Lesson

Recognize that institutional and organizational issues will require considerable attention throughout the ITS project deployment process.

Five rural transit agencies' experiences in applying ITS to rural transit.


March 2003
Statewide,New Mexico,United States; Austin,Texas,United States; St. John's County,Florida,United States; Marion County,Florida,United States; Putnam County,Florida,United States; Ottumwa,Iowa,United States; Williamsport,Pennsylvania,United States


Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

All ITS projects inherently have a number of institutional and organizational issues that are uncovered during the project deployment. In fact, these issues have often presented the most significant challenges to a successful ITS project installation and operation, rather than the technical side of the deployment. The following lessons highlight some of the issues, and their recommended resolutions, that occur during implementation. By understanding the types of issues that might arise, other agencies can be prepared to deal with them at the outset of their ITS projects.
  • Make sure all stakeholders are involved in the project, especially in the initial planning and design stage. It is important to include all of the stakeholders in the planning process to ensure that their needs will be met by the new technology. This may include maintenance, drivers, customer service, and operations planning functions. Involving these departments early on will also secure their cooperation later on in the deployment process. Additionally, it is important to involve other agencies that have a stake in the project (such as MPOs and regional FTA staff) in order to make sure their needs are being met as well. The Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) ensures that the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), who they lease their airtime from, is involved in any ITS project planning process since the outcome of such projects could affect or be affected by the LCRA’s radio system.
  • Develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for projects that involve multiple agencies, to help clarify each participant's responsibilities. In Florida the rural transit providers, called Community Transportation Coordinators (CTC) are all part of statewide project undertaken by the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD). Each CTC has been required to sign an MOU with the CTD, outlining each party’s responsibilities. These documents have been important in helping the CTCs understand early on what would be involved in participating in the project.
  • Anticipate organizational changes. Try to anticipate the organizational changes that will be necessary once the technology is implemented, so that organizational disruption is minimized when the deployment is complete. For example, the implementation of an automated fare collection and revenue control system may prompt the reorganization of the revenue department or the addition of staff. These organizational impacts should be considered during the design stage so that they can be handled appropriately well in advance of the implementation stage.
  • Use ITS solutions as a means to foster better cooperation and coordination between project participants. Prior to implementation of the Client Referral, Ridership, and Financial Tracking (CRRAFT) software in New Mexico, there was little coordination between the transportation operators and case workers. The software has greatly improved both the cooperation between these groups, as well as the consistency of information available to them.
  • Be flexible in the face of changing project participants. While ideally all of the participants involved at the outset of a project will remain with the project until its completion, this is not always the case. The ability to recover from unforeseen events is an important skill to foster with any ITS implementation, particularly those that involve a number of different participants. In Florida, the CTC designation changed in Alachua and Levy counties, causing the termination of the counties' participation in the project. However, the CTD was able to transfer the equipment from Alachua and Levy Counties to another rural county, and thus did not lose the resources they had invested in that CTC.
  • Identify how the project will benefit participants. It may be necessary to demonstrate to participants that the ITS application will benefit them directly. Although it may be difficult to quantify these benefits, providing at least a description of how participants can use the system to improve their operation can greatly increase their willingness to participate in the project.
  • Be open to working with new agencies and staff. Rural transit systems are accustomed to communicating with State DOTs, which generally provide the bulk of their funding. However, with ITS demonstration projects, they may suddenly need to deal with other agencies, such as the FTA. Funding from different agencies may mean that the rural operator is faced with multiple reporting requirements, and they need to be prepared for this change. Note that the case studies show that there has been good support from State DOTs and the U.S. DOT’s ITS peer-to-peer program for rural agencies deploying new technologies.
  • Involve drivers in the installation and implementation of in-vehicle systems. It is important for drivers to "buy into" the system since they are a key component of agencies' operations and they have to live with the technology as much as or more than any other transit staff member. However, drivers often experience "big brother" fears, particularly with the installation of Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) systems that track their locations. At the Ottumwa Transit Authority, in Ottumwa, Iowa, reports generated with AVL system data have been used to resolve customer complaints in drivers' favor, which has helped with driver acceptance of the system. Also, at River Valley Transit, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the vendor set up a sample Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) in the driver's room a few weeks prior to installation so that drivers could become familiar and comfortable with it.
Anticipating and preparing for the different institutional and organizational issues that arise during ITS projects will assist agencies in facilitating a smoother implementation process. Developing formal agreements that outline each agency’s responsibilities, anticipating change, and fostering good communication among the players are all strategies for successful deployments. Providing project stakeholders with a good idea of the goals of the project and their role in accomplishing that goal will also help build a common understanding of the process and its ultimate performance. Maintaining flexibility throughout the process is crucial for agencies to be able to deal with any unforeseen changes that may occur. Finally, giving specific agency employees, who will be users of the system, an investment in its success is an important ingredient for implementing ITS technology.


Lesson Comments

No comments posted to date

Comment on this Lesson

To comment on this lesson, fill in the information below and click on submit. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field. Your name and email address, if provided, will not be posted, but are to contact you, if needed to clarify your comments.



Source

Rural Transit ITS Best Practices

Author: Joana Conklin, Carol Schweiger, Buck Marks, Yehuda Gross, William Wiggins, Karen Timpone

Published By: Federal Highway Administration, U.S. DOT

Source Date: March 2003

EDL Number: 13784

Other Reference Number: Report No.FHWA-OP-03-77

URL: http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/jpodocs/repts_te/13784.html

Other Lessons From this Source

Lesson Contacts

Lesson Analyst:

Jane Lappin
Volpe National Transportation Systems Center
617-494-3692
jane.lappin@volpe.dot.gov


Rating

Average User Rating

0 ( ratings)

Rate this Lesson

(click stars to rate)


Benefits From This Source

Implementation of a two-way radio network with paratransit scheduling software provides better customer service, better scheduling, and more efficient staffing.

Implementation of paratransit software with Automatic Vehicle Location/Mobile Data Terminal (AVT/MDT) technologies leads to increase in trip productivity; reduction in administrative staff; and greater overall confidence in the transportation system.

Implementation of radio system combined with AVL/MDT technology leads to increase in trip productivity and better vehicle maintenance in a large service area with low population density.

Implementation of Real-time Customer Information System leads to better customer service; fewer customer inquires; and better access for persons with disabilities.

New Mexico's scheduling/billing sofware leads to better customer service, more efficient reporting and billing, and better coordination between transportation providers and funding agencies.

Costs From This Source

Client Referral, Ridership, and Financial Tracking (CRRAFT), a New Mexico Web-based system that provides coordination between funding agencies and their subgrantees cost about $1 million to implement. CRRAFT is one of five transit agency highlighted in a rural transit ITS best practices case study.

Lessons From This Source

Consider different operational strategies when deploying ITS.

Consider various technical applications and processes, such as using GIS, evaluating systems compatibility and the facility for upgrades, when deploying ITS.

Design an ITS procurement process carefully to ensure the best outcome for vendor selection and performance.

Develop a thorough installation and implementation process as part of the ITS deployment.

Establish and follow a comprehensive project plan in anticipation of the deployment of ITS resources.

Examine multiple funding sources and anticipate unforeseen costs associated with deploying transit ITS.

Recognize that institutional and organizational issues will require considerable attention throughout the ITS project deployment process.

Train staff throughout the deployment of transit ITS projects to ensure successful implementation and use of ITS resources.

Lesson ID: 2007-00343