Scheduling Conundrum: The Human Development Gap

Aug. 17, 2021
At many organizations, technological advancement has been prioritized over investing in people and their skillsets.

When I entered the wonderful world of transit scheduling, I had no idea how fortunate I was to work at an agency where institutional knowledge and training in the field had been handed down from generation to generation. I started making schedules in the dark ages with paper and pencil and learning all the facets of the job that the computer would eventually replace. It was a good way to find out who had the ability and who really wanted to become a scheduler.

As a consultant, it became apparent to me that many agencies were unable to provide the required legacy information, instruction and support.

Craig Dunn, an Australian colleague, said during a recent conversation, “The real problem is management changed its investment in scheduling from human development to technological advancement.”

That statement, and additional correspondence that I have received, appears to suggest that this is an industry concern happening around the world in varying degrees.

Over the course of the past eight years, I have openly discussed the need for a formal organization and support group for schedulers with anyone who would listen. During a TCRP interview while working at LANTA, I even managed to slip the idea into the documentation for Synthesis 143: Managing the Transit Scheduling Workforce. If I ruled the scheduling world, there would be a governing body that would offer classes, certifications and ongoing support no matter where in the world they worked. There would be classes for aptitude analysis, informational videos and outreach programs. Classes would be led by veteran schedulers, along with a hot line and forum just to discuss scheduling and how to manage complicated issues for individuals and agencies.

The scheduling professionals would have training in the major software platforms so that a scheduler could also receive the ongoing and needed support that is lost after an initial software or schedule training course is completed. Rather than leave the training to individual consultants, it would benefit everyone if there was a recognized governing agency to oversee and administer the processes.

Consultants have varying degrees of competency (including me) and this type of program could offer certifications to ensure that when hired there is a baseline competency that an agency could expect to receive. I have had communication with various folks at APTA, CUTA, FTA, NTI and RTAP over the years, and representatives from several software companies. While some of the pushback I have received indicates that these might not be the right avenues for various reasons, I am convinced that something needs to be put in place on a scale that offers not only the weight but the validation of a multifaceted training and support organization. Remember, there are no college courses to teach this material.

It is evident that the human development gap in transit scheduling is increasing on a worldwide basis. If a hiring manager could weed out the candidates that are not a good fit before an interview, if the government agencies that fund transit realized what was at stake, if the general managers realized what they could achieve, would it influence any of them to look a little deeper and start a conversation? The real question is how to entice the right people to support what might seem like an outlandish idea and start a conversation in earnest to create such an organization that supports the schedulers and the industry.


Ed Dornheim is expert transit scheduler and consultant who has worked with various transit agencies across the United States and Canada.

About the Author

Ed Dornheim | Consultant

Ed Dornheim is expert transit scheduler with decades of experience beginning with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) as a part-time Traffic Checker. He worked in various roles at SEPTA along with two stints in scheduling ending as a Chief Schedule Maker, as well as working as the Scheduling Manager at Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) and Scheduling and Planning Manager at Lehigh and Northampton Transit Authority (LANTA). 

He began consulting in 2015 with various transit agencies across the United States and Canada.