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Transit cost efficiency, synonymous with productivity of vehicle and crew resources, is a growing concern for many agencies of the public and private sectors. In spite of the emergence and growth of a strong social conscience and, hence, political goal to be more earth-friendly to protect our natural resources, North-American transit agencies have had to operate on ever-shrinking operating budgets.
The years of federal operating subsidies are long gone, and state/local operating subsidies are at risk now more than ever. The challenge is clear: public transit agencies must reduce their operating budgets; the means are simple: operate more efficiently, from an operating cost perspective, or undertake drastic service reductions.
Cost efficiency must not, however, occur at the expense of service effectiveness. System connectivity, system punctuality and passenger loads are only a few of the service effectiveness elements to which patrons are most sensitive to.
In broad terms, a Service Efficiency Analysis (SEA) consists of a systematic review of how transit services are planned and scheduled. The dominant task in this process is a review of existing labor rules, scheduling practices and efficiencies, and a review of production schedules. This review focuses on existing scheduling approaches and efficiencies, with an objective of identifying areas in which the agency may realize efficiency gains through updated practices.
The revised practices proposed typically result from joining local operational considerations with the diversity of international innovations and scheduling practices of varying locations, such as Europe, North America and Australia.
It is not uncommon for an SEA to include a peer system study and/or a labor negotiations component. The former benchmarks the agency in terms of industry standards, while the latter highlights labor rules most constraining to efficiency gains, which should be part of the next labor negotiations.
Of course, the participation of senior members of the planning, scheduling and operations teams of the agency is crucial; such staff holds knowledge critical to a meaningful, successful and implementable SEA.