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Contractors Go High Tech to Boost Transit Operation Efficiency, Productivity

Posted on June 16, 2011 by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

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For Savanna, Ga.-based Chatham Area Transit, Veolia started its second partnership in which Veolia performs all tasks and staffs all positions below the Board of Directors.
For Savanna, Ga.-based Chatham Area Transit, Veolia started its second partnership in which Veolia performs all tasks and staffs all positions below the Board of Directors.
Contracting out transit services is not only a cost-savings solution, but also a way to maximize the efficiency, productivity, and ultimately, the sustainability of transit services through the use of technology and innovative operational practices. We spoke to a few private contractor companies — First Transit, McDonald Transit Associates, MV Transportation, and Veolia Transportation — to discuss recent contracts, high-tech products, trends in services and sustainable initiatives.

First Transit

Contracts. First Transit was recently awarded a five-year Rutgers University contract totaling $38 million, under which it will buy 50 new buses for the university and equip the entire fleet with NextBus' real-time vehicle tracking technology.

In addition, the company began a five-year contract with Reno, Nevada's Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) to operate its paratransit services. Management of the $30.4 million contract began in July 2010 and will save the RTC $3 million over the life of the contract.

"Partnering with First Transit brings customers cost savings and increased efficiencies. [We] have extensive expertise in safety, planning, routing and vehicle maintenance, and provides customers with the latest technology and systems available," says First Transit Sr. Vice President Deb Devoe. "Customers also benefit from our purchasing power and economies of scale."

Technology. In addition to NextBus technology, the company will integrate Zonar's GPS/AVL polling to transmit data from the Electronic Control module of each bus to provide engine hours, odometer readings, oil pressure, and coolant level and temperature.

First Transit also employs Zonar Ground Traffic Control, which monitors speeds, idle times, in-yard delays and inspection times. Other products being used include DriveCam's behavior-based Fuel Management Solution for improving fleet performance. Integrated into DriveCam Online, the product combines real-time, in-cab feedback with online reporting and coaching to improve fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

The company also has extensive and detailed experience regarding design, installation, operations and management of many types of enterprise-wide computerized scheduling and dispatching systems, including Trapeze, Devoe says.

Growth. In terms of growth in the contractor market, First Transit is focused on expanding its industry leadership position in the college and university markets, Devoe says.

Sustainability. The company's employee training program integrates more efficient operating practices into daily behaviors, such as checking tire pressure daily, reducing idling, gradual acceleration and deceleration at stops, frequent inspections and maintenance adjustments, Devoe says.

"In addition, we are focused on providing a more environmentally friendly service with the implementation of electric and bio-fuel buses," she says.

First Transit's Hazardous Waste Reduction program has eliminated 95 percent of the hazardous waste in its operating facilities. New company procedures have eliminated the use of all chlorinated solvents, which minimizes employee exposure, as well as the potential for cross contamination of other non-hazardous waste streams.

Whenever possible, CNG and biodiesel fuels are being used, as is technology to reduce emissions by up to 12 percent, Devoe says.

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