Service performance analysis

Service Performance Analysis is a key function of public transport operators and authorities. The four main purposes of such analysis are:

  • To identify whether service performance targets are being achieved, and where relevant, to provide verifiable evidence
  • To alert when service performance is disimproving, especially when it falls below targets
  • To provide information that will help analyse the situation, identify location, scale and variances of performance problems, and supporting information for proposed remedial action
  • To track the impacts of interventions and remedial measures

The underlying motivation varies, depending on the entity and the context. Typical scenario include:

  • A contracting Transport Authority wants to verify that Operators are performing as per contract or permit conditions
  • An Operator under contact wants to ensure targets are met, in order to receive full payment and avoid penalties
  • A public sector Operator wants to verify that its own internal targets are being met
  • An Operator wants to assure effectiveness of service delivery and track productivity

Service Performance measures which are analysed include:

  • % of trips and/or planned kilometres that are performed
  • % of trips that operate on time
  • number of trips/kms lost due to Operator causes (breakdowns, crew unavailable, etc.)
  • number of trips/kms lost due to traffic congestion and other external causes
  • full and/or sectional journey times, and their variances
  • degree of crowding, and cases of intending passengers left at stops because the vehicle is full
  • number of accidents

In addition to the service performance factors, other factors are also usually measured – e.g. comfort, cleanliness and customer satisfaction.

The primary feature of Service Performance Analysis packages is a reporting suite. The reports may be fixed, or they may user-configurable features. They may also have a query function, allowing the user to examine the data, analyse it in further detail, set up specific requests, etc.  

Service Performance Analysis utilities are often included in AVM systems.

Technologies, data and resources

Service Performance Analysis is performed by software systems. These are not specifically ITS systems, but can receive most or all of their required input data from the ITS systems. The primary inputs are from the AVM system. These include:

  • Number of trips/kms operated, by route, by direction, by day, by time period
  • Timekeeping data and variances, by route, by direction, by day, by time period, by departure point, and sometimes also by intermediate checkpoints
  • Journey times/speeds and their variances, by route, by route section, by direction, by day, by time period
  • Lost trips and their causes (as input by dispatcher)

Most of the data is originally generated by the vehicle location system (mostly GPS-based) and processed by the AVM software, and either stored in the AVM archive for query-based retrieval by the Service Performance Analysis, or exported directly to it. Some data items are input by the dispatcher or by the driver.

Other data items may be generated by other systems (e.g. route base data), or generated from written records and input manually (e.g. accident data).

Computing resource requirements are modest, as most of the data collection and analytical processes are carried out by the AVM system. The software package will usually be easily accommodated on the company’s server. Communication requirements are modest, as the AVM systems will normally export a relatively small file of processed data.

Advantages and cautions

The primary advantages of ITS-supported Service Performance Analysis are:

  • There is full coverage of the entire service (all routes, 24/7 coverage) can be provided as a spin-off from the AVM system, at little or no cost
  • Expensive surveys are avoided
  • Data can be transferred automatically. This saves on data inputting costs, and eliminates human errors
  • Speed of data transfer and report production, so that same-day or following-morning reports are available
  • Automatic item, trend and exception reporting

The primary cautions are:

  • Problems with the AVM data (e.g. problems with GPS coverage or GSM transmission) will impact on the quality of the Service Performance Analysis
  • Since it is automatic, there may be a ‘disconnect’ by those analysing and using the data, so that they may not notice errors and fail to test its integrity
  • The users of the reports can sometimes think that the report production is the main objective, and limit their activity to monitoring the information. They can lose sight of the fact that the main purpose of the information is to support intervention for improvements.

Case Studies