The City of Regina’s transit system is making a massive upgrade to their operations management: from excel spreadsheets and paper pen to software that tracks driver schedules, hourly wages, dispatching and bidding all in one place.
By September of next year, Regina Transit plans to have Trapeze OPS software up and running, a server-based platform that automates many of its day-to-day tasks. One of the biggest difficulties in managing a transit system is that a significant percentage of employees will be away from the job at any given time. According to David Fulton, director of operations management at Trapeze Group
, the company that developed the software, a typical transit company will count 20 per cent of its team as “exceptions,” meaning that they’re either sick, on vacation, at union meetings, and so on.
On top of that, driver assignments are highly variable, with hours constantly changing and pay needing to be adjusted accordingly.
“All kinds of things could go wrong,” said Fulton. “So, because of that, the system basically automates all of that function of dealing with these day-to-day exceptions, and then turning this complicated schedule into pay.”
There can indeed be important cost considerations with absent drivers as the transit company will maintain stand-by drivers ready to go; the more time they sit idle, the more money the company loses, he added. It’s a constant balancing act.
Chris Phillips, business systems analyst and acting manager of transit administration at Regina Transit, said the changes the new system will bring are going to be “massive.”
“We didn’t really have a central repository for all that scheduling information… schedule and time-keeping, rostering, signups—we did that all manually,” he said. “That took us forever.”
Trapeze OPS is installed on a server connected to a large database, either Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server that runs various Web services. The client side is located at remote facilities from which vehicles are dispatched. Equipment can also be installed on buses themselves to track adherence to timetables.
Beyond automating tasks for management, the platform also includes a Web-based self-serve component for employees. They can use the portal to schedule days off, volunteer for events and keep track of their pay.
Fulton said Trapeze OPS is usually installed on-premise, given the nature of their government-funded client base, but in a handful of cases the company has offered it as a hosted service. Many municipalities in Canada are using the current version of Trapeze Ops or a legacy version, including Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Edmonton, as well as most major cities in B.C., said Fulton.
As widespread as these sorts of systems are, the public is usually completely unaware of what is going on behind the scenes, he adds.
“I think if people really did a day in the life of a transit person they would really be shocked at how much goes on to actually get a driver onto the bus and get the bus on the road.”