September-October_2021 - 50

Transit Schedulers - They Get No Respect
Creating a schedule will move people between two points, but the complexity
occurs when balancing the need for efficiency with customer needs.
who I have not seen since the pandemic
began. When we got around to discussing the
Mass Transit scheduling articles, his quick reEd
Transit Schedule Maker/
sponse was, " Is it really all that complicated; how
hard can it be to make a schedule? " Then a little
over an hour and a half later I heard that sentiment
echoed again by another colleague when
she mentioned that her husband made a similar
comment as she prepared a new signup. I (unintentionally)
answered those questions for my
wife when she joined me at the Canadian Urban
Transit Association scheduling course in 2016. At
the end of the course, she admittedly understood
why I went crazy for a period of about a month
and a half at least three times a year (the rest of
the year I really can't defend myself).
While repeating this ad nauseum; from
friends and loved ones up to some top executives,
transit scheduling is more complicated and
misunderstood than anyone realizes. During an
interview with a software company a couple of
years ago, one interviewer actually asked if I was
up to the challenge of working for a change. Good
schedulers make it look easy by finding ways to
make the schedule work no matter the assignment.
In its simplest form we want to move the
Is there anyone out there who wants to
do a backflip on a balance beam because
a gymnast made it look easy?
customer between points A and B. It gets complicated
when compounded with agreements,
spread time, passenger and driver satisfaction,
etc. Is there anyone out there who wants to do a
backflip on a balance beam because a gymnast
made it look easy?
In my world, scheduling the needs of the customer
exceed all other concerns and should be
the driving force behind any schedule. I believe
if you do right by the customer, the agency will
benefit, but not everyone shares my opinion as
demonstrated in the following survey.
50 | Mass Transit | | SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
89838658 | Weerapat Wattanapichayakul | Dreamstime
A poll posted on LinkedIn by Transport Toolkit
in Australia asked whether schedulers and
planners would prioritize service or efficiency.
The question posted was, " Schedulers often have
to make a choice to reduce run times to get a trip
link that saves a peak bus but cause some late
running. What would you do? [sic] "
* Efficiency, save a peak bus?
* Customer, leave as is?
The survey didn't offer any context and required
a gut reaction. Of the 19 respondents,
42 percent would save a peak bus, while 58 percent
favored the customer's needs. This demonstrates
how complicated this business can be
with huge impacts on the agency and riders
we serve. What happens if a scheduler does not
fully comprehend the agency's operating framework,
and more importantly, can they create
the types of schedules required?
There are consultants and schedulers who
are great technicians and can save your agency
money on the front end but can cost you more
with customer and driver dissatisfaction on the
back end. Other schedulers massage the schedule
on the front end with the hope of better overall
results, including bigger savings.
The larger question is, does anyone in your
agency other than the scheduler really understand
how they create the items that become the
driving force behind your agency? My wager is
that most agencies do not know or realize what
the scheduler is doing until there is a problem,
and even then, you might not recognize or comprehend
the real root cause. Is it really all that
complicated? How hard can it be?
Craig Dunn, director, transport integration
for Transport for NSW in Sydney,
Australia, co-authored this column.


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of September-October_2021

Editor's Notebook
People & Places
Make Digitalization Part of Your Rail and Transit Strategy
LYNX: Primed for Post-Pandemic Acceleration
How LIDAR is Making Roads Safer for Pedestrians and Cyclists
Get Ready for APTA's Big Event
A 21st Century Approach to Fare Collection
Best Practices
The Scheduling Conundrum
September-October_2021 - 1
September-October_2021 - 2
September-October_2021 - 3
September-October_2021 - 4
September-October_2021 - Editor's Notebook
September-October_2021 - 6
September-October_2021 - 7
September-October_2021 - People & Places
September-October_2021 - 9
September-October_2021 - 10
September-October_2021 - 11
September-October_2021 - Make Digitalization Part of Your Rail and Transit Strategy
September-October_2021 - 13
September-October_2021 - 14
September-October_2021 - 15
September-October_2021 - LYNX: Primed for Post-Pandemic Acceleration
September-October_2021 - 17
September-October_2021 - 18
September-October_2021 - 19
September-October_2021 - 20
September-October_2021 - 21
September-October_2021 - 22
September-October_2021 - 23
September-October_2021 - How LIDAR is Making Roads Safer for Pedestrians and Cyclists
September-October_2021 - 25
September-October_2021 - 26
September-October_2021 - 27
September-October_2021 - 28
September-October_2021 - 29
September-October_2021 - Get Ready for APTA's Big Event
September-October_2021 - 31
September-October_2021 - 32
September-October_2021 - 33
September-October_2021 - 34
September-October_2021 - 35
September-October_2021 - 36
September-October_2021 - 37
September-October_2021 - 38
September-October_2021 - 39
September-October_2021 - A 21st Century Approach to Fare Collection
September-October_2021 - 41
September-October_2021 - 42
September-October_2021 - 43
September-October_2021 - 44
September-October_2021 - 45
September-October_2021 - Best Practices
September-October_2021 - 47
September-October_2021 - Products
September-October_2021 - 49
September-October_2021 - The Scheduling Conundrum
September-October_2021 - 51
September-October_2021 - 52