The Challenge of Standardization
In order to efficiently operate rail services, transit agencies rely on accurate data. Passenger data affects funding, and reporting is a requirement of the Federal Transit Authority. The FTA’s National Transit Database (NTD) is responsible to record the operating and asset conditions of transit systems and appropriate funding based on ridership.
There are several parameters and requirements outlined by the FTA for APC benchmarking and maintenance plans. For example, the FTA’s policy describes the number of trips to be counted. However, there are no guidelines for how to maintain an APC system, or by when any known equipment issues should be corrected. Repairs can sometimes take up to one year or longer before the faulty APC vehicle issue is fixed.
With no standard available in the US transit industry regarding timely vehicle repairs, agencies are not gathering the most accurate data or getting the appropriate funding they need based on their ridership reporting. We must have a standard for passenger counting in order to ensure properly maintained APC equipment and the most accurate NTD reporting.
Closing the loop between maintenance and operations
INIT has been equipping vehicles with APC since 2001. With more than 2,000 rail car vehicles in light rail, streetcars, and commuter cars, a cloud-based process has been utilized to analyze the vehicle data for APC quality checks. The object maintenance information system (OMIS) analyzes boarding data comparing it against alighting passengers to identify bad vehicle data.
Issues with on-board equipment can significantly impact vehicle performance and increase the life cycle costs of vehicles. Using a weighted value quality indicator, INIT can provide a synopsis of how equipment is performing relative to the “raw accuracy” of the data. This weighted value places accuracy measures on a comparison scale in order to successfully identify and mitigate APC related inconsistencies and inaccuracies.
Vehicles with larger discrepancies in quality indication tend to have errors associated with the vehicle. Through the OMIS, these errors can be flagged and sent for repair. By notifying the maintenance team via text, e-mail and voice mail, these equipment failures get addressed sooner so that agencies can continue to receive and report accurate information to the NTD.
INIT’s standard process for detecting quality issues starts with installation at the train manufacturer site. The process diagram below demonstrates the process from installation to usable NTD data output.
INIT has taken the lead in trying to establish a standard process that helps agencies definitively report ridership data using a cloud-based system that improves vehicle health and offers better standardization of passenger counting.
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