The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) oversees the programs and policies affecting highways, urban and rural public transportation, airports and more throughout the state. More than $1.5 billion of their roughly $9 billion budget is invested in public transportation, ranking fourth in the nation in direct support for those services. Among other activities, they oversee 35 fixed route systems, 44 community transportation systems and 12 intercity bus routes.
A notable point worth making about Pennsylvania is that every county in the state has a public transit network that goes well beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). PennDOT takes its responsibility to transportation services for its citizens and its communities very seriously.
PennDOT, like so many statewide transportation divisions nationwide, was faced with a multitude of challenges when attempting to manage the numerous demand-response software systems installed throughout the state.
A few examples include:
Using a combination of federal and state funding and with a clear idea of what needed to be accomplished, PennDOT procured Ecolane's transit software in 2012. Since implementation, the platform has saved millions of dollars and countless hours of administrative time compared to the independent transit system procurement that had previously been running throughout the state. Pennsylvania’s annual savings on maintenance alone is estimated to be $600,000 and PennDOT is in the position of influencing support feature improvements as well as technical development on behalf of the agencies running the software.
Ecolane worked closely alongside PennDOT throughout the implementation process to, among other things...
A software solution that is shared by multiple agencies has significant benefits and the statewide implementation of Ecolane DRT in Pennsylvania was no exception. Almost immediately, scheduling functionality was smoother and more flexible for the agencies running the platform. The quality of customer support and the overall responsiveness of that support also improved, which was not always something people associate with state-run organizations. The comprehensive analytics and reporting functionality the software provided offered the state more accurate forecasting than what was ever available before and that, in turn, allowed for better planning and tighter coordination on a statewide level. These analytics, functionality and insight in their transportation program proved to be a serious gain for Pennsylvania (and would be for any state).
PennDOT also realized additional benefits:
Enabling real-time feedback on vehicle location and pick-up times empowered and delighted customers
Standardizing data enabled state transit agencies, PennDOT, and even their contractors to improve service management and oversight.
Providing pre-delivery scheduling and day-of-service feedback around on-time performance is allowing transit system staff to manage their service in real time and subsequently, plan for future service. That maximizes the overall effectiveness and saves money
Providing remote system management facilitates regionalized and consolidated service models. A single call-center, versus a call center for each county, manages trips across larger geographic areas, saving both in terms of infrastructure and manpower
An easy-to-understand software platform helped identify areas of fraud and abuse within the transit system, resulting in additional cost savings
Working with PennDOT and 42 separate transportation providers, Ecolane successfully installed the state's first web-based scheduling and dispatching software at 51 different locations throughout Pennsylvania. The implementation involved agencies from 65 counties and over the course of five years, the platform dispatched more than 6.1 million trips, covering 45 million miles.
During and after each of the 51 implementations, Ecolane worked with the agency's staff to train and optimize the use of the software, based upon a collective requirement agreement with PennDOT. That collaboration continues today in order to measure the software's effectiveness and to evaluate the software's use in the daily operations of each agency. Working alongside each transit agency and PennDOT, Ecolane continually leads post-implementation evaluations to ensure that the state's shared-ride transit systems are using the software as intended. In Ecolane's experience, there can be a tendency to fall back upon prior practices if the staff doesn't fully understand the functionality and logic of the software, especially when new personnel
are hired. Continuous training via on-site visits and online support material supplement the ongoing support and involvement for Ecolane.
For PennDOT and each of the transit agencies, continuing to maximize their productivity and on-time performance is key. Additionally, a set of key performance indicators built against established targets has been defined to further ensure the overall project's success. Tracking passengers per hour (PPH), revenue service as a percentage of total service via both miles and hours, on-time performance including trips and stops as well as confirming drivers are performing stops at the appropriate locations are each areas that Ecolane software provides reporting on. From an operational perspective, identifying the needs for revised settings and procedural changes have also become an essential piece of the ongoing work. Of course, testing and evaluating the impact of any revised settings and associated procedures is an additional level of guarantee that Ecolane software is working as expected.
to do with their previous software solutions. For customers, agencies were able to increase and improve their ability to communicate by utilizing Ecolane's built-in Interactive Voice Response (IVR) function.
In what was a pleasant surprise for everyone involved, the statewide implementation in both rural and urban areas had the positive effect of creating peer support and training networks. Many transit agencies helped and advised other agencies with their implementations as well as post-execution.
Ecolane's statewide transit software project for Pennsylvania continues to support additional initiatives and objectives, well after the implementation process has completed. These include:
The use of Ecolane throughout the state enabled several shared-ride providers to consolidate their organizations. This allowed for cost savings by eliminating duplicative administrative functions and standardized shared-ride service levels within the specific service areas. The software has also enabled the centralization of customer service offices beyond the county where service is provided. The technology supports and enables both regional management as well as regional travel. Notable consolidation efforts include the Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (CPTA) serving a 10-county region in south central PA and the South Central Transit Authority serving Berks and Lancaster Counties. For example, Ecolane’s web-based nature has allowed CPTA to consolidate the call taking, dispatch, and scheduling functions of the service for their 10-county service area, thereby reducing the number of needed FTEs for the related positions.
The availability of data from running Ecolane software has allowed transit systems to evaluate changing service demand, facilitating fleet and driver modifications to maximize the match between demand and service levels (driver hours and number of vehicles), while balance customer needs (on-time performance, length of time on vehicle, wait times, etc.).
Ecolane software has been instrumental in the development of FindMyRidePA, a website and mobile application designed to enable transit dependent populations to easily identify their transportation options and plan their trips.
In addition to standardizing data and making it readily and easily usable by management for service planning and management, the software also gives real time access to vehicle/driver locations. This allows customer service staff to more accurately predict arrival times for riders and it gives dispatchers the tools needed to better meet on-time expectations by reassigning trips when necessary.
Through Ecolane, all shared ride providers will soon have interactive voice response (IVR) technology. This system will automatically make calls to riders the night before their service informing them of their scheduled trips the next day, call with information on imminent arrivals the day of service, and allow cancellations through the system without having to call the transit system and wait through a call queue.
Prior to Ecolane, rabbittransit had a full-functioning paratransit software package with most of the bells and whistles. What we didn’t have was a product that was easy to use. We didn’t have a product with good and accurate reporting modules. We didn’t have a system that allowed us to enhance our customer’s experience. Ecolane provides these features and a significant amount of information in a very user-friendly manner – right at your fingertips. We know immediately which vehicles are struggling with on-time performance and which customers may be late. The best part is Ecolane assists the dispatcher in finding solutions! We have saved over $1 million in expenses since implementing Ecolane.
The best feature is the data availability. The real-time data assists in managing daily operating efﬁciencies resulting in increased customer satisfaction. The data and reporting capabilities are endless. We have been able to signiﬁcantly reduce staff hours for purposes of reporting and data analysis since the implementation of Ecolane DRT.
“We are so impressed with the MDT functionality.”
“The amount of time and money we’ve saved on paper and staff time alone is tremendous.”
“Having accurate data available at our ﬁngertips and at any time we want has made a huge difference!”