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State of Good Repair Performance Measures: Assessing Asset Condition, Age, and Performance Data

(Center Identification Number: 79060-02-B)

Principal Investigator:

Fabian Cevallos, Ph.D., Transit Program Director
Lehman Center for Transportation Research (LCTR)
Florida International University (FIU)
10555 West Flagler Street, EC 3609
Miami, FL 33174
fabian.cevallos@fiu.edu
(305) 348-3144

Background

Public transportation plays a vital role in providing mobility and accessibility while supporting the growth and development of communities across the country. It also provides transportation alternatives and enhances the quality of life of citizens. To maintain an efficient public transportation system, there is a need to keep the existing infrastructure in proper conditions. However, there is growing concern that a significant portion of the nation’s public transportation assets are in need of capital reinvestment to maintain these infrastructures in working conditions. This concern is not just for public transportation assets, but also for many other transportation infrastructures such as highways, bridges, and transportation facilities.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recognizes the importance of mobility, the impacts to the environment, and the energy demands on public transportation. As FTA studies indicate that a large number of the nation’s transit assets are in critical or poor condition, meaning that assets are past their useful life and in need of immediate repair or replacement, the agency is committed to maintaining the nation’s transit systems in a state of good repair. FTA is leading the nation’s effort to address these issues by collaborating with the industry to evaluate the magnitude of these issues and implement meaningful solutions. This is crucial for allowing public transportation systems to continue providing safe and reliable service.

Maintaining public transit transportation in a State of Good Repair (SGR) is essential to provide efficient, reliable, and safe service to millions of transit riders. Further, transit agencies should comply with mandatory requirements when seeking funding for keeping their assets in a state of good repair. For this reason, transit agencies need solutions on how to best manage assets and prioritize capital and replacement needs. This presents some challenges that require identifying and prioritizing capital renewal and replacement. To address this critical problem, many transit agencies have invested in systems for managing their physical assets. These systems use databases, including condition data and quality inventory for identifying and prioritizing capital needs. Nevertheless, many agencies do not have the resources to develop such systems. There is also a need for improvement in data collection and asset management methodologies as well as the use of effective performance measures. Thus, transit agencies can monitor and evaluate the conditions of their assets, prioritizing their limited resources for transit capital and operating investments.

It is important that transit agencies have a good handle on the condition of their assets and use this information to prioritize capital investments. Having an asset management system can also help agencies evaluate the request for funding based on key measures like age, condition, and costs. Further, transit agencies need to identify and prioritize replacement actions to bring existing capital assets to a state of good repair to improve capital and operating efficiencies. Therefore, there is a need for a software tool that can help transit agencies collect, store, organize, query, and report various types of information of their capital assets. Managing this large amount of data can be a challenge for transit authorities.

Project Objectives

Section 5326 of MAP-21 requires FTA to establish performance measures based on standards established in the state of good repair definition. FTA will establish a definition of the term “estate of good repair” that includes objective standards for measuring the condition of capital assets of recipients, including equipment, rolling stock, infrastructure, and facilities. FTA will also require each recipient to establish performance targets in relation to the performance measures established by FTA and to submit an annual report that describes their progress toward meeting the performance targets. In addition, each recipient, and each subrecipient, must also maintain a “transit asset management plan” to include capital asset inventories, condition assessments, and decision support tools.

This research is intended to facilitate this process by using objective performance measures for measuring the condition of capital assets. To improve efficiencies, there is a need to have an ongoing process of asset management that can be assisted with a software application. Using data in an asset management system can help prioritize investments based on limited resources and the assets’ condition.

The main objective of this scope of work is to develop a web-based software application that transit agencies can use for the collection, storage, querying, analysis, and reporting of transit assets: Enterprise Transit Asset Management (ETAM). The idea is to develop a system in which different departments at the transit agencies can access the system for entering data, analyzing, or for retrieving information. Therefore, this tool can assist transit agencies in evaluating and assessing transit asset data with regard to age, condition, and performance against established performance targets as well as an approach for project prioritization based on budget data and asset rehabilitation/replacement alternatives.

To achieve this, the FIU research team proposes a series of work tasks that include developing a work plan, conducting a literature review, assessment of transit condition databases, especially for rolling stock and infrastructure, developing methodology, creation of a framework, developing a web-based software application and testing, preparing training materials, and producing the final report.

Work Tasks

Task 1: Develop a Project Work Plan

Prepare a work plan that presents what will be undertaken by the different tasks of this project. This task will serve as general guideline for all the milestones according to the proposed schedule.

Task 2: Literature Review

This research will start with a review of the literature on state of good repair. It will include, but not be limited to, FTA reports, TRB papers, related papers from other journals and conferences, and available reports from transit agencies, consultants, and vendors.  It will pay special attention to data collection, analysis, and performance measures used to assess and prioritize transit investments. The research team will also make use of the resources available on the website of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA): http://www.fta.dot.gov.

Task 3: Assessment of Transit Data

The research team will contact transit agencies and will communicate with others that have reported success with using asset management systems. It is expected that the outcome of these visits will help the team gain enough information for a better understanding of the data needs and the creation of a dynamic database. The team will also explore how transit agencies collect and maintain data in their database systems. At the same time, the methodologies used for inspecting and assessing asset condition, and how this is reported by agencies of different sizes, will be documented.

As this task will be the basis for the creation of a comprehensive database, data sources from different departments and from multiple years will be taken into consideration. The research team will compile information regarding transit and condition data for infrastructure and rolling stocks and will identify the datasets needed for the development of a supporting tool that can assist transit agencies in keeping their assets in good working condition. Accessibility to data from different sources will be investigated. Service quality, asset condition and age, service reliability, capacity, cost datasets, parameters, standards, and related elements will be evaluated as part of this work. Potential technical challenges will be documented and suggestions for addressing these issues will be presented.

Task 4: Development of Methodology

Based on the literature review and the information from the transit agencies, a methodology for the development of the asset management database as well for the user interface will be prepared. Datasets that will measure service quality, asset condition, service reliability, availability, and cost for measuring state of good repair performance will be considered.

To evaluate the data needed to be collected, analyzed, and measured in order to support an efficient system, a set of performance measures will be identified.

The datasets will be grouped into different categories such as Vehicles, Equipment, Infrastructure, Technology, Stations, Garages, and Other Facilities.

To assure the accuracy of the database, the following items will be taken in consideration: data quality, missing records, extreme values or outliers, and other issues that may have an impact on measuring state of good repair performance. The development of the methodology is a key task in this project, as it will be the basis on how performance will be ranked.

The condition of transit assets, for the state of good repair, can be measured using four possible methods: 1) based on asset age, 2) based on asset condition, 3) based on asset performance, or 4) based on a combination of the above methods.

In this task, the research team will keep in mind that it is not only important to develop a good data collection system with a sound database, but also making sure that the system is user friendly and provides users with the ability to easily query the system and generate the necessary reports. The developed methodology can be used for effective asset management and for decision making.

Task 5: Creation of a Framework

This task is to create a framework for a tool that can be used to enhance measuring of transit asset performance. Developing a framework can facilitate the development process before the application is developed and deployed at transit agencies. This task describes a framework for the data collection, analysis, and reporting of transit assets which will enable transit agencies to answer questions about asset rehabilitation and replacement investment decisions.

To apply the framework, information from three key areas is required: rehabilitation and replacement actions, performance measures, and investment. Information on rehabilitation and replacement actions provides transit authorities with options to determine which assets to replace or rehabilitate. Ideally, these decisions are based on an ‘optimal policy’ that specifies the actions and action timing to minimize costs and maximize performance over time. The decisions will be based upon consideration of the baseline set of actions required to comply with legal requirements to achieve the minimum threshold for safety, performance, and other considerations.

With an emphasis on performance management, problems can be observed and improvements can be made. The framework will be the foundation of a system that can assist transit agencies in their quest for providing a transit service that is kept in good working conditions. The proposed framework can be used to develop the web-based application that can help transit agencies make intelligent decisions.

For a better understanding of how the system will work, a data flow chart or a step by step process will be presented. The data flow will include data from different sources and different categories, considering asset age, asset condition, asset performance, and level of maintenance.

Task 6: Develop Software and Testing

As part of this task, a web-based software application will be developed. This software application will be designed to collect data from different sources in order to efficiently assess the state of critical transit assets. As the data will be stored in a database, this will help the data analysis that can be used to prioritize assets rehabilitation or replacement projects. This can support the efficient use of capital and operating funds.

The web-based application will be developed with Microsoft Visual Studio and will use Microsoft SQL Server as the back-end database. This task includes an overall testing of software, which will ensure that the software is free of bugs and that it will provide opportunities to improve the application.

This task will strictly follow the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). The following are the six phases that will be included in this task:

1)  Requirement gathering and analysis: In this phase, all the information about the transit asset management business will be gathered. This phase will answer questions such, who is going to use the system? How will they use the system? What data should be input into the system? What data should be output by the system? These are general questions that get answered during a requirements gathering phase. After the requirement gathering, these requirements are analyzed for their validity and the possibility of incorporating the requirements in the system. Finally, the findings from this step will be used as guideline for the next phase of the model.

2)  Design: In this phase, the system and software design is prepared from the requirement specifications which were studied in the first phase. The system requirements are developed in this phase. It also helps in defining the overall system architecture. The system design specifications serve as input for the next phase of the model.

3)  Implementation/Coding: In this step, the work is divided in modules/units and the actual coding is started, which is the main focus for the software developer. This is expected to be the longest phase.

4)  Testing: After the code is developed, it is tested to make sure that the software addresses the information gathered during the requirements phase. During this phase, unit testing, integration testing, system testing, and acceptance testing are done.

5)  Deployment: After successful testing, the product is deployed and ready to be used.

6)  Maintenance: Once the users start using the developed system, actual problems will be presented for solutions from time to time, as part of the maintenance plan.

Task 7: Preparation of Training Materials

The FIU research team will announce the release of the new web-based application. This release will be posted at the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR). The release will contain information directing users to the application website and a user’s guide with technical information on how to use the software.

The major effort under this task involves the preparation of all training materials, including a PowerPoint presentation and a User’s Guide. The Power Point presentation will provide an overview of the software application in order to acquaint users with the software. The User’s Guide will be a comprehensive manual that covers all the software components to allow users to have a good understanding of the asset management system. It will include in detail the data collection querying, reporting modules, and the potential use of wireless tablets in the field for accessing the asset management system remotely.

Task 8: Final Report

A draft final report documenting all aspects of this research will be prepared and submitted to NCTR for review and comments. This will include the work plan, the findings from the literature review, assessment of the transit and condition datasets, a description of the methodology, the creation of the framework, development of software, and development of training materials. The final assessment and recommendations section will address how transit agencies can use this information and will identify future topics of research. Based on the feedback from NCTR, the report will be revised and finalized, and resubmitted.

Designated Personnel

  • Dr. Fabian Cevallos, Transit Program Director at LCTR will serve as the Principal Investigator (PI) and will be responsible for this project. He will also be directly involved with the development of the methodology, framework, and all the technical aspects of the project.
  • Dr. Albert Gan at LCTR will serve as Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) and will provide overall technical assistance.
  • Mr. Haifeng Wang, an experienced web developer with LCTR, will be responsible for all programming tasks.
  • Ms. Thalia Pickering, Web Designer at LCTR will be responsible for the graphic design and will assist with the user’s guide, power point presentation, and related documents.
  • A graduate student at LCTR will assist with the literature review and the overall tasks of this project.

Project Schedule

24 Months

Project Budget

Total Project Cost     $339,760

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  • Florida Department of Transportation
  • US Department of Transportation

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