Sunday, June 26, 2016

GAO: ITS - Urban and Rural Transit Providers Reported Benefits but Face Deployment Challenges


Urban and Rural Transit Providers Reported Benefits but Face Deployment Challenges

GAO-16-638: Published: Jun 21, 2016. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 2016.

What GAO Found

Selected large and medium urban transit providers have deployed most Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies, such as automatic vehicle location (AVL) and electronic fare payment. Most of these providers reported sharing data collected from ITS with the public or regional transportation providers to enable technology innovations and improve regional planning. Large and medium urban transit providers have also deployed advanced types of ITS technologies, such as smart phone applications to provide passengers with travel information and mobile ticketing. GAO estimates that small urban and rural transit providers are using security systems, computer-aided dispatch, AVL, and geographic information systems to, among other things, monitor safety and security and improve record-keeping and billing capabilities. However, most small urban and rural transit providers are not using other ITS technologies—such as automatic passenger counters or electronic fare payment—due to the cost of the technologies or because there is no perceived need.
Transit providers GAO surveyed and interviewed reported various benefits from ITS including improved scheduling and routing, on-time performance and schedule adherence, and customer satisfaction. In addition, many large and medium urban transit providers reported that using combinations of technologies can increase benefits. By using technologies such as AVL and electronic fare payment together, for example, transit providers can obtain more precise ridership information, which can further improve their planning. However, transit providers GAO interviewed and surveyed noted that it can be difficult to quantify the benefits of using ITS technologies because, as reported by large and medium urban providers, it may be difficult to identify a unit of measurement, such as for greater staff efficiency, or attribute benefits to either ITS deployment or a specific technology. Transit providers also face an assortment of deployment challenges, including competing for funding internally with state-of-good-repair needs, reluctance from the transit workforce and leadership to embrace ITS technologies, coordinating deployment across regional agencies, and integrating technologies purchased from different vendors.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) offers a variety of information resources to support ITS deployment, but few of the transit providers interviewed or surveyed reported using these resources. DOT officials, selected large and medium transit providers, and other public transit stakeholders told GAO that the transit community may not be using these resources because transit providers lack sufficient staff and the information provided may not reflect the transit community's needs. Additionally, DOT does not include small urban and rural transit providers in its ITS deployment survey, a tool officials said is used in designing information resources. DOT could improve the awareness and applicability of ITS resources by developing a strategy to raise awareness of DOT's resources available to the transit community and monitoring the adoption of ITS by transit providers in small urban and rural areas. Without greater efforts from DOT to make the transit community more aware of federal ITS resources and to tailor these resources to the needs of smaller providers, transit providers may be missing information that could help them make the most informed ITS deployment decisions.

Why GAO Did This Study

Public transit providers are adopting electronics and information-processing applications called ITS to help improve operations and service. ITS technologies can play an important role in facilitating multimodal choices in a rapidly changing transportation environment. This report describes: (1) the extent to which selected transit providers in large urbanized areas are using ITS, (2) the extent to which transit providers in small urban and rural areas are using ITS, (3) the benefits and challenges these transit providers experience in deploying ITS, and (4) the extent to which transit providers have utilized DOT resources to promote and support ITS.
GAO reviewed DOT's ITS deployment data and ITS studies; interviewed DOT officials and public transit stakeholders; conducted three site visits, selected based on geographic dispersion and DOT recommendations; interviewed 31 transit providers serving large urbanized areas selected for geographic dispersion and use of multiple transit modes; and conducted a national survey of small urban and rural transit providers to obtain information on ITS technologies used.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that the Secretary of Transportation develop a strategy to raise awareness of federal resources for ITS deployment in the transit community and include ITS adoption by small urban and rural transit providers in ITS-monitoring efforts. DOT agreed with the recommendations and provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated.
For more information, contact Mark Goldstein at (202) 512-2834 or

Additional Materials:


Mark Goldstein
(202) 512-2834

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS: Survey of Transit Providers Serving Small Urban and Rural Areas (GAO-16-639SP, June 21, 2016), an E-supplement to GAO-16-638

Read the Full Report: INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS: Urban and Rural Transit Providers Reported Various Benefits, but Face Deployment Challenges (GAO-16-638).


This document presents the results of GAO's survey of small urban and rural transit providers on their use of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). In order to learn about transit providers' use of ITS and perspectives on the costs, benefits, and challenges associated with ITS, we conducted a web-based survey by selecting a stratified random sample of 312 transit providers using reporting year 2013 data from the Federal Transit Administration's National Transit Database. The results of the survey can be generalized to the population of 314 transit providers that serve small urban areas and 582 transit providers with more than 10 vehicles that serve rural areas, and are presented as estimates with 95 percent confidence intervals within plus or minus 10 percentage points, unless otherwise noted. We obtained completed questionnaires from 233 respondents, or about a 75 percent response rate.
In this e-supplement we present the survey questionnaire and results regarding use of 10 ITS technologies, ITS costs, ITS benefits, ITS challenges, sources of funding for ITS, resources used for technical support for ITS, and the federal ITS Joint Program Office. We do not include narratives provided in open-ended questions, due to some answers possibly revealing respondents' identities based on the content provided.
A more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology is contained in our report "Intelligent Transportation Systems: Urban and Rural Transit Providers Reported Various Benefits from ITS, but Face Deployment Challenges" GAO-16-638 (Washington, D.C.: June 2016). We administered the survey from November 2015 to December 2015 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.


Page NameQuestionnaireResults
Communication TechnologiesViewView
Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD)ViewView
Automatic Vehicle LocationViewView
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)ViewView
Security Cameras and/or Security SystemsViewView
Maintenance Management SystemsViewView
Traveler Information SystemsViewView
Automatic Passenger CountersViewView
Electronic Fare PaymentViewView
Transit Signal PriorityViewView
Technical SupportViewView
ITS Joint Program OfficeViewView


Mark Goldstein, or (202) 512-6670


This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. The published product may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately.


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