In addition to its innovative vendor selection process, the authority took a unique approach to bolstering its in-house engineering support for the project ? seeking help from a segment of the community it served ? the local engineering university. A RFP for non-recurring technical services was released and contract awarded to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to assist with the vendor selection, requirements definition and system design activities. Ranked sixth in the nation among engineering schools according to U.S. News & World Report, RIT is a recognized leader in higher education for its cooperative education program and research centers. It was with assistance from RIT?s System?s Modernization and Sustainment Center that enabled the authority to quickly augment its core team with engineering experts in a variety of fields.
The center at RIT is a not-for-profit extension of the university that employs students and full-time faculty and staff. It has a long-standing history of developing technologies to confront equipment life-cycle sustainment and health monitoring challenges encountered by the U.S. Department of Defense ? a corollary that is surprisingly similar to those within the public transportation industry.
The benefit gained by the authority from this arrangement was that it had immediate access to expertise in vehicle health monitoring, radio communications, software and systems development that allowed it to tailor ACS? solution to meet its exact needs. In addition, all work was conducted under pre-negotiated federal rates, helping to keep labor costs low. Better yet, by partnering with RIT, the authority found an ally that was motivated for ensuring project success beyond terms of a contract, since both resided in and supported the same community.
The authority views its relationship with ACS Transportation Management Solutions Group as a mutually beneficial partnership, rather than a customer-vendor relationship.
RGRTA works to actively assist ACS by presenting and promoting ACS at tradeshows and events, providing industry domain expertise, providing references for potential ACS customers and by participating as a Beta site for ACS pre-release products and software. RGRTA and ACS have quarterly strategic meetings to share successes and opportunities at the highest executive level. This fosters a relationship of verified trust and mutual assistance not usually seen in a typical customer-vendor relationship.
Making it Happen
Today, roughly at the midway point in the TIDE program, final design is complete, and components like Trapeze OPS and Google Transit are live. Factory acceptance has started with a full deployment of on-bus smartcard farebox, computer-aided dispatch, automatic vehicle location, automatic passenger counter, yard management, with communication electronics and software slated for within the next 12 months.
Customer relationship management and fleet maintenance software improvement projects are also planned. Once fully integrated, these systems will become a common data source for every aspect of the customer relationship, and will allow the authority to fine tune its products to meet customer needs, and provide a better transit experience for its customers that is personal and in real time.
While many elements of this program are not new to the industry, the organizational strategy behind the implementation is new. A creative RFP and contract formation process; a dedicated and empowered program team; collaborative partnerships with a local university, prime vendor and subcontractors; and a lasting commitment to customers and their connection to our product ? are all pillars of this sweeping program that will provide the technology foundation for the next decade of customer satisfaction, customer reach and operational excellence.
Randal Weaver is the advanced technology systems program man-ager for the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) in New York State.