The National Academies

TCRP H-28 [Completed]

Uses of Archived AVL/APC Data to Improve Transit Performance and Management

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Research Agency: Northeastern University
Principal Investigator: Peter G. Furth
Effective Date: 8/1/2001
Completion Date: 4/30/2006

In response to growing traffic congestion and consequent passenger demands for more reliable service, many transit operators are seeking to improve bus operations by investing in automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology. In addition, automatic passenger counters (APCs), which can collect passenger activity data compatible with AVL operating data, are beginning to reach the mainstream. Many operators are planning, implementing, or operating AVL/APC systems. The primary application of AVL technology has been in the area of real-time operations monitoring and control; consequently, AVL data have not typically been stored for subsequent analysis. This contrasts with APC data, which are generally accessed for reporting and planning purposes long after opportunities for real-time use have expired.

Beyond the area of real-time operations control, AVL technology holds substantial promise for improving service planning, scheduling, and performance analysis practices. These activities have historically been hampered by the high cost of recovering operating and passenger-activity data; however, AVL systems can capture the very large amounts of operating data required for performance analysis and management at a fairly low incremental cost. At the extremes, saving no data equates to missed opportunities, while archives of indiscriminately-saved data grow unwieldy. Operators need effective data archiving strategies, techniques, and standard practices in order to capitalize on the potential wealth of extractable information without overburdening their data management infrastructure.

Transit providers have yet to take advantage of low-cost performance and passenger-activity data associated with AVL/APC technology. This is due, in part, to the traditional separation of operations functions (where the AVL/APC technology has been deployed) from the scheduling and service planning functions of transit organizations (where the needs for data and analysis are located). Pockets of excellent AVL/APC data management for specific applications can be found, but integrated approaches that can be applied across the industry do not exist.

Research is needed to assist transit providers in effective collection and use of AVL/APC data for service planning, performance evaluation, and system management. This research should provide a coherent framework to coordinate operations, planning, and scheduling functions in the collection and use of AVL/APC data. In addition, this research should include identification of potential applications of the data for analyzing traditional fixed-route services as well as emerging service designs and strategies (e.g., bus rapid transit). Finally, this research should also recognize the varying levels of sophistication and size of transit providers.

The objective of this research is to develop guidance for the effective collection and use of archived AVL/APC data to improve the performance and management of transit systems.

Status: Completed.

Product Availability: The interim report Uses of Archived AVL-APC Data to Improve Transit Performance and Management: Review and Potential is available as TCRP Web Document 23. "Making Automatic Passenger Counts Mainstream: Accuracy, Balancing Algorithms, and Data Structures (05-0675)" was presented at Session 309 of the TRB Annual Meeting in January 2005.

TCRP Report 113: Using Archived AVL-APC Data to Improve Transit Performance and Managementexplores the effective collection and use of archived automatic vehicle location (AVL) and automatic passenger counter (APC) data to improve the performance and management of transit systems. Three spreadsheet files are available for download that provide prototype analyses of long and short passenger waiting time using AVL data and passenger crowding using APC data. Case studies on the use of AVL and APC data have previously been published as appendixes to TCRP Web-Only Document 23: Uses of Archived AVL-APC Data to Improve Transit Performance and Management: Review and Potential.

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