Provide ITS training for transit systems managers, operators, and maintenance personnel when deploying Advanced Public Transportation Systems.

Recommendations for deploying ITS for transit in Birmingham, Alabama.

August 2003
Birmingham,Alabama,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

A study of the potential for ITS technologies to improve transit services in Birmingham, Alabama emphasized the importance of training in ITS deployment. The study noted that the majority of Advanced Public Transportation Systems (APTS) were deployed in medium to large markets, but Birmingham, Alabama is a relatively small transit market, having consisted of 75 vehicles and mostly intra-urban trips with fixed-route bus service at the time of the study (from 2001 to 2003). Thus, the study recommended that APTS be deployed in stages, in line with the area's transit needs. Even for a limited deployment of APTS, however, ITS training and education play a key role.

Deploying transit ITS will require training for staff at all levels of the agency. Previous deployments in other transit agencies showed that overlooking training led to costly practices and inefficiencies. The study even recommended training for automated technologies such as automated passenger counters (APC) and automatic vehicle location (AVL) to advance understanding, acceptance and the ability to provide support when systems break down. Other recommendations from the report included the following.
  • Ensure to include ITS training for transit management. Often overlooked, ITS training and education for system managers helps the agency procure appropriate equipment and integrate new technologies with existing systems. Without adequate training, management may not understand fully ITS equipment and integration requirements. Further, by acquiring knowledge of ITS, managers will be in a better position to guide ITS planning, procurement and installation activities, and communicate technical issues involving operational and maintenance staff.
  • Provide new training for maintenance staff when systems are upgraded or changed. Training for maintenance staff must include covering the key knowledge areas of the location and function of system components; the use of diagnostic tools for maintenance of equipment and the ability to diagnose malfunctions in system components; and the ability to repair components. Previous deployments found that inadequate maintenance training was costly in the long run because staff used a trial and error approach to troubleshooting problems, procuring replacement parts that were not needed and spending time and resources on the wrong fixes.
  • Train bus operators how to initialize and operate automated equipment. Automated systems can break down, requiring operator intervention. Training should also include the rationale for the installation of systems in the first place. Understanding why an agency has installed a system in the first place can provide an incentive or motivation for operators to support the system. There must be operator acceptance of advanced systems if the systems are to perform optimally. Bus operators who understand why a system is installed and how it is supposed to operate have the means and the motivation to intervene when problems arise.
  • Include training in procurement and deployment budgets. Training is often provided by vendors as part of the contract. However, agencies should evaluate whether the any training supplied by outside parties will be sufficient and likely to address problems that emerge with equipment over time, after installation. Further, training should include management, which may not be part of a vendor contract. Cutting costs by reducing training may end up costing an agency more in the long run.

Transit ITS education and training is often overlooked in deployment. Minimizing training can limit the ability to achieve the full benefits of the systems. ITS Training for transit systems managers is necessary as well as for maintenance and bus operators. When a transit system is upgraded with APTS, agencies should include training costs in the budget and the deployment plans. Training is also integral to the ability of transit staff to communicate ideas and issues in planning, deployment and operations. Thus, training should be considered holistically and integral to ITS deployment, if APTS is to realize its full potential to improve efficiency and customer service.

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Deploying Advanced Public Transportation Systems in Birmingham

Author: Steven L. Jones, Jr., Andrew J. Sullivan, Michael D. Anderson, Naveen Cheekoti, Yatin Joshi, and Hafsah K. Navarro

Published By: University Transportation Center for Alabama The University of Alabama

Source Date: August 2003

URL: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/5474

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Lesson ID: 2010-00545