Authorities & Operators: Working Together for the Greater Good
A common justification for the purchase of an Automatic Vehicle Location and Control (AVLC) system is to provide contract performance reports based on services operated and the performance of the delivered service compared to the published schedule.
(Given that this data is often used to determine performance payments, operators might be justified in seeing the additional workload of supporting a system instituted to penalise them as just another cost to their operations.)
In my experience, the benefit that an AVLC system can bring to operators is not top of mind for governments when they are initially considering a purchase.
Operators are typically viewed through a contractual lens. The government writes the contract and the winning bidder signs up to the conditions. It is up to the operator how they deliver to the conditions of the contract and how to make money by managing their costs.
Certainly there is some benefit in this and operators would be the first to tell governments to stay out of their business as they manage staff, schedule repairs and plan for their future.
However, best practice would suggest that a city's transport operations should not be adversarial.
It is in both the government’s and the operator’s interest to deliver frequent services, on time with minimal disruptions. Good service delivery maximises the benefit to the passenger and the government, and means that operators will get the maximum payment that their contract will allow.
Smart operators know that to do this, they need both visibility and, importantly, control of their fleet.
To provide visibility, many companies have installed their own GPS tracking system on their vehicles.
Yarra Trams knew this and 30 years ago went even further, developing their own location and vehicle monitoring system. They have been successfully upgrading and using this system ever since. Many other bus companies have also installed basic GPS tracking.
Unfortunately, these systems are usually installed for a specific purpose by individual operators who are usually running to a very tight budget. Because of this, they are limited in scope and are not related to the KPIs required by their operating contract.
Control is often via the operators’ own radio system. This is standalone, not connected to the AVLC and remains a significant cost to operators.
Partnering for Success
Generally, however, it is not the technology that is at issue. It is the willpower and expectations that shape the interactions.
Both government and transport operators need to be open about what they need and how this will benefit them as well as the other party.
In a cooperative delivery strategy, the government will do all it can to make the operator meet their contractual goals.
They want the operator to win, because this means commuters get a better experience. In this paradigm, an AVLC system is not a tool to penalise operators but to enable them to meet their KPIs.
Properly designed routes that are well-executed will give the travelling public a better service at a lower cost.
This in turn will result in increased patronage and ultimately an overall increase in social wellbeing. It’s good for the transport authority, it’s good for the operators, and most importantly it is good for the passenger.
The result? Winners all round!