A Tale of Two Transit Systems
IP telephony is suitable and is proving out well for smaller and larger transit systems alike. A combined case in point is the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), which serves the Canton, Ohio area and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), also known as Cincinnati Metro or Metro.
SARTA?s IP Solution
SARTA manages its operations and services from four offices. It was facing how to cut costs on the lines linking its Gateway office with satellite offices in Alliance and Massillon, some 20 to 30 miles away, which were costing it about $500/month each; T1 charges are based per-mile. The contract with the local carrier that supplied them expired in summer 2008.
SARTA also has a T1 from Gateway to its Cornerstone main customer service contact center, but this is less of an issue, explains Information Systems Assistant Jeffrey Heimberger, because those costs are relatively low. The Gateway administrative office phone lines would also remain PSTN as there was no immediate benefit to changing them.
SARTA?s calls are handled by a Toshiba CIX 670 phone switch. Calls were sent to the other locations via MCK Extender boxes.
SARTA chose to convert the Alliance and Massillon lines to IP with a VPN and upgrade the Toshiba switch by adding an IP card to it so it can handle both communications media; it had been designed to support IP and PSTN. The agency would maintain two MCK Extenders: one at Cornerstone and one at Gateway.
SARTA installed an Oaisys Tracer 5 IP-enabled call recording solution as its older software could not support IP-transported calls. It also sought new functionality, such as allowing contact agents to review recordings to improve their own performance, adds Heimberger.
The entire IP and Tracer package cost approximately $18,000 and took about a month to install. The Tracer 5 solution required two to three months to fully deploy and debug as it was using new technology; install at the switch end was easy as Oaisys solution was pre-configured for the Toshiba unit.
The entire system is running well. While there are long-range plans to convert the Gateway office to IP, that is not on the immediate horizon.
?IP cut our trunking costs to $80/month each to Alliance and Massillon,? explains Heimberger. ?The cost savings enabled us to pay back the enabling investment in about 18 months. Having the Toshiba IP-ready and ready for the new Oaisys solution made going to IP easier and less expensive and indeed possible compared with going to another vendor. The IP route has sliced our expenses across the board.?
Metro?s ip solution
Metro?s voice network links its downtown administrative office with three garages, two for line-haul and one for paratransit. It also has two contact centers, one for general customer service located in its administrative facility and the other for paratransit reservations, situated at the respective garage.
By 2008 the phone system and its attendant contact center management, recording and voicemail software was becoming obsolete, complicated and increasingly less effective and functional, according to Tim Harrington, director of information technology.
The agency relied on five aging switches; the contact center management was actually two different applications on two separate routers. Call recording was carried out on three servers and switches at three of the four locations, which meant that some calls were being unlogged and not archived for future review in case there was an issue like a service complaint.
Metro also needed to reduce its branch communications costs. The agency is using T1 lines that are costing it $900 per month per garage. It also was facing down-the-road overhaul or replacement of its business phone system at its administrative offices and garages to give it more functionality and lower wiring and maintenance costs.
?We needed a solution that would upgrade the contact center management application and provide recording across the organization on one server,? says Harrington. ?We also needed to manage our voice trunking costs. And we wanted to maintain as much of our current phone system investment as possible to keep our capital expenses low, until we can justify their expenditures.?