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OCR for page 29
29 APC data are more important than ever for OC Transpo's second-year student who then stays with OC Transpo planners and managers, who rely on them as the primary for approximately 3 years. input to all planning decisions covering, for example, route Listen to planners, schedulers, and management; they planning, bus stop usage, shelter justification, long-range are the real clients of the APC staff. Tailor reports to plans, and transit priority strategies. Like all transit agen- what they want, both content and format-wise. cies, OC Transpo is under added scrutiny to ensure that it Involve fleet/equipment staff early in the process. It spends public funds wisely. Performance standards are an is important that they are on board, understand the important tool in this regard, but performance measures importance of the system, and fully accept it. depend on ample and accurate ridership data. Promote the system as a planning tool that benefits both union and nonunion stakeholders. This can be The use of APC data for scheduling purposes took longer done through demonstrations or talks with all parties. to gain acceptance. All OC Transpo buses are now "smart It is important that the union realizes the system will buses," equipped with mobile data terminals and GPS, and not be used for disciplinary reasons. will provide running time data for schedules because it pro- Adapt to shifts in planning interests. The increased vides a 100% sample compared with the 10% sample for concern over budgets has made weekend sampling as APC. APC data will supplement these data because they can well special service new hot spots for planners. APC provide detailed time utilization information such as dwell must, more than ever before, ensure adequate coverage times at stops. of these service types. Realize that implementing a successful APC system is If OC Transpo could go back and change only one thing, a large undertaking that shouldn't be underestimated. it would purchase a complete system from a single APC It could stand on its own and not be viewed as an vendor. Of course, this was not an option when APCs were "add-on" to a larger system such as a real-time moni- introduced in Ottawa, but today there are several proven toring system. If possible, the contract for the system suppliers of hardware and software systems. should be with the APC supplier and not a system inte- grator who subcontracts the work to the APC supplier. Lessons learned include the following: After implementation, include a line item in the agency budget for improvements and enhancements to the Do not expect miracles overnight. It may take up to 3 APC system to meet the needs of the clients as they years to fully implement, get the procedural bugs out, gain more experience with using the data. Several case and have all internal staff accept and adjust to working studies have noted similar ongoing enhancements. with APC. It cannot be done in a year. Make sure that Improvements and enhancements can involve both the organization, including management, knows and hardware and software. accepts this. Buy APC software and hardware from the same ven- dor. Life is much easier. Before buying, talk to users of APC systems and find out why their system succeeded or failed. Concentrate on the "soft side" of the system--this is where real success is achieved. An example is an auto- mated bus assignment program that both determines assignments for tomorrow and reports on how well the assignments were made. It is important to measure RTD (REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION DISTRICT), this so those responsible for operational assignments DENVER, COLORADO (e.g., bus starters at OC Transpo) know when there are problems. Include a hardware technologist on staff responsible The RTD is a public agency created in 1969 by the Colorado for coordinating new bus installations and also ensur- General Assembly to develop, operate, and maintain a mass ing that all existing APC buses are counting properly. transportation system in the 2,326 square mile district, which This involves an ongoing program of rotational on- includes all or parts of eight counties. The agency serves an board checks (manual vs. machine). OC Transpo also area with a population of 2.6 million and operates 921 peak employs a part-time technology student on a year-round buses out of a total fleet of 1,060 buses. A significant portion basis. The student works off-hours (weekends, very of service is contracted to private operators. RTD operates late at night), which works well with school schedules light rail service with 57 peak vehicles. Annual ridership is and is also when most buses are in the garages. The 86.6 million, including all services operated (FY 2006). In student checks count accuracies and carries out minor downtown Denver, RTD offers frequent service on the 16th adjustments on the bus. The agency hires a first- or Street Transitway/Mall.

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30 RTD has established a very successful ridership tracking RTD is a large system, and setting up the entire APC program using APCs on 20% of its bus fleet. RTD purchased system took a lot of work. The first year of APCs required its APC system in 2004. At the beginning of the process, extensive troubleshooting, as problems were identified and the agency realized that getting the data was only half the solved and as staff moved up the learning curve. The second program. RTD needed a way to analyze and report the data. year saw considerable improvement. After 3 years, service Its survey of other agencies using APCs indicated that this planning staff has confidence in the data and has developed element seemed to be lacking in many cases. the means to use it fully. Staff still finds oddities or prob- lems--this is, after all, a very complex process--so vigi- RTD's first important step was to purchase software for lance and technical support are constants. Service planners data analysis at the same time as it purchased APCs. RTD are also identifying enhancements to the software in terms uses Ridecheck Plus to analyze ridership data. of reports and validation procedures. The vendor is creat- ing a query to address Furth et al.'s suggestions regarding The second important step was to realize that an effective crowding (5) as one example. ridership analysis program using APC data requires a sub- stantial amount of support. There would be a learning curve, Training played an important role in APC implementa- plus the usual problems that arise when implementing a new tion. Service development has overall responsibility for the technology. Training was a critical aspect of the program. APC system, and staff needed to understand the workings of RTD also needed to get the support staff in place. both the APC system and the report software. One of the first support team activities was to decide how RTD arranged for training for all service development to assign buses to ensure a comprehensive ridership database staff, and a specific staff member specializes in a particular with all trips surveyed within a given pick (or run board, to area, such as APC monitoring, reporting using Ridecheck use RTD's terminology). It was clear to RTD that this would Plus, or the overall data processing function. Broad staff involve more than a person making a list and sending it to training emphasized an understanding of the reports, includ- someone else. The service development staff sat down with ing how to generate a report and how to use filters. Technical garage supervisors to discuss the current vehicle assignment training to support Ridecheck Plus was modest; instead, ser- process and how APC assignments could fit into the cur- vice development established tech support with the vendor's rent process. The operations division made revisions to a program manager for an annual fee. draft assignment process to make it work in the garages, and service development then arranged to transmit APC assign- On the maintenance side, the vendor trained RTD's elec- ments to the operations division. tronic technicians, who troubleshoot APC equipment to the unit level. Defective units are removed and sent to the vendor Once the assignment process was agreed on, service for repairs on a unit cost basis. The end result is that hard- planning then focused on back-office aspects such as track- ware maintenance is carried out by expert technicians; spe- ing data as they came in, planning the next set of assign- cialists oversee APC data, software applications, and all data ments, and quality assurance in general. These activities processing; and all service development staff understands have become routine and semiautomated. the use of APC data. The collaborative nature of this effort was an important Ridecheck Plus has the capability to display APC rider- factor in its ultimate success. An important factor was the ship data in a geographic information system (GIS). This understanding that operations was most interested in sched- ability is extremely useful in preparing presentations for the ule adherence data because the division was accountable board of directors or for public meetings. Ridecheck Plus for this. The Ridecheck Plus system is able to accept data includes extremely detailed reports (e.g., running time by collected on a laptop by road supervisors (separate from direction between time points) for internal use. Over time, the APC system) to analyze on-time performance. Service RTD has identified which reports are most useful for specific development set up a system in which operations collects purposes and has generated enhanced reports to meet spe- field data on flash drives and turns these in to service devel- cific agency needs. opment, which then uploads the data for validation and analysis. Using APCs on the light rail system introduced new chal- lenges. A train is not a bus, but rather (for the purposes of The APC system has been incrementally improved over APC data) a combination of buses. Given that not all light rail the past several years and is now the primary source of data vehicles are APC-equipped, RTD factors the data from an for ridership and running time analysis. However, the flex- individual vehicle according to how many APC vehicles were ibility of the Ridecheck Plus software helped to encourage included in the train set. RTD assumes random placement of collaboration and acceptance of the APC system. Support of the assigned APC-equipped car(s) in a consist, allowing for upper management and the board of directors also helped. use of a simple expansion factor to calculate train loads.