AVAIL TECHNOLOGIES: ITS ENHANCES FLEET MANAGEMENT
CONTENTS About Avail Technologies
Why do we need maintenance intelligence? By Alice Wilson
Enhancing service with fleet monitoring solutions By Rick Spangler
Optimize the fleet for better service
By Kevin McKay
Real-time dispatch aids the entire agency
By Alice Wilson
Open architecture and system integration
By Rick Spangler
Real-time information breaks down barriers
By Todd Beaumont
â€˜Warehousingâ€™ can optimize transit data
By Kiel Knisely 2
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About Avail Technologies F
ounded January 1st 1999, Avail Technologies is a licensed Corporation in the state of Pennsylvania. Headquartered in State College, Pennsylvania, also known as “Happy Valley”, Avail integrates CAD/AVL ITS systems for the public transit industry. Focusing on providing unsurpassed customer service to deliver reliable solutions that earn an agency’s trust ,is personal at Avail because we are the only employee owned and operated ITS integrator in the industry today. By design Avail has remained a small company that concentrates on providing cost effective engineering services and progressive open architecture technologies to a target market of transit operators that share our old fashioned values approach to doing business. This targeted approach is a huge benefit to our customers as it allows Avail to dedicate all of our resources to truly understanding the needs of your agency. Applying more than two decades of experience in the ITS for public transit industry, as patent contributors and pioneers, our awardwinning staff consistently delivers valuable fully integrated technology solutions. Behind the scenes the Avail staff works with transit professionals throughout North America, to design, develop and adopt progressive technology solutions, which provide the features and benefits that improve your daily operations. Our experience has not only taught Avail how to maximize the positive results that can be achieved through technology adoption, but it has allowed us the opportunity to perfect our approach to systems integration. Today the results of this experience are evidenced in Avail’s unprecedented track record of 100% customer satisfaction and our staff being recognized by vendors and transit professionals alike, as possessing some of the most talented and sought after engineering resources in the Public Transit market space today. At Avail we’re real people integrating smart, reliable, and convenient ITS solutions. busride.com | BUSRIDE
Fleet Management SYSTEMS
Why do we need maintenance intelligence? By Alice Wilson Bus purchases make up the majority of all capital costs for the average transit agency. According to the 2014 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Factbook, there are 2.75 billion rolling stock vehicles currently in service nationwide. Bus prices can range from $400,000 to $700,000 or more based on size, manufacturer, chassis configuration and number of buses ordered. Typically paid as up-front costs with a useful life expectancy of 12 years, investing in rolling stock is big business. Buses today roll off the assembly line packed full of technology. There are on-board diagnostic tools that monitor safety features, fuel systems, intelligent transportation systems, mechanical components and information systems to measure vehicle health and operational performance. These on-board tools are just that… on board. The ability to share, analyze trends and remotely report the status of these systems hasn’t advanced as much as the in-vehicle technology itself. Currently the most consistent in-vehicle diagnostic information received by agencies comes in the form of the reactive Man Machine Interface (MMI) which requires the driver to monitor audio and visual notification systems in-person and communicate their observations to dispatchers. There are some in-vehicle diagnostic systems that utilize GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular communications to transmit data. Being proprietary in nature, they do not share data airspace and they require a separate antenna for each system being monitored. Challenges of current in-vehicle diagnostics Agencies trust the health of their very expensive sub-components to reactive data prone to human error. Unable to be properly analyzed through trending information, small inexpensive issues can quickly grow into significant costly problems that could compromise reliability and quality of service. Even something as simple as multiple antennae on the rooftop of a bus opens the agency up to areas where a mechanical fault can result. More antennae means more holes, which means more of a chance for damaging leaks to permeate the outer shell of the bus. It also increases the likelihood of damage to the antenna itself, resulting in expensive repairs, replacement or interruption of system monitoring. In-vehicle diagnostic systems that require maintenance personnel to use disparate software to even identify a problem are not only cumbersome and inefficient, they also lend themselves to being underutilized, affecting overall fleet performance and reliability. What the industry needs today Right now the industry has bus components equipped with electronic sensors that identify failed, failing or maladjusted conditions as it relates to powertrain alarms, propulsion, braking, HVAC, fluid levels, electrical, ITS and on-board equipment systems. Agencies are equipped to react to the breakdown of components. A part breaks. Maintenance staff uses the tools in their toolbox to fix it, 4
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Something as simple as multiple antennae on the rooftop of a bus can open agencies up to areas where mechanical faults can result.
and the bus is placed back into revenue service. But how long will the repair last? How reliable is that fix? What the industry needs today is a transit-smart toolbox that equips maintenance and operational staff with Maintenance Intelligence (MI). Focused on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Maintenance Intelligence gives your agency all the diagnostic data across every device at a glance and presents it to staff seamlessly in one centralized location. Fully compatible with any agency’s CAD/AVL system, MI puts real-time maintenance data in the hands of those who drive the business every day. Maintenance Intelligence allows staff to evaluate condition-based maintenance as part of overall vehicle health monitoring and remote vehicle diagnostics. With MI, failure prediction capabilities become a reality by utilizing configurable tolerance conditions that automatically warn staff when a sub-component is failing or maladjusted. There’s no longer a need to solely rely on communications from a driver about failed parts, or wait for the bus to return to the garage to be inspected by a technician. This means maintenance staff can be proactive, working to prevent breakdowns before a part fails and thus minimizing repair costs behind the scenes with little to no impact on quality of service. Maintenance Intelligence also gives agencies the capability to analyze mechanical trends not only for individual parts, but also across manufacturers, makes, models, even production years to know what the most reliable pieces of equipment are. The use of one centralized onboard computer that connects to all of the sub-components eliminates the need for antenna farms, still allowing an agency to gather data while the bus is on the road. The benefits of maintenance intelligence Using MI, agencies can reduce in-service breakdown instances and improve overall fleet capability to enhance rider experience while providing an unsurpassed quality of service. The reduction of false alarms and the ability to analyze and calculate the cost of breakdown repair versus preventative maintenance helps optimize operations by saving time and money. Centralized data allows agencies to gain fleet-wide perspective to make transit-smart business decisions. This same data can be shared with peer agencies to help create a cohesively reliable fleet that connects a regional community. Comprehensive information that can be shared with manufacturers will help them improve their product offerings, resulting in safer and more reliable buses to your doorstep. With Maintenance Intelligence, everybody wins. Alice Wilson serves as product manager for Avail Technologies, State College, PA, an ITS technology solutions provider for transit operators throughout the United States. Visit www.availtec.com for more information.
Fleet Management SYSTEMS
Enhancing service with fleet monitoring solutions Avail Technologies, State College, PA, is an intelligent transportation systems (ITS) solutions provider for transit operators in the United States, specializing in CAD/AVL solutions for fixed route and paratransit. In an interview with BUSRide, Rick Spangler, vice president of Customer Relations at Avail Technologies, answers a few critical questions about fleet monitoring. What are the essential elements of a comprehensive fleet monitoring system? As an ITS provider, we’re about providing tools to help solve tech problems. We’re constantly asking ourselves: What do our customers need and how can we tailor our tools and services to meet that need? There are two types of users we encounter most often, internal and external users. Internal users are the transit agencies – what tools can we provide the transit agency to monitor their fleet? External users are their riders – what can technology do to enhance the rider experience? Within the subgroup of internal users, there are many different departments at each transit agency. These can include operations, maintenance, planning, dispatch, customer service, marketing and administration. For operations, the best fleet monitoring program provides tools that monitor the health of the service in real time. This includes everything from vehicles in use, drivers working, schedule adherence and other data. Maintenance is concerned about the health of the fleet – so the best software also provides pre-trip monitoring, vehicle health monitoring and preventative maintenance monitoring. Planning is focused on the overall level of service. They have to monitor running times, dwell times, passenger counts, demographics, fare collection data, etc. The best tools will help them process that data and then refine the agency’s services. How does fleet monitoring software effectively coordinate the disparate interests at a transit agency – operations, planning, administration, etc.? When agencies are looking for a solution, they need to be mindful of these disparate interests. Each of these departments has different specific needs to accomplish their individual goals in support of the overall agency objectives. Not having a uniform system only exasperates these differences. You need an integrated solution that ties everything together, so that operations data feeds right into planning data, which feeds right into maintenance data. The exchange of data should be seamless to enable efficient workflows within the organization. Open architecture, the basis of Avail’s platform, is a great way to accomplish this. Any data generated by a comprehensive fleet management system can be shared with any user in the system on any tool, no matter the tool’s vendor. Many agencies have already made significant investments in software tools, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to rework their entire system to achieve seamless integration. Software that offers “role-based” scenarios is another great way to turn data into information. One tool can serve every user in an agency, but agencies can tailor various user interfaces so that each department only receives the information necessary to do their job.
“Role-based” dashboards help turn raw information into proactive answers.
Data generated by a great fleet management system can be shared with any user anywhere.
How can fleet monitoring software help operators to enhance the rider experience? When we think about the passenger in 2015, they have far more insight to agency operations than they have in previous years. Before, they only had access to the printed schedule. Now we’re giving passengers real-time information tools that are as mobile as they are. In some ways, the riders are now just as proactive in monitoring service as agency employees. This helps transit agencies to attract choice riders. Rather than just the transit-dependent population, agency services are being used by millennials, professionals and students. They’ve got websites and apps with real-time vehicle tracking information – and if the vehicle isn’t really where the agency says it’s going to be, those riders are the first to call that to the agency’s attention. Real-time Passenger Information (RTPI) is a great tool to not only communicate with your riders, but also stay on top of fleet service levels. Passengers, your advocates in the field, should be able to look at a transportation center’s sign, the app on their smartphone, and be on the phone calling into the voice system – and all of the information should match. If the information doesn’t match, riders will often alert customer service agents and the issue can be addressed. This type of interaction helps make riders feel empowered and in control of their transit experience, while at the same time helping operators maintain reliable service levels. Fleet Monitoring systems are now capable of providing answers and not just data, empowering the riders and operators in a way that keeps them ahead of the curve. Rick Spangler serves as the vice president of Customer Relations at Avail Technologies, an ITS technology solutions provider for transit operators in the United States. Visit www.availtec.com for more information.
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Fleet Management SYSTEMS
Optimize the fleet for better service By Kevin McKay Inviting a holistic approach to running smoother transit operations, real-time diagnostics, GPS, maintenance intelligence, and monitoring systems contribute to an optimized fleet management system. A cohesive suite of technology helps realize greater cost effectiveness and a more seamless and efficient use of fleet resources. In addition, it makes life easier for your ridership, as you strive to provide them with consistent, reliable and safe bus transportation. Fleet optimization comes down to two essential objectives for the company: use information technology to effectively operate the fleet, and translate that information into noticeably enhanced experiences for the passengers. Optimizing dispatch The process begins by simply knowing where the vehicles are in the yard and where drivers need to go. While the dispatcher typically has access to and control of this information, something as simple as installing a kiosk where drivers can locate their own assignments and the physical location of the vehicles can create organizational efficiency that translates into saved time and resources. Current fleet management solutions allow dispatchers to monitor when drivers arrive on-site, log-in and drive to their correct destination at the correct time. An integrated information technology system allows dispatchers time to proactively address any situation before riders begin calling in to complain. Today’s technology has the capability to track the number of passengers onboard each vehicle at different times throughout the shift and detect any overcrowding or under-utilization. This ability to virtually see the bus gives dispatchers insight that goes well beyond traditional GPS-based vehicle tracking. Fleet management systems help dispatchers prioritize their focus and tasks, whether they are monitoring 20, 100, or more vehicles. Imagine a scenario where a number of buses could be running late because of inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances. It’s that one bus in particular with a critical transfer point that needs immediate attention. Fully integrated fleet management systems help dispatchers connect people and places more efficiently and reliably by calling those critical ride points to their attention. Avail Technologies works to change the paradigm of fleet monitoring systems. An operator who knows and understands what has happened in the past has a good idea of what conditions and situations will affect services in the future. It is all a matter of using the monitoring system proactively as a tool to achieve fleet optimization, as opposed to reacting to circumstances. The best ITS vendors directly involve the dispatchers to determine the two or three most worrisome scenarios that affect the efficiency of the fleet and customer service. Discussions focused on how everyone can use the answers and not just the data from the monitoring system help the team become more aware of critical issues before they arise, and identify where and how it may be possible to make better use of the technology for resolving problems. 6
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Optimum fleet monitoring gives dispatchers the tools to share information with passengers, so they are more informed on services.
Optimizing the passenger experience Your network of riders are your single greatest asset, your advocates in the field. A ridership that experiences fewer interruptions in service and more accurate real-time information not only exhibits fewer complaints, but it also becomes an agency’s greatest form of advertising on the road. Reliable real-time information sets the stage for better planning, which improves service to help achieve optimal levels. Fleet management systems that obtain the most accurate information become the penultimate tool that helps an agency carefully analyze all that is occurring on a daily basis every day, and use that data to reduce interruptions and increase efficiency. This data analysis can also point to previously unseen ways to leverage the agency’s various transportation modes, such as paratransit, fixed route, commuters, express or BRT, to deliver optimum service that is reliable, convenient and cost effective. The beauty of an optimized fleet management system is that it helps determine the “what, where and when” necessary to make sure the entire transit system is running as expected. Optimum efficiency prepares an agency to better execute crisis intervention practices — traffic jams, rainy weather and snowstorms, and public events in the community are all unexpected and uncontrollable events which are more easily managed when an agency has optimized data at its fingertips. Fleet monitoring tools give dispatchers the information to run the service with minimal interruptions, while at the same time sharing realtime service alerts with passengers sooner so they can make informed transportation decisions. From a passenger perspective, running late is rarely permissible, but if the agency lets the passengers know in a timely manner that service will not be as expected, riders remain in control of their individual transportation decisions. Some riders may choose to wait for a late bus, and others may opt for an alternate mode. Although inconvenienced, if an agency includes the customer by keeping them informed, chances are they will continue to be satisfied with the overall service. Fleet monitoring aids with the more efficient allocation of vehicles and drivers (which in turn increases company profits realized from an understanding ridership) enhances the rider’s experience, and ensures the most effective use of available transportation modes. Kevin McKay serves as the vice president of programs development at Avail Technologies, an ITS solutions provider for transit operators in the United States. Visit www.availtec.com for more information.
Real-time dispatch aids the entire agency
Real-time dispatch tools allow managers to quickly respond and make informed decisions about vehicles on the road.
Avail Technologies, State College, PA, is an intelligent transportation systems (ITS) solutions provider for transit operators in the United States, specializing in CAD/AVL solutions for fixed route and paratransit. In an interview with BUSRide, Alice Wilson, product manager at Avail Technologies, answers a few critical questions about preemptive tools to aid dispatchers. Why is it so important for dispatchers to act proactively as opposed to reactively? The morning pull-out is often very hectic. There are many drivers checking in, checking out, pulling their buses out of the lot and starting their services for the day. There’s a lot going on and, traditionally, the dispatcher doesn’t know much information aside from the fact that a given driver may have left the garage a few minutes late. It won’t be until the driver arrives late at the first time point that the dispatcher will have any inkling that service on that particular run is late. By that point, it’ll be a lot harder for the dispatcher to do something to get that service back on schedule. A preemptive dispatch tool, like myAvail Dispatcher with Pullout Management, shows when the driver’s supposed to check in, when the driver’s supposed to log on and when the driver is supposed to pull out of the garage. We’re trying to provide the dispatcher with more time to react if something’s not happening the way it should be. If the driver does not check in on time, we can already say to the dispatcher, “Hey, you have a potential late pull out. If you don’t get somebody checked in and on that bus as soon as possible, this particular bus is going to leave the garage late. You’re going to have a late pull out and that’s going to start the whole run badly.” The idea is to give the dispatchers more time to react to a potential upcoming issue, rather than having to react once the issue’s already occurred. Another example dispatchers often encounter is a vehicle running late. The myAvail Dispatcher Timeline can let the dispatcher see what will be impacted by this vehicle running late. If there is an upcoming layover on this vehicle’s timeline then maybe the dispatcher doesn’t have to be concerned that the vehicle is running a little late. They’ll know that the driver will be able to make up the time at the layover. But, if there is an upcoming relief, or an upcoming transfer that could be adversely affected by this vehicle arriving late, then the dispatcher can see that on the timeline and take action right away.
How can a real-time dispatch tool aid other departments in an operation? In the operations department, an operations manager is usually not down in the dispatch area monitoring what’s going on. Under normal circumstances, they don’t really care too much if there’s a couple late pull outs or if there’s a few vehicles running late. If a certain threshold is exceeded, however, they may need to step in – say, if 25 percent of the pull outs are late. An operations manager dashboard shows this information and can provide email or text-based alerts. These tell the manager if he or she needs to follow up with dispatch. The maintenance department can also reap many benefits from real-time dispatch software. Real-time tools can transmit diagnostic messages, generated on the bus, directly to dispatch and fleet maintenance personnel. Using text-based alerts, maintenance managers can make intelligent decisions about managing buses currently in service to enhance the safety and reliability for riders. How can more responsive dispatch services benefit riders? The most beneficial customer-facing tools are highly visible, realtime departure and arrival times. Real-time passenger information tools like the myStop® mobile app give riders valuable information, in graphical and textual form, that helps them make an informed decision about their transportation options. If the bus is right around the corner, they’ll wait. If it’s going to take 10 minutes to arrive, maybe they’ll get a cup of coffee. They can even set up alerts to notify them when their bus is going to arrive. Having real-time information in the palm of their hand makes riding the bus more convenient and increases customer satisfaction. It’s also important that customer service and riders have access to the same information. If a rider doesn’t have the app or isn’t looking at the correct page, customer service can get that same predictive information and provide it directly to the user. Transit agencies can also get information and alerts out to riders about changes in service, detours, routes or fares. Alice Wilson serves as product manager at Avail Technologies, an ITS technology solutions provider for transit operators in the United States. Visit www.availtec.com for more information.
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Open architecture and system integration Avail Technologies, State College, PA, is an intelligent transportation systems (ITS) solutions provider for transit operators in the United States, specializing in CAD/AVL solutions for fixed route and paratransit. In an interview with BUSRide, Rick Spangler, chief technology officer at Avail Technologies, answers a few critical questions about open architecture and system integration. How would you define open architecture as it relates to enterprise asset management (EAM)? Think of enterprise asset management (EAM) as all the software, hardware, and tools agencies put in play on a day-to-day basis to build an enterprise-wide solution. This solution touches all aspects in every division of their operations. Particularly as it relates to ITS, an agency building an EAM solution wants to feel as if that solution is singular and holistic. All the components work together seamlessly. We often find agencies may have been building ITS solutions à la carte over the course of years, making investments as needed with a variety of vendors. The trap they somestimes fall into is that the various products do not always connect and interrelate. Integrators such as Avail can equip the agency with an open architecture solution. This solution is not only capable of running multiple operational systems, but also ties into the existing technology where the customer is already heavily invested. How prevalent is open architecture in transit today? Is it in the near future or do we have to wait? In today’s public transit industry, open architecture is not as prevalent as it should be. Compared to other industries and the ubiquity of fully-integrated information and services, the transit industry is lagging behind. Transit must recognize that customers’ expectations are changing. Perhaps spoiled by the technology on the consumer sides of their lives they are demanding an open platform that quickly and efficiently answers their questions and services their needs. Vendors not embracing this concept are not long for this world. I see the industry as a whole trending toward EAM solutions that offer full integration between new, existing and best of breed technologies focused on taking customer service to a higher level. How does an open database help agencies plan? Open architecture creates a foundation capable of bringing all these seemingly disparate data points together digitally under one umbrella where they can be easily manipulated and formatted. This allows agencies to focus on finding answers and not worrying about where they’re finding the data. We’ve heard from some transit agencies that there are vendors who treat data collected from customers as somewhat of a commodity, requiring customers to go through that vendor for access. Avail works with a different paradigm. We believe that, although it resides in our database, the data belongs to the customers and can BUSRIDE | AVAIL TECHNOLOGIES
Open architecture’s prevalence is on the rise in North American transit.
be shared with other systems as it suits their needs. As agencies grow and plan to meet the needs of their ridership communities, many are realizing the tools they’ve been using are causing them to play catch-up. They’re learning that perhaps there are solutions in the market capable of integrating their disparate systems to make planning easier. What are some advantages of centralized data storage as applied to multi-modal operations? When we think about transit agencies today, we don’t only include fixed route or paratransit. Most agencies provide a greater mix of transportation modes, from light rail to commuter rail, circulator shuttles and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Some are even incorporating information for on-demand services such as Uber and Lyft to increase mobility options for their ridership. Transit agencies today are hungry for a holistic picture of the entire operation. Solutions like ours can provide that via our centralized data access architecture, by either bringing those various data elements directly into our open data warehouse or by linking various databases together. They not only allow agencies to investigate a particular service mode but, with a single point of access, they can also drill down to the level of detail they need to tie everything together. Having the ability to tie data together, then cross-check and validate the various elements, helps agencies discover relationships they may have missed had they been looking at each mode in isolation. How steep is the learning curve to integrate and manage new systems in an open architecture? I can interpret this question from the standpoint of both the provider and the agency. Not every provider in this market is embracing open architecture. They are, however, beginning to realize this is the future and the learning curve for them could be steep if they don’t get on the bandwagon soon. From an agency standpoint, an open platform can actually lessen the learning curve by integrating systems and processes with which agency staff is already familiar. Rick Spangler serves as chief technology officer at Avail Technologies, an ITS technology solutions provider for transit operators in the United States. Visit www.availtec.com for more information.
Real-time information breaks down barriers Modern transit apps can coordinate with Google Transit, allowing riders to plot a route using only starting and ending destinations.
Avail Technologies, State College, PA, is an intelligent transportation systems (ITS) solutions provider for transit operators in the United States, specializing in CAD/AVL solutions for fixed route and paratransit. In an interview with BUSRide, Todd Beaumont, FAST™ professional services manager at Avail Technologies, answers a few critical questions about how enterprise asset management (EAM) systems can help agencies communicate real-time passenger information. How does a GPS-based, EAM solution integrate with passenger information systems to better provide information to wayside and onboard passengers? For wayside passengers, there are a few options when it comes to passenger information. Traditional LED displays are typically posted at heavily-frequented transfer centers or busy stop locations, and they feature arrivals, departures and relevant route information, as well as scrolling public service announcements. LCD displays are another option for agencies. With those, groups like Avail can display a map with real-time bus locations in addition to departure times. In some cases, we’ve even worked with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems that display a real-time countdown timer for next arrivals. On smartphones, we have the ability for riders to pull up an app on which they can click a route, click on a bus along that route, see the vehicle’s schedule adherence status, and even choose a stop to see upcoming stop departure information. Riders without access to an app can access the same information through a web portal on their mobile and desktop devices. For onboard passengers, there are of course onboard announcements and connected onboard signage. However, many operators often don’t consider social media integration – using the EAM system to broadcast public service announcements on Facebook or Twitter as another channel on which to reach their ridership. It’s all about agencies having the ability to pump information out to as many channels as possible, giving riders options of where they want to pull that information from.
Outside of general route information, what kind of information can agencies display on these systems? We’ve already mentioned public service announcements, which are important in regards to fare changes, schedule time changes, detours, or other messages. Trip planning, coordinated with Google Transit, is another option. If a rider is not familiar with an area or they’re taking a route that they don’t normally take, the trip planning feature allows them to devise the best possible route using only starting and ending destinations. Real-time updates are another key feature that an enterprise asset management system can provide. Agencies can update their riders, in real-time, if a bus starts falling behind schedule. Riders can track this from an app or website. They can gauge in real time where they are and what time the bus is going to be at the location they want to reach. Rider accounts allow passengers to subscribe to specific stop locations and routes. If there’s a route that they’re looking to ride or that they ride on a frequent basis, they can log in, subscribe and then choose which days of the week they want to receive automatic notifications for that route. It’s a convenient way to give riders a little more flexibility on when they can receive information from a transit agency. What can this technology do to boost ridership? When it comes to public transit, there are two “buckets” of riders. One bucket is filled with transit-dependent riders. They depend on transit for their everyday lives. Those riders are more inclined to stick with transit because that is their sole mode of transportation. With the improvements made to technology in recent years, transit has been focusing on the second bucket of “choice” riders. Those are the passengers that don’t necessarily have to ride a bus. They’ve got their own means of transportation, but they could be attracted to transit. One of the ways that transit agencies are reaching out to that choice community is with real-time passenger information – because it’s increasing the predictability and reliability of public transportation. Lack of information was always an inconvenience for choice riders. The biggest takeaway from the rise of real-time information is that agencies are giving their riders more power. If passengers are informed about the buses and their locations, they’re empowered to make their own decisions. busride.com | BUSRIDE
‘Warehousing’ can optimize transit data Avail Technologies, State College, PA, is an intelligent transportation systems (ITS) solutions provider for public transit operators in the United States, specializing in CAD/AVL solutions for fixed route and paratransit. In an interview with BUSRide, Kiel Knisely, fixed-end software development lead at Avail Technologies, answered questions about data warehousing in public transportation. Please define data warehousing. Kiel Knisely: Data warehousing is the structure of data that drives business intelligence. Designed to decrease the amount of time it takes to sift through data, it involves taking all manner of source data – financial data, ridership data, and other source types – and optimizing it for analysis and reporting. How can transit agencies best utilize data warehousing? Knisely: Agencies can utilize data warehousing in a multitude of areas – really every department at your agency produces some sort of data that can be mined and analyzed to produce actionable business intelligence. Pulling data from multiple sources and vendors can help agencies find anomalies or efficiencies that they can use to make their service better. The more data you pull in, the more benefit you’re going to get. Data warehousing is all about optimizing data organization for intelligent reporting. As an example, financially, agencies want to know how much they’re spending on a customer per ride, so if they have the financial data available, they can pull that in along with the ridership data. Then they can more efficiently analyze what it is costing on a per rider basis, and can tweak routes to handle either high or low figures. You can modify the routes to provide a better cost efficiency. It’s about taking data from multiple areas and using it to see the bigger picture. 10
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How can data warehousing increase the efficiency of transit agencies? Knisely: Agencies can preset and create automatic filters that get aggregated on the data. For example, in Avail Technologies’ system, if there’s a detour, agencies can flag data associated with the detour to quickly identify outlying data that isn’t part of their regular operations. Agencies can also add dimensions to their data analysis to compare their data. To name an example, weather data combined with agency data can be used to determine patterns that could affect ridership and service. Quick recollection, analysis, and the ability to add dimensions lead to increased efficiency by eliminating the need to sift through multiple reports or search data across various databases. Data warehousing saves agencies time, resources, and money that can be reinvested into serving their ridership. What tools are available to really take advantage of data warehousing? Knisely: If an agency is thinking about adopting data warehousing the first step before you pick a tool is to look at what your sources of data are. Qualified ITS integrators can help an agency really examine what they have and say, “Where is all this data coming from and what do you want to do with it?” Once that’s identified, their qualified ITS integrator will know how to put this into a data warehousing solution, and mine the data to get them the answers they’re looking for. A good ITS integrator is going to know which data to collect to feed into any number of business intelligence tools on the market today. Data warehousing is the foundation for getting informed decisions from business intelligence tools to better serve your riders today and in the future.