Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
36 This chapter contains five case examples of North American transit agencies that responded to the survey and have relatively robust and well-established transit scheduling workforce management practices. Each case example includes a discussion of: â¢ The operating context and services of the transit agency. â¢ An overview of the scheduling processes at the transit agency and the alignment, staffing, and labor arrangements of the scheduling department. â¢ Data applied to schedule production, including what sources of data are used, how they are analyzed, and how they are applied. â¢ Details of the transit scheduler workforce management practices at the transit agency, includ- ing recruitment, selection, training, retention, and performance management. â¢ Challenges, notable practices, and lessons learned. Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority The Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) operates public transit service in Lehigh and Northampton Counties in Pennsylvania. The 230-square-mile service area serves a population of approximately 485,700 in both urban and rural environments and is experiencing an increase in the warehousing industry. The many small municipalities in the region can make providing transit service difficult due to the number of individual municipality operating environments. The major hubs for service are the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton; the Lehigh Valley Mall; and the Sands Casino. LANTA directly operates 83 fixed-route vehicles as well as 116 cutaway buses for the following services: â¢ LANtaBusâ28 local, fixed bus routes. â¢ LANtaFlexâfour local, deviated flexible routes. This is a shared-ride, curb-to-curb service open to the general public. Each route operates within a specific zone and trips must be requested at least one day in advance. Service planning for LANtaFlex is provided by LANTA staff, but the system is dispatched and operated by Eastern Coach. â¢ ADA paratransit service, LANtaVan (provided by Easton Coach Company). Seventy-one fixed-route vehicles and 104 cutaway vehicles are operated in maximum service to support LANTA services. In 2016, LANTA reported 4.9 million unlinked trips totaling 24.5 million passenger miles on its fixed-route service (FTA 2018b). LANTA reported nearly 411,000 unlinked demand response trips, totaling 5.7 million passenger miles. LANTA was chosen as a case example because it provides a unique perspective as a medium- sized transit agency with a robust fixed-route system as well as flexible zones. LANTAâs survey responses also indicated it was a relatively flat and integrated organization, with schedulers and C H A P T E R 4 Case Examples
Case Examples 37 planners sharing feedback and planners being cross-trained and developed to become possible schedulers. Scheduling Process Overview The scheduling department resides in the planning area of the organizational chart at LANTA, shown in Figure 7; however, the transit schedulers are not the transit planners. At LANTA, both schedulers and planners regularly provide input to route planning. Scheduling at LANTA is per- formed in-house, by one full-time transit scheduler and one intern. The scheduling internship position is used to provide current planners with the knowledge and understanding of schedule making, with the intent of having someone trained and in place to step into the role of scheduler if needed. The starting salary for transit schedulers at LANTA is $38,660 annually, with a maximum wage of $57,954 annually. Scheduling staff members are not unionized. At the time of the case example, the responsibilities listed in the job descriptions for the various scheduling positions are: â¢ Director of Planning and Development: Responsible for route planning and development, implementing transit-friendly land use development policies, interfacing with the regional transportation planning process, integrating technology solutions to manage the transit system, obtaining/maintaining program development data, and performing required special studies and projects designed to expand/revise operations. â¢ Planner-Land Usage Specialist (Scheduler Trainee Backup): Works at the direction of the Director of Planning and Development. Responsibilities include monitoring land use devel- opments in LANTAâs service area, promoting transit supportive land use policies in the plan- ning and development profession in the Lehigh Valley, assisting with transit center and bus stop amenity and other capital improvements, and contributing to the development of service plans and schedules. â¢ Planner/Scheduler: Works at the direction of the Director of Planning and Development. Responsibilities include monitoring the performance and quality of LANTA services, devel- oping and implementing improvement plans for service and capital assets, maintaining and supporting the data system tools used by the Planning and Development functions of the Authority, and assisting with the development and implementation of service plans and operating schedules. Full job descriptions are provided in Appendix D. LANTA schedulers use Sched21 for scheduling; no other software is regularly used. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has recently awarded a contract for fixed-route intelligent transportation systems, of which fixed-route scheduling software systems are included. LANTA will be reviewing this new software offering to determine the capabilities of the product. Transit schedulers are expected to directly discuss scheduling issues with transit agency staff and are sometimes asked to directly discuss scheduling issues with members of the general public and transit customers. Transit staff ranging from bus operators, maintenance, planners, and management are welcomed to provide feedback into the scheduling process. An official form is available for employees to provide feedback and complaints, but often this process is started by word of mouth among employees and management at LANTA. This form is not offered electronically at this time, but may be in the future. To provide feedback or leave a complaint, one would first make the complaint; management then verifies issue and then determines the course of action and response. Riders can use the email link provided on LANTAâs website to leave feedback, or call customer service directly. Most feedback, or complaints, from
Figure 7. LANTA organizational chart.
Case Examples 39 riders are directed to operations staff. LANTA tracks customer complaints and feedback about services through Customer Relations Management (CRM) software. Use of Data in Schedule Creation Transit schedulers can use data to make better scheduling decisions. LANTA regularly uses several types of data during the schedule creation and refinement process, including APCs, AVL, farebox data, customer feedback, customer surveys, vehicle operator feedback, vehicle operator surveys, and external data sources (e.g., Google Maps or INRIX). Data are collected from the various data sources and prepared by planning staff, consultants, and transit schedulers. After data are prepared for use, transit schedulers review the data or reports and take action (within certain limitations), make recommendations that require upper-level approval, and are provided with recommendations from other staff. LANTA noted several challenges to increased data utilization in the scheduling process, such as: â¢ The time required to analyze the data. Many times, software providers do not have customized programs and the default programs do not provide a level of detailed information sufficient to glean the required information. â¢ Running time and on-time performance have issues with the end of the line departure time. In some cases, the data do not accurately show the issue at hand. For example, when a driver pulls in to a stop, the system is set up to trigger the arrival. The departure is problematic because if a driver passes the departure trigger point, it appears as though the bus has already left and is running early. LANTA is investigating the feasibility of using the first stop after the end point to calculate on-time performance. â¢ It is important to recognize and remove outliers from data, as electronic data can hide a lot of details. For example, on garbage collection days in an urban environment, route checks and on-time performance measurements should not be recorded because data would be skewed. Yet, there is often no way to exclude the data from the comprehensive data sets. â¢ The amount of data available to a transit agency depends on the number of vehicles equipped with data collection hardware and software. When more buses are equipped, there are more and better data. However, utilization of the increased data relies on good data management. Too much data are not good if they are not maintained and screened properly. Recruiting Transit Schedulers LANTA usually hires schedulers from outside the transit agency and typically advertises open scheduler positions in industry periodicals and on the transit agency website. LANTA uses social media to help drive possible candidates to these postings. LANTA finds posting openings on the transit agency website to be somewhat effective for recruiting good scheduler candidates, but is neutral about the effectiveness of posting in industry periodicals and social media. LANTA does not use printed newspaper ads, ads in transit vehicles and facilities, digital internal job boards, online ads, or online job boards to recruit scheduler candidates. LANTA prefers to hire schedulers with at least an undergraduate degree in planning, math- ematics, or gaming. In LANTAâs experience, potential candidates with these types of majors or fields of interest have an aptitude for problem-solving and enjoy puzzlesâmuch like creating transit schedules. The minimum and preferred knowledge, skill, and ability requirements for entry-level schedulers at LANTA are listed in Table 11. LANTA does not necessarily have a strategy to encourage people in certain industries or occupations who are not transit schedulers to become schedulers, but it does actively involve
40 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce planning staff in the scheduling process with the intent of having a staff person already trained to be a competent backfill and potential candidate to take over scheduling responsibilities. Those interested in becoming transit schedulers are encouraged to read TCRP Report 135, and if they are still interested, they can discuss moving into a scheduling role with upper management. Selecting Transit Schedulers LANTA finds in-person interviews to be extremely effective for transit scheduler candidate selection. Standardized job applications and contacting references are somewhat effective to determine if a candidate is suitable to become a transit scheduler. LANTA does not view tran- scripts, utilize phone or web conference interviews, or measure performance during scheduling internships. LANTA provides both TCRP Report 30 and TCRP Report 135 for additional infor- mation or guidance (in addition to the job description) to help individuals interested in applying to be a transit scheduler. When selecting a transit scheduler, LANTA asks if candidates like problem-solving or solving puzzles or if they find them torturous. If puzzles are âtortureâ for them, then transit scheduling will not be a good fit as a career choice. Scheduling is similar to puzzles; there are many piecesâ laying out the route, building trips, laying out running times, blocking trips together to create runs, creating rosters, and so forthâthat must fit together and work seamlessly. Schedulers must be able to think outside the box to come up with solutions and streamline efficiency. Often the perception is that scheduling is easy, but learning how to be a transit scheduler is a process, and it can take several years to fully understand the nuances of the field. LANTA has found it challenging to find candidates who understand the transit industry, and transit scheduling in particular, who are also seeking a long-term position with the agency. There are not many qualified people available who understand the complexity of scheduling. Experience or Skill Not Listed Minimum Qualification Preferred Qualification Years of Experience Asked for Experience in transit scheduling 1 Experience in transit 2 Experience in transportation or related field 2 Knowledge of a particular scheduling software (e.g., HASTUS or Trapeze) 2 Microsoft Excel skills (or similar software) 5 Microsoft Access skills (or similar software) 5 Microsoft Word skills (or similar software) 5 Organizational skills 1 Public speaking skills 1 Verbal communication skills Written communication skills 4 Data analysis skills 4 Local geographical knowledge (e.g., local streets and points of interest) 1 Transit system knowledge (e.g., bus routes and service types) 1 Table 11. Knowledge, skill, or ability requirements for entry-level schedulers at LANTA.
Case Examples 41 In the future, LANTA would like to implement a test before an interview to measure aptitude, and provide those interested with opportunities to retest after additional training or experience is completed. This type of test could be a method for transit agencies to assess whether or not a candidate is capable and able to do what the agency is asking. Another idea is to bring in operators to shadow scheduling shifts to see if they have an aptitude and interest in scheduling after hands-on experience. Computerized scheduling software, although it makes transit scheduling much easier in some respects, took away the ability to teach manual scheduling, which makes it more difficult to assess aptitude for the skill. Training Transit Schedulers LANTA does not have a documented or standardized training program for newly hired transit schedulers; however, the agency utilizes TCRP Report 30 and TCRP Report 135 to augment additional training materials. LANTA finds on-site, one-on-one training led by experienced staff to be extremely effective when training new transit schedulers. LANTA also uses self-directed individual training such as modules and simulations, as well as off-site classroom-style training, but is neutral about the effectiveness of these training styles. LANTA does not use on-site classroom-style training for new schedulers. For new schedulers, LANTA begins training by teaching the basics, and once a particular skill is mastered, the trainee can build on that knowledge. LANTA takes a holistic approach to training. Typically, the trainee learns about headways, running times, and passenger loads first. For LANTA, an important aspect of training schedulers is on-site field visits to verify data and actually talk to drivers about running times. In this scenario, the trainer asks the new scheduler to assess an issue and come up with solutions on his or her own first, then will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these solutions together and look for other possible methods. LANTA indicated that during the 4- to 6-month training process, new transit schedulers are exposed to all aspects of scheduling, including: â¢ Scheduling terminology and vocabulary. â¢ Operator and agency work rules. â¢ Local geography. â¢ Routes and services at LANTA. â¢ Service data collection and analysis. â¢ Trip building. â¢ Setting running times. â¢ Vehicle types and operations rules. â¢ Blocking. â¢ Setting layovers. â¢ Setting deadhead times. â¢ Garage assignment. â¢ Scheduling software basics. â¢ Schedule metrics. A transit scheduler typically needs 5 years of experience before he or she reaches full compe- tency in creating high-quality and efficient transit schedules. In-house staff, either senior transit schedulers or scheduling department management, provide ongoing training and development to transit schedulers. In the last 5 years, LANTA has not used an external scheduling training firm or other consultant to provide training to transit schedulers. LANTA does not have a documented or standardized training program for current transit schedulers or use any specific training to advance transit schedulersâ abilities to analyze and use
42 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce data during schedule creation, but it is developing curriculum. For ongoing transit scheduling training, LANTA indicated the following topics are covered: â¢ Transit system design (routes and services). â¢ Service data collection and analysis. â¢ Scheduling terminology and vocabulary. â¢ Trip building. â¢ Setting running times. â¢ Setting headways. â¢ Schedule optimization. â¢ Scheduling software basics. â¢ Vehicle types and operations rules. â¢ Blocking. â¢ Setting layovers and deadhead times. â¢ Garage assignments. â¢ Operator or work rules. â¢ Schedule metrics. â¢ Runcutting. â¢ Rostering. â¢ Scheduling software intermediate skills. â¢ Scheduling software advanced skills. â¢ Local geography. The main challenge LANTA has experienced when training transit schedulers is having someone really interested. LANTA indicated that there is a misconception in the industry that anyone can make a schedule, and too frequently it is only after the transit agency has already committed to someone that it finds the candidate might not work out. It is a niche position unlike other areas that a person might be more suited to. Not everyone is a good fit because the skill set is unique and the software packages have diminished the training ground that agencies once used to gauge the effectiveness of potential schedulers. Retaining Transit Schedulers LANTA has hired one scheduler within the last 5 years; zero schedulers have retired in the last 5 years, but one scheduler is currently eligible for retirement. Current schedulers at LANTA average 17 years as a scheduler. LANTA indicated that retaining transit schedulers is not always monetarily focused; some- times people love what they do and love the agency they work forâwhich has been the case at LANTA. Most transit schedulers have a deep connection with their agency, so they tend to stay put because, once they are entrenched with an agency and know the area and routes, it is more difficult to leave. Retention is important because of the institutional knowledge schedulers have. Having someone who is committed to the agency is key for the position. Managing Transit Scheduler Performance LANTA regularly uses the following practices to manage and improve the performance of an individual transit scheduler: â¢ Measuring schedule performance metrics. â¢ Measuring service performance metrics. â¢ Measuring total costs, vehicles, or operator requirements. â¢ Tracking schedule mistakes and corrective actions.
Case Examples 43 â¢ Seeking satisfaction feedback from schedule users. â¢ Taking disciplinary measures for poor performance. â¢ Training as and when requested by a transit scheduler. LANTA measures the following transit schedule performance metrics when managing the performance of an individual transit scheduler: â¢ Pay-to-platform ratio. â¢ Estimated labor cost per revenue hour. â¢ Penalty time. â¢ Extra-board percentages. Transit schedulers are assigned specific divisions, services, routes, or other groups of scheduling work to perform at LANTA, but given the small size of the scheduling department, schedulers often share responsibilities. LANTA finds assigning specific groups of work to individual transit schedulers in schedule quality control and improvement to be neutrally effec- tive. To determine if a transit scheduler has done the best work possible, LANTA weighs the cost and efficiency of a schedule and the impact that it makes to the overall transit agency operation. When schedulers are not performing well or not meeting the requirements of the job, LANTA attempts to correct ongoing, repeat performance problems through additional training and developing a verbal performance improvement plan for individual transit schedulers. Performance improvement plans at LANTA note various aspects of the job on which the transit scheduler needs to focus and improve. Performance management is often an ongoing, iterative process. When trying to manage and improve an individual transit schedulerâs performance, LANTA has realized that some individuals are not fit to perform this job. In these cases, the transit agency will make an attempt move the employees to a position that might better fit their skills, or it will dismiss them. Summary LANTA was chosen as a case example because it provides a unique perspective as a medium- sized transit agency with a robust fixed-route system as well as flexible zones. LANTA has a small scheduling department that includes a land use planner to monitor land use developments within the service area and promote transit supportive land use policies in the Lehigh Valley. All staff members at LANTA contribute to the development of service plans and schedules. At LANTA, schedulers must be able to think outside the box to come up with solutions and streamline efficiency. The transit agency believes that people with an aptitude for solving puzzles or those who enjoy strategy games are good candidates for transit schedulers. Challenges LANTA finds the following aspects regarding managing transit schedulers and scheduling to be challenging: â¢ Small municipalities in the region make providing transit service difficult due to the number of individual municipality operating environments. â¢ The time required for analyzing running time and on-time performance data, maintaining and screening data properly, and the amount of data can limit the amount of data utilization within the transit agency. Furthermore, electronic data can hide a lot of details, so it is key to have staff who can understand how to use and interpret the data. â¢ Finding qualified candidates who understand the transit industry, and transit scheduling in particular, who are also seeking a long-term position with the agency is difficult.
44 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce â¢ Scheduling is complex; not all levels understand the complexity. â¢ It is important to determine whether an individual is having a problem understanding scheduling or having a problem utilizing the software, or both. â¢ Scheduling is often done intuitively; sometimes there is not enough support after a training course, and providing ongoing training for transit schedulers is difficult. Lessons Learned The following list summarizes items that have been helpful for LANTA. â¢ Creating a professional association for transit schedulers, much like planners, architects, and so forth, would help ensure proper training is available and could develop a certification exam, or introductory/mastery test for schedulers. â¢ A transit scheduler typically needs 5 years of experience before he or she reaches full com- petency in creating high-quality and efficient transit schedules. It is a niche position unlike other areas that a person might be more suited to. Not everyone is a good fit because the skill set is unique. â¢ Managing and improving the performance of an individual transit scheduler can provide an overall benefit and improvement of the system for the customer, the operator, maintenance, customer service, and the budget. â¢ Scheduling is the heart of a transit agency. This position affects everything the agency does and has a direct impact of every department. Schedulers work directly off feedback from operators who work directly with customers. Schedulers are financially responsible to the agency to ensure that service is optimized and performing efficiently, as well as that main- tenance activities make sure buses are serviced properly. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) provides public transit service in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties in southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPTA 2018b). SEPTA directly operates several modes of fixed-route transit, including: â¢ Bus. â¢ Electrified trolley bus. â¢ Heavy rail (high-speed lines). â¢ Regional rail. â¢ Trolley. Figure 8 displays key facts about SEPTAâs different transit services. The project team selected SEPTA for a case example because of its size and variety of service types and its hierarchy of transit scheduler positions. SEPTA also directly operates all of its fixed-route services, increasing the complexity of providing high-quality schedules. Scheduling Process Overview SEPTA creates all of its fixed-route transit schedules in-house for 11 garages (called âdistrictsâ); however, two different scheduling sections are within the Service Planning Department: city schedules and suburban schedules. These sections report to the Chief Officer, Service Planning (see Figure 9 for the Service Planning organizational chart), who reports to SEPTAâs Chief Financial Officer (see Figure 10 for the Chief Financial Officerâs organizational chart). SEPTAâs Chief Financial Officer reports to the General Manager.
Figure 8. SEPTA key operational characteristics. Source: SEPTA 2014. Figure 9. SEPTAâs Service Planning Department organizational chart.
46 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce Unless otherwise stated, the information in this case example is based on the city scheduling section, which is under the Director of City Schedulers and Support Services (Figure 11 is the city scheduling sectionâs organizational chart). The Director of City Schedules and Support Services oversees the scheduling operations of the city schedules section, and the Director of Suburban Service Planning and Schedules oversees the scheduling operations of the suburban schedules function. Overall, between the two departments, there are 10 full-time, non-represented transit schedulers in three different schedule maker classifications (shown in Table 12). Job descriptions for each of the positions in Table 12 are provided in Appendix E. SEPTA operates both bus and rail services and, due to the unique nature of rail scheduling, has two out of its 10 transit schedulers focus most of their attention on rail scheduling. SEPTA also runs trackless trolleys (i.e., electric buses that use overhead catenary for power; see Figure 12), which requires schedulers to be especially mindful of the limitations and operational characteristics associated with running buses that rely on overhead catenary power. SEPTAâs scheduling software is Trapeze FX and Blockbuster; however, transit schedulers also use Microsoft Excel in their work to generate headways and running times based on APC data. More details of this process are discussed later in this case example. SEPTA usually has three schedule changes per year, and the basic process for each schedule change involves the following steps: 1. Begin by copying over schedules from the previous schedule period. 2. Receive feedback from various groups about the need for schedule changes. Feedback typically comes from any of the following sources: a. The operatorâs union makes recommendations for schedule changes. A union represen- tative from each district summarizes the concerns of operators and presents them to the Figure 10. SEPTAâs Finance and Planning organizational chart.
Case Examples 47 Figure 11. SEPTAâs City Schedules and Support Services Section organizational chart. Job Classification Count Position Duties Chief schedule maker 3a Responsible for several districts and the overall final product. Chief schedule makers oversee and delegate scheduling work and train new transit schedulers. Senior schedule maker 2 Assist with runcutting, schedule building, and supporting schedule makers. Schedule maker 5a Perform basic schedule building (e.g., trip building and some blocking), do work as assigned, use running time and load data to establish appropriate running times and headways for trips. aIncludes one position in the suburban planning and scheduling section. Table 12. Transit scheduler job classifications at SEPTA.
48 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce scheduling department in a 45-minute briefing. This process is written into the operatorâs collective bargaining agreement. b. Bus operators may provide feedback directly to the scheduling department by completing a complaint form (see Appendix F) and submitting it to their union representative, district management, or to the scheduling department. c. The control center provides the scheduling department with an OTP report to help prioritize lines for running time adjustments. d. The customer service center notifies the scheduling department about trends in customer complaints about crowding. e. The scheduling department examines long-term detours to determine whether schedule changes need to be implemented to accommodate the detours. 3. Confirm reported issues by examining available data (e.g., APC data) or collecting traffic checks. 4. Make needed changes to running times and headways during trip building. 5. Perform blocking. 6. Complete the runcut. (SEPTA has cafeteria-style rostering, so operators pick their own runs to create weekly rosters. District dispatchers package leftover runs.) 7. Review the new schedules: a. Run Trapeze FXâs data integrity tool and correct any errors as necessary. b. Use the SEPTA-created schedule proofing steps document to review schedules both in Trapeze and in printed form. (The full document is available as Appendix G.) Lastly, the scheduling section works with planning on an ad hoc basis. For example, scheduling may provide recommendations or raise issues to planning that involve layover and restroom locations; scheduling and planning will work together to resolve these types of issues. Conversely, the planning section uses the scheduling department to help build fined-tuned cost estimates of service proposals. For example, the planning department may ask scheduling to build a schedule for a new route proposal. (This usually occurs during SEPTAâs Annual Service Planning processâsee http://septa.org/strategic-plan/reports/2017-FY-2018-Annual-Service- Plan-Draft.pdf for an example Annual Service Plan.) Use of Data in Schedule Creation SEPTA uses both qualitative and quantitative data from several different sources when creating transit schedules. The majority of schedule changes are related to bus services due to the Figure 12. SEPTA trackless trolley service. Source: SEPTA 2018a.
Case Examples 49 constantly changing operational conditions associated with operating bus service. This section describes the use of data in fine-tuning bus schedules, because not many changes are implemented on the rail schedules. As discussed earlier in this case example, the scheduling section receives qualitative feedback from operators, operatorsâ union representatives, and customer complaints (particularly about crowding). The scheduling department also receives an OTP report that is generated by the CAD/AVL system. The OTP report and the qualitative information help the scheduling section prioritize its work for the upcoming schedule change. Based on the feedback and the OTP report, the scheduling section will examine APC and, if necessary, traffic checker data to confirm reported issues and to better understand the nature of the problem. (The scheduling section does not have access to CAD/AVL data from which to perform additional data analyses, and the scheduling section finds the APC data to be easier to work with.) SEPTA only has APCs on a subset of its buses, so the scheduling section develops a weekly bus deployment plan designed to ensure that 100% of all blocks are sampled at least once in a schedule period. Traffic checkers are typically used to collect data on special or unique trips and for trips with high criticality (e.g., first and last trips on given route). Schedule makers are trained on a process for using APC passenger load and running time data to revise headways and running times. Schedule makers run specific APC reports to collect the necessary data and input those data into a custom-built macro-enabled Excel workbook, which assists in translating APC data into usable information for trip building. The chief schedule makers designed the Excel workbook, using their existing knowledge of Excel combined with some self-training. Although schedule makers are trained on some basic data analysis concepts (e.g., the effects of outliers on the arithmetic mean), the APC data outputs and Excel workbooks help auto- matically filter out any problematic data and reduce the analytical burden placed on schedule makers. Although the automatic calculation of running times and loads using the custom-built Excel workbooks helps keep the scheduling process running smoothly, the automation sometimes reduces schedule makersâ comprehension of the data analysis concepts at work. Because schedule makers must be comfortable with Excel and some basic data analysis, SEPTA does look for general computer skills and Excel skills when hiring new schedule makers. SEPTAâs processes for recruiting and selecting schedule makers is discussed later in this case example. Also, SEPTA would like to use more data and more complex data analysis during the schedule creation process; however, SEPTAâs size and complexity makes it difficult to do more data analysis, especially when it is challenging to hire entry-level staff with existing analytical skills. Recruiting Transit Schedulers SEPTA recruits transit schedulers by posting schedule maker job openings both inside and outside the transit agency using internal and external job postings. SEPTA posts jobs externally using online ads in news or media sites, online job boards (e.g., Indeed and Monster), and the transit agencyâs website. Job postings usually stay up for 2 weeks. Most of SEPTAâs new schedule makers are hired from inside the transit agency and were either operators, operations supervisors, or paratransit schedulers. SEPTA requires schedule maker applicants to have at least a high school diploma or GED with some transportation experience; however, SEPTA prefers that applicants at least have an under- graduate degree. SEPTA does prefer hiring internal candidates who are already knowledgeable about SEPTAâs system and organizational structure instead of hiring external candidates. Table 13 highlights other qualifications required or preferred for schedule maker applicants.
50 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce Although SEPTA typically receives many applications, the agency finds it difficult to find qualified applicants that have both public transit experience and analytical and software skills. Selecting Schedule Makers The next step in hiring new schedule makers is refining the applicant pool down to a list of qualified candidates for interviews. SEPTA previously had an online testing protocol to test for computer skills, general math abilities, and local geographical knowledge; however, the testing center is currently being revamped so this selection tool is not available. Currently, the decision of which candidates to interview is done jointly between the human resources and scheduling departments by reviewing applicantsâ qualifications. SEPTA uses an in-person structured interview for schedule makers and finds the interview to be a highly effective method for selecting high-quality transit schedulers. SEPTA has incor- porated some specific questions that help assess a candidateâs fit for the job. For example, the interview contains some questions to assess a candidateâs ability to solve time-based mathematical problems, read and use a map, make a decision using data, and use Excel for analysis. SEPTA does not ask questions about or test candidatesâ abilities to actually create schedules, because the agency is hiring entry-level transit schedulers who will likely have little to no experi- ence with transit scheduling. For SEPTA, it is more important to identify whether the person is a good fit for the job and the working environmentâscheduling skills can be taught on the job. In recent history, SEPTA temporarily used an interview question designed to assess a candidateâs ability to apply logic and solve a problem; however, this question was discontinued because it was less directly related to the actual job of scheduling than other, existing questions. Experience or Skill Not Listed Minimum Qualification Preferred Qualification Years of Experience Asked for Experience in transit scheduling 1 Experience in transit 1 Experience in transportation or 1 related field Knowledge of a particular scheduling software (e.g., HASTUS or Trapeze) Microsoft Excel skills (or similar software) Microsoft Access skills (or similar software) Microsoft Word skills (or similar software) Organizational skills Public speaking skills Verbal communication skills Written communication skills Data analysis skills Local geographical knowledge (e.g., local streets and points of interest) Transit system knowledge (e.g., bus routes and service types) Table 13. Knowledge, skill, or ability requirements for entry-level schedulers at SEPTA.
Case Examples 51 SEPTA would like to have better tools for selecting schedule makers. The length of time it takes to recruit, select, and train a new schedule maker is extensive; therefore, it is critical that the best person gets hired. However, even with the structured interview, SEPTA finds it difficult to tell whether the person will succeed as a schedule maker. Training Transit Schedulers This section is divided into two parts: (1) training new schedule makers and (2) training current schedulers. Training New Schedule Makers SEPTA trains new schedule makers mainly by providing on-the-job one-on-one training from a chief schedule maker and finds this training modality to be extremely effective. SEPTA has occasionally used on-site classroom-style training for new schedule makers, particularly if this training times up with pre-planned training provided by Trapeze to train schedulers about new features, changes in the software, and so forth. If a new schedule maker is hired when the scheduling department is at peak activity near the end of creating a new schedule, the new schedule maker will likely be kept out of Trapeze FX until the experienced staff have time to walk the new hire through the software. In this case, the new hire will be tasked with proofing printed schedules from the prior schedule period using SEPTAâs proofing checklist (see Appendix G). The process helps the person learn about union rules, learn scheduling terms and concepts, and see how all the pieces of the schedule fit together. However, within 1 to 3 months, SEPTA works to get the new schedule maker familiar with Trapeze and to train the schedule maker on the basic features and functions of the software. For example, the new scheduler may first be trained on the process of building trips by checking running times and headways using APC data. To help new (and current schedulers), SEPTA has started creating topical or task-based guide documents for individual steps in the scheduling process. SEPTA stores these documents on the scheduling department shared network folder. Currently, SEPTA has tasked a recently hired schedule maker to document concepts and skills that he learns along the way. This is helping further expand the training documentation available to new schedule makers and other sched- ulers in the section. SEPTA hopes to eventually combine these documents into a single guide to provide both a big-picture view of the entire scheduling process and a resource to understand how to actually perform each step. One challenge of training new schedulers, particularly when training is tied in with the pro- duction cycle of schedule changes, is that there are usually long gaps between learning a task for the first time and then doing it again. For example, if a new scheduler maker learns how to build trips in Trapeze, he or she might not come back to building trips until several months later, when schedule production begins for the next schedule period. This is especially challenging because just learning the Trapeze software itself can take a lot of time and effort. New schedule makers usually do not have previous Trapeze experience, so they have to learn every menu and every button. Training Current Schedulers SEPTA provides ongoing training for its current schedulers to help continually improve schedulersâ capacities to analyze service data, better utilize Trapeze features, and further optimize transit schedules. SEPTA rarely utilizes third parties to provide training to schedulers, and training is mostly done by the chief schedule maker. Although SEPTA does not currently have a documented training program, SEPTA is working to develop one by documenting
52 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce individual steps and procedures that will eventually be combined into a single, overall guide (the same guide discussed in the previous section on training new schedule makers). SEPTAâs use of third parties for training is limited to times when Trapeze may come in and train all schedulers on software upgrade or new features. In addition, SEPTA has sent a schedule maker to the scheduling class provided by CUTA to help provide the schedule maker with a better understanding of scheduling concepts and terminology. SEPTA finds the CUTA class beneficial and may continue to occasionally use this class as a training resource. Providing ongoing training for current schedulersâparticularly schedule makersâis an important part of promoting upward mobility. For a schedule maker to be promoted to a senior schedule maker, he or she must demonstrate increasing capabilities and quality of work and a willingness to learn. Usually, reaching the level of full competency required of a senior schedule maker takes about 3 years. One of the biggest challenges with providing ongoing training to schedulers is the lack of time to commit to training between the scheduling departmentâs regular and ongoing obligations to deliver updated schedules every schedule change. Finding time to provide training for ongoing development is especially difficult currently, because SEPTA recently had an influx of new schedule makers who need basic training and ongoing support, reducing the amount of time available for chief schedule makers to train on other, more complex topics. Retaining Transit Schedulers SEPTA has recently experienced significant churn in its transit schedulers; the agency hired seven transit schedulers in the last 5 years, and five schedulers retired in the same period. Currently, two of SEPTAâs transit schedulers are eligible to retire. This churn is manifested in the current mean years of experience of SEPTAâs transit schedulers, which is 3 years. SEPTA currently has several strategies in place to try to improve scheduler retention, many of which SEPTA believes have marginal effectiveness. The strategies enacted by SEPTA to improve retention are: â¢ Training opportunities. â¢ Continuing education opportunities. â¢ Supporting the upward mobility of schedulers. SEPTAâs multiple job titles for transit schedulers help create opportunities for advance- ment. Schedule makers who have worked for at least 3 years, are doing good work, and are showing a willingness to take on more responsibility and to learn more skills can be promoted to become a senior schedule maker. The opportunity exists for senior schedule makers to be promoted into one of the two chief schedule maker positions, when one becomes available. SEPTA also works to encourage a team culture and positive work environment both to improve retention and to increase employee engagement. Managing Transit Scheduler Performance SEPTA assesses scheduler performance by noting and keeping track of mistakes or problems throughout the year. SEPTA also analyzes schedules created by schedulers to assess whether they implemented cost-efficient blocking solutions. SEPTA is committed to helping its schedulers succeed in their jobs and uses ongoing training and regular discussions about performance to help improve scheduler performance.
Case Examples 53 In addition, SEPTA has an annual performance review process in which each scheduler is rated on his or her performance. Schedulers receive an overall performance rating (e.g., meets expec- tations) based on their performance in the year, and the overall rating is tied to the annual merit increase available to SEPTA employees. If a scheduler receives a âneeds improvementâ rating, the scheduler may not receive the merit increase and also may not be eligible for pro- motion. Chief schedule makers handle most of the performance issues of schedule makers and senior schedule makers; however, a continual problem with performance may go up the chain of command for review. SEPTA attempts to work with the struggling employee to improve performance and first explores options for improving performance that do not result in conse- quences for the employee; for example, SEPTA might change the schedulerâs direct supervisor or consider additional training. SEPTA finds the annual performance review process beneficial as a tool both for better under- standing individualsâ strengths and weakness and for motivating improved performance. Summary SEPTAâs two scheduling sections (city and suburban) create schedules for several fixed-route transit modes across 11 districts, all of which are directly operated. SEPTA performs all schedule creation in-house with 10 full-time transit schedulers in three tiers of job classifications, with increasing duties and expertise required in each. The majority of this case example focused on SEPTAâs city schedules section, which performs the bulk of the schedule work. SEPTA uses Trapeze for creating transit schedules and incorporates running time and load data from APCs to help it fine-tune headways and running times. Entry-level schedulers (called schedule makers) do not have to be well-experienced in data analysis but must be comfortable using Excel. SEPTA has built an Excel-based tool to translate APC load and running time data into meaningful information for trip building. From the information collected during this case example, the project team identified several challenges, notable practices, and lessons learned. Challenges SEPTA experiences a few challenges when managing its transit scheduling workforce: â¢ Limited access to data. The scheduling section uses an OTP report from the CAD/AVL system to prioritize potential routes for schedule improvements; however, the scheduling section does not have access to data from the CAD/AVL system. To overcome this limitation, the scheduling section uses APC data, which it finds easier to work with. However, SEPTA has a limited number of vehicles with APCs, and therefore must create a vehicle assignment plan to help increase representativeness of APC data. â¢ Lack of time for training. Especially with a high number of new schedule makers, SEPTA finds it difficult to provide robust, ongoing training to all schedulers. Most training time and energy are spent on getting new schedule makers acclimated and comfortable with Trapeze, and this training is usually done in conjunction with ongoing work on a produc- tion schedule. â¢ Difficulty recruiting and selecting the best candidates. Although SEPTA actively works to improve its recruitment and selection processes, the agency still finds it difficult to recruit and select the best candidates. It is difficult to change the recruitment and selection process, and there are few ways to reliably differentiate between good and poor candidates. It may take up to 6 months to hire a candidate, and getting the wrong person out of the process can be a significant setback to overall section performance.
54 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce Notable Practices SEPTA has notable practices in its management of both the transit scheduling process and the transit scheduling workforce: â¢ Making APC data usable for schedule makers. SEPTA built a custom-made Excel workbook that enables schedule makers to take specific APC reports and translate them into usable information for trip building. The use of the Excel workbook helps remove the burden of data manipulation and analysis from schedule makers so they can focus on using the data to make schedule changes. â¢ Actively adjusting the recruitment and selection process. SEPTA is continually trying to improve its transit scheduler recruitment and selection processes. SEPTA has introduced new questions to the structured interview to better assess candidatesâ Excel, map use, and time-based math abilities and skills. Although SEPTA is still working on additional improvements, its commit- ment to having the best possible selection process is notable. â¢ Annual performance reviews. SEPTA has a formal annual performance review process that provides schedulers with information about their performance and serves as a mechanism by which to determine who does and does not receive merit increases each yearâa tool for incentivizing performance. This annual review process is in addition to regular, ongoing discussions about a schedulerâs performance throughout the year. Lessons Learned In addition to the challenges and notable practices listed previously, SEPTA also has some lessons learned that may help other transit agencies: â¢ Automating data analysis may reduce data comprehension. SEPTAâs custom Excel workbook helps make APC data usable for schedule building; however, because the data analysis is automated, schedulers may not actually understand what analyses are being done or how to do those analyses themselves without the assistance of the workbook. Having a solid grasp of more complex data analysis concepts is beneficial for upward mobility and for attempting additional or alternative data analyses. â¢ Changes to selection processes must be prudent and valid. In the past, SEPTA attempted to add a specific question to its structured interview for schedule makers. The question asked the candidate to solve a given problem using reasoning and logic. SEPTAâs Human Resources Department stopped the practice because of concerns that the question was not a valid differentiator between good and poor candidates. Although scheduling sections may benefit from more creative ways to select candidates, changes to selection protocols (i.e., minimum qualifications, tests, and interview questions) must reasonably improve the accuracy of selecting the best candidates and must usually be done with express permission of a transit agencyâs Human Resources Department. Orange County Transportation Authority The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is responsible for operating bus and commuter rail service within Orange County, California, with a service area of 463 square miles and almost 3.1 million people. OCTA operates 45 local bus routes, two rapid bus routes, six express routes, and six StationLink routes connecting commuter rail stations with large employ- ment centers. The transportation authority also funds Metrolink commuter rail service, with three distinct lines operating peak period service during the week, and limited weekend ser- vice. OCTA also provides a ride-sharing and vanpooling program. OCTA operates some of its service (primarily its local bus service) while also purchasing some of its service from a third- party provider (OCTA 2018).
Case Examples 55 The OCTA fleet consists of 442 buses, 29 commuter buses, and over 500 vanpools. The transportation authority provides approximately 46.4 million annual passenger trips, and logs about 41.3 million annual revenue miles. Table 14 summarizes the annual ridership by mode. OCTA was chosen as a case example because of its experience in recruiting, selecting, and training new schedulers due to the high number of staff retirements in recent years. In addi- tion, OCTA has extensive experience in incorporating numerous data sources in the scheduling process. Scheduling Process Overview OCTA employs four full-time transit schedulers, all of whom report to a scheduling section manager who is responsible for overseeing all scheduling efforts at OCTA. The scheduling section manager ultimately reports to a department manager within the Transit Division (a full OCTA organizational chart is provided in Appendix H). There are three levels of sched- ulers at OCTA: associate schedule analyst, schedule analyst, and senior schedule analyst. Full job descriptions are available in Appendix I. Under the senior schedule analystâs super vision, associate schedule analysts are responsible for running a MINBUS optimization solution, gen- erally only for Saturday or Sunday schedules. The MINBUS optimization module, part of the HASTUS scheduling software, allows for the schedulers to search for blocking and interlining efficiencies after a schedule is already built. Schedule analysts can run a weekday MINBUS and runcut a schedule, plus perform other duties depending on skill level. Senior schedule analysts can run a MINBUS for any day of the week, runcut and roster a schedule, and perform other high-level scheduling tasks. With a robust scheduling staff, OCTA does not typically use third-party contractor help. When preparing for upcoming service changes, OCTA closely follows an approved service change calendar. Three months prior to a change, the Scheduling Section Team meets to review route runtime trends and OTP. OCTA generates reports to highlight the best and worst performers in the system since the last service change, with respect to a routeâs OTP. Any route that does not meet acceptable thresholds for OTP is flagged and receives a full runtime analysis. The Scheduling Section Team reviews feedback from customers and bus operators to better understand the issues that might be affecting a routeâs poor OTP. The Scheduling Section Team then meets with the Service Planning Development Team to review the Scheduling Section Teamâs suggestion for potential changes and determine what is feasible given limited resources. The Scheduling Section Team then completes a robust 6-week runtime analysis, which includes the following: â¢ In-House Dashboard. â¢ A Ridecheck Plus analysis (an automated ridership reporting tool provided through Clever Devices software). â¢ Manual on-board ride checks. Mode Unlinked Passenger Trips Bus 39,686,125 Demand response 1,475,934 Demand responseâtaxi 135,639 Commuter bus 268,721 Vanpool 1,297,079 Total 42,863,498 Note: Metrolink unlinked passenger trips are reported separately by the Southern California Regional Rail Authority. Source: FTA 2018c. Table 14. OCTA annual ridership by mode.
56 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce â¢ On-street point checks. â¢ A review of load factors. â¢ A review of APC and farebox data. This analysis culminates in a proposal to the scheduling section manager, outlining the proposed increase or decrease to a routeâs runtime and the justification for the change. If a substantial amount of resources is needed to improve the schedules in a service change, the scheduling section manager alerts the Service Planning and Operations Teams and works with them to find the resources. The primary goal is to maintain existing levels of service. Use of Data in Schedule Creation Data are an important part of the OCTA scheduling process. The types of data most commonly used in the scheduling process include: â¢ APC. â¢ AVL. â¢ Farebox. â¢ In-House Dashboard. â¢ Customer feedback. â¢ Customer surveys. â¢ Vehicle operator feedback. â¢ External data sources. â¢ Ridecheck Plus analysis and reports. OCTA uses on-board ride check data, AVL, APC, and an internal dashboard to guide the runtime analysis and adjust segment timing to improve OTP. If a segment is not meeting performance standards, OCTA supplements the runtime analysis with more AVL data or asks a line captain to investigate via field observation. Table 15 provides an overview of how data are used throughout the scheduling process. Recruiting Transit Schedulers OCTA stated that the Human Resources department adheres to strict job qualifications, as detailed in Table 16, and will not consider candidates who do not meet the basic requirements Data Source Running Times and Layovers Headways Route Patterns or Alignments Blocking and Deadheads Vehicle Assignments Route Study or Service Improvement APC AVL Farebox Customer feedback Customer surveys Vehicle operator feedback External data sources In-House Dashboard Ridecheck Plus Table 15. When data are used in OCTAâs scheduling process.
Case Examples 57 of any of the scheduler analyst positions. The entry-level associate schedule analyst position, however, does not require previous experience with transit scheduling. Candidates must simply have an undergraduate degree, have experience working with the Microsoft suite of products (especially Excel), have organizational and data analysis skills, and have the ability to communicate effectively with others. A local knowledge of the area and OCTAâs transit system is also considered a minimum qualification. Experience with transit scheduling, general transit planning, or scheduling software is considered a preferred qualification for associate schedule analysts but is required for senior schedule analyst positions. Recruiting externally for the senior schedule analyst position can be a challenge due to the required experience with transit scheduling and scheduling software. Hiring at the senior sched- uling level usually requires hiring a scheduler from a different transit agency. OCTA does not cover a new hireâs relocation expenses for this position, which makes it harder to hire qualified senior-level schedulers from transit agencies outside of Orange County. For hiring temporary help during schedule changes, OCTA promotes from within from other departments, including service planning and operations. This allows managers to identify individuals in other departments who will succeed as schedulers. OCTA uses a variety of sources to promote external job openings but found online transit industry websites to be the most effective for generating qualified applicants. These sources include the Transit Talent industry website, the APTAâs job board, Mass Transit Magazineâs job board, and LinkedIn. Selecting Transit Schedulers OCTA uses a standardized hiring process to aid in the selection of qualified candidates. This typically involves a panel interview of three people (a Human Resources representative, Experience or Skill Not Listed Minimum Qualification Preferred Qualification Years of Experience Asked For Experience in transit scheduling Experience in transit Experience in transportation or related field Knowledge of a particular scheduling software (e.g., HASTUS) Microsoft Excel skills (or similar software) Microsoft Access skills (or similar software) Microsoft Word skills (or similar software) Organizational skills Public speaking skills Verbal communication skills Written communication skills Data analysis skills Local geographical knowledge (e.g., local streets and points of interest) Transit system knowledge (e.g., bus routes and service types) Table 16. Knowledge, skill, or ability requirements for entry-level schedulers at OCTA.
58 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce the hiring manager, and a peer scheduler), after which each candidate is scored, and the highest scoring and most qualified candidate is made an offer. OCTA reported that the most challenging part of the selection process is ensuring that the candidates are adequately qualified or have the aptitude and interest to grow into a sched- uler role. Focusing on questions about solving complicated issues and implementing strategic approaches is a key focus during the interview process. Training Transit Schedulers New scheduling hires at both the senior and entry level are trained primarily through one-on-one training from veteran scheduling staff. OCTA in recent years has undertaken a succession planning effort, documenting formal work processes so that roles and responsibili- ties for each person within the Scheduling Section Team are clearly defined. The purpose of this succession planning effort is to preserve institutional knowledge and make it easier to replace retiring scheduling staff. New hires are shown how to conduct passenger load studies and runtime analyses, including how to access data, analyze them, and prepare them for presentation to the scheduling section manager in advance of a service change. During this training period, new associate schedule analysts are assigned a portfolio of simple routes. This allows the new hires to learn the core job responsibilities, excluding runcutting or rostering, while also making it easier for senior staff to review their work. As the new hire completes the initial training, more responsibility in terms of tasks is given and more complex routes are added to the portfolio. OCTA recognizes the benefit of budgeting resources for training schedulers. Current transit schedulers receive HASTUS training once a year from the HASTUS software staff. Sending staff to the annual user conference is a great opportunity for mingling with peers from other transit agencies, and to see how other transit agencies solve scheduling problems. Other training for schedulers is available upon request, including some OCTA agency-wide training. Staying engaged with technology is key to working efficiently. OCTA also reported that scheduling staff are supportive of each other and regularly share knowledge and best practices with each other. Retaining Transit Schedulers OCTA has not had issues retaining transit schedulers, though maintaining competitive wages is a challenge. Managing Transit Scheduler Performance Senior scheduling staff closely monitor scheduler performance, primarily through the on-time performance reports. While schedulers are not penalized for their routesâ poor OTP, it does give staff a sense for which routes need more attention. Senior scheduling staff also review customer and operator complaints and compliments to better understand the quality of each schedulerâs work. OCTA reported that because transit schedulers are responsible for their own individual portfolio of routes, it makes it much easier to evaluate their performance. Summary The schedule change process for OCTA takes approximately 3 months. The primary goal is to maintain existing levels of service. OCTA uses on-board ride check data, AVL data, APC data, and internal dashboard data to guide the runtime analysis and adjust segment timing to improve OTP.
Case Examples 59 OCTA takes a phased approach to the responsibilities for each level of scheduler. Each scheduler is responsible for a portfolio of routes, with senior schedulers responsible for more complex routes and less experienced schedulers responsible for less complex services. This allows for cross training and internal oversight to be conducted efficiently. Challenges â¢ Recruiting qualified candidates. OCTA has difficulty in attracting qualified candidates who have had experience working in transit scheduling, especially in positions with no relocation costs covered. â¢ Identifying candidates for entry-level positions who will succeed as schedulers. Since transit scheduling is a relatively niche profession, it has been a challenge for OCTA to identify candidates for entry-level positions who it is confident will enjoy the work and succeed as schedulers. â¢ Maintaining competitive wages. Establishing and maintaining competitive wages for current schedulers has been a challenge. Notable Practices â¢ Investing in the training of associate schedule analysts. By investing early in the training of an associate schedule analyst, OCTA creates a viable applicant pool for future schedule analysts and senior schedule analysts. Lessons Learned â¢ Covering the relocation costs of experienced candidates. Since it is sometimes necessary to look outside Orange County to recruit qualified schedulers with previous experience in the profession, OCTA stated that it might be beneficial if it was able to pay for the relocation expenses of candidates. This might make it easier to convince qualified candidates to accept more senior scheduler positions. Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) operates local, express, flexible, and on-call bus service to the greater Des Moines region. As the largest transit agency in the state of Iowa, it provides service to 19 member governments in the metro region, a service area of over 160 square miles and approximately 375,000 people. DART operates 16 local routes, seven express routes, three flexible routes, five on-call services, and two free shuttles in the downtown area (DART 2018). DART is also responsible for paratransit service within its service area and supplemental school tripper service for the Des Moines Public Schools. All service is directly operated by DART. The DART fleet consists of 113 buses, approximately 23 demand-response shuttles, and 90 vanpools in operation. The agency provides about 4.8 million annual passenger trips, and logs about 5.4 million annual revenue miles. Table 17 summarizes the annual ridership by mode. Mode Unlinked Passenger Trips Bus 4,438,186 Demand response 118,375 Demand response â taxi 10,870 Vanpool 208,337 Total 4,774,768 Source: FTA 2018d. Table 17. DART annual ridership by mode.
60 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce DART was chosen as a case example because of its comprehensive process for analyzing scheduling data and initiating schedule changes. In addition, DART has a unique experience engaging a third-party scheduling firm to implement major schedule changes. Scheduling Process Overview The DART scheduling team is located within the Planning and Service Development Department. The scheduling team consists of a scheduling supervisor, who is responsible for the majority of the scheduling work, and a planning assistant. (See Figure 13 for the DART orga- nizational chart.) Job descriptions for these positions are included in Appendix J. The scheduling staff also receive support from a transit planner, as well as the manager of Planning and Service Development. Routine schedule development, analysis, and evaluation are all performed in-house. For large service change initiatives, a third-party contractor is used to support the work of the scheduling staff, occasionally including the hiring of part-time temporary help. DART conducts three service changes annually, two of which are primarily related to supplemental school tripper service development. The scheduling staff adhere to a detailed service change schedule, outlined in an Excel spreadsheet that includes deadline dates, action items, and responsible staff members. Schedule development begins 7 months prior to a service change and includes actions items for staff outside of Planning and Service Development, includ- ing within the Marketing, Human Resources, and Information Technology departments, as well as action items for labor union representatives. Scheduling staff reported that this document is frequently referenced, closely followed, and an integral part of ensuring clear communication across departments. At the beginning of the scheduling process, the manager of Planning and Service Development, scheduling supervisor, and transit planner meet to go over relevant scheduling data to decide which service changes are necessary and feasible within the available resources. Next, the sched- uling team meets with the chief operations officer and other operations staff to confirm the service changes and coordinate on any operational issues that may be affecting route schedules. Finally, the proposed service and schedule changes are presented to the appropriate union representatives, who have the opportunity to submit feedback and request changes. Once the service and schedule changes have been formally approved, the scheduling super- visor then goes through the process of incorporating the changes into the schedule, blocking, runcutting, and rostering. Use of Data in Schedule Creation DART uses a data management software, TransTrack, that pulls in data from various sources and synthesizes them into specialized reports based on the end userâs need. Data used in the scheduling process includes: â¢ APC. â¢ AVL. â¢ Customer feedback. â¢ Customer surveys. â¢ Vehicle operator feedback. The scheduling supervisor continually reviews relevant data sources, including APC and AVL data, to identify which routes may need an update to their schedule. Operator input is then solicited via a Run Review meeting and during planning staff office hours, which are at the bus garage on select days. The validity of operator feedback is then verified by the planning staff,
Figure 13. DART organizational chart as of November 2017.
62 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce either in the field or on the computer. Table 18 provides an overview of how data are used throughout the scheduling process. Creating Schedules with a Scheduling Firm DART employs a third-party contractor to assist with the planning and scheduling of major service changes. The DART contractor has been tasked with holistically analyzing runtimes for every local bus route; making a set of recommendations to improve the system; and blocking, runcutting, and rostering each newly updated route. DART has previously worked with this consultant on other service changes and for general planning support. DART reported that communication and versioning challenges exist when working with a third-party scheduling contractor. The process for making service changes and creating consensus around these changes is complex; introducing another party into scheduling decisions can add another layer of complexity. Good communication plays an integral role when working with outside contractors on scheduling. Version control of important documents is another challenge, as is maintaining clear expectations for deadlines and progress reporting. Nonetheless, DART emphasized that utilizing consultant help was crucial when making large service changes, as its in-house staffing levels are not sufficient to handle the workload associated with those changes. Recruiting Transit Schedulers DART stated a preference for hiring transit schedulers internally, due to the unique background experience and skill set required for the job. The transit agency uses two recruiting methods in the hiring process: an internal job board or newsletter and actively recruiting from among its bus operators or administrative staff. DART listed the following internal departments as potential places where qualified candidates might come from: Operations Management, Short- Range Planning, and Bus Operations. At a minimum, the DART transit scheduling candidates need to have experience working with Microsoft Excel, have an aptitude for working with numbers and data, be organized, have attention to detail, and have good communication skills. Ideally, a candidate would also have some experi- ence working in transit planning or transit scheduling, have knowledge of specialized scheduling software, and have a familiarity with the local system. It is important to DART for schedulers to be comfortable working with numbers and spreadsheets. Having patience and the ability to communicate with different agency departments are also important to success. Table 19 outlines the knowledge, skill, or ability requirements for entry-level schedulers at DART. Data Source Running Times and Layovers Headways Route Patterns or Alignments Blocking and Deadheads Vehicle Assignments Route Study or Service Improvement APC AVL Customer feedback Customer surveys Vehicle operator feedback Table 18. When data are used in DARTâs scheduling process.
Case Examples 63 DART reported that finding an ideal candidate, one with a transit scheduling background and knowledge of scheduling software, is rare. Transit scheduling is a relatively niche profession requiring specialized knowledge of how transit systems operate. Especially in medium-sized markets like Des Moines with a limited number of transit agencies in the state, finding qualified candidates can be a significant challenge. As a result, DART suggested that, when recruiting qualified transit schedulers, it is necessary to either âpoach them or grow them.â In other words, the best method is to either hire qualified candidates from transit agencies in other markets, or to promote from within the agency by grooming novice schedulers and teaching them the skills they need on the job. DART stated a preference for hiring internally by identifying bus operators or planning staff who show an interest in scheduling work. Selecting Transit Schedulers Finding the right person for the job is important to DART and is an ongoing process. DART emphasized that hiring from within the ranks of current planning or transit operations staff allows for the 2- to 3-month probationary period. During this probationary period, the scheduling candidate is trained by existing staff and not given a full workload. This process is beneficial for all parties involved: the candidates have the opportunity to explore their interest in scheduling and decide whether it is something they enjoy, while the agency has the opportunity to evaluate the candidatesâ effectiveness and decide whether it is a good fit. Training Transit Schedulers The initial scheduler training consists of one-on-one training with existing staff, primarily with the Scheduling Supervisor. The new hire is taught the basics of transit scheduling, how to Experience or Skill Not Listed Minimum Qualification Preferred Qualification Years of Experience Asked for Experience in transit scheduling 1 Experience in transit 1 Experience in transportation or related field 1 Knowledge of a particular scheduling software (e.g., HASTUS or Trapeze) 1 Microsoft Excel skills (or similar software) 3 Microsoft Access skills (or similar software) Microsoft Word skills (or similar software) Organizational skills 2 Public speaking skills Verbal communication skills 1 Written communication skills 1 Data analysis skills 2 Local geographical knowledge (e.g., local streets and points of interest) 1 Transit system knowledge (e.g., bus routes and service types) 1 Table 19. Knowledge, skill, or ability requirements for entry-level schedulers at DART.
64 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce analyze routes for runtime issues, and the process for making service changes at DART. There is no formal training curriculum, but TCRP Report 30 and TCRP Report 135 are used as the primary reference documents for new schedulers. Topics covered include runtimes, trip building, blocking, runcutting, rostering, and union work rules. Training is also provided on the specialized software used at DART, including Trapeze and TransTrack. DART reported that although the typical training period may last 2 to 3 months, ideally DART would prefer to have a 4- to 6-month training period before the new scheduler is expected to take on a full workload. For DARTâs current transit schedulers, a number of training opportunities are provided to help develop skills and provide professional development opportunities. TransTrack staff provide on-site training to demonstrate how the software can be used to create reports and analyze opera- tional data. The Scheduling Supervisor attends the annual Trapeze software user conference. Retaining Transit Schedulers A 2- to 3-month probationary period is employed by DART to train new schedulers and expose them to scheduling. This gives the applicant time to understand what the position entails, and allows DART to determine if the new hire is a good fit. DART emphasized that it is important to create an environment where the work is rewarding and everyone feels like a part of a team. Creating a team environment in which the scheduling staff can interact with other departments is necessary and makes the scheduling process more collaborative. This leads to better work products and is beneficial to the entire transit agency, as scheduling can affect many other departments. Breaking down barriers between departments has also made everyone more accountable for their work, and creates a more transparent and healthy work environment. Managing Transit Scheduler Performance Monitoring and managing transit scheduler performance is an important part of the 2- to 3-month probationary period for new schedulers. The new scheduler works closely with senior staff, allowing the senior staff to keep a close eye on the new hireâs work products. Mistakes and errors are quickly pointed out, and additional training is provided as needed. DART noted that a new scheduler hasnât been hired for over 10 years, but that this past practice has proven effective. Senior scheduling staff often seek feedback from schedule users (i.e., bus operators and oper- ations management) on how the scheduling work affects the operational side of the agency. DART stated it is best to involve the scheduler in finding solutions to improving his or her performance. Summary DART is a medium-sized transit agency that employs two specialized scheduling staff and a third-party contract for major schedule updates. A detailed, data-driven approach is used as the backbone for creating and maintaining schedules at DART. This process accesses a variety of different data sources, including APC and AVL data, and customer and operator feedback. In terms of selecting, training, and retaining transit schedulers, DART utilizes a probationary period for new schedulers to ensure they understand clearly what the job entails. New recruits
Case Examples 65 are trained through direct oversight from senior schedulers, and all schedulers are encouraged to participate in external training courses and conferences as well. DART also encourages open communication between the scheduling department and other departments throughout the agency to create a transparent and healthy work environment, which aids in retaining schedulers. Challenges â¢ Recruiting qualified candidates. Finding qualified candidates with transit scheduling experience in a medium-sized market such as Des Moines can be difficult. â¢ Creating a healthy work environment. The specialized nature of the work can make transit schedulers feel isolated from their peers. â¢ Communicating with a third-party contractor. Maintaining constant communication and a commitment to adhere to a transparent scheduling process can be difficult when working with schedulers outside the agencyâs team. Notable Practices â¢ Implementing a probationary period. Using a probationary period to gauge the performance and suitability of new schedulers helps new recruits become acquainted with the nature of the work and the scheduling team understand the capabilities of the new recruit. Lessons Learned â¢ Identify recruits with an aptitude for scheduling. Scheduler candidates need to have an apti- tude for scheduling, as well as a clear understanding of what the job entails, if they are going to succeed. â¢ Working with a third-party contractor entails high levels of communication and direction. When working with a third-party contractor, be sure to communicate exactly what changes are expected by the agency, and maintain a clear deadline schedule. â¢ Establish a more formal process for training recruits. For new recruits, the training should consist of a mix of working with the current scheduler on the rules unique to the agency and sending the trainee to scheduling classes offered by National Transit Institute or CUTA. Denver Regional Transportation District Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) provides public transit service to the greater Denver area. The service area includes over 2.9 million people and covers 2,342 square miles (FTA 2018a). A 15-member board composed of publicly elected officials governs the transit agency. RTDâs mission statement is, âTo meet our constituentsâ present and future public transit needs by offering safe, clean, reliable, courteous, accessible and cost-effective service throughout the districtâ (Regional Transportation District 2018a). RTD runs four different modes, including commuter rail, light rail, bus, and demand response. This case example will review scheduling practices for the three fixed-route modes. According to RTDâs website, the transit agency runs 11 different services (Regional Transportation District 2018a). The agency also provides a number of special services devoted to transporting customers to sports venues of two professional sports teams and University of Colorado sports events. Senior shopper services and vanpool are also provided. Table 20 gives a brief overview of RTDâs transit services. The project team selected RTD for a case example because of its unique practices regarding scheduling personnel and recruitment. This includes the agencyâs utilization of scheduling staff as both service schedulers and service planners and the use of an internship program.
66 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce RTDâs case example also highlights working with service providers who create a portion of the schedules. Scheduling Process Overview RTD creates schedules in-house for its bus, light rail, and commuter rail services. The Service Development Division is responsible for developing the trip generation, blocking, and runcutting for these three services. The contracted service providers for bus and commuter rail are responsible for rostering their respective schedules. RTD is responsible for light rail service rostering. Organizational Structure RTDâs chief operating officer oversees the Service Development Division. According to RTDâs website, the division is responsible for âservice planning, scheduling, runcutting, service monitoring, service performance evaluation, and implementation coordination of all RTD ser- vicesâ (Regional Transportation District n.d.). Service Developmentâs Planning and Scheduling Department currently has 11 full-time service planners who are also in charge of scheduling. The department also has one intern. At RTD, planner/scheduler positions are not union positions, so the recruiting and hiring of new schedulers is not restricted by agreements in the collective bargaining agreement. There are four job titles for scheduling within the Service Development Division: service planner/scheduler I, II, and III, and senior service planner/scheduler. The start- ing salary for an entry-level scheduler is $47,939 and the maximum salary for a senior scheduler position is $100,225. RTD assigns specific groups of scheduling work to individual planner/schedulers. RTD divides planner/schedulers into four different groups, three by geographic area and one by mode; these include the North, West, and East teams and the Rail team. Each team or area is responsible for developing service plans corresponding to its particular service needs. Each area is composed of an area lead and two staff at the planner/scheduler IâII level. RTD has had success breaking up work assignments like this and stated that it is an extremely effective method to maintain quality control. Figure 14 shows the four different team areas for scheduling and planning. In addition, the Service Development Division also houses a service development support team. This team is essential for preparing data and assisting with any technical support issues. The data (generally from APCs, the CAD/AVL system, and input from operators and riders) are delivered to the planning staff to work on schedule changes and improvements. The organizational chart in Figure 15 shows all positions within the Service Development Division. Service Change Procedures RTD conducts three service changes annuallyâone in January, one in May, and one in September. At 6 weeks prior to implementation of a new schedule, the Service Development Division meets with union leaders to discuss any issues, concerns, or suggestions. As part of Mode Peak Vehicles Operating Expenses Unlinked Passenger Trips Vehicle Revenue MilesDO PT Commuter rail 18 $46,714,223 4,317,405 1,663,629 Demand response 404 $45,378,697 1,185,958 10,979,096 Light rail 140 $104,625,498 24,585,082 11,355,973 Bus 485 388 $324,231,528 73,252,352 36,759,649 Note: DO = directly operated; PT = purchased transportation. Source: FTA 2018a. Table 20. RTD annual service characteristics.
Case Examples 67 the collective bargaining agreement, union leaders are allowed five schedule requests per schedule change. Union requests for schedule adjustments do not affect the approaching schedule change but instead are taken into consideration by the staff for the following schedule change. Two weeks prior to this meeting, the Service Development Division conducts a pre-run meeting as part of the scheduling process to finalize schedule blocking. According to RTDâs internal timeline, all schedules must be finalized for the runcutting process by the 6-week mark prior to the schedule change date. Concurrently, RTD Service Development is constantly informing the RTD board of directors throughout the year on schedule changes. For each schedule change, RTD must make an initial proposal to the board of directors about 4 months before the schedule change date. RTDâs Service Development Division is unique in that the schedulers/planners, having the responsibility of schedulers and short-range planners, are intimately familiar with the data collected for schedule changes. This is a year-round process and includes quantitative and quali- tative forms of data. The section âUse of Data in Schedule Creationâ provides a more in-depth discussion on the forms of data collection and their uses. Details of Creating Schedules with a Service Provider (or Scheduling Firm) RTD contracts service for commuter rail and some bus services. Part of the reason for this is due to the historical political context of the region and the state. In Colorado law, RTD was previously required to have a certain percentage of vehicular service provided by âqualified private businesses pursuant to competitively negotiated contractsâ (see Colorado Revised Statutes 32-9-119.5 ). This percentage varied from 35% to 50%. The statute was revised in 2013; the required minimum percentage was changed to a maximum percentage cap (currently 58%) on how much service can be provided by a private operator. RTD performs all scheduling work across all fixed-route modes with the exception of schedule rostering for contracted bus and commuter rail services. The contracted bus service provider is only responsible for rostering for each service change, and rosters are reviewed by RTD. The contracted bus service provider is not responsible for any other aspects of schedule development â¢Responsible for schedules for commuter and light rail lines. â¢Responsible for bus schedules in the western part of the service area. â¢Responsible for bus schedules in the eastern and southern parts of the service area. â¢Responsible for bus schedules in the northern part of the service area. North East Rail West Figure 14. Service development planning and scheduling team areas at RTD.
Figure 15. RTD Service Development Division organizational chart.
Case Examples 69 and does not have any input in the process. The contracted commuter rail service provider is similarly responsible for the rostering portion. However, in the contracted concessionaireâs agreement between RTD and the commuter rail service provider, the service provider must review and agree to all schedule changes proposed by RTD before implementation. Rostering changes must also be reviewed and agreed to by both parties. RTD states that the challenge with having service providers responsible for rostering is whether the provider understands RTDâs overall mission. This is especially important on the commuter rail service, since the service provider must agree to all service schedule changes. Overall, the delegation of rostering to the service providers for both contracted bus and com- muter rail services creates a more efficient process, because the service providers are responsible for their respective operators. This scheduling process has been in effect for more than 10 years and is likely to continue into the next service agreement. Use of Data in Schedule Creation RTD utilizes a combination of qualitative and quantitative data in creating and adjusting schedules. RTD uses data from APCs, the CAD/AVL system, and customer and bus operator feedback as well as information from analysis software such as Ridecheck Plus and TRITAPT. This section focuses on how RTD incorporates these data inputs into its scheduling process. RTD Service Development staff start analyzing data for schedule adjustments 6 months out from the schedule change implementation date. RTD uses data to adjust running times, layovers, headways, route alignments, blocking and deadheads, and vehicle assignments, and to study or improve service. Table 21 shows planning purposes by type of data collected. RTD planner/schedulers work closely with the staff in Service Development Support to obtain clean data from the various operations systems. Planner/schedulers then analyze the data using Ridecheck Plus, focusing on on-time performance and other quantitative metrics such as passengers per hour, passengers per trip, and subsidy per passenger (Regional Transportation District 2018b). These performance measures are important for tracking adherence to RTDâs service standards policy. In addition to tracking and improving service, Service Development staff use performance measure data to prepare monthly RTD Board reports and updates. Qualitative data are also important for schedule creation. Service Developmentâs dual role managing scheduling and short-range planning means that staff are working throughout the year to gather feedback on routes and services from operators and the general public. Service Development regularly collects input from the general public for new service proposals and shares that input with the RTD Board. Day-to-day customer comments are received Data Source Running Times and Layovers Headways Route Patterns or Alignments Blocking and Deadheads Vehicle Assignments Route Study or Service Improvement APC AVL Customer feedback Vehicle operator feedback Ridecheck Plus, TRITAPT Table 21. Planning purposes by data collection type at RTD.
70 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce by RTDâs customer care division, input into Trapeze software, and passed along to Service Development. In RTDâs Service Planning and Scheduling Department, each of the four teams (i.e., West, North, East, and Rail) use the combination of quantitative and qualitative data to inform schedule-making decisions. As of 2018, RTD uses Trapeze FX for schedule creation, but will transition to another software platform in 2019. Planner/schedulers are responsible for schedule changes within their respective team area; however, recommendations from other staff, such as management, may also influence team activities. The RTD Board must ultimately approve all schedule change recommendations. Data Challenges Having many different forms of data is a change from the way RTD used to gather schedul- ing data. Data were previously gathered using on-board data collection methods but are now collected by APCs and the CAD/AVL system. These systems and software suites have enabled Service Development to review and analyze large sets of data that are more accurate and more frequent. This has allowed RTD to conduct a greater number of studies and projects per schedule cycle. While the amount of data allows for more analysis, RTD faces a different challenge. Service Development staff do not currently have the resources and time to spend on fully analyzing all the data points collected, partly because Service Development staff handle many inquiries and special requests from municipalities, counties, and other stakeholders in the service area. In addition to preparing routine schedule changes, RTD has to prioritize data analysis projects to efficiently manage its workload. Another challenge affecting Service Developmentâs workload is related to the industry-wide shortage of bus operators. RTD currently faces a bus operator shortage, which has forced the agency to reduce service. Service Development is responsible for recommending which services should be reduced or eliminated. Data availability is critical for making informed decisions and presenting justifications to the RTD Board and the public. With many new software suites available for data analysis and schedule creation, hiring the right candidates becomes more important. Service Development staff must be adept at using software and comfortable working with data. The next sections detail RTDâs process for recruiting and selecting its planner/schedulers. Recruiting Transit Planner/Schedulers RTD uses a variety of recruitment methods to advertise open planner/scheduler positions. This includes printed ads in local newspapers, transit industry periodicals, digital internal job boards or newsletters, online ads in news or media sites, online job boards (such as Indeed and Monster), and postings on the agency job openings web page. RTD finds recruiting methods other than newspaper ads and postings on its website extremely effective. Appendix K provides an example of an RTD job posting for a rail service planner/scheduler I position and a senior service planner/scheduler position. The agency hires a mix of both internal and external candidates. Internal hires typically come from the operations management or maintenance management department. External hires are typically from transit planning and scheduling departments at other transit agencies or recent graduate level and undergraduate level students. Common educational backgrounds for new hires include urban planning and geography. RTD requires an undergraduate degree for the
Case Examples 71 planner/scheduler position. Table 22 outlines the knowledge, skill, or ability requirements for entry-level planner/schedulers at RTD. RTDâs internship program is an important recruiting tool that has been in use since the 1980s. Aimed at undergraduate college students, the internship position is designed to give the participant a firsthand experience in transit scheduling, working with service data, and different software suites. Some interns even get the opportunity to create a schedule. The program has been success- ful in attracting new talent as permanent employees. Nearly half of the planner/scheduler staff and management started as interns within the program. For interested internal agency staff, Service Development promotes job-shadowing opportu- nities. Job-shadowing provides a firsthand look at the day-to-day work of the division and offers an opportunity for other department staff to get a better understanding of the work performed at the division. Selecting Transit Planner/Schedulers RTD uses a number of methods to select transit planner/schedulers, including the use of a standardized test and a structured interview. In RTDâs survey response, RTD ranked reviewing performance during an internship, conducting an in-person interview, and administering the standardized test as highly effective for selecting good employees. RTD found that phone or web-conference interviews were somewhat effective, and other methods (e.g., reviewing the job application, calling references, and viewing transcripts) were neither effective nor ineffective. RTDâs standardized test measures a candidateâs knowledge of transit terms and operations, ability to create transit schedules, and written communication skills. The test was developed Experience or Skill Not Listed Minimum Qualification Preferred Qualification Years of Experience Asked for Experience in transit scheduling Experience in transit 1 Experience in transportation or related field Knowledge of a particular scheduling software (e.g., HASTUS or Trapeze) Microsoft Excel skills (or similar software) Microsoft Access skills (or similar software) Microsoft Word skills (or similar software) Organizational skills Public speaking skills Verbal communication skills Written communication skills Data analysis skills Local geographical knowledge (e.g., local streets and points of interest) Transit system knowledge (e.g., bus routes and service types) Table 22. Knowledge, skill, or ability requirements for entry-level planner/schedulers at RTD.
72 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce in-house by the Service Development staff. RTD states that results from this test are a good measure of aptitude for the planner/scheduler position. The structured interviewâs scoring structure is based on an agency-wide human resources initiative to ensure equity in hiring across all departments and divisions. A consistent scoring structure ensures that all candidates are evaluated fairly and on equal terms. Since RTD is a large system with several fixed-route modes and an involved scheduling pro- cess, it is important to select candidates who can work with scheduling software tools and solve analytical problems to improve schedules. RTDâs job description for service planner/scheduler I lists three job-specific competencies: action orientation, conceptual thinking, and judgment (Regional Transportation District 2018c). The agencyâs selection tools help ensure that the right candidates fill the planner/scheduler positions and are able to effectively carry on the day-to-day work of the Service Development Division. Training Transit Planner/Schedulers RTD trains newly hired transit planner/schedulers by using a series of scheduling modules created in-house specifically for the type of scheduling work performed by RTD. According to RTD, the modules are an effective way to train and immerse new hires into RTDâs specific scheduling processes. This type of training is coupled with one-on-one training led by senior scheduling staff and sometimes off-site classroom style training. In addition to the self-directed modules, RTD staff regularly use TCRP Report 30 and TCRP Report 135 as reference guides for training planner/schedulers. According to RTD, new-hire training typically lasts from 4 to 6 months. The topics reviewed during the first year of training include the following: â¢ Scheduling terminology and vocabulary. â¢ Service data collection and analysis. â¢ Scheduling software basics. â¢ Setting running times. â¢ Trip building. â¢ Setting headways. â¢ Blocking. â¢ Setting deadhead times. â¢ Garage assignment. â¢ Operator or union work rules. â¢ Runcutting. â¢ Schedule optimization. â¢ Scheduling software intermediate skills. â¢ Transit system design (routes and services). RTD maintains ongoing training and development practices for current transit planner/ schedulers. According to RTD, it takes a transit planner/scheduler an average of 2 years to become fully competent at developing schedules. RTD utilizes standardized training developed by senior scheduling staff. These training modules focus on intermediate and advanced scheduling software skills. As part of ongoing training, senior scheduling staff often share tips and tricks at the beginning of the Service Development staffâs biweekly meetings. This practice helps pass along in-house knowledge and build an informal pool of resources. Occasionally, RTD has sent planner/schedulers to scheduling and runcutting courses offered by CUTA. In general, RTD states that outside courses are becoming less accessible and less frequently offered.
Case Examples 73 Retaining Transit Planner/Schedulers Retention of planner/schedulers is generally not a challenge at RTD. The more pressing issue is the effect of retention at the agency as a whole. The nationwide increase in transit agency staff nearing retirement has been documented in several publications. (For example, TCRP Report 77: Managing Transitâs Workforce in the New Millennium [McGlothin Davis, Inc. 2002] and TCRP Report 103: Public Transportation Operating Agencies as Employers of Choice [Watson Wyatt Worldwide and Focus Group Corporation 2004] offer several insights, albeit dated, on the declining transit workforce.) RTD is no exception to this trend. In 2015, the agency released a report titled âRTD Best Practiceâ that noted agency practices in transition planning to ensure the knowledge, experience, and strategies of the baby boomer generation nearing retirement are successfully passed on to remaining RTD employees. One goal of the report was to encourage collaboration across departments and gain insights on how to improve problem-solving strategies (Regional Transportation District 2015). RTDâs Service Development Division has competitive pay and benefits when compared with other transit agencies, which helps keep retention rates high. RTD noted that transit planner/schedulers typically stay in the role for 25 years, indicating a low level of turnover. However, RTD does find filling more senior-level positions to be a challenge. These positions require a combination of experience in operations planning and in scheduling, which can be challenging to recruit for. Managing Transit Planner/Scheduler Performance As previously discussed, each planner/scheduler is part of a team with a specific set of work to perform based on geography or mode (rail). Review of individual planner/scheduler work and performance is the responsibility of the team lead within each group. Also, completed schedules are reviewed for quality assurance by both the team supervisor and the division manager to evaluate cost, resource impacts, and customer (operator and rider) suitability. On-time perfor- mance is also regularly evaluated using APC data. RTD states that few instances have occurred where planner/scheduler performance has been unsatisfactory. However, if poor performance occurs, it is usually alleviated with further training and guidance from senior staff and manage- ment. Strong performance is rewarded with non-financial recognition. Summary RTDâs Service Development Division is responsible for creating schedules for its bus, light rail, and commuter rail services. Service Development performs the trip generation, blocking, and runcutting for these three services. Service Development performs rostering for its directly operated services, and the contracted service providers for commuter rail and some bus services are responsible for their own rostering. RTDâs schedulers are also its short-range planners, which helps provide a unique and in-depth perspective when developing service and schedule changes. Because of the overlapping job functions, planner/schedulers are intimately familiar with both quantitative and qualitative data sources used to develop service plans and schedules. Service Development staff are part of teams that are responsible for specific geographic areas or services. This separation of work by geographic area has been a successful method for producing high-quality schedules. The increased use of data analysis and software tools has increased the need for planner/ schedulers who are more familiar with handling data and using software for analysis. These needs play an important role when filling planner/scheduler positions. RTDâs extensive self-training
74 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce modules help new hires become acquainted with the scheduling software and develop skills required to create and maintain transit schedules. Challenges â¢ The baby boomer generation entering retirement age is affecting the transit industry, including RTD. A strong regional job market also affects hiring across the agency. With limitations on bus operators available, RTD has had to reduce service in some areas. In addition to filling bus operator positions, some scheduling staff positions have been challenging to fill as well. For example, job openings for senior level planner/schedulers have been difficult to fill because of the lack of experienced candidates in both scheduling and planning. â¢ RTD obtains data from a number of sources such as APCs and the CAD/AVL system, enabling Service Development to develop more service change projects and track more detailed perfor- mance measures. However, RTD is not able to fully utilize all of the data available due to a lack of staff time and resources. How to make the most efficient use of the available data using existing resources remains a significant challenge. Notable Practices â¢ RTDâs division of scheduling work into area teams has been effective. Each area team focuses on a specific geographic area or mode (rail) for service scheduling and planning. This practice has helped maintain schedule quality control. â¢ RTDâs internship program has been a highly effective form of hiring permanent employees. Interns work with planner/schedulers on all aspects of scheduling and even have opportunities to create transit schedules. Lessons Learned â¢ RTD-wide preparation for the baby boomer generation to retire has led to a focus on succession planning to ensure that knowledge is kept in-house for new generations of employees entering the workforce. â¢ A standardized test and standardized in-person interview have been effective for hiring transit planner/schedulers. With more data available and increased software capabilities, it is important to hire schedulers with the skills to succeed. Summary of Case Examples The five case examples each provided different perspectives and approaches to managing the transit scheduling workforce. Table 23 provides a summary of the key characteristics, challenges, notable practices, and lessons learned for each case example.
Case Examples 75 Transit Agency Challenges Notable Practices Lessons Learned LANTA â¢ Finding and selecting qualified scheduler candidates. â¢ Providing ongoing training to schedulers. â¢ Determining root causes of scheduler performance problems. â¢ Screening and analyzing data properly. â¢ All staff contribute to the development of service plans and schedules. â¢ Schedulers are often assigned specific groups of scheduling work. â¢ Persons interested in applying to be a scheduler receive the job description and TCRP Report 30 and TCRP Report 135. â¢ Schedulers need 5 years of experience before reaching full competency. â¢ People who like solving puzzles may be a good fit for the scheduler position. â¢ Managing individual scheduler performance can benefit the entire transit system. SEPTA â¢ Finding and selecting the best candidates. â¢ Having enough time for training. â¢ Having access to all desired data (e.g., from the CAD/AVL system). â¢ SEPTA built a custom-made Excel workbook that analyzes APC data for use by schedule makers. â¢ Adjustments to improve recruitment and selection processes are ongoing. â¢ Annual performance reviews provide schedulers with a formal evaluation of their performance and are tied to â¢ Automating data analysis may reduce scheduler comprehension of the data and their nuances. â¢ Changes to recruitment processes must be valid and follow the appropriate internal protocols. yearly merit increases. â¢ SEPTA has three scheduling positions, providing upward mobility for schedulers. OCTA â¢ Recruiting and selecting qualified candidates who will succeed as schedulers. â¢ Maintaining competitive wages. â¢ OCTA invests in training for associate schedule analysts to build an applicant pool for future schedule analysts. â¢ Offering to pay for relocation expenses of qualified candidates could help with hiring more senior scheduler positions. DART â¢ Recruiting qualified candidates. â¢ Creating a healthy work environment where schedulers feel connected to their peers. â¢ Communicating and maintaining transparency with the scheduling firm and staff. â¢ DART uses a probationary period to gauge suitability and performance of new schedulers. â¢ Recruits with an aptitude for scheduling and a clear understanding of the job are more likely to succeed. â¢ Working with a scheduling firm requires precise communication of requirements and deadlines. â¢ Training is best when it combines one-on-one training with an experienced DART scheduler and external scheduling classes. RTD â¢ Maintaining effective scheduling practices while handling bus operator shortages and difficulties filling some scheduling positions. â¢ Having enough time to fully utilize all available data. â¢ RTD divides scheduling work into teams responsible for certain areas as a tool for quality assurance. â¢ RTDâs internship program has helped expose potential full-time candidates to scheduling and has given RTD a tool by which to gauge a personâs skills. â¢ Succession planning is important to reduce loss of current experienced employeesâ knowledge. â¢ A standardized test and structured interview that reflect the nature of the work help RTD hire good schedulers. Table 23. Summary of case examples: Challenges, notable practices, and lessons learned.