In early 2022, Long Beach Transit was looking for solutions to the challenges they were facing in maintaining the condition of bus stops and bus stop amenities.
Long Beach Transit (LBT) is a municipal transit company that provides bus transportation in Los Angeles and Orange County. The company has a fleet of 250 buses across fourteen cities that cover 100 square miles. LBT has a ridership of more than 23 million customers.
LBT uses Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to both generate interactive and static route network maps and analyze ridership patterns across its service area. The GIS supports the transit business by enabling staff to plan, maintain, and locate transit infrastructure. GIS analysts regularly fulfill map and data requests and keep the GIS databases and web maps current as the bus timetables and routes are updated.
Check out more here: LBT GIS Data Catalog.
The project team was a coalition of three companies, Long Beach Transit (LBT), Environmental Research Institute (Esri), and Quartic Solutions. LBT uses Esri’s ArcGIS platform for their GIS and thus turned to Esri for guidance in choosing an ArcGIS based solution. ArcGIS Field Maps, along with a customizable survey template, were selected. Quartic Solutions, a woman-owned Esri business partner and premier GIS services firm, was chosen to provide GIS staffing and expertise to LBT in March 2022.
The project started.
A prototype was successfully tested.
The first stage of systemwide fieldwork is projected to begin in the summer 2023.
Public transportation in Los Angeles is essential to many people’s everyday lives. Long Beach Transit ensures everyone feels safe and can enjoy the entire bus experience, from waiting for the bus to reaching their final destination.
LBT (Long Beach Transit) has over 2,000 bus stops in its service area. While their Transit Customer Amenities (TCA) Department is responsible for maintaining the cleanliness at each bus stop, they have faced some challenges. Issues like how to maintain an up-to-date database of site conditions, ensuring ADA accessibility, and making sure amenities are maintained and available at each bus stop. The condition information about the bus stops is critical and necessary for making sound decisions, such as which bus stops need improvements.
TCA had a legacy solution in place that provided access to the bus stop data but, was looking for additional tools to help make their jobs easier.
Back in 2012, LBT developed a bus stop survey that contained basic information about bus stops. After using the old system for over ten years, the staff knew exactly what they wanted to change. They needed a solution that would help minimize data entry errors during the field data collection and that would have a new option for capturing photos. Being able to attach photos would really help staff record details of the visual conditions at specific locations. They also wanted a more streamlined user-friendly application interface. By standardizing the wording of the amenity inventory, they felt they could reduce data entry errors, such as typos and non-accurate descriptions. The plan was to develop a database that was better suited for storing the complex infrastructure relationships (1 to many relationships). Then, design an application allowing supervisors to review and approve work. Adding better tracking of data associated with bus stop amenities was also important.
The three organizations worked well together to address and resolve the complications LBT was facing with their previous legacy software.
The project team architected a cloud-based solution using AWS infrastructure and the Esri ArcGIS platform. The solution included both a mobile field map data collection application and an on-premise web mapping application.
A solid foundation for the project was built by cleaning and loading existing data into a new database. The data were organized into 14 related tables covering a wide variety of information such as passenger amenity types, amenity condition, comments, and pictures. Then, crucial data regarding ADA compliance was incorporated. The traffic condition data was added to enrich the dataset, including the site conditions, such as the stop area location and pedestrian crosswalks.
The field data collection application was created using the survey template that is included with ArcGIS Field Maps. The Field Maps App is available for download via the Apple App Store and/or Google Play Store. Once downloaded, the Field Maps App was configured for LBT staff, and tools to minimize user input errors, archive data, and easy editing were included.
Offline data collection is built into the Field Maps App. Once a field user is reconnected to the network, the local data stored in the Field App is uploaded to ArcGIS Portal.
Then, after the sync, a supervisor can view the approval screen, where all the new and/or edited records are presented in an intuitive table format, ready to approve.
More advanced functionality is available with the Service Planning Bus Stop Web Application when staff is on-premise. The Bus Stop Web App is a web map containing current LBT stops, active routes, and historical ridership data combined with the new bus stop amenity data. The progress of staff working in the field is easily visualized by viewing the color of the bus stops. Staff can quickly review a stop’s amenity data in pop-up menus by clicking on the map.
Three times a year, LBT makes service changes to its service network. To facilitate these recurring service changes, the solution also includes functionality to automatically add new stops and inactivate old stops if a new service change is initiated.
Like in every complex project, there were some obstacles to overcome. In this case, the challenge arose when incorporating the old 2012 amenity data. The data was collected as one big database table with no relationship classes. Specific amenities had multiple values and duplicate entries. In order to load the old data to the new normalized tables, Quartic designed an ETL model that appended and split data as needed for the improved schema. Data cleanup tasks, such as standardizing to coded domain values, were automated, resulting in a tidy dataset with increased data integrity.
The picture 5. is a screenshot of an example of the coded value domains - the left column is the domain name to be assigned to certain fields, and the right is the options for that domain. This prevents users from making spelling/formatting errors.
With the data being collected and turned into an easy-to-read format, LBT can provide up-to-date bus stop amenity and ADA information to the public and transit customers. LBT staff can more easily identify which bus stops have accessibility improvements and the condition of those improvements. They can collaborate with related government agencies, such as municipal public works departments, to better prioritize crosswalk and sidewalk pedestrian improvements.
The restructured data and new application architecture were tested in June 2022 by LBT staff by collecting bus stop amenities and ADA information. The test used the Metro Route 130 service transition to LBT Route 141. The first stage of systemwide fieldwork will begin in the summer of 2023.
Based on the successful conclusion of the prototype project, LBT will consider planning a larger system-wide implementation and rollout, incorporating the updated bus stop data into LBT's GIS databases alongside GTFS (General Transit Feed System) network, land use, ridership, and demographic information.
This is an example of how GIS technology can support transit operations and ultimately make public transit safer and more enjoyable for everyone.
"Quartic has extensive experience with a highly qualified GIS technical service team.”- Long Beach Transit, Service Development Manager.