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20 TABLE 19 SUMMARY Training Needs Associated with APC Implementation The most common reasons to collect ridership and travel time data are to compile ridership by route and to track sys- Agencies Responding temwide ridership totals. A majority of all respondents also Skill No. % collect data on ridership and travel time for more specific microlevel uses at the route segment or stop level. Tracking Software/computer 29 69.0 ridership changes, calculating performance measures, and Analytical 23 54.8 adjusting schedules were the three most common uses of rid- ership and travel time data. Hardware maintenance 23 54.8 Other 5 11.9 A majority of respondents use a combination of automated and manual methods to collect ridership and travel time data. No training needs 10 23.8 The most common combinations involve automatic passen- ger counter (APC) system plus manual data collection and farebox plus manual collection. In some cases, an older tech- As noted earlier in this section, cost data from the survey nology is retained to test the validity of the new technology. should be interpreted cautiously. Respondents varied in their Agencies also retain older technologies for specific purposes, ability to break down cost data (especially for older systems for example, National Transit Database (NTD) reporting or or for APC systems purchased as part of a larger ITS pro- "official" systemwide ridership data. Several agencies noted curement). As one example, reported capital costs for the problems with the accuracy or reliability of APC counts, and agency's APC system ranged from $90,000 to $40,000,000. thus have not transitioned to use of the new technology. Meth- ods also vary by mode, type of service, and type of vehicle. An attempt was made to standardize costs by asking the cost per APC unit installed. The average capital cost per Agencies that continue to collect data manually were APC unit was $7,500. The median capital cost per APC unit asked why they have not switched to an automated technol- was $6,638, with 26 agencies responding. ogy. Cost is the most common reason, followed by low pri- ority for automated data collection at the agency. Smaller Table 20 shows median capital cost and median capital systems (fewer than 250 peak buses) are more likely to con- cost per APC unit by number of vehicles with APCs. FTA's tinue to rely on manual data collection. Transit Technology Fact Sheets (39) report a median cost of $350,000 for an APC system, compared with the median in Nearly all agencies with APC systems use infrared beams, this sample of $490,000. whereas APC installations split between infrared beam and treadle mat in the 1998 TCRP synthesis. Another difference Average annual operating and maintenance cost per APC is the universal inclusion of a GPS element in the APC sys- unit was $1,458. The median annual operating and maintenance tem. Almost half of all respondents indicated that their APC cost per APC unit was $600, with 11 agencies responding. purchase was part of a broader ITS project. Only a portion of most agencies' buses are APC- equipped; however, more than one-quarter of responding TABLE 20 agencies have installed APCs on all buses. Nine of the 12 APC Median Capital Cost and Median Capital agencies that are 100% APC-equipped bought APCs as part Cost per Unit by Number of Vehicles Equipped of a broader ITS purchase. The majority of agencies with Median Capital both APC and automated vehicle location (AVL) primarily Median Cost per APC use AVL time and location data, typically because AVL is No. of Vehicles Capital Cost Unit Installed No. with APCs ($) ($) Systems on all buses, whereas only a portion of the fleet is equipped with APCs. Less than 100 200,000 7,500 13 100 to 400 500,000 2,700 7 Introduction of APCs usually requires a closer working relationship between the planning and operations depart- Over 400 1,800,000 1,100 3 ments. Typically, service planners or schedulers prepare a Total sample 490,000 6,638 26 weekly list of blocks to be sampled and transmit the list to NOTES:Three systems reported total cost only; three systems reported the operations department. Some agencies have automated unit cost only. All three systems in the over-400 category had the assignment process using APC system software to iden- at least 1,450 vehicles with APCs. tify blocks for which no APC data have been collected. On
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21 average, 80% of daily APC assignments are completed as system. The most common method was for the end users to scheduled. generate these reports, however one-quarter of the agencies with this capability rely on the outside vendor for specialized Most respondents reported a standard for acceptance of report generation. the APCs at the 90% or 95% level of accuracy. Almost three- quarters of respondents indicated that they use these stan- Some agencies use APC data for NTD purposes. FTA dards on an ongoing basis. An important question regarding requires manual checks annually to validate APC data for data accuracy is, Compared to what? Manual counts are NTD submittal. The concept of manual validation of APC typically used as the basis of comparison. data as a one-time or periodic exercise is of interest to agen- cies as they gain confidence in the accuracy of APC data. APCs provide a richer ridership and travel time database at a finer level of detail than farebox or manual counts, even Anyone who has been through the process of implement- for agencies with only a few APCs. The increased number of ing a new technology knows that there is a "debugging" observations lends greater confidence to decisions regarding period, during which start-up problems are resolved. The changes in service levels. Being rich in data provides clear debugging period for APCs averages 17 months, identi- benefits but can create its own challenges. Processing APC cal to the finding of the 1998 synthesis, with a median of data often requires changes to existing data systems, such as 18 months. addition of GPS coordinates for stops and an updated or new bus stop inventory. A few agencies noted the establishment Implementation of APCs and other ITS technologies of defined interfaces between computerized scheduling soft- fosters or requires integration and cooperation among ware packages and APC or AVL systems. For data storage departments that may have previously managed their data and analysis, the most common changes were the addition of in isolation. The planning department is the most common servers for data storage, new database software for analysis, location for management of the APC system, followed by and network upgrades. the operations department. There is widespread involve- ment across departments in procurement of the APC sys- Automated data validation programs, provided by the tem and use of the APC data. Data users typically access APC vendor, developed in-house, or purchased from a third APC data electronically through standard reports, and 41% party, can simplify and streamline the process of convert- of agencies noted that data users could query the database ing raw APC data into usable ridership data. Agencies using directly. third-party programs noted that they feature up to 36 vali- dation routines with adjustable thresholds. Vendor software Implementation of APCs necessarily involves multiple is not always transparent to the user, and it is important to departments within the transit agency. The most positive understand how the validation checks work. The most com- aspects of APC implementation included improved com- mon validation test is to compare boardings and alightings. munication among departments, greater value placed on Agencies reported various thresholds for determining valid- ridership data, improved decision-making ability, greater ity at the block or trip level. responsiveness, and the ability to provide the needed data to end users. The most frequently mentioned difficulties The percentage of raw APC data that is converted into included problems ensuring that assignments were com- useful information for service planners, schedulers, and oth- pleted, new demands for reports, priority for APC equipment ers averages 74%, comparable to findings from 10 years ago, in the maintenance department, and unrealistic expectations with a median value of 80%. regarding turnaround time and data quality. A majority of agencies rely on the hardware vendor for Changes in staffing levels as a result of APC imple- data processing and report generation software, but several mentation were minimal in most cases: More than 70% indicated in-house software development or use of an out- of all agencies reported no changes or decreases in staff side vendor other than the hardware vendor. More than 70% levels, with notable decreases in the size of traffic check- of agencies that used an outside vendor indicated that the ing units. About one-quarter of respondents indicated a process involved customization of the software to meet the minor increase (defined as one or two full-time positions) agency's specific needs. The most common type of report in maintenance staff, and 22% reported a minor increase is boardings and alightings by stop. Detailed (segment/stop in professional staff. level) ridership and scheduling-related reports are most likely to be generated as needed, suggesting that the report process Implementation of APCs does create a need for training. for these types of reports may not be automated. A majority of respondents noted increased training needs in the areas of software/computer, analytical, and hardware More than 90% of responding agencies indicated a capa- skills. Only one-quarter of responding agencies reported no bility to generate nonstandardized reports from the APC additional training needs.
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22 Cost data from the survey should be interpreted cau- was $7,500. The median capital cost per APC unit was tiously, as respondents varied in their ability to break down $6,638, with 26 agencies responding. Average annual oper- cost data (especially for older systems or for APC systems ating and maintenance cost per APC unit was $1,458. The purchased as part of a larger ITS procurement). An attempt median annual operating and maintenance cost per APC was made to standardize cost data by asking the cost per unit was $600, with 11 agencies responding. APC unit installed. The average capital cost per APC unit