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

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

The process of procuring ITS technologies has proven to be one of the most complicated and problematic of deployment phases for many agencies. Perhaps most critical is the selection of a proper vendor, someone able to provide services that adequately suit the needs of the agency. Use of outside professional expertise for activities such as developing systems specifications or providing systems integration support may be useful for rural transit agencies procuring ITS technologies. Experiences in the procurement of ITS technologies for rural transit offer lessons learned, often the hard way, in the attempt to a successful deployment.
  • Consider performance-based contracts, including incentives and penalties, during the procurement process. One way of avoiding problems later in the ITS deployment is to develop performance-based contracts with vendors. An example might be building in project milestones, with payment to vendors dependent on reaching these milestones. In this sense vendors have an incentive to do a good job and meet the project schedule.
    • The Ottumwa Transit Authority, (OTA) which provides bus service to Ottumwa, Iowa and the surrounding ten county area, had problems during the implementation stage of their ITS deployment, primarily stemming from difficulties with their contractors. The agency felt they should have written more performance-based contracts with their vendors in order to avoid the types of problems they encountered.
  • If the deployment involves various operators/agencies, think about their individual needs. This may be particularly important when using a commercial off-the-shelf product for a number of different operators (as in a statewide implementation).
    • In Florida the rural transit providers called Community Transportation Coordinators (CTC) had different needs and planned to use the demand response software, provided by the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD), to different degrees. Some CTCs had high percentages of standing order trips, while others did not. Therefore, the CTD had to ensure that the software it selected met all of the participants' needs.
  • Check the vendor's experience with similar deployments. Make sure to check the vendor's track record to ensure they have the necessary skills to deal with the system and issues at hand. If a vendor does not understand the system, they may not be able to provide the support needed. Therefore, it is important to check vendors' references, particularly at agencies that have similar characteristics. Agencies may want to visit sites where the vendor has installed similar systems.
  • Establish a good working relationship with vendors. Management needs to understand enough about the technology to ask the right questions. Outside assistance can be helpful in this regard, but agencies should then consider retaining the assistance through the entire planning, procurement, installation, and testing process.
  • Use functional, or a hybrid of functional and technical, specifications, to obtain the appropriate systems within a given budget. Functional specifications can give the vendor a concept of what the agency wants, while at the same time the vendor is challenged to design a workable solution that may differ slightly from the agency’s requirements.
    • By not giving narrowly defined system specifications in the request for proposals River Valley Transit in Williamsport, PA encouraged vendors to be creative. River Valley Transit staff were able to enter into a creative design session with the vendor that resulted in an appropriate solution.
The above lessons illustrate ways in which transit agencies can enhance the procurement of ITS technologies by selecting the right vendor. Checking into a vendors work history ought to be common practice to ensure the vendor will be able to meet the needs of the particular agency. When multiple parties are involved in a deployment, make sure that they are involved and that their needs are considered when procuring the technology. It is particularly important that a good client-vendor relationship is built where project goals are understood and effective communication is established. Defining the system in terms of its functional requirements can be a very effective way to insure that the final product is what the planners and designers envisioned when they selected the technology in the first place.

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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: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/3854

Other Lessons From this Source

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Lesson Analyst:

Jane Lappin
Volpe National Transportation Systems Center


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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: 2007-00347