Blog

December 2, 2019

Uncover Your Data Blindspot: Introducing the Swiftly Operator Reports Module

by Matt Fleck

We’re thrilled to announce our latest module, Operator Reports, the first transit tool to give agencies a neutral, data-driven perspective into how operators are driving their routes and executing their schedules.

The blindspot all transit agencies share

Riddle us this: What do all public transit agencies have in common? If you said coffee machines and access to bus washes, well technically yes! But that’s not the point.

The answer we’re actually thinking of is the sheer amount of time, money, and effort all agencies spend on keeping transit service reliable. In the name of reliability, schedulers spend weeks building realistic schedules; planners make the case for capital projects that keep service running smoothly; and operations teams spend their entire careers actively managing vehicle fleets. And with reliability at the top of the list of how riders evaluate transit versus other modes, this expenditure is crucial for the success of transit.

That’s why it’s so surprising that most transit agencies share another, less uplifting attribute: a glaring blindspot when it comes to their vehicle operator data. Are operators consistently leaving their first stop early? Are they taking their breaks to stay fresh and focused? Are they using recovery time to help keep things on track throughout the day? Most agencies rely on rider complaints to answer these kinds of questions, which is kind of like building a house of reliability on a foundation of quicksand.

The costs of this blindspot are very real:

  1. Schedule adherence. Simply put, inconsistent operator data is killing reliability. When operators aren’t consistently coached on best practices with actual data, inconsistencies like early departures, bus bunching, and on-board delays will inevitably creep into transit service.
  2. Operator morale. With a nationwide operator shortage, managers should take special note of this one. Relying on rider feedback means a few errant complaints can take on outsized weight when years of stellar service should be the guiding light. This can cause operators to feel stressed and dejected, especially when their supervisors give them flak for things outside their control.
  3. Safety. Swiftly data shows that vehicles leave their first stop late about 15% of the time. This can contribute to operators speeding up at yellow lights or going over the speed limit to make up time down the line. To get schedules back on track, transit agencies may be tacitly encouraging this kind of behavior without even knowing it.

We believe it’s high time that agencies start looking into their operator data blindspot, and we’ve built a new module to do it right.

Introducing Swiftly’s Operator Reports module

We’re excited to announce our latest module, Operator Reports, the first transit tool to give agencies a neutral, data-driven perspective into how operators are driving their routes and executing their schedules.

With Operator Reports, agencies can quickly see which operators are driving routes per the schedule, who might need coaching, and whether operator-related reliability issues are even operator-related at all or if they stem from unrealistic schedules.

“Operator Reports has made it simpler, quicker, and easier to get information for all of our operators. It’s changed how we look at on-time performance.”
— Ralph Faufata, VP of Transportation, TheBus (Honolulu, HI)

Here’s how it works:

On-time performance at the operator level

Much like Swiftly’s On-Time Performance and Headways modules, Operator Reports shows how well actual service keeps to scheduled service; but unlike existing Swiftly modules, Operator Reports slices the data at the individual operator level, allowing you to quickly identify anomalies within operator performance and dig in to find the answers that will boost reliability.

With Operator Reports, it’s simple to see which operators, if any, are consistently leaving their stops early or late, and if so, who else is having similar issues on similar routes. Metrics are filterable by route, time of day, and number of stops so you can get to the heart of these types of issues quickly and easily.

Operator Reports slices on-time performance data at the operator level, allowing you to quickly identify anomalies within operator performance.

Layover usage

Operator Reports also allows you to analyze how your operators are using layover. Are they taking longer breaks to compensate for early arrivals (a good thing)? Are they taking long breaks even when they’re running late (a not-so-good thing)? Are they getting the breaks they deserve throughout all this (an essential thing)? Now it’s possible to get an intuitive, visual representation of layovers in terms of what affects reliability and operator morale most.

Operator Reports allows you to analyze how your operators are using layover, giving an intuitive, visual representation of layovers in terms of what affects reliability and operator morale most.

Trip-by-trip performance

If it’s clear that certain operators need coaching, Operator Reports also shows exactly where along a route they’re losing contact with the schedule, allowing for candid conversations about why. For example, maybe an operator is leaving certain timepoints a little early to ‘build up credit’ for poor traffic conditions later in the route. This would be an excellent opportunity to talk with both the operator and the scheduling team about how the schedule and its execution affect reliability — and actionable recommendations that would improve service.

Operator Reports shows exactly where along a route an operator deviates from the schedule and by how much.

Agencies already love Operator Reports!

Don’t take our word for it — transit agencies are already using Operator Reports to improve the reliability of transit service in their communities. Here’s what our partners are saying about Operator Reports:

  • “Operator Reports has made it simpler, quicker, and easier to get information for all of our operators, whereas before we could only do it one-by-one. It’s changed how we look at on-time performance. We never had an easy way to do it individually, and never a way to do it holistically at all. Now we do.” — Ralph Faufata, VP of Transportation, TheBus (Honolulu, HI)
  • “We’ve already used Operator Reports to find our top ten operators. Our next plan is to bring in the ten most consistently late operators and talk to them informally. Is there a scheduling issue? Is there something we can do to help these operators perform better? Operator Reports makes it much simpler to go to them and have a discussion.” — John Donovan, Field Operations Manager, TheBus (Honolulu, HI)

Let there be reliability!

No matter what city you’re in, your transit riders want reliable service. Thankfully, there’s less and less guesswork involved in achieving this nowadays. It’s simply a matter of getting the right data so you can follow the numbers to the quickest on-time performance wins.

With Operator Reports, gone are the days of “squeaky-wheel” operator analysis and being forced to look at ad hoc customer complaints for insights into reliability. Here are the days of quickly finding opportunities in easily accessible data.

Want to see how Swiftly’s Operator Reports module could work at your agency? Reach out here for a demo!

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