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31 Over the 3-year period since APCs were introduced, service development staff have achieved a high confidence level in the data and the analyses and have conveyed this to others inside and outside the agency. There is a clear under- standing that comprehensive, in-depth ridership and run- ning time data are now being used, and that data analysis is more rigorous. The agency and the board understand that NFTA (NIAGARA FRONTIER TRANSPORTATION the APC system combined with GIS has enabled service AUTHORITY)--BUFFALO, NEW YORK changes to be easily and quickly depicted on a map to aid in making decisions. The NFTA is the transit operator in the BuffaloNiagara RTD is very satisfied with the performance of its APC region in western New York State. The agency serves an system. The primary benefit is extensive and statistically area with a population of 1.2 million and operates 280 peak valid data produced by the system, which in turn provide a buses. NFTA also operates light rail service with 23 peak sound basis for service development and maintenance. vehicles. Annual ridership is 23.8 million, including all ser- vices operated (FY 2006). RTD characterizes problems with the system as typical start-up issues. The process is very complex: The agency is NFTA first considered APCs in the mid-1990s, when its taking data from its computerized scheduling system and board of directors expressed interest in their use. The subject on-board bus and light rail systems, making wireless data arose again in 2000, at a time of declining ridership. APCs transfers, and building or revising complex databases to store offered the means to obtain detailed ridership data and thus and analyze the data. Extensive troubleshooting is inevitable be able to identify exactly where the greatest use of transit under these circumstances. RTD staff from various depart- was occurring. NFTA specified that APCs be included in its ments worked together with the hardware and software ven- bus procurement. The APC system was implemented in 2001 dors over a period of several years to develop an accurate and after considerable testing, in which the counts proved to be reliable passenger counting system. very accurate. NFTA had implemented a talking bus system the previous year, so GPS data and the bus stop inventory If RTD could go back and change only one thing, it had already been prepared and tested. NFTA added a pro- would purchase additional APC units. Its ongoing efforts cess to share those data with the APC system. have shown that, with effort and dedication, a robust APC program can be developed with APCs on only 20% of the The implementation went smoothly, but it took 2 years of fleet. tweaking to ensure that the system worked under all circum- stances for all NFTA routes. The APC vendor performed RTD provides an excellent example of successful (and continues to perform) post-processing data validation APC implementation using third-party software. Lessons using proprietary software. In general, APC information is learned include compared with the schedule for accuracy. Some agencies preload the schedule information on board vehicles, but · Purchase reporting and analysis software on the front post-processing works well at NFTA. APC implementation end at the same time that APCs are purchased. The was accompanied by minor staff adjustments. validation and reporting capabilities of the third-party software used by RTD were a huge part of RTD's suc- Most routine processing issues were resolved by 2005. cessful implementation of its APC system. NFTA developed many report requests, and noted slow · Quality assurance of both data and reporting is key turnaround by the APC vendor. The customized reports did to acceptance by service planning and scheduling not always exactly match NFTA's request. NFTA eventu- staff, and the public. Staff support and validation ally built an entire suite of reports in Statistical Package for and maintenance procedures are critical for quality the Social Sciences, the software used by the APC system, assurance. although it would have preferred a different platform with · Ownership of the system is important, as is collabora- greater capabilities. tion with other departments within the agency and with the vendors. Ownership ensures that the APC system In 2005, NFTA began investigating the ability of using does not "fall between the cracks," and collaboration APC data for NTD reporting. There was very little infor- builds support for the system. mation on this at the time. FTA saw many places where · Successful implementation takes time. Introduction things could go wrong with this process. NFTA realized of new technologies, integration of complex data sys- that passenger-mile calculations were fraught with difficul- tems, and identification and resolution of problems do ties. First, the APC system uses GPS differential to calculate not happen overnight. distance, and it does not produce correct results. Second,
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32 passenger-miles are calculated by multiplying load times is also placed on APC ridership data because of their accu- distance. Passenger load calculations are a weak link in the racy and level of detail. APC system. To NFTA, the inability to use APC counts for NTD reporting is an important shortfall. The APC vendor is NFTA has concluded that deployment of APC vehicles considering alternative ways to address distances between will always be an issue in need of constant supervision. To stops, but the major stumbling block is the passenger-mile date, 90% have been deployed correctly, but the percentage calculations. has not increased as the number of APC-equipped buses has risen from 57 to 160 (approximately 40% of the fleet). Con- NFTA uses APC data in its in-house monthly reports. straints in the garage, some personnel issues, and mechani- Management and in-house users are very pleased. Route rid- cal issues all contribute to the problem. All APC buses have ership and productivity figures are reported for every sched- cameras, and requests for camera buses can conflict with ule change. APC data are used to justify adding, deleting, APC assignments. Other APC-related issues include evolv- and adjusting service. ing demands for new reports and a lack of understanding that even APC data are not 100% accurate all the time. APC data are also used for detailed running time analy- sis. The computer-aided dispatch (CAD)/automated vehicle APCs are being installed on light rail. The decision was location (AVL) system only measures by timepoint, whereas made to equip all rail vehicles because a single roundabout APC data are available at each stop. AVL uses a large geo- and few crossovers can make it difficult to ensure that a spe- graphic buffer because the system is used for other purposes cific car is in a specific place at a specific time. such as changing headsigns and NFTA prefers to err on the side of caution for passenger-related functions. NFTA NFTA is mostly satisfied with the performance of its APC designed a routine to move APC running time data into the system in terms of counting passengers. The primary benefit computerized scheduling software package. The bus stop is the amount of data available, up to 80 samples per trip per database does not reside in the computerized scheduling year compared with one sample every other year with manual software but is a separate Access file. checking. NFTA is pleased with post-processing tests for data valid- NFTA encountered several problems in implementation ity. The agency discards 10% to 15% of the raw APC data of the APC system, and describes a painful growing pro- based on confidence calculations, but is it confident in the cess until it got the system tailored to its service and needs. remaining data. To date, data have never been assigned to an Passenger counting is very accurate, but the unreliability of incorrect block. Adjustments are also made in post-process- passenger-mile calculations, which precludes use of APC ing to try to deal with load accuracy. data for NTD reporting, is an unresolved issue. Bus assign- ment is still problematic, but the reasons for this are external In any one signup period, the APC system provides 15 to to the APC system. 20 samples of each trip. Staff review and discard outliers. The sheer amount of data is self-validating. If NFTA could go back and change only one thing, the agency would include a passenger-mile accuracy require- Interestingly, system ownership is split between the plan- ment in the request for proposals (RFP). ning and maintenance departments. Downstream users receive reports, but the data are very well filtered within the Lessons learned include the following: department. A set of reports goes to the Surface Transporta- tion Committee of the board. Planners are sometimes frus- · Require vendors to meet NTD reporting accuracy (95% trated by inaccurate load totals and the occasional time issue confidence and +10% precision levels) in the RFP as a (e.g., if the operator takes layover before or after the assigned disqualifying factor for acceptance of the system. location, running times for the preceding and subsequent · Specify accuracy requirements for both boardings and segments can be incorrect). Users are generally happy. alightings and passenger loads. Working relationships between departments have improved, · Test every aspect of the system, despite vendors' claims as have relationships with outside agencies. A greater value that things work, before accepting it.