The South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink) is Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority and provides service to 21 municipalities situated on 1,243 miles of British Columbia’s southwestern mainland. The agency is the first North American transportation authority responsible for the planning, financing and managing of all public transit in addition to major regional roads and bridges.
With more than 1,500 buses covering 220 routes, 8,830 bus stops and 528 miles, and extensive rail services, TransLink operates within one of the largest transit service areas in the world.
With such a large transit network, measuring service efficiency is a primary concern. Easy access to delivered service data is necessary for analyzing the quality of operations, reporting to management and building efficient schedules.
For TransLink, the delivered service data was captured with the fleet management system. However, the agency needed a way to access data quickly and easily to compare it with the current schedule data to effectively analyze run times and to make service adjustments.
The agency’s subsidiary, Coast Mountain Bus Co. (CMBC), operates 200 of TransLink’s 220 routes. In 2012, CMBC’s service analysts were evaluating revenue service run times using a process which took up to 12 hours for each route. This consumed staff hours, limiting the opportunity to make service adjustments for all but the top priority routes. Getting this information quicker would enable further streamlining of service and subsequently reduce operating costs. The mission was simple: Create a high-performance data warehouse where the delivered service data could be “married” to the static schedule data for the purpose of analyzing variances and improving run-time efficiency.
In 2006, TransLink contracted Init, Innovations in Transportation, to install an intelligent transportation system on board its bus fleet. The implementation included a fleet management system, on-board computers, next-stop announcements, and statistics and reporting software. Real-time passenger information displays were later added to the project.
TransLink Project Manager Darla Jamieson set the goal of extracting and processing the agency’s critical data in a more proficient manner.
In October 2010, she prepared a business case for a run-time analysis project tying scheduled run-time service data with delivered service data to give useful insight on where to streamline service. Sponsored by Tom Fink, director of transit service design at CMBC, the business case justified the technology solution with Fink’s vision of achieving efficiencies and recognition of the potential of having timely actual run-time data for his staff to analyze.
Fink explained, “We needed to optimize our existing resources — operators, buses — by making the best use of our available data to improve operational efficiency.”
The steering committee unanimously backed the run-time analysis project and approved its start for January 2011. The project would be managed using the business technology services project management methodology.
Run-Time Analysis Plan
The goals of the run-time analysis project covered four main objectives:
- Access and analyze the delivered service data faster
- Remove idle times from the schedule
- Reallocate/adjust service where needed
- Tell a success story about the importance of the data
The targeted goals in the proposal aimed to increase the analysts’ processing capacity to 200 analyses per quarter by reducing the extraction to less than an hour per route.
The TransLink team began building a data warehouse where the service data — arrival and leave times at all stops, vehicle halts within deadheads — could be integrated with TransLink’s scheduling data, including trips, timing point segments and stops.