Transit-Supportive Guidelines

Section 3.2 Planning and Performance Monitoring

3.2.1 Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

Implement a performance monitoring plan to review trends and progress in achieving ridership and service targets, and develop a plan and for meeting new targets.

Performance monitoring allows transit agencies to determine whether they are meeting their ridership and quality of service targets, allowing them to improve service efficiency, availability, comfort and convenience. It is essential for transit agencies to be aware of the quality of service being provided, as well as the quality of service as perceived by riders (and non-riders), so that agencies may develop strategies to attract and retain ridership. Without a systematic approach to monitoring performance, transit agencies will not know whether they are meeting ridership and service quality targets, or whether problems and gaps in service exist.

A performance monitoring plan is necessary to establish which measures will be used to evaluate how well ridership and service quality targets have been achieved. Performance monitoring is also integral to the development of service plans – a program of service improvements to guide transit agencies in achieving goals, such as ridership growth.

In 2008, Oakville developed a plan for service improvements by setting strategic goals and devising service standards to meet those goals. The plan was posted for public comment.

In 2008, Oakville developed a plan for service improvements by setting strategic goals and devising service standards to meet those goals. The plan was posted for public comment.

Strategies:

setting goals

  1. Set agency goals for the transit system defining what the agency wants to achieve over a specific period of time. For example, goals may be related to ridership growth, modal share, system capacity, service reliability, service comfort, universal access or farebox revenues. Goals should be based on the agency’s ridership growth plan, as well as other relevant plans, such as official plans, transportation master plans or plans to achieve universal accessibility.
  2. Establish annual plans and targets and a program of improvements that will help the transit agency realize its long-term goals.

Seattle’s Urban Village Transit Network (UVTN) Report Card contains performance data on all classifications of UVTN corridors. The Report Card is updated every few years in order to see how they are achieving their goals. In this table highlighting levels of transit service, +3 represents “best performance” -9 represents “worst performance”.

Seattle’s Urban Village Transit Network (UVTN) Report Card contains performance data on all classifications of UVTN corridors. The Report Card is updated every few years in order to see how they are achieving their goals. In this table highlighting levels of transit service, +3 represents “best performance” -9 represents “worst performance”.

Recommended Resources

Case Study: Growing Transit Ridership

A Guide to Preparing a Ridership Growth Plan (Ontario Ministry of Transportation)

The Canadian Transit Handbook Chapter 11 (Canadian Urban Transit Association)

Best Practices in Transit Service Planning (Florida Department of Transportation)

Best Practices for the Technical Delivery of Long-Term Planning Studies in Canada, Section 3.5 (Transportation Association of Canada)

A Guidebook for Developing A Transit Performance Measurement System (Transit Cooperative Research Program)

Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance (Transit Cooperative Research Program)

Five-Year Service Plan (York Region)

performance measures

  1. Use performance measures to assist in decision-making. Based on the trends revealed by the measures, the effectiveness of different strategies in meeting ridership and service targets can be evaluated and new strategies can be designed.
  2. Select performance measures or indicators that will demonstrate progress in meeting the defined targets, and are adapted to the needs of different users. The Ontario Guide to Preparing a Ridership Growth Plan and the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) provide lists of possible performance indicators for both conventional and specialized transit services. Quantifiable measures are desirable if possible, but should be supplemented with qualitative or descriptive measures to get a deeper understanding of rider (and non-rider) sentiment and travel needs.
  3. Identify who will use the performance measures and the users’ needs to better understand how performance data will be used. For example, measures may be used by financial management to determine budgets and expenditures, by operational staff to monitor and improve service, or by transit marketing staff to establish promotional materials and campaigns.

data collection

  1. Select performance measures that are appropriate for the agency’s ability and resources to collect and analyze the data. Measures should be realistic and correspond to an agency’s capacity to collect the data regularly. See Guideline 3.2.2 for more information on data collection.

monitoring plan

  1. Establish a regular schedule for performance monitoring and reporting, as well as a methodology for collecting data and a process for validating each performance measure.
  2. Public and political consultation should be included in the performance monitoring process for service planning and programming of service improvements (Chapter 4).
  3. A review of the performance measurement program should be undertaken at least every five years to update performance targets and measures as services are adjusted and improved. Consider evaluating results of performance through a peer review process with other transit agencies.

3.2.2 Data Collection and Analysis

Implement a data collection and analysis program to support planning and promotional activities.

A data collection and analysis program provides quantitative and qualitative measures required by the transit agency’s performance monitoring program. This information can be used to measure the transit agency’s performance, and to develop service improvement and promotional plans. There are a number of means to collect data and information. A valuable source of data comes from intelligent transportation systems (ITS). These are often implemented to support operations, fare payment or other functions, but can be used for planning and performance monitoring. Another valuable source on transit data collection and analysis is the Ontario Urban Transit Fact Book, which defines and collects transit operating data from across Ontario, and can be used as the basis for a transit system’s performance monitoring program.

Where ITS technologies are not available, ridership data can be obtained through manual counts or assessment of fare revenues. Service quality information can be obtained through surveys, interviews, focus groups, consumer panels, operator observations, service audits or customer feedback.

Online surveys such as in the above example can help to provide data and information on ridership demand, attitudes and quality of service. Source: Toronto Transit Commission

Online surveys such as in the above example can help to provide data and information on ridership demand, attitudes and quality of service. Source: Toronto Transit Commission

Strategies:

determining data needs

  1. Agencies should determine their data and analysis needs based on their performance monitoring plan (Guideline 3.2.1), and the agency’s ability and resources to collect and analyze the required data. Next, determine technologies and methods to collect data. If the technology is not available, the costs and benefits of procurement should be weighed.
  2. Involve data users early in the data collection and analysis process to ensure the results are more useful to market researchers, operations planners and other ultimate users.
  3. Data and information on ridership demand, attitudes and quality of service can be obtained through surveying riders and the general public. Attitude surveys determine the transit’s service quality as experienced by riders. Ridership surveys can help determine trip characteristics, on time performance, or service delays.
  4. ITS data can be used to enhance traditional market research methods, such as customer surveys, market surveys and focus groups. Passenger data from ITS technologies can be used to define sampling plans, establish sampling weights or expansion factors, determine the best time to sample, and identify times and locations for recruiting focus group participants.

Using ITS to support data collection

Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) data can be used to monitor vehicle travel time and reliability, observe where dwell times are long, and determine where priority treatments such as queue jump lanes or signal priority might improve schedule or headway adherence.

Automatic Passenger Count (APC) data can assist in understanding rider origins and destinations, and ridership by route, route segment and time of day. This can be used to adjust service capacity and routes, and to monitor ridership during special promotions or to special events. It can also be used to determine at which stops and stations to locate advertisements and print information, and to prioritize upgrades.

Electronic Fare Payment (EFP) data can show travellers’ trip and trip-chaining behaviour, as well as weekly and monthly travel patterns. This allows customer groups to be identified, and can also be used to confirm stated preferences with observed behaviour, and thus to understand and validate the results of interviews and surveys.

Automatic Vehicle Monitoring (AVM) systems can be used monitor mechanical events, such as vehicle breakdowns, and their impact on quality of service.

Transit Agency Web Pages can be used to track the web pages viewed and travel itineraries queried, so transit agencies can obtain information about their customers.

Recommended Resources

The Canadian Transit Handbook, 3rd ed. – Chapter 5 Marketing (Canadian Urban Transit Association)

Canadian Urban Transit Fact Book (published by CUTA on behalf of Ontario Ministry of Transportation)

Leveraging ITS Data for Transit Market Research (Transit Cooperative Research Program)

ridership

  1. Determine a definition for ridership based on your agency’s needs. Ridership can be the number of boardings on a transit vehicle, the number of paying passengers or number of completed transit trips. Consult with such organizations as CUTA or other transit agencies for methodologies.
  2. When calculating ridership for conventional transit, an agency should consider developing a standardized process that accounts for transit pass use, farebox revenue, transfers and tickets used.

demand-responsive transit

  1. For demand-responsive transit, verify ridership reports with driver manifests and reviewing processes accounting for add-ons, late cancellations and no shows.

data management

  1. To maximize the usefulness of the data across the entire transit agency, a system for data management should be established. In addition to storing the archived ITS data, it could also include customer survey and interview data, parking lot usage surveys, geographic information system (GIS) visualizations, aerial photography, census boundary information, census data, zoning data, buildings and geographic features.
  2. Agencies should plan for data validation and management. Manual surveys and ITS technologies produce a large amount of information, and each new data set must conform to an established data model and be validated before being incorporated into the data warehouse.

3.2.3 New Technologies

Establish a long-range technology implementation plan that coordinates short-term prioritized projects with longer-term planning in a way that maximizes benefits across the entire agency.

New technologies can dramatically improve a transit agency’s efficiency and safety; however, implementation of new technologies must be handled in a planned, coordinated way to maximize their benefits across the agency. If the implementation of different technologies is not coordinated, the benefits may be limited and additional costs incurred.

New technologies represent a major financial investment for transit agencies, but also have the potential to provide significant operational savings and service improvements. Intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies can enhance many different aspects of transit service, and new technologies are continually being developed. Because technologies have a relatively short shelf life, transit agencies should implement individual elements as short projects, so that benefits can be realized quickly. Each technology implementation project should, however, be coordinated as part of a prioritized plan that maximizes the benefits of each investment. The technology implementation plan should also consider institutional, technical, financial and operations- and maintenance-related barriers, which can drastically reduce the benefits of the technology.

The applicability of new technologies will vary depending upon the scale and mode of transit service being provided.

The applicability of new technologies will vary depending upon the scale and mode of transit service being provided.

Strategies:

planning for technology

  1. Develop a coordinated, agency-wide technology plan that prioritizes capital investments as well as associated human resources development. Involve all stakeholders at the planning stage, and clearly communicate the benefits of the plan in advance of upgrades.
  2. Next, develop strategic project plans. Consider the following key strategies:
    • using standards for interoperability of technologies, such as ITS Canada’s National ITS Architecture and TCP/IP protocols when implementing communications and technology systems;
    • implementing small projects incrementally, allowing benefits to be realized sooner;
    • planning for system upgrades, as technology changes quickly; and
    • involving operations and maintenance staff who will be responsible for operating and maintaining the technology early in the planning process.
  3. Identify a senior-level technology champion who can articulate and promote the vision and benefits of the technology to various stakeholders.
  4. Be creative in developing revenue opportunities to fund transit assets and technology, such as public-private partnerships and pooling resources among agencies.

New technologies such as automatic fare payment systems can speed up boarding time and calculate the lowest fare applicable to the customer.

New technologies such as automatic fare payment systems can speed up boarding time and calculate the lowest fare applicable to the customer.

Recommended Resources

Synthesis on Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) systems (Transit Cooperative Research Program)

Leveraging ITS Data for Transit Market Research (Transit Cooperative Research Program)

Core Technology Fact Sheet (US Department of Transportation)

Intelligent Transportation Systems: A Smart Future for Transit (Canadian Urban Transit Association)

maintenance

  1. Develop a plan for recruitment, training and retention of personnel with the technical skills to support, maintain and utilize the new technology. A technical support agreement should be in place with technology vendors and/or the agency should develop the necessary expertise in-house.
  2. Develop a system for reporting, tracking and resolving problems during technology implementation and operation. Use the information to determine additional technology needs, and to improve future technology implementation projects.

3.2.4 Asset Management

Develop an asset management plan that considers the life cycle costs of all physical assets, including vehicles, facilities, infrastructure, office equipment, technology and other assets, required to meet the agency’s service and ridership targets.

Transit agencies rely on a range of physical assets to provide convenient, reliable and comfortable service. As these assets age, they require maintenance and replacement. New assets may also be required to meet system growth and other changes. Without an asset management plan, a transit agency may be unprepared for the costs of maintaining and purchasing assets, and critical assets might fail. The agency might then be unable to provide its target level of service, and this can affect ridership levels.

A clear asset management plan will improve the transit agency’s ability to meet the required service and ridership targets in the most cost-effective manner, or to meet new requirements, such as the Province’s plans for fully accessible transit vehicles and services. The Province has developed a Guide to Preparing an Asset Management Plan – this section presents some of the key recommendations from that guide.

An asset management plan can account for the lifecycle costs of a range of physical assets such as computers or control systems that are critical to the operation of the transit system.

An asset management plan can account for the lifecycle costs of a range of physical assets such as computers or control systems that are critical to the operation of the transit system.

Strategies:

determining needs

  1. By identifying the agency’s assets and determining the risks and consequences of their failure, a cost-effective long-term strategy can be developed for providing a defined level of service and accommodating growth through transportation demand management (Guideline 3.5.5) and infrastructure investment. Agencies should determine the level of service and asset condition required to meet the following objectives:
    • the service quality and ridership targets defined by the ridership growth plan;
    • the demand forecasted by the municipal official plan and the ridership growth plan;
    • regulatory requirements (safety, environmental, etc.);
    • broader regional and municipal objectives;
    • accommodating specific markets based on demographic outlook;
    • improving the transit system’s performance; and
    • maximizing returns on investments on a life-cycle basis.
  2. Agencies should establish an inventory of current assets, including vehicles, facilities, infrastructure, office equipment, technology and other assets. Once an inventory has been completed, an assessment should be made of their current condition, remaining useful life, and their ability to meet the required level of service. This should be used to determine which assets are critical, and estimate the likelihood, consequences and costs of their failure.

Poor maintenance and life cycle management can lead to system failures that create inconveniences for passengers.

Poor maintenance and life cycle management can lead to system failures that create inconveniences for passengers.

Recommended Resources

A Guide to Preparing a Transit Asset Management Plan (Ontario Ministry of Transportation)

The Canadian Transit Handbook, 3rd ed. – Chapter 4 System Financing (Canadian Urban Transit Association)

International Infrastructure Management Manual (New Zealand Asset Management Support)

prioritizing investments

  1. Develop a prioritized capital investment plan and an associated operations and maintenance plan that will provide the level of service required. For example, in the case of rail-based systems, estimate the number of vehicles, expected mileage, number of stops, stations and depots, as well as track and wayside equipment required. The expected preventive and corrective maintenance associated with each asset should also be estimated.
  2. Develop a financial plan to fund the capital investment and operations and maintenance plans. These plans should consider life cycle costs and depreciation, and could consider the full costs and benefits of the various types of asset ownership, from full public ownership, to leased vehicles to public-private partnerships.
  3. Select enterprise asset management software that meets the agency’s needs. For smaller agencies, a basic spreadsheet program may be enough, while for larger organizations, it is beneficial to implement a tool and framework to track and plan the assets, operations and maintenance, and to store and distribute data.

Back to Top