National Academies Press: OpenBook

Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce (2019)

Chapter: Chapter 5 - Conclusions and Further Research

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Conclusions and Further Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25457.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Conclusions and Further Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25457.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Conclusions and Further Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25457.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Conclusions and Further Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25457.
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76 The results of the literature review, survey, and case examples provide useful information about managing the transit scheduling workforce and about scheduling practices that affect workforce management. This concluding chapter provides a summary of the main findings and suggests some topics for future research. Main Findings • Data Use in Scheduling – Transit agencies use many different types of both qualitative and quantitative data during the scheduling process. – Customer and operator feedback are the most commonly used sources of data, regardless of transit agency size or type. – CAD/AVL and APC data are commonly used—especially by larger agencies—for estab- lishing running times and headways. – Transit schedulers are often given direct responsibility for analyzing data during schedule creation and can either make recommendations for changes or enact changes themselves. – All transit agencies, except two, use some form of scheduling software to create schedules, and many agencies augment their scheduling software with additional software to perform analyses or run reports. • Transit Scheduler Staffing and Department Organization – Most scheduling departments reside within the third or fourth management level of a transit agency and are a part of either the planning or operations divisions of an agency’s organizational chart. – Most transit schedulers are full-time employees, and transit agencies with more vehicles generally had more schedulers. The average number of peak vehicles per scheduler FTEs was 73.6, but there was variation across agency types. For example, large urban agencies averaged 141 vehicles per FTE and rural or tribal agencies averaged 8.3 vehicles per FTE. (It is likely that smaller agencies with lower vehicle counts may have one person perform- ing scheduling, making the peak vehicle to FTE ratio low. That one person may also be responsible for other duties in addition to scheduling.) See Table 6 for the FTE values for all agency types. – Most transit agencies have multiple job classifications for schedulers, allowing some division of duties or a hierarchy that provides opportunities for promotion. – Wages varied by agency type. The median starting and maximum wages at small urban agencies were $31,200 and $50,297, respectively. The median starting and maximum wages at large urban agencies were $50,700 and $83,000, respectively. See Table 7 for the wage values for all agency types. C H A P T E R 5 Conclusions and Further Research

Conclusions and Further Research 77 – Forty-two percent of transit agencies have dual-role positions in which an employee is both a planner and a scheduler. – Schedulers receive feedback about transit schedules from a variety of sources—mostly from within the transit agency—and are often required to communicate directly with transit agency staff and, to a lesser extent, the public. Because of the technical complexity and level of problem-solving and analysis skills required of transit schedulers, transit agencies agreed that it was often difficult to recruit, select, train, retain, and manage the performance of transit schedulers. Several findings for each workforce management step are provided here. • Recruitment – Most transit agencies tend to hire internal candidates or a mix of internal and external candidates. – Internal candidates tend to come from operators or operations managers. – External candidates tend to come from other transit agencies or are recent undergraduate or graduate students. – Transit agencies rarely have strategies for encouraging people outside the agency to become schedulers; however, agencies have more strategies in place for encouraging agency employees to become schedulers—particularly operators and other operations staff. – Digital internal job boards or newsletters as well as transit agencies’ websites are the most commonly used and effective recruitment tool for reaching potential candidates; however, industry periodicals or websites are also frequently used and rated as effective by those who use them. – The most common educational requirement for new transit schedulers is a high school diploma or GED. An undergraduate degree is a commonly listed preferred qualification. – The most common skill requirements for new transit schedulers are Microsoft Excel skills, written and verbal communication, and Microsoft Word skills; however, knowledge of transit scheduling and scheduling software is often listed as a preferred qualification. • Selection – In-person interviews are frequently used by transit agencies when hiring new transit schedulers and are rated as very effective for selecting good candidates. Most agencies use a structured interview. – Performance during scheduling internships or apprenticeships is not used as often; however, it is rated by most agencies that have internships or apprenticeships as effective. – Standard tests are infrequently used (compared with other options) but generally seen as effective. Most tests measured general computer skills in addition to other candidate skills and characteristics. • Training – New transit schedulers are usually trained one-on-one and on-site by experienced sched- uling staff. – New-hire training usually lasts a month or more (often 4 to 6 months). – Two or more years may be required before a transit scheduler reaches full competency. – Although TCRP has published two reference manuals on fixed-route scheduling (TCRP Report 30 and TCRP Report 135), the manuals appear to be underutilized—many transit agencies do not use these manuals during new scheduler training or during ongoing training for current schedulers. Several agencies explained that they were unaware that these manuals were available. – Most transit agencies do not have a standardized or documented training program for new or current transit schedulers. – New-hire training usually focuses on scheduling vocabulary, transit system design, basic scheduling software skills, setting running times, and trip building.

78 Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce – Ongoing training for current schedulers usually focuses on transit system design, local geography, trip building, scheduling vocabulary, and intermediate scheduling software skills. – Few transit agencies are providing training specifically focused on data analysis. – The biggest challenges to training are that transit agencies lack the necessary time and resources. • Retention – Most transit agencies do not have specific strategies by which they attempt to retain transit schedulers. – The few agencies with retention strategies see regular wage increases, ongoing training, and continual improvements to the working environment as the most effective tools for improving retention. • Managing Performance – Transit schedulers’ performance is usually managed by tracking or documenting mistakes, seeking feedback from schedule users, and measuring scheduled costs, vehicles, or operator requirements. – The majority of transit agencies share scheduling work among all schedulers; however, several agencies assign specific work to individuals—seen as highly effective by practicing agencies. – Documenting performance issues and discussing corrective actions with employees are steps recommended by transit agencies to help ensure ongoing performance problems are dealt with effectively. • Third-Party Scheduling Operations – Most transit agencies create their schedules in-house instead of using third parties (i.e., a service provider or scheduling firm). – When used, third parties are most often used for runcutting and rostering. – Transit agencies always review created schedules—often by examining the schedule outputs themselves (e.g., rosters and runcuts) and by reviewing schedule performance metrics (e.g., peak vehicle requirements and revenue hours or miles). – Using a third party can be beneficial—especially when the service provider creates the schedules and therefore has direct control and responsibility of the schedule, reliability, staffing requirements, and costs. Recommendations for Future Research • Transit Scheduler Selection Methods The transit industry would likely benefit from improved tools and methods for selecting transit scheduler employees. Several agencies suggested that problem-solving skills may be an important predictor of scheduler performance. Others stated that data analysis and computer skills are important characteristics. Research could be done to better understand the transit scheduler selection methods currently in place and to develop new and improved selection tools that could be used by transit agencies throughout North America. • Evidence of Value of Teaching Scheduling Concepts Several transit agencies reported having a preference for teaching how to use scheduling software instead of teaching scheduling concepts and data analytics. This is likely due to the time pressure under which most scheduling departments operate—teaching how to use the software creates more immediate improvements in department productivity and ensures short-term department needs and deadlines are met. However, teaching the software without teaching concepts can lead to problematic scheduling outcomes or an inability to handle more complex scheduling tasks. Research could be done to study if teaching scheduling concepts early on in a transit scheduler’s career increases the scheduler’s performance and upward mobility.

Conclusions and Further Research 79 • Determining the Optimal Resources Needed for Scheduling Departments and Calculating Potential Return on Investment The number of transit schedulers and resources available to transit agency scheduling departments varies widely. Having too many schedulers is inefficient, but with too few schedulers, agencies may not have enough bandwidth to appropriately review schedule outputs, train and develop staff, and attempt multiple schedule scenarios to improve effi- ciency and potentially save operating and capital resources. Research could be done to help transit agencies understand the benefits of providing optimal levels of scheduling staff and resources. • Scheduling and Scheduling Procurement Toolkits or Guides for Rural and Small Agencies Because rural and small agencies often have no more than one full-time scheduler, these agencies may benefit from off-the-shelf resources to help them review, create, or improve their transit schedules as well as resources to help them procure fixed-route scheduling software. Research could be done to develop resources similar to the APTA’s Standard Bus Procurement Guidelines (2013) or the National Rural Transit Assistance Program’s ProcurementPro or GTFS Builder toolkits (2018). • Strategies for Improving Utilization of Transit Scheduling Manuals and Training Resources Although existing resources (free and paid) are available to help transit agencies train their schedulers, these resources appear to be underutilized. Research is needed to understand why transit agencies do not take full advantage of these resources, what steps should be taken to increase utilization of available resources, and what additional resources need to be created to better meet the needs of transit agencies. • Best Practices for Using Data During Schedule Creation The industry-standard guidebooks for transit scheduling (e.g., TCRP Report 135) include discussions about using data from APCs, CAD/AVL, and other data systems; however, new research and practices have advanced the industry’s understanding of best uses for those data, including practices for using percentiles and distributions instead of averages, methods for screening data, and more advanced statistical analyses to detect patterns. Research could be done to both understand current best practices and to provide transit agencies with guidance on how to implement those practices. • Synthesis of Strategies for Improving Scheduling Practices and Providing Schedule Quality Control Transit agencies employ various techniques to better manage the scheduling process and improve the accuracy and quality of final transit schedules. These strategies could include increasing transit scheduler accountability, creating quality assurance checklists, assigning specific staff a quality assurance role, and monitoring transit service performance. Research could be done to better understand current practices and strategies that are effective at improving the quality of transit schedules and reducing or eliminating errors in schedule outputs and products. • The Future of Fixed-Route Scheduling in the Era of New Mobility, Artificial Intelligence, and Autonomy Recent technological advances are causing transit agencies—and even transit itself— to undergo a period of significant change. With increased societal adoption of new mobil- ity services (e.g., transportation network companies, microtransit, mobility on demand, and so forth) and industry experimentation with advanced technologies like autonomous transit vehicles and artificial intelligence, there is reason to critically examine the future role of fixed- route transit scheduling and schedulers. With enough data and advanced algorithms, what steps in the scheduling process could become fully or almost fully automated? How will scheduling change if transit vehicles become fully autonomous? These and many other pressing questions could be answered by research that examines the main near- and long-term technological advances and their potential impacts on fixed-route transit scheduling and schedulers.

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 143: Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce examines how transit agencies are recruiting, training, developing, and retaining schedulers. In the case where transit agencies use third parties to create schedules, the report also shows how transit systems manage those third parties.

The report is designed to assist transit agencies in managing their transit scheduling human capital. The report presents an overview of the practices and procedures transit agencies use to manage their scheduling workforce and will allow agencies to compare what they are currently doing with what others are doing in this area. The report also analyzes how transit systems are evolving their practices to adapt to industry and technological changes. It provides transit systems with new ideas and strategies to retain good schedulers.

The report also presents a literature review and results of a survey of transit agencies that use transit schedulers in their workforce. Case examples of five transit systems are provided; these present an in-depth analysis of various recruitment, selection, training, retention, and performance management strategies.

Transit schedules provide the blueprint for fixed-route transit—they affect operating and capital costs, safety, customer satisfaction, and operator well-being and health. Although scheduling has moved from a largely paper-based practice to one that now uses purposebuilt scheduling software and utilizes data collected from automated systems, transit scheduling is still a human process that is merely assisted by software and data.

Knowledgeable people are needed to perform most scheduling tasks, supply direction, and provide quality control. Moreover, the increasing availability and reliance on data and scheduling software are gradually changing the nature of a transit scheduler’s job—making computer and data analysis skills and acumen increasingly central to the transit scheduler role.

The scheduling process is labor intensive, detail driven, and ripe with opportunities for errors; to be done well, scheduling requires qualified and talented transit schedulers.

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