with a lean staff can capitalize on the benefits Market Research and IT of ITS for market research activities. Madison has been successful in drawing on its ITS data to Two significant problems with ITS data are (1) the diffi- improve timetables and to identify a priority list of bus stop im- culty in integrating ITS data across different applications and provements and advertising opportunities based on stop-level (2) that ITS data are not easily exported to formats that can
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41 be analyzed in standard desktop software applications (e.g., tate the identification of optimal types of data and data col- spreadsheets). The inability to integrate data was cited as the lection sources. Ideally, a data manager, in conjunction with top perceived barrier to using ITS data for transit market re- the agency staff and other stakeholders, will define the goals search in the industry survey conducted for the Guidebook. and objectives of the ITS system. However, as a result of tech- ITS has the ability to enhance service and improve con- nology often outpacing the ability for agencies to hire and uti- nections across departments within and external to the transit lize a data manager, more often the case is that data collection agency. The ITS Joint Programs Office of the U.S. Depart- is already in process and the manager is hired later, giving this ment of Transportation writes in its report, Building Profes- individual less opportunity to coordinate the different appli- sional Capacity in ITS: An Assessment of ITS Training and cations. In these situations, a data manager is limited in Education Needs: The Transit Experience, that ITS requires his/her ability to extract meaningful trends and performance agencies to change their mission and approach to operations indicators from data that were defined before he/she was as advanced technology deployments become more inter- brought on. agency and systems-oriented. The report discusses internal A transit agency attempting to better integrate a data man- barriers to effective use of ITS data, for example, being nar- ager into its institution should consider the role it wishes the rowly defined job functions and overall missions, as well as manager to play, the opportunities it intends to provide, and limited emphasis on funding for training and development. the best way to integrate the manager into the agency. The The report, released in 1999, recognized early on the difficul- importance of data management should not be overlooked, ties of hiring and retaining qualified computer and systems and the successful transit agency will see the hiring of a data engineers. manager as an investment in a more effective system in the A critical element of the evolution toward integration of future. market research and ITS data is having staff that can bridge the gap between research and information technology. The Recruiting and Retaining IT Staff role of a data manager is someone who is comfortable using and Data Analysts information technology to draw from a number of sources of data and who can use datasets for a variety of purposes. Given Historically, it has been difficult for transit agencies to at- the need for increased access of market researchers to the en- tract and retain IT staff. In Research Results Digest Number 45, terprise database, the role of market researcher should be ex- "Identification of the Critical Workforce Development Issues panded to include the functions of a data manager. From a in the Transit Industry," (TCRP 2001) both marketing and IT staffing point of view, an ideal employee would be trained as professionals are cited as difficult to attract and retain in the a market researcher who is also capable of extracting data industry. Because IT is a secondary accessory to the transit from proprietary sources for secondary analysis. A person industry (that is, not a core skill such as engineering, mainte- who could satisfy these requirements would find several op- nance, and operations), many do not view the transit indus- portunities in what has been referred to in literature as "data try as a good choice for a place to pursue a career in IT. management." IT and data management are related, but dis- Another challenge to attracting IT professionals is the per- tinct. While IT personnel maintain computer networks and ception that there is greater potential for growth and income database systems, a data manager is concerned specifically in other industries, especially in the private sector. with the data from ITS sources. These two positions are often Some agencies have found the most effective means of re- confused within the transit environment and by transit taining quality IT staff is by employing a "grow our own" agency managers, causing agencies to be hesitant or unwill- strategy. Houston Metro uses this strategy, as discussed in ing to hire what is mistakenly believed to be a second person TCRP Report 77, " Managing Transit's Workforce in the New to fill a data management position. Millennium" (McGlothin Davis and Corporate Strategies An institution must be willing to see the data manager as a 2002), with the concept being that a transit agency will pro- viable addition to disseminate and target information based vide a fast-paced and exciting work environment that excels in on new data, technology, and sources, and as a person able to providing new opportunities and job growth potential, focus- create stronger internal and external networks. The role of a ing on retention and training rather than hiring specifically for data manager should be defined and understood so that a re- a set of skills. The message that "employees will be involved in lationship can be developed based on reasonable expectations exciting work using up-to-date methods and resources" is re- rather than tasks outside the scope of a data manager's job de- inforced by ensuring that "promises of interesting work and scription. Unfortunately, there is very often a lag between the the use of state-of-the-art technology are kept." Additionally, time that ITS is deployed and the hiring of a data manager. offering regular in-service training will help to keep workers A data manager is most effective when hired before data are up-to-date and contribute to the feeling that the industry is defined or collected, which allows the data manager to facili- progressing with technology. Other transit agencies have
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42 echoed the concern over attracting the highest level of em- Technology Professionals." In this recruiting program, "avail- ployees for this profession, such as the Santa Clara Valley able positions were designed to be broader with more variety Transportation Authority, which stated in the same report rather than a single task." These positions also include a job- that they strive to get the message out about having up-to-date progression calendar that projects upward movement oppor- technology and providing interesting work early in careers. tunities and depicts the timeframes within which a good Others have used salary incentives to attract high-level pro- employee can expect to advance. Also, employees' opportuni- fessionals, but this is limited in effectiveness for a potential ties to advance are not limited to managerial roles; they may employee who may have pre-conceived notions of the nature instead become mentors and sources of technical knowledge of the work being offered. for new hires. Benefits widely used in the private sector add to Another successful effort highlighted in TCRP Report 77 is a success, including flextime, dress-down day, and limited program used by Metro-North Railroad called the "Integrated telecommuting. Among other rewards, top performers receive Approach to Recruiting, Training and Retaining Information additional training.