The Planning phase is a structured process to determine what the ITS is required to do, and how this fits within the broader corporate service, operations and management strategy. It begins with the scoping of objectives and requirements, and the scoping of the ITS project. It identifies the functional requirements for the ITS system(s), and develops the technical concept that will be used.

The Guidance presents 5 planning steps:

  • What are the goals for ITS?
  • What approach to take?
  • Is ITS the right route?
  • What must the system do?
  • What type of ITS applications?

The Planning phase provides a sound basis for the subsequent technical design of the ITS system.

1 What are the goals for ITS?

Themes: Problem assessment; Opportunity analysis

Goal-setting is the first step in purchasing and deploying any ITS. Everyone needs to be clear on the reasons why the ITS system is being bought, and how it is meant to assist the public transport organization, users and other stakeholders. Goal-setting is a strategic task, which should be carried out by the decision-takers and the management layers of the relevant stakeholders.

The Goals of ITS systems vary widely. International experience shows that ITS systems are usually implemented to solve problems (e.g. decline in service quality and disruptions due to traffic congestion), to improve performance (e.g. dispatch management), and to provide information needed for improved management and productivity (e.g. MIS, scheduling). In many other cases, ITS is implemented to introduce new services to the customer (e.g. real-time passenger information) or to avail of opportunities (e.g. link to the traffic signal system for priority for buses).

The Goal-setting process ensures that the key stakeholders have a shared understanding, that the ITS is relevant to the public transport business, and that the technical designers and implementers are given clear guidance.

2 What approach to take?

Themes: Analysis of Needs; identification of necessary functions;

The Goals represent the strategic approach. The next step is to derive a set of Needs and Solutions from the stakeholder Goals.

The ‘Needs’ are high-level requirements of the organization(s), that set the context in which the ITS system will be designed and deployed. Examples include “achieve higher operating speed”, “reduce variability of journey times”, or “minimize accidents or unsafe driving”. When all relevant Needs have been identified and linked, the stakeholders are in a better position to consider how to solve them. The output of this activity would be a Needs Assessment or User Requirements document.

Having identified the organizational Needs, various Solutions are identified and analyzed. ‘Solutions’ are the approaches the organization(s) can take to meet their Needs. The Solutions are typically at organizational, operational or customer services level. For example, if the Need is “reduce variability of journey times”, one Solution could be “establish an effective Operations Management capability”.

The means of implementing the Solutions is part of this consideration. Note that ITS is an enabling technology, and not a solution in its own right. The role for ITS should be carefully considered, including how it relates to the organizational and operational elements of the preferred Solutions.

3 Is ITS the Right Route?

Themes: Is there a suitable non-ITS alternative? Is there a better balance of technology and method?

It is always worthwhile to consider whether the goals could be achieved without ITS, even where it is certain that ITS will be implemented. The stakeholders should ask themselves: “If ITS was not available to us, how much of our goals could we achieve by improving our organization, our methods, and our personnel?”

In a few cases, it may indeed be possible to achieve the main goals without deploying ITS. In far more cases, the exercise will reveal improvements that should be made whether or not ITS is implemented. Unfortunately, these are often overlooked when the focus in on the new technology.

For example, the real underlying problem could be that units within the organization are not well co-ordinated; that work processes have not been updated in years; that there is weak supervision and little accountability; or that the primary causes of lost trips are breakdowns and absenteeism. These are management issues, and technology will not solve them. More importantly, if they are not identified and resolved in parallel to the technology deployment, the ITS will not achieve the expected benefits.

4 What must the system do?

Processes review; Opportunity analysis; Functional requirements; ITS application potential; Anticipated benefits

Having decided strategic requirements and the tactical response, the next step is to describe in detail how this will be implemented. This is more fundamental than just describing what the ITS equipment itself is required to do. It must begin with a thorough understanding and review of the organizational structure, its business processes, and the operational processes within which the ITS system will sit.

ITS systems are very powerful and potentially business-changing tools. However, two of the greatest and repeated failings of ITS deployment are:

  1. systems are designed from the outset to replicate much of how things were done previously
  2. insufficient attention (if any) is given to organizational structures and processes changing for the better.

The consequences are that on one hand it misses out the real benefits that the ITS can bring, while on the other it constrains the ITS for the future and leaves it with legacy inefficiencies.

Good practice is to carry out the following steps:

  • Carry out a full process review for all of the functional areas within the scope of the ITS analysis
  • Carry out an Opportunity Analysis to see where and how these processes and their organizational structures could be improved
  • Define all new and amended processes
  • Develop the Functional Requirements for the ITS, with clear linkages between the processes and the ITS functions
  • Define the new Operating Procedures

This is likely to be an iterative process. The detailed design will provide a greater understanding of the technical opportunities and constraints, costs, and how the ITS will be used in service. It may be necessary to review and revise the Functional Requirements when financial and other implications are clearer.

“Functional Requirements” are a detailed description of the relevant business processes and what the system and its components are expected to do to assist them. They provide the primary reference for the technical design of the ITS.

It is advisable to make a first estimation of the Anticipated Benefits of the ITS. This will give an indication of whether the ITS systems are likely to meet stakeholder expectations, and whether the investment would be justified. If first indications are that the anticipated benefits are insufficient, then obviously it is better to revise the approach before proceeding to design.

5 What type of ITS application?

Technical concepts; Options analysis; Budget setting; Pre-feasibility

Having determined the functions the ITS system needs to perform, the next step is to develop a number of potential Technical Concepts and assess which one is most appropriate to the specified requirements.

It is very important to keep an open mind at the Technical Concept stage, since there are many possible solutions. The technologies are constantly changing, offering new approaches, new products, and new cost propositions. Predetermining the outcome due to personal preferences, vendor loyalty, determination to use legacy systems, etc. can have significant and avoidable consequences on performance and cost. While there may indeed be benefits from working with long-standing suppliers or utilizing legacy systems, these choices should be outputs from the analysis, and not starting points.

The User Requirements and Functional Requirements will be major determinants of the technical concepts which are considered. Other influencing factors will be current and emerging practice in the transport sector, existing ITS systems, installation environment, available means of communication and data transfer, available IT support, costs, development risk and deployment risk.

The nature of the transport entities may also have a significant impact, especially the corporate form, number of operators and number/size of vehicles. Large, especially subsidized public companies operating big buses are likely to go for “infrastructure heavy” solutions, which involve a significant degree of in-vehicle equipment, centralized computer systems and attendant communications technologies. By contrast, both small companies and operators of small vehicles are unlikely to be able to afford complex systems. They will seek “infrastructure light” or “infrastructure minimal” solutions that are based on low-cost devices (e.g. mobile phones) and use public domain communications channels (e.g. GSM).

An Options Analysis would consist of two phases: analysis of the Technology Concept Options, and then analysis of the Detailed Technology Options. The assessment framework would consist of factors such as functionality, performance, investment cost, lifecycle cost, expandability, complexity, deployment risk.

A preferred Technology Concept should emerge from this process, which would proceed to more detailed design. It may be a practical option to develop the concept as a migration path. In this case, the ITS is implemented at one level and then developed over time as need, technical capacity and funding permit.

A preliminary costing should be prepared and presented to the relevant stakeholders to guage the willingness to finance it, as there is little point in persisting with this approach if the funding will not be available.