July 8, 2024

County Connection invests in a transit data foundation for the future

Morgan Greene
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Graphic showing County Connection improved data accuracy with Swiftly
July 8, 2024

County Connection invests in a transit data foundation for the future

Morgan Greene
July 8, 2024

County Connection invests in a transit data foundation for the future

Morgan Greene

Commutes have returned to metropolitan areas, and the accompanying traffic has left transit agencies searching for ways to mitigate the impact on the rider experience.

County Connection, serving Contra Costa County in the Bay Area, set out to improve on-time performance in order to avoid leaving riders waiting.

“On-time performance has become more and more relevant in the post-pandemic world,” says Pranjal Dixit, Manager of Planning at County Connection. “We’ve had challenges increasing service because of the operator shortage and increased traffic. It becomes even more important from a customer’s perspective to have very reliable transportation.”

Schedulers and planners across the nation have stepped in to analyze historical performance to optimize routes and schedules.

County Connection started using Swiftly’s Performance Insights to identify changes that will improve on-time performance. Yet they quickly realized they also had the opportunity to improve the underlying data that informed their decision making.

“Since we started partnering with Swiftly, our focus has been to improve reliability and on-time performance, and also to receive more accurate data,” says Dixit. “We’ve been using Swiftly to get that information and make effective solutions.”

Resetting the baseline with more accurate data

In order to make changes to schedules and routes that would have a concrete impact on on-time performance, the County Connection team needed to have absolute confidence in the accuracy of their historical data.

Various factors contribute to the accuracy of historical performance data, including the frequency of AVL reporting. Swiftly’s data ingests multiple sources of GPS data, typically resulting in more frequent and reliable reporting than a single AVL feed.

“The fidelity of the data improved. The other data we received reported every 30–50 seconds, whereas with Swiftly it’s every 5–10 seconds. It’s much more robust,” says Dixit.

The team also found gaps in their previous data source. For example, during a system outage, they experienced an AVL outage but continued receiving data through Swiftly. They were ultimately able to use discrepancies between Swiftly data and other sources to identify outages in other tools.

“We’ve had times where our buses did not have updated schedules, especially during service changes. We lost a lot of data because of that, but since we had Swiftly, we were continuing to have on-time performance data come through. That kept us on track,” says Dixit.

“It also gave us methods to say, ‘We’re getting this much data from Swiftly, but we’re not getting this much data from another source. Maybe there’s something happening.’ So it’s been helpful in identifying those issues.”

Ultimately, more accurate data from Swiftly caused the County Connection team to reset their OTP baseline. Their previous AVL data showed a higher on-time performance rate than Swiftly’s, but due to several outages the team had lost confidence in the results.

“The Swiftly data made our on-time performance look lower, but we had more confidence in trying to make improvements with that data as our baseline,” says Dixit.

More granular data unlocks even more precise changes for planners and schedulers. The County Connections team’s existing dataset left them seeking another layer of precision.

As Dixit explains, “Before Swiftly, we were getting on-time performance data for only scheduled timepoints. With Swiftly, we get more detailed information on how the bus is performing from stop-to-stop, which is a very significant amount of data and is helpful. A lot of express routes have very long distances between stops and go through local streets. We didn’t have that data to make changes effectively. With Swiftly we can analyze it more deeply to see where delays are occurring and make those changes.”

County Connection can now use this more accurate, granular data to inform schedule and route changes for their June service change. In addition to making changes to improve on-time performance and optimize run-times, the team is also actively pursuing ways to ensure that operators have sufficient recovery time—using data to validate operator anecdotes.

Future projects to keep buses moving

Beyond day-to-day improvement of schedule and route efficiency, County Connection received a brand new application for Swiftly data in the form of a transit signal priority (TSP) pilot conducted with Miovision. With increasing traffic, infrastructure changes like TSP are a key tool for agencies to keep buses moving.

County Connection’s consultants used Swiftly to identify existing conditions, where they identified delays on sections of local streets and shifted run-times accordingly. The team is hoping to use the results of the pilot to make the case for expanding the technology.

The agency is also eyeing solutions for streamlining the rider and staff experiences with detours due to construction—a challenge that every agency has experienced.

Embracing a modular transit technology approach

Swiftly’s cloud-native transit data platform collects information from existing hardware to produce actionable insights. This approach enables agencies like County Connection to unlock new value from their own data without replacing their onboard hardware.

With more accurate, reliable performance insights, County Connection can make improvements and measure their impact with confidence. And as their transit data journey progresses, they have the option to invest in additional tools when ready.

“The modular fashion of Swiftly is something we really liked,” says Dixit. “Leveraging software and not requiring hardware updates to our buses is a benefit, especially for smaller agencies that have constraints when it comes to funding. Using what we currently have and getting better data out of it is something we love about Swiftly.”

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