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43 CHAPTER 5 Lessons Learned, Issues, and Concerns In 1997, TCRP convened a task group to explore strategic exercise, perspectives on how this information would con- research initiatives that would guide fundamental change in tribute to a customer-oriented approach to service changed. the transit industry. In a future search conference, the task Initially, the New Paradigms focus centered on tapping infor- group developed a characterization of conditions in the tran- mation technologies to develop new services for customers, sit industry that, in its assessment, represented a crisis (TCRP with Web and phone-based trip planning software and real 1998). The crisis condition was seen to be a consequence of time vehicle arrival information serving as examples. Subse- the industry's entrenched commitment to an "Efficient Tran- quently, the focus broadened to include operations informa- sit Performance" paradigm organized around a command tion recovered from on-vehicle systems. These systems were and control philosophy bound to a dependence on subsidy clearly capable of producing information to support tracking and a perceived inability to influence revenues. In contrast, service delivery performance, contributing to the efficiency the task group developed a vision of an alternative para- objectives of the traditional paradigm. However, as was rec- digm--"Change, Growth, and Mobility"--organized around ognized in TCRP Report 97, "Emerging New Paradigms: A a philosophy of shared responsibilities bound to a reliance on Guide to Fundamental Change in Local Public Transportation information and a commitment to customer service. Organizations" (Stanley et al. 2003), much of the information The outgrowth of the future search exercise was a commit- from on-vehicle systems was not only customer-relevant, it ment to fund a New Paradigms research initiative within could also be coordinated (in some instances, linked) with TCRP. The first product of the initiative was TCRP Report 53, customer and market information to produce a more com- "New Paradigms for Local Public Transportation Organiza- plete picture of the quality of customers' experiences. As envi- tions," (Cambridge Systematics 1999). Among other things, sioned in TCRP Report 97, this coordination would lead to TCRP Report 53 concluded that the transit industry needed to performance assessment capabilities ". . . that bring into bal- move beyond performance measures focused solely on operat- ance the quality of the customer's experience (the emerging ing efficiency to include measures ". . . that describe the attrib- strategic goal) and the efficiency with which resources are used utes of the product (service) as perceived by the user" (Cam- (the production goal)" (Stanley et al. 2003: 2-4). bridge Systematics 1999: 6-11, emphasis added). Implicit in The perspective on coordinated applications of customer this conclusion was the recognition that a greater focus on cus- and market information with ITS data developed in TCRP tomers depended on a deeper commitment to understanding Report 97 represents the starting point for the present and acting on customer perceptions, preferences, opinions, Guidebook. Overall, the Guidebook's purpose has been to and attitudes. In turn, this commitment would require a re- illustrate how ITS data can be used in tandem with infor- casting of marketing beyond its traditional focus on customer mation recovered by traditional market research tools. relations and promotion to a more expanded mission that also In some instances, this involves applications where ITS data embraced customer and market research. leverage or facilitate traditional market research practices. Coinciding with the New Paradigms initiative, an accelerat- In other instances, this involves coordinating information ing technological transformation in the transit industry began from market and customer research with information from delivering a vast amount of information about service deliv- ITS technologies. And in a few instances, it involves a ery and customers. Although the industry's transformation substitution of information provided by ITS technologies from "information poor" to "information rich" status was for information that had been previously obtained through clearly anticipated in the New Paradigms initial future search manual practices.

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44 The scope of the Guidebook goes beyond explaining how agencies the need to re-invent the wheel in developing ITS data can be used to address specific customer and market information systems for ITS data. Standardization is fol- research questions or cataloguing specific applications. As in lowed in other industries and results in more cost-effective the case of moving from the efficient performance to the cus- and quicker implementation. tomer-focused paradigm, the transition from traditional data Each agency should develop a comprehensive technology collection to effective use of ITS data in customer and market plan to document and prioritize technology strategies for research involves a number of intermediate steps and re- the agency. The plan should cover all ITS technologies and quires coordination across the agency. In the present case, the include budget and staffing impacts. As an agencywide intermediate steps can be traced from technology acquisition planning and budgeting tool, the technology plan would to systems integration to data processing and management to serve management by identifying and scheduling actions the development of new reporting and analysis tools to staff that must be taken through implementation. development. This approach was considered necessary be- The business units responsible for maintaining data in the cause early experiences indicated that information from ITS agency's database should monitor and ensure the validity technologies was generally being underutilized in the transit and integrity of the data. As one person at a case study prop- industry (Casey 2000, Kemp 2002). erty observed, "Bad data can ruin trust." Post processing is This chapter takes a technology life cycle approach to sum- a necessary step to ensure data integrity. marize the lessons learned from efforts to fold ITS data into Transit properties that are a part of city or county govern- customer and market research practices. In this approach, the ments generally benefit from having access to city or life cycle is divided into four stages: (1) systems acquisition, county-level IT resources, but IT staff at these levels often (2) data management, (3) market research (or data analysis), lack familiarity with ITS data. Coordination with IT can and (4) decisionmaking. The four stages of the life cycle are also be more difficult. recursive in the sense that conditions or limitations that arise Invest in developing and maintaining meta-data and data in a given stage tend to carry over and have consequences for dictionaries for the ITS databases. Researchers' credibility subsequent stages. is at stake when they use ITS data, and they need to under- Beginning at the systems acquisition stage of the ITS life stand limitations of the data. Also, researchers can't tap the cycle, the experiences of the case study properties and rec- potential of ITS databases if they don't know the details of ommendations of the Transit Standards Consortium (FTA the data. 2005) suggest the following: Invest in training to support agencywide development of staff capabilities in using new enterprise applications for Involve key stakeholders on systems procurement teams to analyzing ITS data, such as GIS. ensure that the data produced by each system is compatible with that produced by other systems and that duplication At the market research stage of the life cycle, lessons can be among systems is minimized. Think ahead. A "stovepipe" drawn from the experiences of the case study properties and approach to procurement can result in integration and literature addressing the strategic role of marketing and mar- interoperability problems as new systems are added. ket research (Cronin and Hightower 2004, Fielding 1987, Stovepiping can be avoided by adopting a "data-centric" Stanley et al. 2003) and workforce development (TCRP approach to procurement rather than an "application- 2001). These lessons include the following: centric" approach. Specify data integration and interface requirements in the The experiences of the case study properties and responses to procurement process. the 2005 survey suggest that there is no "right" location of the Be sure to have complete documentation for each system. market research function within the organization that opti- It is important to know exactly how data are produced. mizes the use of ITS data. At one case study property (CTA), Form an organizationwide data committee to ensure that market research resides within operations; at a second the data recovered by ITS technologies are compatible with (TriMet), it is placed in the same division as IT; and at the the needs of end users. third (Madison Metro), it exists as an independent entity. The New Paradigms approach, which emphasizes greater co- At the data management stage of the life cycle, lessons ordination between marketing and service development and from the experiences of the case study properties include the delivery, would likely find advantages in the CTA alternative. following: The case studies also found synergistic spillover benefits from operations staff responsible for validating and maintaining The existence of standard industry templates for data mod- ITS data from on-board systems to staff that analyze ITS data els, applications, and data management would have spared in monitoring and evaluating service delivery.

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45 Every property should prepare a marketing plan that identifies While there appears to be no practical limit to the number market research needs and establishes linkages to service de- of service performance measures that can be derived from velopment and operations plans. Ideally, marketing and oper- ITS data, this shouldn't be interpreted as a license to over- ations plans would be coordinated, as envisioned by Fielding whelm managers with information. Information overload (1987). Apart from being a logical thing to do, such coordina- is more likely to occur in the age of ITS data and is a symp- tion would help to break down the traditional culture in the tom of inadequate communication between analysts and industry ". . . in which operational concerns have been viewed managers. as of paramount strategic importance and customer concerns Market research departments commonly have few staff largely subordinated" (Stanley 2003: 3-14). (the median full-time equivalent [FTE] in the 2005 survey Reports on service delivery performance produced by was three) and survey projects are usually contracted out. ITS vendor developed software should be viewed as a Some of the leveraging opportunities involving ITS data starting point in using ITS data for evaluating service de- are in supporting logistical aspects of survey research ac- livery and leveraging market research. Staff at the case tivity. Bringing contractors "up to speed" in understand- study properties have moved well beyond such reports, ing how to use the agency's store of ITS information is an developing new performance indicators that are more issue that market research staff will need to address. closely aligned with customer satisfaction, defined One consequence of the ITS data transformation is that the through market research. skills needed among new hires are those that the industry Peer exchange (e.g., Gross et al. 2003) holds great potential is now having greatest difficulty recruiting and retaining for diffusing state-of-the-art practices at this juncture of (TCRP 2001). One strategy for getting ahead of the curve the transit industry's ITS data transformation. Many of the on this acute problem is to take a more aggressive approach innovative applications of ITS data that have been devel- with internships. The next generation of market re- oped at the case study properties have not been communi- searchers already has a positive attitude toward the transit cated to the rest of the industry. industry, thanks to perceptions of its social and sustain- Analysis of ITS data is currently limited to a few highly ability benefits. The industry would be more successful skilled persons who produce summary reports and do cus- capitalizing on these perceptions now rather than at the tomized queries to address specific questions. They are point where it has greater difficulty competing with other somewhat concerned that the evolution toward wider access industries in the full-time job market. Also, internships to ITS microdata could lead to misuse or misinterpretation that are institutionalized through formal agreements, as is and believe that general access should be limited to sum- the case at CTA, have greater prospects for sustained suc- mary data. cess. The gap in compensation between the transit indus- Apart from the difficulties of filling vacated positions, try and private alternatives for persons in the marketing turnover of ITS data analysts interrupts the momentum of field, nevertheless, represents a serious barrier to hiring moving ITS data into research practice. At the case study and retaining persons with the skills to analyze ITS data. properties, ITS data managers and analysts were investing The compensation gap appears to be greater for properties considerable time building relationships with practitioners that are part of city or county governments, where pay is and decisionmakers to gain a better understanding of dictated by governmentwide pay scales (TCRP 2001). needs and opportunities. Related to internships, the transit industry should not as- Traditional practices in market research, service planning, sume that the curricula of the disciplines that are educat- and scheduling are resistant to change. New tools and re- ing the next generation of market researchers are evolving ports using ITS data to support practices and decisions in to develop the skills that will be needed. The four largest these areas need to be "sold." Reports or documents are "suppliers" of graduates to marketing programs in the not likely to be read. "Seminars" tend to be a more effec- transit industry--Marketing, Planning, Business, and tive way of engaging staff, providing an opportunity for Journalism (Cronin and Hightower 2004)--generally do staff to suggest improvements. not have a tradition of developing the skills that were Transit properties commonly recognize the customer serv- demonstrated by staff that were the most active users of ice benefits of ITS associated with trip planning software, ITS data at the case study properties. Interns serve as a automated stop announcements, real time vehicle arrival bridge between the transit workplace and education pro- information, and using the AVL "playback" function to grams, and internship programs provide a mechanism for follow up on customer complaints. Surveys of riders and students and the transit industry to communicate their area populations have found that satisfaction and percep- skill needs to education programs. tions of service quality have been positively affected by Another avenue for supporting workforce development these services. and the development of new practices using ITS data is

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46 represented in the University Transportation Centers be told about market segmentation studies, where the identi- (UTC) program, administered by the Research and Inno- fication of latent demand through market research informs vative Technology Administration of the U.S. DOT. Many service planning. of the current 68 UTCs (located at 64 universities) have re- A second sign of an effective research program is its ability search and technology transfer themes that include ITS to reduce the uncertainty that a manager faces in making de- and transit. Projects that jointly engage market research cisions. Even the best designed, executed, and presented mar- staff and university faculty can produce cumulative bene- ket research studies can only reduce uncertainty, not eliminate fits over time: (1) research can focus on developing new it. From a manager's perspective, the power of the informa- tools for analyzing ITS data, (2) UTC matching helps to tion contained in a market research study is enhanced when leverage market research program resources, (3) involve- that information is augmented or reinforced by information ment of graduate assistants helps to direct student interest from other sources. Thus, when information from customer toward careers in the transit industry, and (4) technology satisfaction surveys is coordinated with ITS information on transfer activity can include training market research staff service delivery, the power of the survey information is in ITS data applications. The experiences of two of the case enhanced. It is something of a paradox that, at a time when study properties (CTA and TriMet) with UTCs indicate transit data have never been more plentiful, managerial deci- that the transit-university relationship has benefited both sions often continue to be made on the basis of judgment and entities, especially when it is sustained over time and the experience. Leveraging traditional market research informa- partners are able to gain a better understanding of each tion with ITS information will help to build the trust and con- other's respective needs and expectations. fidence that managers need to make decisions based on re- search rather than judgment. At the fourth stage of the life cycle, the value of ITS data in A third sign of an effective market research program is its market research is realized when the products of market ability to provide assessment information to a manager after research are used to inform management decisions. The a decision is made. Managers need to know whether the con- "success stories" of the case study properties, in which ITS sequences of their decisions play out as expected or play out data are used to leverage or reinforce traditional market re- in other ways. When monitoring and evaluation become sus- search practices, showcase outcomes that correspond very tained practices, managers will "learn" from their decisions well to characteristics of effective market research programs and, with accumulated knowledge, will make subsequent presented in TCRP Report 37, "Integrating Market Research decisions with greater confidence and trust. The traditional into Transit Management" (Elmore-Yalch 1998b). approach to evaluation has been to conduct "before and One sign of an effective market research program identi- after" studies. When market research studies are coordinated fied in TCRP Report 37 is its ability to move the organization with service delivery monitoring drawing on ITS data, follow- beyond stated commitments to being customer-oriented to up evaluation can begin immediately and run continuously coordinating practices across departments that demonstrate until the next market research study. an ability to follow through. The coordination of market re- Using ITS data to monitor service delivery should be con- search and operations functions may be most important in sidered a supplement rather than a substitute for traditional this context because operations is responsible for developing market research. In a few instances, however, ITS data may and delivering the "product" to transit riders. Here, market provide more reliable information to support decisionmak- research provides direction to analysts who are developing ing. An example is Madison Metro's use of magnetic stripe and monitoring service using ITS data. At TriMet, for exam- card data to document pass program patronage, which in- ple, customer satisfaction surveys were the catalyst that served forms the agency's negotiation of pass program agreements to focus the attention of operations analysts on the root with local institutions. The traditional alternative, where causes of unreliable service. In this instance, reliability prob- agreements would rely on information from self-report sur- lems were traced to late departures from garages and termi- veys of transit use, would be subject to unknown levels of nals, and managers were able to clearly see a connection be- self-selection and reporting bias. tween improving departure times and improving customer Looking across the four stages of the technology life cycle satisfaction. Operations managers at the CTA were similarly the most apparent overall lesson learned is that success in motivated when a connection was found between rider satis- using ITS data for market research depends on agencywide faction surveys and the incidence of "bus bunching" (docu- coordination and communication. It is a rare instance where mented through ITS data analysis). In this case, a "customer the responsibility for system deployment, data management, wait index" was developed from ITS data that allowed man- service delivery monitoring, and market research is confined agers to track whether operations control practices were to one division in an agency. Ensuring that all stages of the working from the customer's perspective. A similar story can technology life cycle are coordinated is thus an executive

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47 management responsibility. Shouldering this responsibility hardware issues to include resources needed to support may place some executives in unfamiliar territory, especially changes in the data management infrastructure, as well as at smaller properties, and the situation is further complicated staffing and training needs in the end use departments. A by the insularity that often exists among agency divisions. comprehensive planning process will also force insular inter- Preparing a comprehensive technology plan provides a ests to coordinate their approaches to system implementation, means of coordinating activities that are distributed across the which helps to ensure that ITS data will be successfully recov- agency. The most effective plans will look beyond capital and ered, validated, stored, and analyzed.