Mass Transit - 28

Driven by Data
Strategy Teams, Lean Teams - the names
vary - but what is shared is the focus to do
more and provide better service.


By Mischa Wanek-Libman, executive editor

AKING A DATA-DRIVEN APproach to improve transit operations is growing among
agencies. How this is accomplished varies from agency
to agency, but a few common
themes emerged: The need to
listen to all stakeholders involved
to ensure the intended outcome is
the correct outcome and the ability to empower frontline employees
who will perpetuate best practices
resulting in long-term solutions.

Focus on process

The Washington Metropolitan
Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) Strategic Initiatives Team
was established in 2017. Inspired
by its namesake department in
New York City Transit, the team
drives strategic change in operations (rail, bus, paratransit, police
and support services) to improve
safety, customer service and efficiency. Its members say getting the
message out about what the team
can accomplish was difficult but
has evolved into one of the more
rewarding parts of the job.
"We arrived on individuals'
doorsteps who had 25-30 years
of experience in transit. We have
different ideas and a task to change
the way they do business. Initial
conversations were tough," explained Jayme Johnson, director
of Strategic Initiatives. "But once
we demonstrated to our colleagues
that there are other ways of doing things, and that our team can
have a positive impact on the way
you do business, trust grew and

28 |

we started to get a lot of traction."
One area the team is working
to improve is the challenge of track
access. WMATA has a $1.75 billion capital program in Fiscal Year
2020 that will in part focus on the
rebuild and repair of the rail system. But there are limited work
windows available to get the work
done during non-revenue hours.
The team is focusing on increasing
the number of hours spent working during those windows.
"As you can imagine, it's not all
one problem. It's multiple, small
things and some large things, as
well," said Elissa McDade, senior
program manager. "Some of it
comes from the culture of how we
plan work, and other parts of it are
just the communication challenges
or the coordination of work plans
or it's something like getting a
work train out of the yard earlier."
McDade explains that the team
established a data baseline and
then first targeted something relatively straight forward - defining
the way the agency deals with what
is referred to as emergency track
access requests, which are last
minute requests that bump longplanned scheduled work and cause
a domino effect on work schedules.
"[We needed to understand]
who and when an emergency request should be used, how it could
be used, what authority needed to
be in place to make those types of
request, and then we needed to
track and report how many people were using it. We have seen
a dramatic improvement [from

Mass Transit | | JULY/AUGUST 2019


of it comes from
the culture of
how we plan
work, and
other parts of
it are just the
or the
of working
plans or it's
something like
getting a work
train out of the
yard earlier."
MCDADE, senior

when the team began reporting
the results]," said McDade.
Since the team piloted and
scaled the process, McDade
says the number of people requesting last minute track access
decreased 62 percent. Once the
team proved that the data was
useful and relatively accurate,
they were able to use it for other
things, which involved codifying
processes to request access to the
track. The team also implemented a performance management
cycle where it reports monthly to
senior managers on their teams'
work window usage.
WMATA is also working to
improve the safety and efficiency of its third rail power outages
on the track, specifically in those
cases known as 'red tags', where
power needs to be turned off by
temporarily removing breakers in
the power substations. An innovative, automated process has been
designed and is being evaluated,
allowing an operator to shut the
power off in the control center and

Mass Transit

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Mass Transit

Ad Index
Editor's Notebook
People & Places
A New Standard Shapes Commuter Rail in Boston
Connected Vehicles: Tampa
Beyond the Bus: Charge Management
Driven by Data
Making the Case for Standardization in MaaS
Best Practices
Mass Transit - 1
Mass Transit - 2
Mass Transit - 3
Mass Transit - 4
Mass Transit - 5
Mass Transit - Ad Index
Mass Transit - 7
Mass Transit - Editor's Notebook
Mass Transit - 9
Mass Transit - People & Places
Mass Transit - 11
Mass Transit - A New Standard Shapes Commuter Rail in Boston
Mass Transit - 13
Mass Transit - 14
Mass Transit - 15
Mass Transit - 16
Mass Transit - 17
Mass Transit - 18
Mass Transit - 19
Mass Transit - Connected Vehicles: Tampa
Mass Transit - 21
Mass Transit - 22
Mass Transit - 23
Mass Transit - Beyond the Bus: Charge Management
Mass Transit - 25
Mass Transit - 26
Mass Transit - 27
Mass Transit - Driven by Data
Mass Transit - 29
Mass Transit - 30
Mass Transit - 31
Mass Transit - 32
Mass Transit - 33
Mass Transit - Making the Case for Standardization in MaaS
Mass Transit - 35
Mass Transit - Best Practices
Mass Transit - 37
Mass Transit - 38
Mass Transit - Products
Mass Transit - 40
Mass Transit - 41
Mass Transit - 42
Mass Transit - 43
Mass Transit - 44