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Center Identification Number:  392-15

Project Title: Bus Rapid Transit Technology: A Case Study of the LYNX LYMMO in Downtown Orlando, Florida 

Co-Principal Investigators:

Joel Rey, Senior Research Associate
 

William Morris, Senior Research Associate
813-974-9833
E-mail:morris@cutr.eng.usf.edu

Institution:

Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida

External Project Contact: 

Elizabeth Stutts, Grant Programs Administrator, FDOT

I. Project Objective

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has continually promoted the need for better and more effective bus service in the transit industry. In 1998, the FTA issued grant opportunities for the demonstration and deployment of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems in the United States. The FTA maintains that advancements in vehicle technology, simulation systems, traffic engineering and intelligent transportation systems have enhanced the industry's ability to improve bus transit service in the U.S. BRT can provide significantly faster operating speeds as well as improved travel time, mobility, economic growth, and environmental quality in a community. It is also a flexible, low cost alternative, in certain applications, to rail systems that can match the efficiency and quality of rail.

The purpose of this study is to document and evaluate the LYNX LYMMO service as one of the newest applications of BRT in the U.S. The results of this study will not only benefit Central Florida and LYNX in identifying the current strengths, weaknesses, and potential areas of improvement for the system, it will also provide a model for the FTA and local communities to use when evaluating similar proposed projects. Once the technical documentation and objective evaluations have been conducted, LYNX will produce communications materials that will be available to highlight the components of this BRT application for the transit industry.

II. Project Abstract

In 1997, the Downtown Development Board, in partnership with the City of Orlando and the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX), instituted a new exclusive-lane bus service known as "LYMMO." This service is intended to provide a BRT application to accomplish a number of public purposes, including continued downtown economic development, improved mobility, parking mitigation, and a pleasing pedestrian/transit environment. Following implementation of the service, ridership on the system shattered not only start-up projections but the most optimistic projections at full system maturity.

The National Center for Transit Research at CUTR in partnership with LYNX and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), will provide an objective evaluation of LYMMO's performance and realization of community goals since inception. CUTR will document the historical, organizational and technological aspects of the project and then evaluate LYMMO in terms of customer service, technology, finance, and effectiveness in meeting and exceeding original objectives.

III. Task Descriptions

Task 1 Technical Documentation

In this task, CUTR will provide a comprehensive profile of the LYMMO system from inception to operation. The profile will include historical narrative, engineering and construction, communications, institutional, and LYNX organizational documentation. This documentation shall serve remaining portions of the project by providing the foundation upon which an evaluation of the system can be conducted as well as future needs identification. Also, by demonstrating the flow of events for the entire project, the profile will be applicable throughout the transit industry for those agencies considering similar projects with similar objectives.

Historical Documentation 

Previous studies will be examined and summarized to show the history and evolution of the LYMMO project, which actually began life as the Orlando Streetcar (OSCAR) project. Interviews will be conducted with the City of Orlando and the Downtown Development Board (DDB) to document the transition from OSCAR to LYMMO, and the activities that followed in determining the final routing and concept of the system. Engineering and construction documents, to the extent available, will also be examined to extract the prominent features of the project, including the use of contraflow lanes, fixed guideway for bus circulation, grade considerations between curb and bus, pedestrian access and environment, and the standards used for stations, stops, and amenities. Other system features emanating from project engineering and construction will be examined as LYNX and CUTR identify in the review process.

Through interviews and other printed materials, CUTR will document the institutional roles and responsibilities among the partners to the project, including the City of Orlando, the DDB, LYNX, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Conceptual design, engineering/construction, service implementation, and public relations and communications phases of the project will be emphasized.

Documentation of Technology 

In this section, CUTR will classify and document the uses of technology to enhance service provision and customer services. Included in the report will be low floor bus design, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses and fueling, Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system, Customer Information System (electronic information displays), Driver Information Devices (DIDs), signal prioritization, underground sensors and in-ground lighting. CUTR will map the schemes for those systems that are integrated in the overall provision of service.

LYNX Organization - Implementation and Operation 

Within the LYNX organization, there were and are a number of functions and departments involved in the implementation and operation of the system. CUTR will document the administrative and operational activities that occurred prior to, during and after implementation of the service. In addition, a detailed description of ongoing activities will be detailed. Specific functions within LYNX that will be examined include:

 

  • Grants and Procurement
  • Bus Operations
  • Operator bidding
  • Operator training
  • Service Planning and Scheduling
  • Marketing
  • Customer Service and Customer Relations
  • Maintenance

Operational Characteristics 

Existing operating characteristics will be gathered from materials provided by LYNX. Data such as ridership, hours, miles, frequency, daily vehicle trips, peak/off-peak, and days of service will be gathered to develop a statistical profile by weekday and month. Dispatch capabilities of the system will also be examined to determine LYNX's real-time response capabilities to handle unexpected demand on the system. In addition, operations for special events in Downtown and at the Orlando Arena will be detailed.

Deliverable: Technical Memorandum #1 detailing system documentation as described above.

Task II Project Assessment and Evaluation: Customer Satisfaction

Based on the activities conducted in Task I, CUTR will conduct an objective evaluation of the performance of LYMMO since its inception. The intent of the evaluation is to assist LYNX in identifying current performance strengths and weaknesses, customer satisfaction, effectiveness of technology in meeting original project goals, and the benefits of LYMMO to downtown and the Central Florida community. The assessment will also identify actions to improve the existing product and customer satisfaction, and to detail for the transit industry the costs and benefits of bus rapid transit technology.

LYNX has always maintained the premise that customers of a service entail virtually everyone involved with that service or stated more simply, LYNX has only two kinds of customers: those who utilize its services and those who do not. This subtask will attempt to determine the levels of satisfaction among all of the customers of the system: LYMMO riders, potential customers, downtown businesses, system partners, bus operators, the court system, the Centroplex, the tourist industry, and local governments.

On-Board Surveys 

CUTR will conduct two customer surveys: one weekday and one Saturday. The surveys may be conducted on-board buses or at stations depending on logistics and feasibility. The purpose of conducting two surveys is to determine demographics, travel patterns, transfer activity and satisfaction with services. The survey instrument will be designed to maximize response within the overall average travel time on LYMMO.

Once the survey instrument has been developed, CUTR will be responsible for printing an adequate number of surveys to gather the appropriate information. All surveys will be sequentially numbered. In addition, the project will provide the necessary pencils, collection boxes, signs and any other materials necessary for the successful administration of the survey.

Approximately 50% of weekday and Saturday trips will be surveyed covering the entire service day based on system runs. CUTR will develop the sampling methodology in conjunction with LYNX Service Planning and Scheduling. The project team will be directly responsible for training and supervising all survey administration personnel.

The project team will also be responsible for the data coding and entry process. Staff provided by the project team will be used for this effort. LYNX will be responsible for forwarding any surveys to the project team that are returned after the survey administration has been completed. Following data entry, the project team will perform quantitative and qualitative analysis of the survey results. Frequency distributions by question will be computed along with an array of crosstabulations. The findings will be provided in hard copy format. Data will be weighted to reflect total weekday ridership for LYMMO.

Focus Groups

In addition to the customer surveys detailed above, CUTR will conduct two focus group sessions consisting of Central Florida residents who have experienced the LYMMO product. Databases for focus group screenings will be used from the Court System and LYNX, as available. The purpose of the focus groups will be to further probe into the issues of people's experiences with LYMMO beyond that which can be obtained from an on-board survey. The focus groups will also determine whether the experience with LYMMO changed attitudes toward transit products and services and fostered an inclination to try other LYNX services.

The project team will develop a pre-screening instrument to be administered by a qualified telephone market research firm to select focus group participants. Each participant will be offered an incentive for his/her participation with payment upon completion of the session. Refreshments will be served. Focus groups will be held in an approved location, served by LYNX, with appropriate facilities including an observation deck whereby LYNX personnel can observe the focus groups while in session. The project team will provide a qualified focus group facilitator to be approved by LYNX. The facilitator will present an outline for the conduct of the focus groups to give LYNX personnel a general idea of how the items listed below will be addressed. The focus group will be videotaped for use by the facilitator and LYNX.

The groups will provide feedback in the following areas (not all-inclusive):

 

  • Reaction to LYMMO services;
  • Reaction to LYMMO bus operators;
  • How they came to know about LYMMO;
  • Satisfaction with LYMMO;
  • LYMMO's impact on attitudes about transit;
  • Reactions to electronic information and other product features;
  • Reaction to bus exteriors and interiors;
  • Reaction to stations, stops and amenities;
  • Likelihood to use LYMMO again; Likelihood to try/use other LYNX services.

Interviews with Downtown Businesses/Government Agencies 

CUTR, in conjunction with LYNX staff, will target between 15 and 20 businesses and government agencies to interview about LYMMO. Members of the DDB, the Chamber of Commerce, the tourism industry, the Centroplex, Metroplan Orlando, and Orange County will be selected to be interviewed. Topics of discussion will be developed by CUTR and LYNX, and will encompass changes in downtown as a result of the service and any impacts felt by the service in terms of employees, customers, and visitors. Interviewees will be asked to offer any improvements they feel are necessary to make the system more successful.

Interviews with System Partners 

In addition to the above, CUTR will interview principals from the DDB, the City of Orlando, LYNX senior staff, FDOT and the Federal Transit Administration about their satisfaction with LYMMO and views on needed improvements to the system. Topics of discussion will be developed by CUTR and LYNX.

Customer Concerns/Commendations Review 

Finally, the project team will conduct an interview with LYNX Customer Relations staff and review all customer concerns and commendations received regarding LYMMO since implementation. CUTR will also gather statistics from LYNX Customer Service regarding the volume and nature of calls received regarding LYMMO.

DELIVERABLES - Technical Memorandum #2, Project Assessment and Evaluation - Customer Satisfaction

Task III Project Assessment and Evaluation: System Assessment

Technology Assessment

Based on examination of previous studies in Task I, interviews, and surveys, CUTR will evaluate the effectiveness of technology applications on the BRT deployment. Where applicable, CUTR will utilize "APTS: Evaluation Guidelines," developed by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) through the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center as guidance in conducting the assessment. Specific components and issues to be examined will include:

 

  • Low Floor Bus: speed/ease of boarding and alighting, disabled accessibility, and capacity.
  • CNG buses and fueling: vehicle maintenance, reliability, breakdowns, fueling infrastructure, fueling safety, fuel efficiency, and cost efficiency.
  • Automatic Vehicle Location: extent to which system is functional and operating, maximization of capabilities, maintenance, report use and applications.
  • Electronic information displays: extent to which system is functional and operating, integration with AVL, visibility, disabled accessibility, accuracy of displays, and maintenance.
  • Signal prioritization: extent of use, operator empowerment, impact on cross-traffic (auto and pedestrian), impact on bus travel time, average speed and maintenance.
  • Underground sensors: extent to which sensors are functional and operating, integration with AVL, and maintenance.
  • In-ground lighting: extent to which system is functional and operating, accuracy, visibility, integration with AVL, and maintenance.

The impacts of these systems on customer confidence and satisfaction will be discussed in the final task: Assessment of Project Effectiveness.

Financial Assessment 

With information obtained from LYNX and the DDB, CUTR will conduct a financial assessment of the system in two areas: initial cost of BRT vs. the comparable cost of rail construction and the operational costs of the LYMMO vs. the previous FREEBIE downtown shuttle. The intent of the assessment will be to demonstrate the viability of BRT as a bus alternative in a fixed guideway. In addition, operating costs per hour, mile and passenger will be derived and compared to similar costs on the previous FREEBIE downtown system.

Operational Performance 

The project team will perform a ridecheck of the service by recording passenger ons and offs and on-time performance by stop for every trip on LYMMO. Analyses will include time of day, load factors, trip by trip ridership, boardings/deboardings by stop, segment data, and on-time performance (vehicle spacing). The project team will also assess the current span and frequency of service based on this analysis to determine if changes in service hours or peak buses are warranted. CUTR will be responsible for all data collection, data input, and analysis of ridecheck results.

Project Effectiveness 

Based on all the tasks completed above, CUTR will evaluate project effectiveness and benefits based on the original project objectives and additional objectives as indicated below:

  • Customer confidence and satisfaction 
  • Service levels 
  • Downtown development 
  • Tourism 
  • Judicial courts 
  • Parking 
  • Downtown traffic 
  • Public art/aesthetics 
  • Pedestrian environment 
  • Transit market share 
  • Financial/economic impact analysis 
  • Image of Orlando

Criteria upon which to evaluate effectiveness will be a mix of qualitative and quantitative based on interviews, surveys, focus groups, available data and other findings from the study. In this section, CUTR will make any and all recommendations for changes to the LYMMO for LYNX to continue improving product features. CUTR will also make recommendations for future applications of BRT and its related technological components in other areas of LYNX's service area.

DELIVERABLES: Draft final report.

Task IV Communications and Marketing

Separate from this study, LYNX will employ a marketing/public relations firm to take the technical documentation from the study and create multi-media communications materials, including print and video, for LYNX, CUTR and the Federal Transit Administration to share with multiple audiences. The project team will provide liaison and interpretation services for the firm engaged to conduct these activities. CUTR's role will be to assist in the translation of technical information, review of materials produced, and other guidance as requested by LYNX.

IV. Student Involvement

Graduate students will be used to assist in the literature review and data gathering.

V. Relationship to Other Research Projects

Will be coordinated with APTA and FTA initiatives in this area.

VI. Technology Transfer Activities/Peer Review

The results of this analysis will be provided to the FDOT through interim memoranda and a final report. Copies of the final report will be provided to the Research Office, the State Public Transportation Administrator, and the Manager of the Transit Office. The results of this analysis will be made through national forums, including APTA and TRB conferences. The final report will also be available on the NCTR website.

VII. Potential Benefits of the Project

The purpose of this study is to document and evaluate the LYNX LYMMO service as one of the newest applications of BRT in the U.S. The results of this study will not only benefit Central Florida and LYNX in identifying the current strengths, weaknesses, and potential areas of improvement for the system, it will also provide a model for the FTA and local communities to use when evaluating similar proposed projects. Once the technical documentation and objective evaluations have been conducted, LYNX will produce communications materials that will be available to highlight the components of this BRT application for the transit industry.

VIII. TRB Keywords

Public transit, Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, APTS, downtown circulator.

 

National Center for Transit Research at the Center For Urban Transportation Research University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 Tampa, FL 33620-5375 (813) 974-3120 (813) 974-5168 www.nctr.usf.edu Comments: webmaster@cutr.eng.usf.edu