The hidden truth on improving operational performance in public transit to attract more passengers
The truth you are looking for is hiding in your data!
Service quality is largely measured by on-time performance – travelers expect buses to arrive on time so they can get to their destination as planned.
On-time performance is affected by many factors including congestion, accidents, breakdowns, roadwork diversions, weather and unexpected passenger load.
It is also impacted by over-optimistic scheduled run-times. These factors can lead to huge deviations from the scheduled service which leads to bus bunching or gapping. This can be damaging to both the passenger experience and the reputation of the service provider.
But flip it on its head and tackling on-time performance can improve rider satisfaction and potentially increase ridership.
How to improve on-time performance
There are many ways transit agencies can improve performance. But they all start in the same place. With data analytics. If it can be measured, measure it. Then analyze this data over time with different variables.
Gathering the data is relatively easy following the introduction of automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems. They provide a wealth of real-time tracking data on service status and performance.
These systems were typically introduced to improve the quality of passenger information, particularly for customers waiting at bus stops. And to give dispatchers a visual representation of bus status to introduce field control measures.
Additionally, insights into customer behavior are entering a new era. This is where electronic payment and automatic passenger counting systems come into the picture.
The data is valuable in understanding passenger flow, vehicle occupancy and ridership trends. When you combine it with vehicle tracking data, the opportunities to understand and improve performance is enormous.
Even though transit agencies have never had so much data at their fingertips, these questions remain: Are they getting the most value from it? Is this data being used to its fullest potential, to support fully optimized scheduling and operations?
Data overload is a huge challenge, and where big data analytics come into play. It’s imperative for any organization that wants to improve performance, competitiveness and profitability. Public transport included.
At LIT, we believe that big data and predictive analytics is key to solving the majority of today’s public transport problems.
The answer is to use analytic and diagnostic models that can handle the different data sources and huge data sets generated by modern transit systems. If presented in a visual interface, transit agencies can benefit from significant insights that inform improvements in services and increase overall ridership.
Depending on the sophistication of the location tracking systems gathering the data, the analysis parameters can be staggering.
Comparing route data over time can yield insights into unpredictable service frequency, travel times and wait times. Comparing equivalent routes in the same city, as well as routes in other similar transit areas can yield valuable insight. It can allow transit operators to identify the factors that are hurting on-time performance.
Monitoring on-time performance with different indicators can help you increase your service quality whilst improving your passenger satisfaction. On the other hand, you can have real-time insights into the performance of your bus operators and see if they comply with your SLA measures.
Insights in your trip performance will help you organize your resources more efficiently.
Want to go deeper? Cross-analysis with other data sources, such as weather, traffic, accidents and events, brings another dimension and greater potential for understanding problems.
With all this data at your fingertips, the next step is to manage and optimize operations. This is where a transit management system comes in, such as LIT Operate. It gathers and analyses all the data described above and gives you the tools to manage your operations.
Alongside comprehensive CAD dispatch functionality, the incident and performance queue highlights problems across the network and operational intelligence give you scenarios that could be executed according to standard procedures. The diversion tool enables operators to quickly respond in case of an event or accident to divert routes and vehicles. Any changes can be communicated between the control center and the driver in the form of messages or verbally.
The insight gained can support decision making around route and dispatch planning and optimization such as route structure rationalization, stop consolidation, route streamlining or splitting, branching reduction or reconfiguration, capacity adjustments and vehicle reallocation.
You could also introduce signal prioritization, bus rapid transit, bus lanes or flexi lanes, or limited stop services. Then there’s the matter of introducing speedy boarding measures, such as low floor buses, using all doors for boarding, electronic tap-and-go payment and reviewing seating configurations.
When transit agencies have insight based on solid data analytics, route and schedule planning becomes inextricably easier, as does real-time operational control. Not only does it ensure that resources are deployed in the most efficient way possible, but it completely underpins the agency’s ability to provide a satisfactory on-time service to the public.
Find out how LIT Monitor can help you to unlock the hidden truth behind improving operational performance across your public transit network.
With more than 110 customers, LIT Transit technology is behind some of the most respected transportation systems in the world. Benefit from these advanced urban mobility capabilities, and take part in the next generation of transit management. Contact LIT Transit to find out more.