Helping transit agencies prepare for COVID-19 with no-cost contingency plans

Posted on March 12, 2020 by Amos Haggiag - Also by this author

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to assist public health partners in responding to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak first identified in Wuhan, China. CDC/James Gathany

Movement in and between cities is being reduced around the world in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving public transit agencies to figure out how best to provide transit service while minimizing the spread of the virus and contending with expected drops in ridership and driver availability.

Here at Optibus, we have employees who are quarantined and are dealing with the severe disruption COVID-19 has on our work. We have received numerous requests from transit agencies to help create contingency plans.

We’d like to help. Over at Optibus, we don’t have any hand sanitizer or bleach to offer, but what we do have is the platform that can quickly create contingency plans for public transit. That’s why we’re offering no-cost assistance required to prepare coronavirus contingency plans to any cities/agencies that request it through June, with no strings attached. This is the least we can do.

In addition to increasing the need to disinfect vehicle surfaces, the virus is affecting public transit in multiple ways:

●   Ridership is dropping and can be expected to decline further in the coming weeks and months as people increasingly stay away from crowded places like buses and trains, work from home, and reduce their travel.

●    A driver shortage may develop (or intensify, in cases where there is a preexisting shortage) as bus drivers call in sick or self-quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus. Transit agencies are advised to create plans for a 10% cut in driver availability as well as a steeper 25% cut.

●    Cities and transit agencies may decide to reduce non-essential service in an effort to minimize the spread of the virus, regardless of ridership or driver availability.

Contingency plans are needed so that cities can prepare for scenarios in which hard decisions need to be made about reducing service in ways that cause the least harm in the present, with an eye toward rebuilding a relationship with riders in the future.

To create a contingency plan on the Optibus platform, public transit agencies should email with “COVID-19 contingency plans” in the subject line. We will grant a no-cost three-month license and support to as many transit agencies as we are able to assist.

You will be able to upload your existing GTFS into the platform, quickly create multiple contingency plans (reduced routes, reduced frequencies, spans, etc.), analyze them, and easily export it back into your current systems.

Once the required service reduction is defined, the platform will provide you with the following contingency plan elements, depending on your needs:

●    Timetable
●    Vehicle schedule
●    Crew schedule
●    Roster
●    Business metrics

The business metrics allow you to immediately assess the impact of your contingency plans. These KPIs include total cost, number of duties and blocks, paid time, vehicle efficiency, and crew efficiency.

At this time of uncertainty, we look forward to helping cities and transit agencies around the world plan their next steps regarding public transportation services amid an expected decline in both riders and available drivers.

Amos Haggiag is the CEO and co-founder of Optibus.

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