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Chapter 1. Introduction to the Transit Scheduling Manual

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Chapter 1. Introduction schedule Introduction to the Transit Scheduling Manual A document showing trip times at time points along a route. The Scheduling is both an art and a science, combining the best of creativity with pragmatism, schedule may also include ad- elegance with mathematical precision. ditional information such as route We have a passion for scheduling! Why? Well, there are many reasons, but ultimately schedul- descriptions, deadhead times, ing combines the best of creativity with pragmatism, elegance with mathematical precision. In interline information, run numbers, a way, it is like a giant puzzle that looks indecipherable to the casual observer. Fans of Sudoku and block numbers. puzzles will understand this analogy. There is nothing more satisfying than to complete a schedule that is both efficient and provides the best possible service to the riding public at the layover time service level required. You will hear a lot about this "maximize/minimize" philosophy as we get The time between the scheduled into the heart of the subject, for it is the essence of being a good scheduler. arrival and departure of a vehicle Any type of training manual runs the risk of being tedious to read, clinical and informative but at a transit terminal. Often used in- bland. We hope to infuse this with a bit of humor and also reveal a little bit of the passion on terchangeably with "recovery time," although technically layover time is the way to helping the reader become one of the best schedulers. rest time for the operator between Why is scheduling important? This question can be answered at several different levels. trips while recovery time is time built into the schedule to ensure an To customers, a schedule provides the essential information needed to plan a trip, on-time departure for the next trip. defines the arrival and departure times and the time the trip will take, makes sufficient In this manual, layover and recov- capacity of service available so that the customers' trip will be comfortable, and ensures ery are calculated together and the that customers will arrive at their destination at the promised time. Senior manage- total time between trips is referred ment at one of the case study agencies noted that if you want to pay attention to cus- to as layover. tomer service, then you have to pay attention to scheduling. To operators, scheduling defines the workday. Operators are the front line in terms of run dealing with customers, and the interaction can be affected by running and layover A work assignment for an operator. times. Operators also tend to favor full-time runs and straight runs (as opposed to split Most often, run refers to a whole shifts). Good schedules can reduce the stress inherent in this job, thus improving morale day's work assignment. and minimizing absenteeism. To transit agencies, scheduling puts reliable service on the street where it will be most utilized. In addition, scheduling provides data and information to support other sec- tions such as Marketing, Planning, Operations, Administration, and many downstream systems like AVL, APCs, voice annunciators, trip planners, and real time information systems. To general managers and chief financial officers, scheduling has major impacts on the quality and cost of operations. The extent of these impacts is sometimes not fully understood within the agency. Scheduling is the brain of the transit organism in its day- to-day functioning. By its nature, scheduling has the clearest understanding of how and 1-3

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Chapter 1. Introduction where cost efficiencies can be achieved in daily operations and of the impacts of specific An automated scheduling Tip provisions of the collective bargaining agreement on efficiency. A savvy general man- package can produce ager makes full utilization of the scheduling department's knowledge in these areas, the "science"--creating an accurate particularly in times of budget constraints. and conforming schedule, but no automated package will ever replace What makes a good schedule? Reliability, service frequency that matches demand or agency the artistry of a well-constructed policies, operating speeds as high as possible consistent with safety, and minimization of op- schedule created by an enlightened erating and capital costs are all important and at times contradictory goals. There are both art and practiced scheduler. and science required in achieving these goals, beyond the requirement that the scheduler be capable of and comfortable with dealing with increasing reams of data. This manual explores both the science as well as the art of scheduling. Today's scheduler has more tools at his or her disposal to take a lot of the drudgery out of the frequency process. But he or she also faces more challenges. Deadlines are often much shorter as a result The number of vehicles passing of what can be, at times, a politically driven service implementation process. There are now a point on a route within a given ever more downstream customers for scheduling material. At one time, a schedule department unit of time, usually expressed was also a print shop, but much of the finished schedule information is now needed in elec- as X vehicles per hour. See also tronic form. This means that scheduling purely by hand is no longer practical, even for small "headway." Headway is the inverse transit properties, where keeping on-board electronic gadgets such as next stop annunciators of frequency: a frequency of six up to date can take longer than the regular scheduling process. buses per hour is equivalent of a headway of 1/6 hour or 10 minutes. And yet, today's highly efficient computerized scheduling software packages, while supplying all these downstream requirements quickly and accurately, tend to mask the whole scheduling process, especially for beginners. The practice of scheduling is becoming a case of learning another computer program and manipulating the program to get results within the guidelines of the parameters programmed into it. The whole theory of the underlying practice has been lost to many of today's schedulers. This manual is intended for use by those interested in learning more about the scheduling process, whether you schedule manually or via computerized scheduling software packages. The manual will be especially useful for the latter group, by introducing the craft of scheduling to schedulers who may view the software as a "black box." From our observations, many schedulers receive the training they need to operate the specific software packages but very little in terms of the scheduling craft. The outcome is that sched- ules are being produced that are technically efficient in that they meet the parameters defined 1 An assumption throughout this manual is that scheduling "by hand," using pen and paper, no longer exists. "Scheduling manually" in this context is therefore defined as scheduling undertaken not using proprietary computerized scheduling systems but using basic tools such as spreadsheets, word processors, and database programs. 1-4

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Chapter 1. Introduction within the software but not as competent or even as practical as they could be if developed with a thorough knowledge of the craft of scheduling. We take the view that a computer and scheduling package should be thought of as a tool...a very useful and powerful tool, but one that must be applied with the seasoned knowledge of a scheduling professional. As a colleague once put it: "You give a person MS Word and don't expect them to write the great American novel--so don't give them a computerized scheduling package and expect that they can produce high quality schedules!" A good schedule provides the right level of service at the minimum cost. A good schedule is the key to an efficient and sustainable transit operation. The goal of this manual is to provide the reader with all of the skills necessary to be a profes- sional scheduler, lacking only the years of practice needed to develop and apply the seasoning. We pledge to try and make the reading interesting and informative along the way. Even if you have no intention of becoming a scheduler, we still welcome you to this manual as a way to gain a greater understanding of what the scheduling process entails and how it can affect your agency's bottom line. This manual is designed to focus on bus scheduling. Rail schedulers will still find sections with information specific to their particular mode. However rail scheduling (particularly timetabling) has many unique aspects that are beyond the scope of this project. One last note before we begin: we certainly do not want this manual to be any more mystifying than it needs to be. A constant issue the industry faces is non-schedulers' reluctance to deal with scheduling issues, due to its reputation as a difficult, unfathomable subject. Scheduling, like all other specialized practices, has a language of its own, with specific terms that may not be familiar to newcomers or even transit employees who are not involved with scheduling. Even worse, these terms are not universal: individual transit systems have their own "dialect" or unique names for things. For example, once the schedulers have completed their tasks, work assignments are posted for operators to select. This is called a pick, line-up, shake-up, bid, sign-up, or mark-up, depending on the agency. As much as possible, we use the most widely used term in the discussions that follow. The margins contain a running glossary, defining a term the first time it is used. The reader can also refer to the Glossary, where every term we and others have been able to collect over the past two decades is defined. 1-5

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Chapter 1. Introduction Chapter discusses inputs to the scheduling process. Subsequent chapters address the indi- vidual elements of scheduling: Chapter : Schedule Building Chapter : Schedule Blocking Chapter : Runcutting Chapter : Rostering Chapter : Rail Scheduling The chapters have basic, intermediate, and advanced levels. At the end of each section, you will have the choice to continue along in the same section of the following chapter or to move on to a higher level within the topic. 1-6