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Today’s Trending Transit

August 7, 2017

It’s still dark in Boston – a young professional boards the commuter train to work, saving money on parking in the city. Around noon in Orlando, a group of soccer fans climbs aboard the SunRail, headed to the downtown stadium for a match. It’s early afternoon in Chicago, and an elderly woman boards the city bus, on her way to the supermarket.

It’s a busy evening in New York, as a group of teenagers waits for the subway, excited to a see their favorite band in concert. Americans use public transit on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s out of necessity. Other times, it’s a personal choice. Often it’s to get to and from work, shopping, and leisure activities.

Whatever the reason, the convenience and availability of public transit connects our urban cities, freeing up roadways and reducing the overall carbon footprint. But keeping these forms of daily transportation up and running safely and efficiently can be a challenge. It’s imperative for transit agencies to have a firm grasp on how their assets are performing- and managing those assets is pivotal.

In 2015, as part of the U.S. DOT Conditions and Performance Report, it was found that “an estimated 40% of buses and 23% of rail transit assets were listed in marginal or poor condition, with a backlog of $90 billion in deferred maintenance and replacement.” That’s a lot of buses that could break down any day. As these subway, bus and train conditions decline, so do efficient transit operations. Also compromised is public safety.

If transit providers are able to think proactively, as opposed to reactively when it comes to asset management, they are much more aware of the current status of their vehicles and assets. The life expectancy and risks posed from deteriorating assets can be appropriately prioritized for improvement.

This proactive approach is what led to the Federal Transit Administration putting Final Rule 49 CFR Parts 625 and 630 into law in August 2016 (previously the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or “MAP-21” which was superseded by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or “FAST” Act).

According to the FTA Final Rule, it’s purpose “is to help achieve and maintain a state of good repair (SGR) for the nation’s public transportation assets.” FTA requires transit agencies to conduct an SGR level of analysis for its capital assets into a documented transit asset management (TAM) plan. A capital asset is in SGR status when the following criteria are met:

  • Capital asset is able to perform its designed function;
  • Capital asset does not pose a known unacceptable safety risk;
  • AND
  • Capital asset’s lifecycle investments must have been met or recovered.”

According to the TAM Plan regulations, all public transit providers are associated as either a Tier 1 or Tier 2 agency. Further, any transit providers who are recipients of Federal financial assistance under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53 that also “own, operate, or manage transit capital assets used in the provision of public transportation” are bound to comply with the Final Rule. Depending on which Tier the transit provider fits within determines the actual TAM Plan requirements. Below there is a description provided by FTA on differences between a Tier 1 and Tier 2 agency that require different TAM Plan requirements:

Source: FTA

Identifying beyond the “5 W’s” for Transit Capital Assets

Transit providers that have the answers to the questions of “Who, What, When, Where, and How?” for their assets are well positioned to be able to report the SGR of their assets back to FTA via required reports and through the National Transit Database (NTD).

The first four of these questions can be typically answered through the means of a physical field condition inventory or inspection, where values (attributes) are determined based on the following:

  • Who collected or performed the inspection
  • What should be collected; such as the inventory stock, or a condition assessment ultimately leading to a SGR determination
  • When the inventory or inspection was conducted
  • Where the asset is geo-located for geographic information systems (GIS) mapping purposes

However, of all the questions centered around life-cycle asset management, the one that transit agencies often need assistance with the most is addressing the question of “How?”. This is the question that is directly tied to TAM Plan data collection requirements and is based on a process that requires knowing both current conditions and risk probabilities. Now that all other factors have been determined, HOW are these assets to be managed?

For all transit agencies who may need assistance with identifying current conditions, risk probabilities, and more; help is available through a commercial off-the-shelf software called VUEWorks™. VUEWorks is an industry leading performance-based intelligent asset management software that can easily answer the “Who, What, When, Where, and How?” questions that the TAM Plans require, including turnkey direct database reporting and configuration into National Transit Database (NTD) required submittal format.


VUEWorks and TAM Plan Requirements under FTA’s Final Rule: A Perfect Match

The idea of a transit agency completing a TAM Plan can seem daunting. However, VUEWorks™ takes all the guessing out of the TAM Plan execution equation, and is capable of fitting the TAM Plan element framework right out of the box. VUEWorks™ has the life-cycle performance-based asset management experience that transit providers are striving for.

The software is able to answer the “Who, What, When & Where” questions about capital assets through the use of MobileVUE™ and FacilityVUE™ to perform inventories and inspections of the questions that the TAM Plans require, but with the added benefit of being able to generate service requests, track work orders, and manage inventories as well.

Capital assets can be categorized and grouped into projects, where budgets, and risk analysis “what-if” scenarios based on prioritization of projects, tracking useful life benchmark (ULB) of capital assets, and matching to available funding pools can be simulated.

It is this complete package that will take transit providers beyond the TAM Plan requirements with capabilities of synchronizing data through multiple systems such as transit scheduling, dispatch, maintenance, human resource and customer service, and interfacing with a transit agencies’ enterprise GIS. VUEWorks is “How”.

To see if your agency is a perfect match for VUEWorks Enterprise Solutions, contact:
Doug Lynch, GISP: Project Manager and Senior GIS Associate –