New Performance Metrics and Operational Strategies based on Bus Location and Passenger Count Data

Performance measures and peer comparison are valuable tools that can be used as a step toward efficient and proactive management. These tools can be used to evaluate actual performance, identify areas that need improvement, and establish feasible goals for the near future.  With the most recent advances in technology it is possible to acquire a great amount of information with relative low costs or efforts. In the past, it was very difficult and costly to collect comprehensive performance data.

Several Transit Performance Measures (TPMs) have been proposed in the past but were not implemented because of data limitations. The systematic use of TPMs can assist a transit agency in improving the quality and reliability of its service, leading to improvements for customers and operators alike.  To ensure that these measures are reliable and accurate, they need to be compared to additional sources, such as the past performance, one’s targeted performance, or comparable organizations’ performance, in order to provide the context of “performance is good,” “performance needs improvement,” “performance is getting better,” and so on.

The San Juan Metropolitan Area (SJMA) is the urbanized area surrounding Puerto Rico’s capital.  It includes over 10 municipalities and is the home for more than one million people.  AMA is the transit agency that serves the SJMA.  Real-time GPS data is available for the buses and currently the exact location of all the buses in service is registered in 10-second intervals. In addition, passenger counters will be installed in buses serving high demand corridors, and the information will be registered and sent to the AMA Control Center.

The transit industry in several cities, including the SJMA, has relied on limited, general, and aggregate measures for reporting performance to external funding and regulatory agencies. This implies the use of relatively small samples, with findings that had to be extrapolated to the whole system.  However, with the implementation of new technologies in the transit industry, it is now possible to measure the performance of a transit system not with sample data but with a more complete set of data for the entire system. Several new real-time performance metrics need to be developed using big databases instead of a small sample of data.  These metrics will assist AMA to improve their levels of service. Furthermore, there is an opportunity to develop preventive maintenance to improve the mechanical condition of the vehicles and avoid costly repairs. Passenger counts and load diagrams will also be used, not only to develop performance metrics, but to establish new strategies such as new express routes or the addition of new units in heavily used corridors.

Objectives

The main objectives of this research study are:

1.      Develop the computational tools needed to process the immense amount of data produce by the GPS and passenger counter system.

2.      Proposed better methods of saving these data to simplify their analysis.

3.      Develop new performance metrics based on the data collected.

4.      Propose methods to enhance the performance of the system.

Researchers:  Dr. Didier Valdés and Dr. Ivette Cruzado (Civil Engineering and Surveying Department, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez Campus).

Partners: Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP, by its acronym in Spanish) and Metropolitan Bus Authority (AMA, by its acronym in Spanish).

Data Sources: AMA GPS data base, passenger counter and passenger survey.