Identify "super users" and maintain an integrated project development team during the development and deployment of a Transit Operations Decision Support System (TODSS).

Lessons from a How-to Guide intended for agencies planning, deploying, operating and maintaining TODSS

December 2014
Nationwide; United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office deployed a pilot project to demonstrate the application of the TODSS core requirements at Pace Suburban Bus in suburban Chicago in 2009. The project successfully demonstrated the capabilities of the TODSS initiative and has since been replicated in many ways through subsequent deployments of similar systems at other transit agencies. The following planning guidance was collected from interviews with agencies and vendors that have recently deployed TODSS and TODSS-like systems. Organizations that were interviewed to gather information regarding their experiences and any lessons learned as a result of deploying TODSS or TODSS-like systems included: Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Denver Regional Transportation District, Minneapolis Metro, Pace Suburban Bus, Portland TriMet, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), Synchromatics and Trapeze ITS.

Planning a New TODSS System
  • Find "super users" when possible within technological, operations, planning, and maintenance areas as members of the system development team. These super users will be particularly helpful in developing the concept of operations later in this phase of the project. If the transit agency does not possess a complete set of skills, it should either hire staff with those skills (assuming a decision is made to proceed with the TODSS project) or hire a consultant to help guide them.
  • Hire or contract with skilled TODSS leaders or consultants in the industry to augment your project team. Most transit agencies have no one who is fully capable of, or interested in, taking control of a TODSS project. There is a critical need to have an operations person who can drive the TODSS application. Typically, agencies do not have an operations business analyst to support the system.
  • Do not design in isolation, procure, and then hand over to the users.
  • Define a proper chain of command within the project team to help the team determine how functionality is installed and priorities. Agencies need control over the process to maintain project goals.
  • Facilitate involvement by the operators and dispatchers to be more effective. One agency has experienced "bargaining issues" with new technology and feels that if they had prepped their workforce better, those issues could have been averted.
  • Have written standard operation procedures for responding to incidents. These are critical to properly implementing TODSS systems. Agencies should make a list of incidents that they encounter regularly and make sure they have procedures in place to manage them. These are the best candidates for automation using TODSS.
  • Include mid-level management of operations, maintenance, planning/scheduling and human resources in identifying the roles and responsibilities they see for their staff and what information needs they would like to see covered with the new TODSS system.

Designing and Procuring a New TODSS System
  • Engage a consultant who understands CAD/AVL systems needs to guide you through the design and deployment of the system. It is also recommended to have a lead person to drive the program and bridge the different needs for operations, planning, and Information Technology (IT) staff.
  • Perform an accurate assessment of current communications systems and the needs of the new system to make sure that there is adequate coverage and bandwidth to support the new TODSS system prior to going out to bid. Handing off the responsibility to the vendor to design the system within a short procurement cycle is inadequate to ensure that the system will meet their needs.
  • Ensure that agency specifications have well written interface requirements to existing (or new) third party systems. There is generally not enough information within current specifications to accurately bid integration costs without having a fair amount of risk. There have been several instances in which a device is named within a bid, but upon installation different firmware versions of the device than anticipated were used, which has caused additional work to be performed in order to make the interface work.
  • Maintain a standardized language amongst agencies for defining route, run, trip, and patterns to help better address getting the agencies’ data properly integrated within the system, e.g., Transit Communications Interface Profiles (TCIP), which standardizes definitions.

Deploying a New TODSS System
  • Focus on the data side of the system early and often. Agencies should also manage expectations regarding how long it will take to get the system running smoothly.
  • Take steps to get planning and operations groups to work together. Operations wants clean data as close to operations as possible, while planning wants clean statistical data that do not require significant effort to produce useable information. Working together, a balance can be struck to make the system setup for each service day reliable such that they both succeed.
  • Allow plenty of time to implement the system. Even once it is installed, agencies should anticipate a year or two of time to work with the system to get it fine-tuned. They also need to take the time to revisit their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and business rules to incorporate the technology.

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How-To Guide: Transit Operations Decision Support Systems (TODSS)

Author: Jackson, D.; C. Semler; P. Ryus; and B. Nevers

Published By: USDOT Federal Highway Administration

Source Date: December 2014

URL: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/3497

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Kathy Thompson


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Lesson ID: 2018-00807