Install Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) technology to greatly enhance transit agency performance.

Different transit agencies’ experience with AVL.

Ann Arbor,Michigan,United States; Milwaukee,Wisconsin,United States; Portland,Oregon,United States; Seattle,Washington,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

Installation and use of Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) technology can greatly enhance transit agency performance. Operations and emergency response are enhanced, operational data can be captured to improve the system, dispatchers know more about conditions in the street, and customer service is improved.
  • The use of the Computer Assisted Dispatching/Automatic Vehicle Location system has resulted in significant improvements in the operation of the Milwaukee County Transit System. The ability to monitor bus location and schedule status from a central dispatch office has improved on-time performance, reduced street supervision, improved response time to emergencies, and reduced the number of schedule-related public complaints.
  • The vast quantity of operational data that the automatic vehicle location system provides can be used by many transit agency departments including planning, scheduling, dispatching, maintenance, and customer relations to offer better service to the public.
  • The new bus dispatch system can be used to improve the quality of transit service and the cost-effectiveness of its delivery. Performance measures are being developed, based on automatic vehicle location data, which will allow agencies to make more informed decisions on how to allocate resources and deliver service.
  • Dispatchers have better knowledge of what’s happening on the street. For transit agencies operating automatic vehicle location-equipped buses, the dispatch workstations normally have two monitors plus the radio console with which they can:
    • See where the buses are
    • Observe bus schedule adherence condition
    • Obtain a host of items of information regarding each bus and operator
    • Communicate with operators and street supervisors via radio and mobile data terminals
    • Receive emergency request messages, which greatly enhances their ability to respond to service abnormalities and emergency situations.
  • AVL has substantially improved the ability to respond to emergencies by knowing exact bus locations. The ability to precisely locate a bus that is involved in a serious situation and send assistance quickly to the scene is one of the major benefits of automatic vehicle location from the bus operator’s perspective. When an emergency alarm is activated, bus position is updated on the dispatcher’s screen every few seconds. The dispatcher can also listen via a covert microphone to determine the nature of the problem in order to send the appropriate help.
  • Mobile data terminal usage has proven more effective and reliable than voice communications. Transit agencies have found it more beneficial for operators to send text data messages rather than talk to dispatchers. This has been effective in reducing congested voice radio traffic, up to 70 percent in some cases, and improving the response to important calls. Calls to dispatchers are no longer being lost, as was sometimes the case with older radio systems.
  • Customer relations have been improved with AVL. The knowledge of current and historical bus locations has provided customer service departments with the ability to give potential riders current bus service information as well as investigate customer complaints for validity or resolution. AVL data helps to give the customer better transit information more quickly.

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.


Better Service – Safer Service Transit Management for Fixed Route Services

Author: FTA

Published By: FTA

Source Date: 1/1/1999

EDL Number: 6875

Other Reference Number: FTA-TRI-10-98-1

URL: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/3751

Lesson Contacts

Lesson Analyst:

Jane Lappin
Volpe National Transportation Systems Center


Average User Rating

0 ( ratings)

Rate this Lesson

(click stars to rate)

Lesson ID: 2005-00067