"Without a doubt, operating costs are paramount in any system analysis," says TranSystem's Mark Walbrun. "Transit agencies across the country are squeezed by limited tax revenues, inability to easily adjust fares, a very competitive market for choice riders and constantly increasing costs for labor and vehicle/facility maintenance."
"The impetus for launching a systems analysis is often to fi nd a way to operate more efficiently using the same resources to generate a reduction in operating costs or to provide more service for the same expenditure. In many cases agencies must meet artifi cial targets generated by oversight agencies, such as a 10 percent across the board reduction.
"A good systems analysis looks at routes, headways, garage efficiencies, overhead and job scheduling to provide a list of options for changes and the expected savings from those changes. In some cases, routes haven't been changed since the system was taken over from private operators.
"One transit agency offi cial told me 'we provide service from where people used to live to where they used to work'. That offi cial spearheaded a route analysis designed to closely match riders with destinations that helped fulfill their mandate to become a key resource for the community," says Walbrun.
While cost is a primary concern for agencies on every level of their business, Earth Tech's Ron Thorstad, believes the key to a good system analysis is building relationships.
"Transportation consultants must be more than technical experts; they also need to be relationship builders. Depending upon the size of the project, any number of local, state and federal regulatory agencies will be involved, requiring significant coordination. In addition, public outreach has been a critical requirement of transit projects as the general public has become more knowledgeable about potential environmental and economic impacts," Thorstad says.
So the advancements to your system have been planned out and you've completed a system analysis to make sure it's right for you. Now it's time to enter the engineering stage. But as we move forward into the new millennium a myriad of new possibilities is presented before us. How do these technological advancements affect the engineering process? Interestingly, DMJM Harris' Polechronis thinks technology has made the engineering process more difficult.
"While some pure technological advancements have made transit engineering easier - for example, energy consumption forecasting and system maintenance requirements defi nition - much technology has made transit engineering more difficult. It facilitates so many competing interests like energy conservation, tougher environmental regulations, community sensitivity, etc," says Polechronis. "Transit engineering is more challenging than ever, in part, because technology has engendered more sophisticated demands."
Like the rest of the world, the engineering industry has found that through the Internet so much more connectivity is available and that has changed the face of the business.
"The mainstream use of the World Wide Web and high speed Internet connections has radically changed the way the world does business. The ability for engineering firms to work from Web interface platforms is an advancement in effective project management and QA/QC systems, and provides a common storage area to maintain and organize documents. Integrated collaboration and workflow tools are used to access, create, modify, review and approve documents by the team and clients in a controlled manner. Effectively using these systems improves communication, and accelerates review periods - allowing for a more efficient delivery of documents," says David Evans' Susie Younie.
"Web-based project management tools have improved the coordination of transportation engineering work," says Earth Tech's Thorstad. "In many cases, this results in improved productivity and allows project teams to transcend geographic boundaries allowing the most wellequipped professionals to collaborate on a single project."