The National Academies

TCRP J-06, Task 67 [Completed]

Strategic Assessment of Wireless Capabilities and Needs for the Public Transportation Industry

  Project Data
Funds: $99,740
Research Agency: Science Applications International Corporation
Principal Investigator: Delma Bratvold
Effective Date: 8/28/2006
Completion Date: 3/31/2008

Public transportation operators increasingly rely on wireless technologies as they develop additional services for their customers. Issues associated with spectrum availability, technology options, funding, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations, and interoperability with public safety organizations, among others, all have a bearing on how new services might be delivered. Successful implementation of new services also requires cooperation among operations, information technology, and radio offices within an organization.

The most recent general survey of the public transportation industry's usage of radio frequencies was conducted 10 years ago. Since then, radio-frequency spectrum has become a more scarce and valuable resource. Throughout this period, transit agencies have experienced increasing difficulties with common, local radio frequency interference, particularly with cellular service providers. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) actions regarding radio-frequency reallocation and refarming could potentially require costly replacement of public transportation radio systems. To respond adequately, the American Public Transportation Association needs reliable information about what public transportation agencies are doing with their radio frequencies. There is great variability in the types and sizes of public transportation usage of spectrum. In addition, some agencies do not know the details of their systems because they were set up for them by third parties, so simply asking transit agencies what they have may not be sufficient.

In the competitive marketplace for communications spectrum, the public transportation industry needs to be able to respond to proposed and anticipated actions quickly and accurately. Research is needed to identify (1) the current state of wireless communications capability in the public transportation industry, (2) future directions, and (3) obstacles and opportunities associated with refarming and rebanding.

The objectives of this research were to develop a profile of current radio-frequency and wireless-data usage for the transit industry and to assess future needs. This information will be used to gauge the transit industry's need for retaining communications assets and reserving additional spectrum to support growing data and operational needs. The research entailed a comprehensive survey and analysis of transit agency current radio-frequency and wireless-data usage and future needs. The research encompassed all modes and sizes of transit operations including rural and paratransit. Data was gathered on equipment used, channels licensed, bandwidth in use, data-voice capacity, method or modes used for voice and data transfers, operational practices, and future needs. The research also identified key issues and evaluate potential courses of action that could be pursued by the transit industry to address these issues.

Status:  Complete. The contractor's final report was received in December 2007.  A follow-on project is TCRP Project C-18.

Product Availability: Key Results of the Survey of Wireless Capabilities in Public Transit (December 2007)


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