The Role of Intelligent Transportation System in Improving Transit Operations

The Role of Intelligent Transportation System in Improving Transit Operations Image credit: TAM America

TAM America had the privilege of conducting an interview with Kilian Ollivier, Director of Business Development, EQUANS - Ineo Systrans USA Inc., and is pleased to share his insights on how transit agencies can leverage digital technologies and deploy future-proof, flexible and scalable Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) solutions to maximize system performance.

What are today’s major challenges for transit agencies related to technologies?

The landscape of technology presents significant challenges for transit agencies: software and hardware life cycle, smart investments, and cybersecurity are three that I’ll touch on.

I’ve seen high costs associated with maintaining outdated and often unreliable systems that were implemented just a few years ago. It’s essential to start by conducting a thorough analysis of the current state of technology and infrastructure. Identifying the most pressing needs and business practices where improvements can lead to significant benefits is key. For example, installation of a Mobile Access Router as the communication backbone in a transit bus is a great foundation before installing a new Computer-Aided Dispatch/Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL) system. This allows operators to streamline communications of various onboard systems using one centralized platform.

Secondly, with federal and state funding at historic levels, investments need to remain smart to maximize value. The challenge here is to look for scalable and modular solutions that can grow with the agency, adapt to future needs, and integrate with emerging technologies down the line. You want to make sure that your future CAD/AVL system has been designed with a modular approach, with open API and can integrate with your existing and future in-vehicle assets, such as onboard Infotainment, Traffic Signal Priority, or voice radio communications.

Moreover, the importance of cybersecurity for transit agencies cannot be understated. It has emerged as a critical issue that demands attention to safeguard the integrity of systems and protect against potential threats.

How have digital technologies facilitated the deployment of ITS in the transit industry?

Digital technologies have been game-changers in how we approach ITS implementation. First and foremost, they've enabled real-time data collection and analytics, which is the backbone of modern ITS. We're now able to gather comprehensive information about vehicle location and passenger count with very detailed level such as stop level ridership and service times, all of which not only help us make better informed decisions and forecasts but also facilitate compliance with federal requirements such as National Transit Database (NTD) reporting.

Vehicle health monitoring allows for proactive maintenance and increased vehicle availability for revenue service, thanks to digital input available on the bus J1939 network.

One of the most significant shifts we've experienced is the transition to cloud-based solutions. A decade ago, CAD/AVL systems were tied to physical servers situated within the client’s infrastructure. Now, we’ve moved to cloud hosting, which has streamlined and expedited the implementation process for transit agencies of all sizes. The cloud has been revolutionary! It enables a high level of scalability and flexibility that physical servers can't match. Agencies can deploy complex systems more quickly and manage them more efficiently to enhance operations effectiveness, safety and system resiliency. For passengers, this means improved service reliability and real-time updates that lead to a better overall transit experience.

The advancement of digital technologies has enabled the transit industry to create seamless commuter experiences while enhancing the operational efficiency of systems. With this continual development, we're closer than ever to achieving highly intelligent, responsive, and sustainable public transit networks, and I'm excited to see what the future holds!

How can ITS be used to achieve transit agency goals of efficiency, safety, sustainability, and cost reduction?

There is incredible potential to overhaul and streamline transit efficiency using modern ITS, not only for optimizing routing and scheduling but also for safety. When it comes to safety, a CAD/AVL system has loads of benefits. Think pre-trip inspection apps that check if vehicles are good to go and video surveillance for quick action during incidents. Take for example, our client, Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD) in Medford, Oregon. They work super close with the City of Medford. So, when someone went missing, they quickly got the word out by flashing the person's photo on all bus screens citywide (by way of our onboard Infotainment system).

On the green side, our NAVINEO CAD/AVL system is a game-changer for moving towards electric buses. It keeps an eye on battery charge levels in real-time, assesses how much range is remaining, and even predicts when a bus might run low on juice. Dispatchers get live updates on battery life with color-coded signals, heads-ups, and alarms if the charge gets too low or a bus looks like it won’t make its round trip.

The EQUANS NAVINEO CAD/AVL is not just for navigating - it's also for achieving safety and service reliability objectives through a cohesive, integrated solution.

What are some best practices and lessons learned where deployment of ITS was successful?

Experience really counts for something. We've been in the CAD/AVL game for over forty years at EQUANS, and we've seen it all - hundreds of unique deployments. Thanks to that, we usually know the hurdles you're facing before you even tell us, because chances are, we've tackled something similar before.

At EQUANS, we firmly believe in the value of hands-on involvement. Even in this digital age, we're all about being there in person, testing and training right where you are. We spend loads of time with our clients, right in the thick of it in dispatch, maintenance and training rooms, making sure everyone's up to scratch with our system. And we don't just stop there. We're right with you for those first bus rollouts, offering in-person support right when you need it most, making sure everything goes smoothly and you're getting the most out of the new system.

Finally, what's one piece of timeless advice you’d offer agencies as they navigate the complexities of ITS enhancements?

Remain constantly focused on the primary goal of serving the community.

Technology is a tool to an end, not the end itself. Every investment and enhancement should be justified by its potential to improve the lives of the passengers you serve.

Talk to your peers about what worked and what didn’t. Other transit agencies have been through it, and you want to make sure you leverage their experience.

Finally, contact us to explore how EQUANS NAVINEO CAD/AVL can help you improve transit operations efficiency, passenger experience, and safety.