Research Archive

6. Preliminary Thoughts Towards a Traveler Management Coordination Center

The need to pursue both depth and integration of technological deployment was affirmed through the foundational research findings, literature review, and from feedback received by the stakeholder panels. Specifically, the foundational research provided significant support for the concept of a replicable and scalable TMCC. Such a system would improve the depth of transportation services through the deployment of advanced applications and increase the breadth of these services by the adoption of an integrated, regional approach.

6.1 Core Elements of a Proposed Traveler Management Coordination Center

While still in a very early, formative stage of conceptualization, the core functions of the proposed TMCC would likely include many of the elements presented in Figure 6-1 below.

Core Components of a Potential Traveler Management Coordination Center
Figure 6-1: Core Components of a Potential Traveler Management Coordination Center

These components include the following:

  • Core Functions: These are the core functional elements, they include:
    • Tracking/Communication System
      • Connection Protection Subsystem: minimizes traveler disruption at transfer points and facilities.
      • Asset Visibility Subsystem: supports both scheduling activities and the provision of real-time arrival and progress information to travelers.
      • Safety and Security Subsystem: provides facility, vehicle and passenger safety via equipment such as on-board cameras and collision detection, panic buttons, facility cameras, and automated activation of information and lights.
    • Fare Payment and Management System
      • Eligibility Subsystem: automatically determines eligibility requirements and supports or denies service requests.
      • Fare Collection and Payment Subsystem: automatically deducts fare payment based on passenger eligibility for program subsidies.
      • Invoicing Subsystem: automatically allocates costs across programs based on pre-agreed formulae, develops invoicing reports, and minimizes preparation time and errors.
    • Booking System: e.g., reservations; allows access through a variety of means including 211/511, web, etc. However, must contain at least some options for human interface
    • Scheduling and Dispatching System: optimizes asset utilization and minimizes customer wait and travel time.
    • Traveler Information System
  • Database: repository to support business processes. Includes information on funding, eligibility requirements, fare structures, customer information, etc.
  • Data Dictionary: allows translation between systems and sub-systems and ultimately between and among funding agencies and transit provider systems.

The elements represented in Figure 6-1 simply represent a core set of functionalities. Actual implementation of a TMCC requires defining the relationship of this system relative to the customer, the transportation providers, and the funding agencies. Subsequent sections of this chapter explore potential definitions of these relationships, including consideration of both a physical and virtual approach.

Regardless of the approach taken, it is important to utilize the deployment lessons that are currently being gathered across the country with respect to ITS. Table 6.1 maps the core functions of the proposed TMCC to the functionalities which are being demonstrated in the 11 federally funded ITS deployments that were originally discussed in Section 3.4. This table allows the reader to quickly see which functions are being widely demonstrated and which will require additional exploration.

Table 6-1. Capabilities Demonstrated by the ITS Operational Tests
ITS Operational Test Client Referral Ridership and Financial Tracking System (CRAAFT); New Mexico Northland Healthcare Alliance (NHA); North Dakota Northern Shenandoah Valley Mobility Program; Virginia JAUNT; Charlottesville, VA LYNX (Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority) and Polk County Transit Services; Florida Maryland Upper Shore Transit (MUST) Cape Ann Transportation Authority (CATA); Massachusetts Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS); Austin, TX Eastern North Carolina Council Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA); Massachusetts Modoc County, CA
Core Functions:
Tracking System: This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability
Transfer connection protection subsystem empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Asset visibility subsystem empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell
Schedule adherence subsystem empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability
Safety and security subsystem empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Fare management system: This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability
Eligibility subsystem empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell
Fare collection subsystem This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell
Invoicing subsystem This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability
Booking system This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability
Scheduling system This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability
Database empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell
Data dictionary empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell
Additional "Ideal" Functions:
Human assistance This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability
Technology available to help riders find and access service empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell
Smart Card technology This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability   This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability
Individual transportation planning empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Coordination between agencies/ providers/jurisdictions This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability empty cell This I T S operational test demonstrates the above capability

In addition to 11 federally funded ITS deployment sites discussed in the table above, Section 3.4 highlighted several additional examples of innovative ITS deployments and strategies. While many of the components and functionalities of these systems may not map directly to the list of core functions that were developed for the TMCC, some aspects of these projects should not be overlooked when considering applicable projects to examine. Some of the additional implementation considerations and functionalities which are demonstrated in these projects are captured in Table 6.2 below.

Table 6-2. Capabilities of Additional ITS Deployments and Strategies
Technology Deployment Autonomous Dial-a-Ride Transit (ADART), Corpus Christi Wheels of Wellness, Philadelphia, PA Flint Mass Transportation Authority (MTA), Michigan TriMet, Portland, OR Reach Your Destination Early (RYDE), Kearney, NE OmniLink, Prince William County, VA Municipal Railway, San Francisco, CA Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART); Detroit Utah Transit Agency Ventura County Transportation Commission, Ventura, CA Tahoe Coordinated Transit System (CTS), Lake Tahoe, CA
Innovative technologies/operations:
Automated distributed dispatching service This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Routing software This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Decentralization empty cell empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Brokerage empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Transfer connection protection empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell
ITS architecture development empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Shared software/technology integration empty cell empty cell empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability
Additional "Ideal" Functions:
Human assistance empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Technology available to help riders find and access service This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability
Smart Card technology empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Individual transportation planning (fast, flexible, reliable) empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell empty cell
Coordination between agencies/ providers/jurisdictions empty cell empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell empty cell empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability empty cell This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability This additional I T S deployment demonstrates the above capability

6.2 Option #1 – Physical Center

The first option considered for a full-scale deployment of a TMCC was a physical system as depicted in Figure 6-2. Such a system was envisioned and advocated by the transportation provider stakeholder group as discussed in Chapter 4. It includes actual tangible resources, a physical location, and its own dedicated staff. A participating transit agency or another entity could provide operations and maintenance functions. This concept has been used in Europe, where it is referred to as a Travel Dispatch Centre.

Proposed Traveler Management Coordination Center (Physical Solution)
Figure 6-2: Proposed Traveler Management Coordination Center (Physical Solution)

Major elements of this potential system include:

  • TMCC – Remains as described above in Section 6.1.
  • Customer – Rather than interfacing with individual agencies, the customer now interfaces with a central entity or trip planner. This is similar to what is being proposed in the Oregon State-Wide Trip Planner discussed in Chapter 3. Interaction can occur through standard phone, 511 or 211 to human or IVR, internet, web enabled cell phone, PDA, etc. Experience (for example in the Reno-Tahoe evaluation) has shown that in addition to any automated system, users should be provided the option of reaching a human attendant. Subsequent to booking and scheduling a trip, the customer can utilize the TMCC to make changes to their planned itinerary or to receive real-time arrival information.
  • Transportation Providers – Under this model, transportation providers would be able to focus solely on operations. Interaction with other providers, with funding agencies, and with customer bookings would occur through the TMCC. Passenger pick-ups, routing decisions, and scheduling would be processed by the TMCC and provided to the transportation providers in real-time. Providers would continue to monitor their assets (where capable) and seamlessly provide this information back to the TMCC. Eligibility decisions would be made by the TMCC and invoices would be automatically produced.
  • Funding Agencies – Funding agencies interact solely with the TMCC. Agencies provide standards, which are updated as necessary. Centralized billing invoices are produced by the TMCC.

6.2.1 Strengths of the Physical Approach

A physical approach for deploying a TMCC affords a number of benefits to customers, transportation providers, and funding agencies. Among the potential benefits that would be largely unique to a physical approach (as opposed to a virtual approach) are the following:

  • Provides one-stop shopping for the customer. This is particularly useful in situations involving chained trips when the customer must deal with different transportation providers for different trip purposes.
  • Brings all agencies to same technological level. By centralizing advanced features such as scheduling, invoicing and eligibility, all participating agencies may benefit from these services without the need to make their own investments in this area. One caveat of course is that the individual providers would remain responsible for purchasing and operating any in-vehicle equipment.
  • Relieves transportation providers of the burden and infrastructure requirements previously necessary to manage client bookings and scheduling.
  • Transportation services are provided as an integrated system with mutual-aid support and improved asset utilization.
  • Having a physical center can assist in streamlining customer eligibility screening process across (hopefully) all human service transportation programs.

6.2.2 Weaknesses of the Physical Approach

Some of the weaknesses or potential drawbacks of a physical approach as opposed to a virtual approach are as follows:

  • There is a potential reduction in personalized services. Many transit agencies pride themselves on the interaction and relationship of their booking staff with their customers. Smaller agencies dealing with a limited client base are likely to offer more personalization than would a larger, integrated booking system. This potential loss of the "personal touch" was raised as a potential concern in a number of the discussion groups.
  • A physical approach is likely to be expensive. Such an approach would require the construction of a physical infrastructure, training of staff, etc. It is anticipated that these costs would be off-set by savings in moving to an integrated system. Start-up costs for a physical system would be greater than for a virtual solution.
  • Requires an extensive institutional paradigm shift. While the transportation providers that participated in the discussion groups seemed open to such a radical shift towards a centralized booking, tracking, and billing service, it is likely that such a change would require significant institutional, legal, and cultural changes.
  • The length of time necessary to pursue a physical solution would most likely be considerably longer than for a virtual solution.

Given these potential weaknesses, the research team felt it important to consider virtual approaches for TMCC deployment also. These virtual approaches are discussed in the following sections.

6.3 Option #2a – Virtual Approach (with centralized hardware)

Under a virtual deployment of a TMCC, there would be no need for an extensive physical infrastructure or any new operating agencies. Depending on the sub-option selected, centralized hardware components (save a reference database) may not be necessary.

Development of a virtual approach could involve a number of different components depending on the degree of decentralization desired. For the purposes of this study, we have developed a potential solution that includes the use of centralized, shared hardware (Option 2a) and a solution that, at the other extreme, would require no centralized hardware, with the exception of a reference database (Option 2b).

The first of these options (2a – With Centralized Hardware) most closely relates to the previously discussed physical architecture. A potential solution for this option is presented in figure 6-3.

Proposed Traveler Management Coordination Center (Virtual Approach – Centralized Hardware)
Figure 6-3: Proposed Traveler Management Coordination Center
(Virtual Approach–Centralized Hardware)

Major elements of this approach are as follows:

  • Core Functions – The core TMCC does not require an extensive physical structure or staff. Core functions, however, are still maintained in a central location. This central location might be a separate entity or at any one of the transportation providers or funding agencies. With no staff, the core TMCC is no longer responsible for booking operations.
  • Customer – Interacts primarily with one or more transit agencies, but can access information and book trips with multiple agencies through a single provider. Can still interact directly with the virtual TMCC to obtain real-time arrival information.
  • Transportation Providers – Now interact directly with customers for both operations and booking functions. Continue to interact with other providers and funding agencies through TMCC. Also, transit providers have more flexibility to accept suggested scheduling options that may involve other agencies. Rather than acting as a cog in a fully integrated system, transportation providers may initially operate in a peer-to-peer permissive system. That is, scheduling requests to support other providers are made as suggestions and must be explicitly agreed to. Such a peer-to-peer form of operations has been successfully used in other ITS applications such as inter-jurisdictional traffic signal coordination.
  • Funding Agencies – Continue to primarily interact through the TMCC, but now must contact individual agencies for any follow-up inquiries or required clarifications on bookings.

6.4 Option #2b – Virtual Approach (No Centralized Hardware)

Figure 6-4 represents another option for a virtual system of TMCC deployment and operations. This scenario represents the most de-centralized of all three options considered and is the furthest from the physical approach described in 6.1.

Major elements of this option are as follows:

  • Core Functions – All core functions with the exception of a centralized data dictionary and communications network reside within the individual transit providers.
  • Customer – Interacts only with transit providers.
  • Transportation Providers – Maintain all core business functions, but coordinate with one another and with funding agencies through a streamlined communications network.
  • Funding Agencies – Coordinate with transit agencies using a common data dictionary and interface.

Proposed Traveler Management Coordination Center (Virtual Approach – No Centralized Hardware)
Figure 6-4: Proposed Traveler Management Coordination Center
(Virtual Approach – No Centralized Hardware)

6.4.1 Strengths of Virtual Approach

Regardless of the particular sub-option selected, the virtual approach to TMCC deployment and operations presents a number of unique benefits over the physical approach discussed previously. These benefits include:

  • Lower deployment cost. With little or no physical infrastructure and no initial staff start-up costs, a virtual approach would be expected to be less expensive than the physical approach.
  • Quicker implementation. In a related fashion, it would be anticipated that initial deployment and operation of the virtual approach could be accomplished much sooner than under the physical approach.
  • A virtual approach facilitates an incremental deployment. This was a desired requirement of both the ORNL report referenced in Chapter 1 and the technology vendor stakeholders participating in the discussion groups referenced in Chapter 4.
  • Supports a peer-to-peer permissive mutual-aid operating philosophy. This has proven to be an effective tool in building early trust between newly integrated partners and overcomes many institutional concerns and barriers.
  • Maintains personalized service offered by individual agencies.
  • Allows for mutual support to handle surge capacity. With multiple booking agents at multiple operations, providers could (in theory) provide mutual-aid support for booking and customer support in the same fashion that they might for actual operations.

6.4.2 Weaknesses of Virtual Approach

Some of the weaknesses that are unique to the virtual approach are:

  • Potential diminishing of opportunities for institutional integration. By allowing a peer-to-peer permissive operation, providers may be less inclined to integrate services and provide mutual-aid support.
  • Potential increase in challenges afforded by proprietary systems. Because scheduling systems (and potentially other software applications) are maintained by individual providers, the virtual system may be faced with the challenge of systems that cannot easily communicate with one another.
  • Maintains inefficiencies in multiple booking agencies.

6.5 Recommended Approach

Based on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches, it would appear at this stage in the research that the virtual approach may offer a slight edge over the physical. However, this decision is not entirely clear-cut. Both approaches offer the potential for significant benefits, and the selection of one or the other may prove to be as much a result of local considerations and precursor conditions as any other factors.

6.6 Implementation Considerations

Regardless of which approach is taken, there are a number of implementation issues that should be taken into consideration to ensure successful development, deployment, and operation of the TMCC system. These include the:

  • Need to raise awareness of potential benefits.
  • Need for a local champion.
  • Need to take a systems engineering approach in the design and deployment of the system.
  • Need to consider the human factors element.
  • Desire to be geographically complete.
  • Desire that the system balance the benefits from integration with personalization offered by smaller, sometimes stove-piped, services.
  • Need for the system and its implementers to be sensitive to the possibility of winners and losers when optimizing the system.
  • Necessity that the design be addressed in context of eligibility and funding.

These considerations are derived from experience with past deployments, from the literature review conducted as part of Chapters 1-3, and from the discussion group participants summarized in Chapter 4.

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