Located in Tulsa, Oklahoma and operating over 199 square miles of fixed route and paratransit bus services, Tulsa Transit is dedicated to providing its riders with accessibility and ease of use.
When the contract on their previous tracking service recently ended, Tulsa Transit was looking to expand its software capabilities and provide riders with a one-stop-shop app that would simplify trip planning while simultaneously streamlining communication channels between dispatch and operators.
After considering various bids, Tulsa began working with Avail Technologies, a full-scale Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) solutions provider, to dramatically upgrade the agency’s fleet tracking and automatic passenger counters, enhance passenger information systems, integrate to current BRT signage, and provide data processing and analytical tools.
“We had a different tracking service before, but it just didn’t have what we needed at the time,” said BreAnna Hall, Tulsa Transit marketing manager. “We had been hearing a lot of requests for the bus tracking system from the community. It makes their commute a lot easier, and they really appreciate the service. When we announced the upcoming service launch, they were just ecstatic.”
“The initial focus was to provide AVL-Only visibility for Tulsa Transit in the first two months of the project, as the planning and preparations for the full CAD/AVL installation continued,” said Neal Castles, Project Manager at Avail.
Mobile Trip Planning
Avail’s technology provides transit agencies with a single database for data to flow seamlessly throughout the organization. Business intelligence dashboards report metrics in real time to help improve efficiency, justify funding requests, and demonstrate compliance. Riders are immediately notified of changes, dispatchers know the locations of every bus and driver, incidents are tracked as they occur, and vehicle health monitoring capabilities can predict failures so maintenance can easily work on all vehicle issues before those buses hit the road.
“We are very excited with some of the benefits of the new technology that Avail will bring to our riders and overall operations,” said Ofir Bar, director of IT at Tulsa Transit. “Our main priority was to provide our riders with the ability to view real-time information in an accessible user-friendly platform as well as get notifications and alerts about everything that’s going on in our Tulsa region so every rider will be able to better plan their daily travel plan, minimize waiting times and improve the overall experience while using the public transportation.”
Riders interface with the system via the Tulsa Transit-branded GoPass app that integrates with the myAvail app as well as an SMS service. The app provides riders with trip planning enhanced by Google search, quick access to service alerts, integrated email and SMS notifications, navigation to the nearest stops, real-time graphical bus tracking, and vehicle capacities.
“They have been really great to work with as far as integrating into GoPass because they understand that our bus riders do not want 50 million apps on their phone,” Hall said. “So, to condense it down to just one singular app has been great.”
Fleetwide Communication, Management, and Maintenance
Avail’s myAvail system goes beyond CAD/AVL; it is an Enterprise Transit Management solution with role-based user interfaces for operations, finance, and administration staff to manage all aspects of a modern transit agency operation. Capabilities include automatic mining and analysis of operational data, configurable performance metrics dashboards, preemptive notification of upcoming issues, as well as onboard, desktop, email and text alerts to avoid operational issues.
“From the operations perspective, we are all about data,” Bar said. “We look at how we are utilizing our buses, if our routes are operating as planned and if we need to make any changes to the route. All this can be displayed on a visual for us via the data points that are provided by the software.”
As part of the project, Avail created an enhanced training plan for Tulsa Transit.
The training plan is aimed at utilizing each component of myAvail to its fullest advantage – from the operator to operations, marketing, customer service, training, and the maintenance department.
As part of the advanced training, Avail has focused on creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) and has implemented a multi-phase learning process, starting with a high-level introduction to the concept for different levels of usage for employees.
“We have already hosted multiple training sessions as well as identified personnel that will be training on specific areas of the software,” Bar said. “Overall, we invested a lot of time in training for the multiple groups, and I can say that one week prior to deployment, our agency is very comfortable and confident using the software.”
Operation and Community Feedback
“I have only received very positive feedback on the technology piece from our operations team,” Bar said. “As head of IT, I absolutely love seeing all the points on specific data, helping our organization to plan better, organize our assets, make sure that we are able to identify issues before they have been reported so we can take a proactive approach.”
When it comes to community feedback, Hall said that during the transition down time, riders have been very vocal about their excitement to get tracking services up and running again.
“We have several major changes coming to our system this next month but the first thing I hear from our community members is always about the bus tracking services,” Hall said. “Over and over again we hear how excited they are. We have not done a whole lot of marketing on it just yet because I know as soon as I tell the public it’s here, they are going to want to use it.”
Hall said that the next phase of the rollout will include educating the public on the technology and familiarizing riders with the new app.