Published August 28, 2022 in ITS Evaluation Guide
Electronic planning and scheduling has experienced significant developments over the last 30 years. With some software programs reaching their fifth or sixth generation, they have evolved from paper-based methods to artificial intelligence-powered systems.
Today, planning and scheduling systems routinely find the best use of resources and operational requirements algorithmically – creating optimal plans and schedules for all public transport modes.
The optimal scheduling of public transport services improves the overall passenger experience. Planning tools include route planning tools that help authorities determine what is the best route to service an existing population or a planned set of passenger destinations. With route options decided, the scheduling systems then allow authorities to look at service frequencies and determine potential timetables. When supplemented with operational data from ticketing systems and passenger counters, electronic scheduling can dramatically improve how services address passenger needs.
For operators, the ability to optimise driver and fleet requirements can lead to significant savings. Fleet optimisation undertaken by powerful algorithms helps transport operators optimise vehicle and personnel resources while meeting passenger needs. For passengers, the correct scheduling of services between interchanges or transport modes allows sufficient time for connections and significantly improves the experience. Increased satisfaction levels translate to increased public transport ridership and profitability.
A top end system, such as used by Transport for London, goes even further and is a portal for management and collaboration between the authority and the operators, supporting franchise bidding and operations.
This type of system:
As an example of collaboration, there are layover stands across London, but they have limited capacity – so the tool will make sure that the layover is not overloaded. With the advent of electric vehicles, planning and scheduling systems also need to deal with scenarios like vehicle range and opportunity/overnight charging.
The benefits a modern planning and scheduling system bring include:
Improved resource utilisation. The two major cost drivers for a public transport operation are vehicles and drivers. Electronic scheduling provides significant utilisation improvements for both. Performance data is used to refine timetables and improve passenger services. This creates efficiencies that can be allocated to expand services or drive costs down.
Improved labour relations. A major benefit is improved labour relations with drivers. The ability to schedule a driver’s work more accurately and fairly means they can work the shifts that fit in with their lives, ensuring a better work/life balance.
Passenger information. Access to scheduled services in a digital form can result in significantly improved passenger information for commuters. Data can be presented in printed timetables at stops, internet-based journey planners, mobile apps, third party websites, and apps like Google Maps. This ease of access improves usability and overall user impressions of public transport.
Improved journey experience. Passenger experience is paramount in improving public transport ridership. Well-planned passenger transfers and thoughtful services that meet passenger needs is essential to improving the experience and public transport perceptions.
When assessing planning and scheduling systems, you should consider the following criteria:
If you are looking at flexible scheduling, find out more in Demand Response Services.
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Bus, Trams/Light Rail, Ferry
Intelligent Transport Systems, Bus planning & scheduling
Industry Solutions Manager, ITS