Lehman Center for Transportation Research at Florida International University

Development of a Transit Planning Information System

  • Sponsor: Florida Department of Transportation
  • Contact: Dr. Albert Gan, 305-348-3116, gan@eng.fiu.edu

  • The transit industry relies on various sources of data to help plan and manage transit facilities and personnel. These data sources include the National Transit Database (NTD) from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), socioeconomic data from the Census Bureau and local planning agencies, land use data such as those from the county tax appraisal offices, transit network data maintained by transit agencies, transit route and TAZ maps maintained by transportation planning agencies, transit ridership at route level, etc. Although these data are available for use by transit agencies, they are often given in the raw-data format that is accessible to only the more sophisticated computer users. For example, in the case of the complete version of the NTD data, data prior to 1990 (still useful for historical analyses) were stored in the unstructured page-form format. Also, the fact that the NTD data from different data years are stored in separate files does not lend themselves to easy data retrieval for trend analyses.

    One way to improve the accessibility of these data is by developing an information system equipped with customized functions that allow even novice computer users to access and analyze data through a series of well-guided mouse points and clicks. While most current microcomputer database management systems (DBMSs) are equipped with relatively user-friendly features, the need for a customized front-end that is tailored to specific data retrieval and analysis has not been replaced.

    In addition to improving the accessibility of individual data sources, transit agencies can also benefit from an information system that integrates data from various sources. Such an information system not only provides a convenient means to access data from multiple sources from a common data depository, but also allows data to be cross-referenced to generate new information that is otherwise unavailable when data sources are accessed individually.

    Lastly, DBMSs do not typically provide computational and statistical capabilities. To obtain such summary statistics as mean, mode, median, and standard deviation, one must perform the task external of a DBMS. DBMSs also lack the capabilities to handle spatial information and graphics. To allow visualization, query by locations, and spatial analysis, additional software tools will also be required.

    This project aims to meet the stated needs by developing a transit planning information system (TPIS) that will serve both as a relational DBMS and a data retrieval and analysis tool for transit planning. It will facilitate the development of "value added" transit planning and decision?making information by enabling the integrated and user?friendly processing of data from scattered sources and different formats. As an element of the Florida Transit Information Management and Exchange System (TIMES), TPIS will subsume and incorporate the Florida Transit Database which is currently one of the TIMES elements. The development of TPIS is in line with the recent observation by the Office of program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability (OPPAGA), in its justification Review of the Public Transportation program, that "Better data is needed to enable the state to design and build effective public transportation systems."