N-CATT Tech News April 2020

  • Date: May 12, 2020

Hello Everyone,

It feels like in the last few weeks, transit workers, be they drivers, cleaners, or maintenance crews have become our heroes. They bravely do their jobs each day to transport the amazing people laboring in hospitals and clinics to save lives, the people working hard at supermarkets to provide food, and all of those who continue to make our nation run during this crisis. Many transit agencies have gone fare free or have added grocery and food bank deliveries to their services.

I just read an article about how people in a housing complex are cheering and banging pots whenever a transit driver exits the nearby bus depot, letting the drivers know that their heroic work is appreciated. One person starts making noise and others come to their windows to chime in. Another driver, featured in a video, explains his dedication to transit’s critical role and to his personal mission during these strange times despite losing his own father to Covid-19.

We at N-CATT are posting and spreading transit-related Covid-19 resources and stories of transit workers on the front lines. Find those stories on Twitter at #COVID_TransitHeroes.

Sheryl Gross-Glaser
Editor, N-CATT Tech News
Director, National Center for Applied Transit Technology
Community Transportation Association of America

N-CATT Webinars

Open Source Software and Open Data

May 21, 2020 at 2 p.m. Eastern – Open Source Software and Open Data – This webinar will provide the definitions of open source software and open data, and explain how they relate to demand-response transportation (DRT), including, but not limited to paratransit, microtransit, human services transportation, ridesourcing (aka ridehailing) taxis, and non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT). Speakers will discuss how the use of open source software can leverage resources beyond your agency, reduces the cost associated with procuring and operating DRT software and benefit from upgrades and enhancements at no additional cost.

Speakers will describe the use of open transit data to allow the public and entities outside of your agency to provide information and services beyond what is typically affordable by small agencies. Finally, the webinar will describe how open transit data is the foundation for mobility services such as one-call/one-click systems and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) (which will be explored in a future webinar). Click here to register.

Framework for Technology Decisions

Archived webinar – Framework for Technology Decisions – This webinar presented a framework for considering and making technology decisions that is broadly applicable to different types of technologies, whether they are incremental or fundamentally new. Even as technology evolves, a framework structure remains useful to account for priorities, goals, and risks. Transit agencies can take the materials learned during the webinar to begin working through considerations they’ve been navigated for tech in their systems. (Aired on Apr. 15, 2020)

FTA’s Grants Focus on Rural and Small Urban Transit and Transportation Ecosystems

The Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI) program at the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has awarded $20.3 million in grants to transportation providers across the country for projects that will help develop and implement innovative technologies to improve efficiency, safety, and accessibility. The 25 IMI projects will all be applying use proven innovations to close gaps that currently exist in local public transportation.

Technology for the Customer Experience and Customers in Need

A good share of the projects sponsored with IMI grant funds are looking to develop platforms that will streamline the customer experience. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough in Alaska and the San Joaquin Regional Transit District in California, amongst others, are using their funding to create unified payment systems and route planners for numerous separate transportation providers, making it easier for customers to get where they need to go using more than one transportation mode if necessary.

Another significant share of the selected IMI projects will be focusing on making transportation easier specifically for low-income, elderly and disabled riders to plan trips, especially to essential service destinations, such as hospitals and grocery stores. These include selected projects sponsored by the Greater Hartford Transit District in Connecticut and Cecil County in Maryland.

Of the 25 transit providers that have been awarded grants, many hail from small-urban and rural areas. Click here to view a full list of the projects being funded and the lead organization for each.

Resource of the Month – 8 Steps for Success in Adopting Electric Buses

As the environmental and economic benefits electric buses are becoming clearer, Metro Magazine has published a brief white paper, entitled 8 Steps for Success in Adopting Electric Buses. These steps create an excellent outline for planning and implementation; they also integrate important variables to account for when making electric bus and related charging decisions. The checklist below is based on the white paper and is presented here with the permission of Metro Magazine.

Eyes on the Prize – Planning

  1. Chart the Course: It is important to make clear from the beginning what the ultimate goal is when it comes to adopting electric buses. Developing a pilot system, where the department can observe a test of what electric buses will look like when on a route, and specific data can be measured, is an important starting point.
  2. Evaluate Electric Options: There are many different options when it comes to electric buses, and communicating with providers of electric buses will help a DOT or transit agency to decide which kind of bus best fits its needs.

Eyes on Details – Funding and Tasks

  1. Tap into Grants and Financing: Because rolling out a new fleet of electric buses can be costly, it is good idea to apply for funding. There are federal, state and local grants that can help offset costs, and some bus manufacturers will lease buses for easier upgrading to new models as they are released.
  2. Analyze Routing and Scheduling Factors: Once a type of electric bus is chosen, it is important to look at its route. Often electric buses have a shorter range than conventional buses, so it is critical to ensure that the range will accommodate a route.
  3. Map Out Infrastructure: In addition to making sure a bus fits the route, there is infrastructure, such as charging stations, which need to be physically set in place. Keep scalability in mind when it comes to building, procuring, and placing this infrastructure.

Eyes on a Big Team – Staff, Partners, and the Public

  1. Prep and Train Staff: It is important to train bus operators and maintenance staff with the new buses and infrastructure to make sure staff knows how to effectively use the new buses and infrastructure and to develop a consensus about its value.
  2. Reach out to the Public: Public relations are will play a significant role in an electric bus rollout, and sharing the benefits of the new buses can increase both excitement in the community and ridership.
  3. Don’t Go It Alone: Actively reach out to suppliers, consultants, utility providers, and other transit providers who have used electric buses successfully to obtain help along the way.
The complete guide to electric buses can be downloaded on Metro’s website.

N-CATT on Social Media

No matter your social media venue preferences, N-CATT is there. We update our social media feeds several times a week and on a more than daily basis whenever there is pertinent news. On Twitter, especially, we are sharing Covid-19 transportation or related resources that fall outside the purview of N-CATT’s mission, but which significantly affect the many transit, transportation providers, local and state governments, and state DOTs, in particular, that we serve.

Please share your stories on Twitter about the brave men and women who are driving and keeping buses running, and otherwise providing public transportation. We are using the hashtag #COVID_TransitHeroes.

N-CATT on Facebook

View the N-CATT page on Facebook. N-CATT staff are posting information about and links to events and resources. These include events and resources of our partner technical assistance centers, the FTA, and national organizations.

N-CATT on LinkedIn

On the LinkedIn N-CATT page, we are sharing ideas, thoughts, and news, as well as information about N-CATT activities and products. LinkedIn is a wonderful forum for discussion because so many transportation thinkers, professionals, and managers participate in that venue. We are also engaging with the transportation technology sector, which is active on LinkedIn.

N-CATT Meows on Twitter

Find N-CATT meows at @TransitNCATT.

This past month, our N-CATT meows on Twitter concentrated on news and resources relating to COVID-19, be they resources, federal and local measures taken to ameliorate the effects of the lockdowns and to reduce the consequences for people who are now homebound, or tech developments that are helping to keep operations going.

Remember to give a shout out with the hashtag #COVID_TransitHeroes.

N-CATT Videos on the Bus

Small Urban Transit in Iowa Responds to COVID-19

Transit agencies across the country are cutting service, adjusting routes, only allowing rear boarding – except for passengers with disabilities, cordoning off safe zones for bus drivers, providing only essential non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), and/or going fare free. This video describes what is happening in Iowa’s small urban transit systems, with a plea from one general manager to use transit only for essential trips.


This is Bravery

One transit driver who recently lost his father to the coronavirus is interviewed on a national news program about his sense of mission and awareness of the risks he is taking each and every day to provide bus rides to people who themselves may be infected.

CAT on a Bus

Because this month we all need an entertaining video of cats on the bus more than ever, here is a brief video break featuring an orange tabby cat from New York City who knows how to travel. The musical accompaniment is Petula Clark singing Downtown, a big hit in the mid-1960s.