Taking Transit Efficiency to the Next Level with Smarter Data Strategies

July 7, 2024
  • Transit agencies can improve operational efficiency and rider satisfaction by effectively utilizing real-time rider data, enabling proactive and informed decision-making.
  • The shift in commuting patterns post-pandemic underscores the need for transit agencies to continuously evaluate and adapt their services based on current data and predictive analytics.
  • Data-driven strategies enhance resource allocation, operational transparency, and budget management, leading to cost savings and increased ridership.
  • Updating tech stacks to include AI-powered analytics and migrating to cloud systems can maximize ROI, streamline operations, and improve employee productivity and satisfaction.
  • Providing staff with advanced tools that automate repetitive tasks allows them to focus on higher-level activities, boosting productivity and employee retention.
  • Transit agencies can explore optimizing internal efficiencies through a complimentary one-hour consultation with ProfitOptics’ data science product team.

Human behavior is always in flux — and public transit riders are no exception. Too often, this leaves transit agencies perpetually off balance and struggling to catch up with their riders, making decisions that are reactive instead of proactive and unable to plan their journeys quickly and successfully.

For transit agencies, the only way to get ahead of the game — and stay there — is to take operational efficiencies to the next level.

The good news is that transit agencies already have the single most important resource they need to implement this: rider data. By effectively leveraging continuous, real-time rider data, transit agencies can unlock new and valuable ways to improve operational efficiency — and in the process increase rider satisfaction, boost ridership and save money without having to reduce services or cut staff.

The other essential piece of this puzzle is ensuring the required technology is in place. So, let’s look at how smart data strategies, empowered by the right hardware and software, can help you successfully get your riders and your agency where they need to go — now and in the future.

Creator: Marc A. Hermann  |  Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Auth

Why Improving Operational Efficiency Is Critical for Transit Agencies

In the wake of the pandemic and the shift toward remote work, people’s daily habits and travel patterns have dramatically changed — and all evidence suggests not only that some of these shifts may be permanent but that there may be more disruptions ahead.

Riders who used to go into the office at 8 am and stay until 6 pm five days per week may be arriving at 9 or 10 am, leaving at 3:30 pm, and finishing their workday at home — and they may be hybrid workers, only visiting the office two to four days per week. At the same time, their less restrictive office requirements may enable them to support their family, run errands or meet up with friends on different days and at different times than they would have previously — interspersing “weekend” transit activities with the work week.

Regular demographic shifts are part of the equation as well. In New York City, for example, the population is moving further east into Brooklyn, and even within Brooklyn, it’s moving to the east. In cases like this, train and bus services need to be continually evaluated to make sure they’re keeping up with the flow of riders. Are the bus and train stops still in the right places? Does the frequency of trips on particular lines need to be readjusted in response?

All of this means adaptability is a survival skill for transit agencies.

Unfortunately, many transit agencies simply haven’t made the necessary investments in studying changing behaviors and trends to formalize their responses and meet riders where they are. In too many cities, trains are continuing to run on the same tracks with the same frequency, in the hopes that riders will one day fill them up again.

All the while, riders resort to ride sharing apps when the bus or train doesn’t work for them.

How Data Can Drive Greater Efficiencies

Let’s start with a fundamental truth: You get better strategies when data informs your strategies — and the more current that data is, the better. As rider behaviors change in real time, you need your data to be updating in real time as well, so you’re not making outdated decisions based on the realities of last year or maybe even the previous decade.

With the right technology in place, transit agencies can go where the riders actually are by applying predictive analytics to real-time rider data in order to recognize patterns and extrapolate future needs.

Providing service that’s more responsive to riders’ needs has obvious benefits in finding new riders and increasing the satisfaction of existing riders.

This approach also carries financial rewards for transit agencies, by allowing them to draw on customer insights to make better decisions about resource allocation, so they can make more informed choices about everything from staffing and maintenance to asset and fleet management.

Transit agencies with allocated dollars to spend need to ask themselves how to spend each dollar most effectively. When internal processes are made more efficient and resource allocation is optimized, the results can have profoundly positive budgetary impacts — as a result of internal cost savings as well as growing revenue by boosting ridership.

Better data enables better operational transparency. Transit agencies need to report to government agencies at the city, state and federal level, covering everything from statistics on ridership levels to maintenance issues as well as accidents and incidents. Access to accurate real-time data makes it easier to tell those stories and eases the burden of reporting.

Doing this successfully means having the right technology in place, so that you turn data into insights using predictive analytics. Instead of maintaining expensive legacy software that doesn’t provide any real intelligence, you’ll be drawing on current technology that allows you to future-cast riders’ wants and needs and serve them better.

Putting the Right Tech in Place

It can’t be stressed enough: Achieving these efficiencies depends on making sure your tech stack is up-to-date and future-ready at both the hardware and software levels. This might mean a short-term investment in internal software. It could also mean migration from legacy on-premise hardware to modern cloud systems that save money on maintenance (and ease pressures on IT staff) while enabling AI-powered analytics capabilities.

The goal is to make sure you’re paying for exactly what you need, without overpaying, maximizing the ROI of your tech dollars while opening new opportunities for the future.

One trap that agencies sometimes fall into is being stuck with inflexible legacy software. As time goes by, customization can create limitations that interfere with adaptability and efficiency — for example, by trapping staff in outdated, time-consuming workflows.

This leads to another important element of this process: optimizing your tech also means optimizing employee toolsets. Your team members need software that empowers them, helps them automate tedious, repetitive tasks and frees them up to work more efficiently as they focus on higher-level activities.

When employees can spend more time achieving their goals, and less time mired in tasks like paperwork or low-level problem-solving, it not only helps with productivity, but it also boosts employee satisfaction and ultimately employee retention — which is a huge plus all by itself in a notably tight labor market.

How ProfitOptics Can Help

We’d be glad to start a conversation with transit agencies and other public sector firms who would like to explore how the right technology can help them optimize internal efficiencies. Get in touch with us to set up a complimentary one-hour conversation with our data science product team so we can help you identify the best path forward based on your agency’s specific needs.

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