This report identifies opportunities to improve transit performance using Advanced Public Transportation System (APTS) Technologies, assesses transit operator viewpoints on and experiences with APTS technologies, and proposes how current adoption and utilization practices might be improved so that these technologies are used in a more efficient and effective manner.
The research consisted of three main phases. First, we identified APTS technologies and developed a framework for assessing their potential value in improving transit system performance. We considered three types of APTS technology, automatic vehicle monitoring (AVM), advanced traveler information systems (ATIS), and advanced fare payment systems (AFP). After describing these technologies, we employ the theory of cybernetics to explain their potential performance benefits. From the standpoint of cybernetics, APTS technologies promise to reduce the cost and improve the effectiveness of a set of regulatory processes by which transit operators and users respond to disturbances in their environment. The categories of APTS benefit thus include (I) cost reduction, (II) improved ability to correctly choose regulatory responses and (III) a richer set of regulatory responses from which to choose. Examples of these benefits for a wide range of transit regulatory processes are presented.
The second phase of the research consisted of a set of seven case studies of individual transit operators chosen to include properties that have adopted APTS technologies as well as those that have not. Through interviews with management, staff, and line personnel, we investigated the properties’ experiences with and attitudes toward APTS technologies. On the basis of these case studies, we generalize about the circumstances leading to active consideration of APTS adoption, the factors influencing the outcome of adoption decisions, and the process of implementing adopted technologies. We also identify opportunities for improving the adoption process, including (I) more explicit identification of the performance goals the technology is expected to further, and consideration of alternative means of achieving these goals, (II) better information about the organizational resources required to successfully implement APTS technologies, and more balanced assistance programs that combine capital assistance for purchasing hardware with other in-kind and financial assistance to facilitate implementation, (III) development of methodologies, perhaps based on the cybernetic paradigm, to systematically identify “information bottlenecks” that hamper transit system performance and that APTS technologies can alleviate.
The third phase of the study consisted of a transit operator survey, in which 52 transit operators, 37 of which had adopted at least one APTS technology and 15 had not, were included. The main findings of the survey are (I) AVM is rated somewhat lower than electronic farebox (EFB) technology (which we use as a “benchmark for the ratings) with regard to ease of implementation and satisfaction with vendors, while ATIS ratings are not significantly different that those of EFB, (II) many operators that have not adopted a given APTS technology are actively investigating doing so, (III) most transit operators have positive attitudes about APTS technologies, but do not expect that they will pay for themselves in a direct monetary sense, and thus will required government financial assistance in order to acquire them.
We conclude with recommendations for a program that we believe will lead to more effective and efficient use of APTS technologies. The proposed program, entitled MOTUS, for MOdel Technology USer, involves intensive assistance and collaboration with a small number of operators identified as promising APTS users. The program would consist of identifying a set of areas in which performance improvements are desired, developing integrated strategies, often involving APTS technologies, designed to improve performance in these areas, implementing the programs, and monitoring the results. Transit operators would receive MOTUS assistance in all aspects of these initiatives. By concentrating assistance in this way, MOTUS is expected to substantially increase the capacity of participating operators, and others who will learn from the participants, to use APTS technologies wisely and aggressively.