Achieving the Promise of Paperless Transit OperationsGloria Housley, Operations Manager, MV Transportation, Las Vegas, NV
While today’s modern buses and trains may run like clockwork, behind the scenes, public transit processes often look as they did 10 years ago, relying on many manual steps and stacks of paper shuffled from person to person. This includes driver window check-in and manifests, pre-trip inspection checklists, trip reconciliation reports and maintenance part order forms to name just a few. Most processes have at least one piece of paper involved and for transit operations with hundreds of operators and thousands of daily or weekly trips, that adds up quickly.
Most paperwork originated from a legitimate need to track or manage a task or provide necessary reconciliation or reporting for operational or regulatory compliance. Today, however, the availability and cost of solutions that digitize or eliminate paper is too compelling to ignore. MV is on a quest to transform as many paper-based processes as possible using tablet and optical scanning technology, machine learning and “low-code/no-code” application development that can provide returns on investment measured in months not years. But it’s not just about the cost, staff efficiency or space savings gained by eliminating paper. Each time we digitize data, we create an opportunity to analyze it to identify trends or patterns that help us further improve efficiency, quality, safety and ultimately better serve our riders.
Some of the common processes we are tackling that are often found in transit organizations include:
- Timecards and Paychecks – There are many off-the-shelf digital timecard solutions that often include the use of biometrics to improve security and accuracy. Paperless paychecks – via direct deposit or pay cards – eliminate the possibility of damage, loss or theft of printed checks and usually provide employees access to their pay much sooner – even for those team members without bank accounts.
- Driver Manifest – Mobile solutions including mobile data terminals (MDT), kiosks and mobile phone apps allow operators to socially distance by skipping the check-in window and going straight to their assigned vehicle to begin their route. What can often be 10 to 15 minutes for a paratransit driver to check-in and receive a 30-page stack of daily manifest trip details is eliminated and with it the difficulty in making mid-route changes that may better accommodate a customer.
- Trip Edit – Paratransit operations often have a Trip Edit department consisting of several staff members who review a sample of completed driver manifests for verification and reconciliation with the system of record for purposes of contractor billing, service level measurement and to ensure federal and state reporting accuracy. In MV’s Las Vegas operation alone, this process accounts for more than 2,500 sheets of paper generated daily. With the trip and route history captured electronically, teams gain near-immediate access to completed trip data, greatly reducing the overall time, effort, accuracy and cost of conducting audits.
- Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) – Prior to beginning their shift, most transit operators walk around their vehicles to ensure it is in safe working order – to include inspecting the tires, lights, brakes, and handicap lifts – via what is often a paper checklist. Once received, the paper checklists can be used as input to planning preventative or emergency service. Transformation of the DVIR process with mobile devices not only eliminates stacks of paper but allows real-time capture of information that can alert the maintenance team of potentially unsafe conditions to be addressed before a vehicle leaves the transit yard.
Transforming each of these basic transit processes significantly reduces reliance on paper and improves the quality and efficiency of virtually all team members involved – to include the operators, schedulers, dispatchers and auditors. As with any change, all stakeholders should be actively involved in the planning and rollout efforts. The benefits will be clear, allowing teams to focus on doing their job instead of filling out paperwork and, most important, vehicles will be safer, better maintained and more readily available to serve our riders.