As investments go, this one is a slam-dunk super-win.
ETS is about to integrate a $335,000 module into its highly complex bus scheduling computer application, and that module will instantly do away with the need for 49 buses worth about $27 million.
“We won’t sell those buses,” says Bill Sabey, director of Customer Service Development. “Instead we’ll use them to improve peak service to suburban growth areas, and to alleviate critical overload situations on specific routes.”
Understanding what Minbus does requires an explanation (it’s fascinating!) of the multiple layers of highly complex thinking and computer work that go into making buses run on time, at the lowest possible cost.
Three layers of organization are critical to the creation of an integrated plan for how nearly 700 buses every day will service 200 regular routes and 200 special routes – like school runs – in the most cost-efficient way.
Layer # 1 – Routes: ETS determines the streets each route will follow. Staff drive the routes at morning and afternoon peaks, and at two lower-demand times during the day. They time how long it takes to drive between several key timing points, and enter the data into their main scheduling computer application, called HASTUS. This phase creates the schedules that most riders see online and in small route map leaflets.
Layer #2 – Buses: The second layer involves planning the most cost-efficient use of each of the nearly 700 buses that leave four transit garages (usually twice) each day. While some buses go back and forth on the same route, the majority are more efficiently used when they’re switched from one route to another at specific locations and times. They are replaced by other buses – or maybe not if the frequency of service drops after a peak period. HASTUS creates daily plans for all 700 buses. It’s this phase that Minbus will make more efficient.
Layer #3 – Operators: Now that HASTUS has planned which buses most cost-effectively go where, and when, it must schedule the operators who drive them . Shift design is a highly complex process that must account for collective agreement rules about things like maximum and minimum work times, limits on the time between split shifts, overtime rules and more. HASTUS works its magic and creates assignments for each operator.
Now, back to the Minbus module and the advantage it brings to the planning process.
Currently Layer #2 (the blocking of buses) is done separately by each transit garage.
“The Minbus module enables HASTUS to look at the whole city as a single unit, increasing the application’s blocking efficiency, in Edmonton‘s case, by 7 per cent,” says Ray LaBrie, ETS Data Management Scheduler.
“And that 7 per cent adds up to a capital cost saving of $27 million.”
Bill and Ray are visibly proud of what they’re now able to do with the Minbus module.
“We’ll deliver on our promise to Council to improve peak service to outlying growth areas…without adding to our capital budget,” says Bill.