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46 the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church. The Metro- 3.4.1.11 Blacksburg Transit (Virginia) rail system consists of over 1,000 rail cars serving 5 lines Blacksburg Transit (BT) serves the Town of Blacksburg, covering 106 miles and including 86 stations. The Metrobus Virginia Tech, and communities in the New River Valley. The system includes more than 1,200 buses, 12,301 bus stops, and system's service area covers 28 sq mi with a population of 3,133 shelters. (44) 56,000. BT provides fixed-route bus service and paratransit Metro is included in the Virginia statewide 511 system, which is operated by the Virginia Department of Transporta- service for people with disabilities. The agency has 33 buses tion. The 511 system became operational in February 2005. and 11 vans. In 2005, system ridership was almost 2.4 million Metro information is located within the public transportation one-way trips. About 95% of the system's riders are Virginia main menu option. The information and options for Metro Tech students, faculty, and staff. (45) are limited to an option to transfer to Metro's customer service BT does not have a formal call center for customer infor- line and a listing of the Metro customer information phone mation. Instead, its operations and administrative staff field number. For some other transit agencies on the Virginia 511 the agency's telephone calls. The agency does have a "fairly system, additional information is provided, including basic robust" website and its passengers can also sign up for Blacks- information on services provided. burg Alerts via phone, fax, or e-mail. Metro operates their own IVR system, which is where The Virginia Department of Transportation operates the all incoming customer service calls are directed (there are statewide 511 system. BT is included in the public trans- then multiple opportunities to transfer to a customer ser- portation option on the main menu. The system offers the vice operator). The Metro IVR is extensive, and contains a option to transfer to BT's customer service center and pro- wide variety of information arrayed under five main menu vides the agency's phone number. No other information is options for (1) trip schedule, (2) fare information, (3) general provided. information, (4) patron services, and (5) customer assistance (transfer to operator). Among the information provided Impacts. BT was not aware of any impacts of their partic- under the trip schedule option are real-time bus arrival time ipation in 511. Almost all of BT's riders are college students, estimates and service disruption announcements. and BT feels the students are more likely to look for informa- tion on the Internet than they are to use the phone. BT's buses Rationale for participation. It was not possible to reach have WiFi capacity, so passengers can access web-based infor- the individuals at WMATA who were involved in the decision mation even when they are on the vehicle. to participate in 511. Issues. BT cited no issues or concerns with their 511 Impacts. The Metro call center representatives seemed to participation. have very little, if any, involvement or awareness of 511. This lack of involvement combined with Metro's very low profile Outlook. Overall, BT was neutral about participation on 511, suggest that 511 is in no way a central or significant in 511. Although BT saw no real disadvantages to participa- component of their customer service strategy. It appears that tion, they also did not see any particular advantages for their the Metro call center perceives no impact resulting from their customers. continuing participation in 511. Although the call center representatives did not comment directly on the question of whether they view 511 as an alter- 3.4.1.12 Southeast Florida 511 native to their own IVR, it seems clear--based on their con- The South Florida 511 Traffic and Transit Information tinued reliance on their own IVR--that they do not view 511 Service is provided by the Florida Department of Transporta- as an alternative. tion (FDOT), Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, and the SunGuide Partners. The system provides highway and tran- Issues. WMATA identified no issues or concerns--past sit information for Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach or present--regarding their 511 participation. Counties. This 511 system is one of just a handful nationwide Outlook. WMATA, or at least those who could be reached that includes the option of speaking to a live 511 operator. (call center manager and staff), were not aware of 511 or Callers may select public transit from the main menu. This WMATA's participation in it, and therefore have no pro or option allows callers to select one of the following four tran- con perspective. Although it appears that 511 participation sit organizations or the regional ridesharing service: does not generate any adverse impacts on call center opera- tions, at least as perceived by WMATA, 511 is clearly not an Broward County Transit (BCT), important, or even explicit, part of WMATA's telephone cus- Miami-Dade Transit (MDT), tomer service strategy. Palm Tran,

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47 SouthFloridaRegionalTransportationAssociation (SFRTA)/ vide highway information, and the region's transit agencies Tri-Rail, and were not included in the original plans. However, FDOT added South Florida Ridesharing and Emergency Ride Services. transit to the original highway contract in FY 2004 and obtained federal funds to help cover the capital costs. Program develop- For each of the four transit agencies, callers can choose ment took 2 years and deployment costs were $2.8 million. among the following general options, with some minor vari- Known as the Consumer Information Network (CIN), the ations between agencies: transit application included information from the previously noted agencies (BCT, MDT, Palm Tran, SFRTA/Tri-Rail, and Schedules for interactive schedule information, South Florida Ridesharing and Emergency Ride Services). Fares for prerecorded information or transfer to agent, CIN was originally developed in response to policy initia- General information, tives of the South Florida Regional Transportation Organiza- Lost and found for Prerecorded information, tion (RTO), which envisioned 511 as a multimodal, one-stop Special events for prerecorded information or transfer shop for traveler information. The RTO was formed in 1998 to an agent, with a focus on regional transportation and air quality issues. Trip planning for transfer to an agent, Membership included the transit agencies and MPOs from Comments/complaints/suggestions for transfer to an the three counties comprising South Florida. The organization agent, was folded into the SFRTA in 2003 and continued its efforts to More options, support regional mobility and collaboration. (46) By provid- Bicycle policy for prerecorded information or trans- ing customers with one-stop access to transit information, fer to an agent, and especially to regional itinerary planning, CIN supported Wheelchair accessibility for prerecorded information regional mobility goals and priorities. or transfer to an agent, Maps and schedules by mail for prerecorded infor- A unique cost-sharing relationship. The responsibility mation or transfer to an agent, and for funding the transit portion of the 511 system (CIN) was left Special transportation services for passengers with to FDOT and individual transit agencies. FDOT obtained fed- disabilities, which provides prerecorded information eral funds to cover the project's initial capital costs and hired a or transfer to an agent. vendor to oversee CIN. The transit agencies agreed to cover op- erating and maintenance costs over the term of the contract, The schedule option provides static schedule information which ran from FY 2004 to 2005 through FY 2007 to 2008. based on customer input. An IVR guides customers to enter de- FDOT designated Miami-Dade Transit as the lead transit tails about origin, destination, time of day, and travel direction. agency for CIN. The four participating transit agencies nego- The IVR system returns information about the next scheduled tiated shares of the annual operating and maintenance costs vehicle that meets the customer's travel requirements. based on the volume of calls handled by their call centers. The Customers selecting South Florida Ridesharing and Emer- cost sharing arrangement was negotiated for the first 4 years gency Ride Services from the main transit menu can choose of operation, from FY 2004 to 2005 through FY 2007 to 2008. between general prerecorded information and an option to Total operating costs were approximately $2.5 million during transfer to an agent. the 4-year period. Table 14 shows the percentage share and A significant feature of the South Florida 511 system is the annual operating and maintenance costs for the four transit cost sharing arrangement. FDOT provided the initial capital agencies. investment and the four transit agencies share responsibility for ongoing operating and maintenance costs. Table 14. Consumer information network Florida Department of Transportation. The Florida operating and maintenance costs by agency, Department of Transportation (FDOT) is not a transit oper- 2004 to 2008. ator but this organization was interviewed because of the Share Operating and unusually complex relationship found between the 511 spon- Agency (Percent) Maintenance Costs sor and transit agencies in the Southeast Florida 511 system. Miami-Dade Transit 40 $997,765 FDOT is one of the three organizations sponsoring the 511 Broward County Transit 30 $748,324 system and the system equipment is located at FDOT's Dis- South Florida Regional trict VI office in Miami. Transportation Association/Tri- 20 $498,882 Rail Genesis of the Southeast Florida 511 system and transit Palm Tran 10 $249,441 Total 100 $ 2, 49 4 ,4 1 2 involvement. The 511 system was initially designed to pro-

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48 Issues and challenges in implementing and operating Schedules--Interactive schedule information, the 511 transit component. The major technical issue Fares--Prerecorded information, and associated with CIN was the difficulty of integrating route General information: and schedule information from multiple transit agencies Lost and found--Transfer to agent, into a single customer information system. The CIN vendor Special events--Prerecorded information, team was responsible for collecting route and schedule infor- Trip planning--Transfer to agent, mation from the participating transit agencies and incorpo- Comments/Complaints/Suggestions--Transfer to agent, rating that information into a database that supported the More options: telephone-based schedule information and an online itin- Bicycle policy/wheelchair accessibility--Prerecorded erary planning application. The agencies used different route information or transfer to agent, scheduling software applications, and this complicated the Maps and schedules by mail--Prerecorded infor- process. MDT, Tri-Rail, and Palm Trans used one route mation, and scheduling application, while BCT used a different product. Special transportation services for passengers with Converting BCT's data into a format compatible with that disabilities--Transfer to agent. from the other three agencies required an extra step and, at times, resulted in inaccurate schedule and/or itinerary The transfer option routes callers to BCT's call center where information. they are placed in a queue to speak with an agent. BCT rarely Many of the other issues that FDOT encountered were con- provides floodgate messages. sistent with those on any complex multijurisdictional project. These included concerns about the scope of services, qualifi- Rationale for participation. Although customers could cations of the vendor, and timing of payments to FDOT from already obtain route and schedule information for each of the the transit agencies. South Florida transit agencies, they could not develop an itin- erary for a trip that crossed jurisdictions. Customers would Outlook. FDOT is replacing the current South Florida have to call each agency separately and combine the informa- regional 511 system with one that will communicate directly tion themselves. For Broward County, the South Florida 511 with the statewide 511 system. This system will utilize a traffic system offered the opportunity to improve customer service data entry and message-generation technique consistent with by making regional itinerary planning available through a an umbrella, statewide 511 system that was implemented in single telephone call or web page. The original discussions 2005, 3 years after the separate, region-specific South Florida about the desired features of a South Florida 511 system called 511 was implemented. As part of this replacement, FDOT will for regional itinerary planning via Internet and IVR. no longer contract with the vendor that is now supporting the South Florida 511 system and CIN, for which the transit Impacts. Although FDOT covered the initial capital costs agencies pay but FDOT administers the contract. This means of the South Florida transit 511 system, the four transit agen- that transit agencies will now need to make alternative arrange- cies had responsibility for ongoing operating and maintenance ments if they want to continue providing information via 511. expenses. Costs were allocated in proportion to the volume The elimination of this contract mechanism ends the tran- of calls in each agency's call center with BCT's share at 30%. sit agencies' means to access the CIN support vendor and it According to FDOT, Broward's negotiated costs for the also may result in FDOT eliminating some of the local 511 project were approximately $748,000 over a 4-year period. hardware. In addition, the agency paid approximately $118,000 in change orders. All agencies, including BCT, agreed that the Broward County Transit. BCT provides bus and para- cost allocation formula was fair. BCT's concerns were largely transit service within Broward County and also offers con- about the high operating costs in relation to the perceived nections to Miami-Dade Transit, Palm Tran, and Tri-Rail. value of CIN. BCT's service area covers 410 sq mi with a population of Participation in 511 has not had any significant impacts on 1.6 million. BCT operated 41 routes and served 41.6 mil- BCT's existing call center operations. The agency still main- lion trips in 2005. BCT is a Broward County government tains its own call center, and the volume of telephone calls has department. (47) not changed since CIN was introduced. Although FDOT col- Callers who select this transit agency from the public tran- lects statistics on call volumes and transfers, BCT was not aware sit option on the CIN main menu may choose between pre- that such statistics were available. Should metrics become recorded messages or a transfer option that routes them to available, BCT would be especially interested in obtaining more BCT's call center where they are placed in a queue to speak information about the volume and types of calls to 511 during with an agent. Menu choices are as follow: the hours when the BCT call center is closed.

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49 Issues. By far the most significant issue for BCT is the fail- ("There is nothing worse than disappointing the public.") ure of the 511 telephone system to include the trip planning Had the system worked as promised, BCT believes that the function that was originally envisioned. One of the major investment would have been justified. incentives for BCT to participate in the CIN system was the As a result, BCT's future participation in the South Florida opportunity to provide regional itinerary planning for its cus- 511 system is uncertain. FDOT indicated that it would not tomers. Although a telephone-based trip planning component pursue a new contract for CIN at the end of the vendor con- was a high priority for BCT, it has not been implemented to tract, which expired in November 2008. To keep the system date. According to BCT, the transit partners initially agreed to running beyond that date, BCT's costs are projected to include include this feature, but they withdrew their support during $800,000 in upfront expenses and $300,000 annually for op- the planning process and focused on a web-based planner erations and maintenance. instead. Finally, although CIN does allow customers to access This is a large investment for a project that has not met schedule information for each agency individually, the infor- the agency's expectations, especially in the current funding mation for BCT routes contains errors. environment. BCT does not have a dedicated transit fund- In addition, the Internet-based itinerary planner appears to ing source and, as a county agency, BCT must compete with be flawed. According to BCT, the online trip planner fre- other county departments for funding. In addition, a future quently creates impractical or unrealistic itineraries. For ex- statewide referendum to roll back property taxes would af- ample, it developed itineraries with multiple transfers when a fect transit funding throughout the state. one-seat ride was available. Even when the transit agencies Consequently, BCT is considering dropping out of the 511 input updates and corrections, the system did not appear to system when FDOT withdraws from the program. BCT has capture the changes properly. BCT finally removed the hyper- agreed to continue to provide route and schedule data if an link to the 511 site from its web page because of the perceived organization steps in to take responsibility for continuing unreliability of the online trip planner. CIN but, as an alternative, the agency is considering moving Data transfer was an ongoing issue for BCT, in part because toward a free online trip planner like Google Transit or Pub- the other participating transit agencies used different routing/ lic Routes. dispatching software products. For BCT, the process of ex- porting data to the 511 contractor was smooth and "fairly South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/ effortless." Converting the data into a format for use in the Tri-Rail. Tri-Rail provides regional commuter rail service CIN trip planning component was not as straightforward, in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties. On however, and required significant intervention on the part of weekdays, Tri-Rail operates 25 northbound and 25 south- the vendor to make it work. bound trains daily; on weekends and holidays it operates Finally, planning and coordination did not always hap- 8 trains in each direction. Tri-Rail served 3.1 million trips in pen as smoothly as desired. Most of the participants had no 2005 and has experienced a 40% increase in ridership over prior experience developing a customer information sys- the last 14 months. (48) tem of this scale. As a result, initial assumptions were not Callers who select this transit agency from the public tran- always correct, and staff did not always know what ques- sit option on the CIN main menu may listen to prerecorded tions they should have asked until it was too late. Although information or transfer to Tri-Rail's call center, where they this easily could be true for many public projects, the steep can speak with an agent or leave voicemail after hours. Main learning curve associated with developing CIN was expen- menu choices for Tri-Rail are as follow: sive for BCT. Schedules--Interactive schedule information, Outlook. Overall, BCT believes that they did not get what Fares--Transfer to call center, and they paid for since the telephone-based itinerary planning General information: system was never implemented (the other transit agencies did Lost and found--Transfer to call center, not want it). Prior to the 511 system, the agency already had a Special events--Transfer to call center, telephone-based trip planner, lost-and-found system, and Transfer to an agent for trip planning, complaint system. They believed that the 511 system would Suggestions/complaints/comments--Transfer to call establish a regional trip planner covering all four South center, Florida transit agencies, but the telephone trip planner was More options: never implemented and the online trip planner was flawed. Bicycles or wheelchair accessibility--Prerecorded in- As a result, it has been difficult for BCT to explain the benefits formation or transfer to call center, and of the system to the public, especially when free online itiner- Map and publications by mail--Prerecorded infor- ary planners like Google Transit or Public Routes are available. mation or transfer to call center.

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50 When customers transfer to Tri-Rail's call center, they can express confidence in the accuracy of the system or the qual- speak with an agent or leave voicemail after hours. Tri-Rail ity of the data. In fact, Tri-Rail references the availability of 511 has 13 customer service agents and maintains a fully staffed in its newsletter but does not otherwise promote the service customer call center from 4:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M. aggressively. The agency maintains its own call center, believing Tri-Rail does not usually provide floodgate information that no computer can replace the "human factor" when work- to the 511 system about service disruptions. Although 511 is ing with the public. In particular, staff cites the importance of on Tri-Rail's telephone notification list, staff indicated that communicating in three major languages (English, Spanish, timing was an issue. Generally, Tri-Rail does not provide and Creole) and their dialects, as well as the need to recognize train-specific delay information because most disruptions outdated or colloquial names for locations and landmarks. In are cleared up by the time the information is posted. addition, Tri-Rail's customer service agencies can modify itin- eraries to account for delays in rail service. Rationale for participation. In the late 1990s, the South Finally, consistent with many complex technology procure- Florida RTO was established to focus on regional trans- ments, staff raised questions about the vendor's qualifications portation and air quality issues. Planned in response to this to undertake this project. Given the complexity and scale of policy direction, the South Florida 511 system was intended to this project, Tri-Rail staff emphasized the importance of ensur- encourage regional mobility by enabling customers to access ing "aggressive" and "highly proactive" project management. regional travel information, including transit. In 2003, state legislation folded the RTO into the newly formed South Outlook. Tri-Rail's future participation in the South Florida Regional Transportation Association. Tri-Rail, which Florida 511 system is uncertain. FDOT indicated that it was also integrated into the new SFRTA, participated in the would not renew the contract when it ended in November 511 system with a goal of benefiting the traveling public. 2008. Palm Tran already announced its decision to pull out of the system, and BCT is considering doing the same. That Impacts. Although Tri-Rail did not participate in CIN would leave SFRTA/Tri-Rail and Miami-Dade Transit as the with an expectation of realizing cost savings, the effort has two active participants in the system. been a "tremendous drain." During the planning phases, two As a regional agency charged with promoting collaboration staff members devoted at least 10 h per week to the project. and coordination, SFRTA/Tri-Rail believed they could be a Tri-Rail has observed a significant increase in the volume logical host for South Florida's 511 system in the future. How- of calls to its customer service center in the past year, but the ever, making this move would require additional resources to agency attributes this change to additional rail service, higher manage the project. Given the potential for a budget shortfall gas prices, and ridership growth--not to participation in 511. if property taxes are rolled back, Tri-Rail would not have the The agency has not received any CIN performance metrics resources to manage a project of this size. from FDOT or the vendor. Tri-Rail pays 20% of the annual CIN operating and mainte- Miami-Dade Transit. MDT is the largest transit agency nance costs. According to FDOT, Tri-Rail's share has totaled in the state of Florida and one of the largest departments within nearly $500,000 over the 4 years (FY 2004 to 2005 through FY Miami-Dade County government. MDT covers a service area 2007 to 2008). Tri-Rail pays its share of the CIN costs out of its of 306 sq mi with a population of 2.4 million. MDT operates operating budget. Like other Florida transit agencies, Tri-Rail four modes: Metrobus routes, Metrorail rapid transit, Metro- may face a sizable budget shortfall if a statewide referendum to mover people mover, and Special Transportation Services roll back property taxes is successful. If the funding environ- paratransit service. In 2005, MDT reported more than 104 mil- ment changes in the future, Tri-Rail might have to choose lion one-way trips. (49) between maintaining rail service and funding the 511 system. Callers who select this transit agency from the public tran- Tri-Rail has not experienced any major problems provid- sit option on the CIN main menu may listen to prerecorded ing schedule data for the 511 system. Tri-Rail does not use information or choose to transfer to MDT's call center where scheduling/routing software and submits its schedule data to they are placed in queue to speak with an agent. Main menu the vendor manually. Schedules are changed as circumstances choices for MDT are as follow: dictate and not on a defined calendar basis. Schedules--Interactive schedule information, Issues. Tri-Rail noted that the online regional trip planner Fares--Prerecorded announcement, and often produces incorrect itineraries. Although this issue was General information: not directly related to the telephone 511 service, it influenced Lost and found--Prerecorded information, perceptions of the value of the 511 system overall (web and Special events--Prerecorded information or transfer phone) by agencies and their customers. Tri-Rail staff did not to agent,

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51 Transfer to an agent for trip planning, in 2002, has helped support a wide range of transit improve- Comments/complaints/suggestions--Prerecorded infor- ment projects at MDT. mation, and Although the transition to 311 was independent of par- More options: ticipation in CIN, the change has been challenging for Bicycles--Prerecorded information, MDT. Before the move, a cost-benefit analysis was con- Wheelchair accessibility--Prerecorded information, ducted to identify the issues associated with consolidating Maps and schedules by mail--Prerecorded informa- these functions. The transition, which required moving tion or transfer to agent, and to a new location and consolidating staff, raised questions Specialized transportation services for people with about union representation, job classifications, and pay disabilities--Prerecorded information. ranges and was difficult for both the agencies and their call center staff. The transfer option routes callers to MDT's call center Merging the call centers meant that agents who previ- where they are placed in queue to speak with an agent. Miami- ously only handled 311 inquiries--most of which had scripted Dade issues floodgate messages for situations like hurricanes answers--were now also responsible for responding to cus- and major sporting events. tomer inquiries for itinerary planning. Although the 311 In February 2007, MDT's call center moved into a cen- agents use the Internet-based itinerary planner developed for tralized 311 call center for Miami-Dade County. (The 311 CIN, the transition has been difficult and many county call telephone number is reserved for government information agents did not want to make the move to 311. and non-emergency services.) MDT calls are now integrated The change also had labor implications, because MDT call with all other 311 calls. Although the MDT call center phys- agents and county call agents were represented by different ically moved into the 311 facility, MDT has maintained its bargaining units. Ultimately, the union that represented the own customer service phone number. Customers seeking county call agents was selected to represent the entire 311 call transit information do not access an IRV, instead they speak center. directly with agents who use the itinerary planning applica- MDT has not received any performance metrics from tions developed for the CIN system. FDOT or the vendor. Staff members have tried to download the data from the web, but the files were encrypted. Rationale for participation. In the late 1990s, the South Florida RTO recommended developing a 511 system to help Issues. The process to develop CIN from initial concept facilitate regional transportation planning and coordination. to implementation took years. Because this was a regional Prior to that time, each transportation agency provided travel project, participants encountered institutional issues and information for its own service area. Customers seeking infor- pursued the project in the face of changing priorities. As the mation about a multijurisdictional trip (e.g., Miami Inter- lead agency, MDT found itself managing personalities as much national Airport to Fort Lauderdale) had to call the agen- as the process. The planning process, described as "painful" at cies responsible for service in each locality. The 511 system times, took a lot of time and money. It was difficult to achieve was intended to encourage regional mobility by enabling consensus. Nevertheless, MDT emphasized that the players customers to access regional travel information. were well intentioned and all participants worked together to As the largest transit agency among the four participat- develop the final system. ing organizations, MDT was designated as the lead agency. Despite years of effort, however, MDT believes that CIN Although at times the staff perceived this role as a burden, the was not well marketed. The project had a "soft launch," and agency also recognized that leading the project would help did not receive much notice. In retrospect, MDT speculated, ensure that the regional system met their needs. Of particular a more aggressive marketing campaign might have generated interest to MDT was the opportunity to upgrade its own com- more users. More users, in turn, could have helped build a puter system to support itinerary planning. larger base of support for the next phase of the project. MDT encountered data issues with CIN. MDT exports Impacts. As the largest participating transit agency, MDT data to the 511 vendor twice a year, at the time of each new also pays the largest share of the ongoing operating and main- driver "pick." Within MDT, it has been a challenge for the tenance costs at 40%. According to FDOT, MDT's share has Planning Department to meet the deadline for submitting been close to $1 million over the 4 years of program implemen- schedule changes to the vendor. To help facilitate this process, tation from FY 2004 to 2005 through FY 2007 to 2008. Unlike one staffer developed an internal schedule and meets individ- the other transit agencies in South Florida, MDT benefits ually with MDT departments to help move data and informa- from a dedicated funding stream. A half-penny surtax, passed tion through the system.