Intelligent Transportation Systems: Dispatch and scheduling

BUSRide spoke with Nick Ross, industry solutions manager for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) at Trapeze Group, about GPS, dispatch and scheduling technology. In a comprehensive interview, he touched on several recent significant technological advancements, the benefits of open architecture and what the future holds for these solutions.

In your estimation, how can dispatch and scheduling tools help agency and municipality organizers to stay “connected,” in real-time, with their assets and systems?

Nick Ross: With the appropriate CAD/AVL solution, you’re seeing a true level of real-time connection. Not only is there a link between operators and dispatchers for various levels of data and voice communications, but it also links real-time reporting between the vehicle itself, in-vehicle peripherals, dispatch, and maintenance. This enables an agency to streamline the response process ensuring they can be proactive rather than reactive with their resolutions.

Lastly, but maybe most importantly, the real-time data generated within the CAD/AVL solution throughout day-to-day operations can then be communicated to the agency’s ridership via website, apps, wayside signage, and infotainment.

What are the most significant advancements in dispatch, GPS, scheduling and asset management in the past few years?

Some of the major milestones of the recent couple of years include:

• Increased data sharing – look at your agency holistically. It has become increasingly apparent that several different systems require similar data to be shared, giving you the ability to see a result across each system as the data is shared simultaneously

• Intelligent incident queues – in the past, as incidents would occur throughout the day, dispatchers had manual processes to deal with them as they arrived in the queue. Now you can automate many of the incidents through a defined set of actions to save time and to save money

• Proactive route monitoring tools – the evolution of tools available to dispatchers now allow multiple views of the fleet and to monitor headway, which enables an agency to see a higher level of the health of their service

• Advanced service adjustment capabilities – this provides the means for dispatchers and administrators to efficiently resolve situations they encounter during the day-to-day service of an agency

• Vehicle intelligence – detailed vehicle analytics for improved maintenance mean–time between failures and fleet longevity proactively notify dispatchers of potential issues within their fleet. It gives them a heads up on the maintenance or failure so dispatchers (and riders) aren’t left stranded.

How has the concept of open architecture affected asset management technology? Does it represent a net positive for agencies?

The concept of open architecture is that you are sharing data. And with the continuing advancements in data sharing across multiple platforms, processes are streamlined: not only does data entry only have to be performed and shared once, but it also ensures that the information is consistent – for every department looking at it, across every platform– it isn’t just limited to asset management.

What factors are driving innovation in this field?

The main thing driving innovation in the field is, and will continue to be, passenger issues and operator safety.

But another important goal is to keep riders, dispatchers and operators satisfied. Satisfaction is the driving force for all that we do. If riders aren’t satisfied, they will look elsewhere to get from point A to B. If your operators and dispatchers aren’t satisfied, then you won’t have a workforce to operate your agency, which would lead to unsatisfied riders. And the best way to have high satisfaction is to keep all parties informed.

To be constantly pushing the envelope to keep operators, dispatchers, and ridership informed, we need to remain open to new opportunities as they present themselves. It is the people in the industry attending conferences and technology expos to explore and discuss the latest technological developments. It is understanding that ideas might come from somewhere outside the public transit space. We can’t be restricted in our processes or so close-minded that the current solutions are, and will always be, the best solutions. Stay receptive to technology advancements, from all industries, as an opportunity to inform riders, dispatchers and operators.

What kind of concepts, technology or innovations in the realm of dispatch and asset management can operators / agencies expect to see in the coming years?

It is important to look at everything in a full view. It’s time to start looking at agency operations holistically. ITS is exactly what its acronym means – intelligent transportation systems. Notice the plural on systems. No longer is ITS just tracking where your buses are and the communication of dispatchers to operators. The change is to have all systems talking together.

As this full 360-degree approach picks up pace, you will likely see continued advancements in open source data sharing and increased informational exchanges amongst all systems within an agency. The agency’s operational “eco-system” will not be a single solution focus. But, how these varying systems work together will have a direct impact on an agency’s future and directly impact dispatch and asset management in the coming years.

Nick Ross serves as industry solutions manager for ITS at Trapeze Group