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Data Visualization as a Tool for Improved Decision Making within Transit Agencies

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Executive Summary

Transit agency TriMet provides bus transit performance monitoring using data collected via automatic vehicle location and automatic passenger counter technologies. This is a regional transit provider in the Portland, OR area. Information with TriMet is collected and archived for offline analysis of transit operations. When it comes to performance monitoring, TriMet is able to provide structured monitoring to deal with short as well as longer term business needs. The transit agency uses two general information dissemination methods - highly interactive, custom software applications that enable the agency to question and display information needed for the day-to-day management of operations; and static performance reports that are generated regularly and have the ability to provide a complete picture of the transit system at multiple summary levels. The second is part of a longer term performance monitoring and evaluation program. TriMet has undertaken a lot of work in the area of performance measurement but much of the information available is currently not being used because of the amounts of information available. One solution to this problem is to include new data visualization techniques that will assist users by identifying operational problems while also providing potential solutions. It was in 2001 that the performance monitoring capabilities at TriMet were expanded after a 'Shaking out' period that followed their adoption of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies. This led to generation of performance reports that have identified scheduling and operational issues.

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