4-page Case Study
Posted: 7/17/2013
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Toronto Transit Commission Toronto Transit Commission delivers enhanced customer service and increased efficiencies with help from Microsoft Services

The Toronto Transit Commission provides efficient and integrated bus, streetcar and subway transportation to the citizens of the Greater Toronto area. They maintain high standards of customer care, safety, service and courtesy, which are especially exemplified through Wheel-Trans, a door-to-door accessible transit service for persons with physical disabilities.


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* Since the solution was implemented for the TTC, we have been able to improve on-time delivery of service to our customers, we have been able to carry more passengers with the same number of vehicles, and we’ve also been able to communicate more effectively with our customers. *

Ross Visconti
Wheel-Trans Assistant Manager—Operations
Toronto Transit Commission

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Business Needs

The Toronto Transit Commission’s Wheel Trans service consists of a fleet of over 200 vehicles, and carries close to three million passengers per year. With an increased focus on priorities that included safety, customer service, and expansion to meet greater needs and higher demand, the Toronto Transit Commission began an initiative to modernize and improve the Wheel Trans service.

“We’re in a very exciting period right now with a new strategic plan and a very well-defined customer focus. There is also the ongoing hard work of keeping our assets running and keeping the city moving,” said Anthony Iannucci, Chief Information Officer, Toronto Transit Commission.

Their customer objectives were to provide a more reliable, consistent service, and provide riders with up-to-date information on their expected wait times. At the same time, the Toronto Transit Commission needed to increase efficiencies in regard to maximizing vehicle capacities and scheduling, and provide internal business users with real-time information to monitor the transit system.

One of the most significant challenges faced by the Toronto Transit Commission’s Wheel-Trans Operation was the fragmented scheduling and management system, which included multiple technologies, as well as manual, paper-based logs, used to coordinate the hundreds of vehicles and thousands of customers. This led to significant inefficiencies and a lack of vehicle and driver optimization, as well as poor coordination which resulted in long wait times and a poor rider-experience.

“What we really needed to gain was real-time information. We needed to know where our operators were at any moment so that we could adjust quickly, make real-time service modifications and maintain a reliable, timely service,” said Ross Visconti, Wheel-Trans Operations Assistant Manager, Toronto Transit Commission.

The ability for dispatchers to adjust schedules throughout the day is essential, as transit drivers are often faced with delays including heavy traffic, construction, or accidents that make it difficult to adhere to a schedule that customers can rely on.

Additionally, with a rapidly growing city and increased ridership due to an aging population, the Wheel-Trans service was seeing an increase in demand of 4–6% per year, adding greater pressure and urgency to expand and modernize the system.

“The process of consolidating the technologies was very complex, and it was challenging to think about how we were going to do it,” said Randy Meilach, Senior Systems Analyst, Toronto Transit Commission. “To further complicate things, we had been using three different vendors, running separate applications, who did not communicate with one another.”

Though they first considered using internal resources to update the system, the Toronto Transit Commission soon realized that they lacked the experience and knowledge to complete the project, and an attempt at doing so would cause significant risk of disrupting their service. It was critical for the Toronto Transit Commission to find a partner who could help them develop the enterprise architecture that would knit together the multiple disparate systems and facilitate clear, real-time communication through the organization.

“The answer was pretty clear that using Microsoft Consulting Services was the way to go. There’s a lot at stake here and we couldn’t afford to have a misstep when it came to serving our customers—especially our Wheel-Trans customers,” said Iannucci.

Solution

Microsoft Consulting Services worked with the Toronto Transit Commission and two of their current technology providers: Giro, a supplier of scheduling software for public transit; and INIT, a system that had previously been built into the Wheel-Trans vehicle fleet to help drivers coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs. Microsoft Consulting Services leveraged their knowledge and deep expertise to develop an optimized solution, using a multi-phased approach.

In order to develop a thorough understanding of how the two systems operated, Microsoft Consulting Services began with an in-depth information gathering process. They worked with both third party software development teams, as well as Toronto Transit Commission business analysts who shared data elements from an internal perspective to provide a rationalized view. Microsoft Consulting Services then began mapping the Giro and INIT technologies with the Microsoft platform, built on BizTalk, in order to determine the commonalities, gaps and potential challenges. This included thorough documentation of the Toronto Transit Commission’s Enterprise Schema, including their data structure, in order to help Giro and INIT relate and fit together, and to develop the technologies that would bridge the gaps. Microsoft Consulting Services also facilitated several collaborative working sessions to discuss and agree upon technology requirements for the new platform, and work through solutions to any final challenges associated with the integration.

“Microsoft Consulting Services came on-site and led our team through many sessions with the other vendors so we could all collaborate and work out the requirements and solution together. It was very hands-on,” said Meilach.

Utilizing experience and superior product knowledge, Microsoft Consulting Services then began to consolidate the legacy systems into a cohesive enterprise architecture, while ensuring the Toronto Transit Commission got the most value out of their current software and vendors. They developed workflows and protocols for data flow, including an optimized data schema that required agreement on data requirements and collaboration with each technology provider. The end result was
an optimized system, built on BizTalk
and supported by other underlying Microsoft technologies to provide middleware that enabled seamless integration between all systems.

Prior to implementing the new cohesive solution for the Toronto Transit Commission, Microsoft Consulting Services conducted an initial deployment into a test environment to ensure a smooth final transition with minimal impact on end-users. Microsoft Consulting Services also provided significant knowledge transfer to the Toronto Transit Commission development team, which included several workshops to educate on BizTalk code, in order to empower internal IT teams to roll it out into production while still being supported remotely.

Benefits

The net result of the Toronto Transit Commission’s engagement with Microsoft Consulting Services was an optimized system that increased operational efficiencies, transporting more people that rely on the system, while vastly improving the level of customer service for Wheel-Trans riders in the process.

“When it comes to a return on investment for enabling this piece of infrastructure, I believe we get it immediately—especially when ensuring that we have a reliable service for our Wheel-Trans customers,” said Iannucci.

Dynamic scheduling systems boosts efficiency and optimizes resources, leading to significant cost savings

The new integrated solution developed by Microsoft Consulting Services includes dynamic scheduling, which manages online or phone-in ride requests from Wheel-Trans patrons by automatically scheduling and assigning runs to drivers on an as-needed basis. The system sends updated run sheets through BizTalk to touch-screen terminals located on buses.

“The major benefit of the dynamic scheduling system is that, in addition to more efficient, on-demand scheduling, the bus drivers now also have the ability to send real-time information on the status of their runs through the terminals and through BizTalk. That information is then fed back to the scheduler to re-allocate the assets currently in use and reassign runs based on the updates provided by drivers,” explained Clunies.

GPS was also built into the system used on the vehicles, so the software can now automatically share coordinates to further increase the efficiency of scheduling.

“Additionally, if we receive any cancellations throughout the day, we’re now able to place trips into those holes, therefore becoming more efficient and at the end of the day carrying more passengers,” added Visconti.

The dynamic scheduling system and increased two-way flow of communication has enabled the Toronto Transit Commission to optimize their assets and resources by maximizing vehicle capacities with efficient scheduling. This has led to tremendous cost savings for the company. Additionally, the system provides real-time information for internal business users to monitor the transit system in order to identify further opportunities to improve operations.

Transferable experience and knowledge of Microsoft Consulting Services enabled seamless project execution

The Toronto Transit Commission benefited from the experience and deep expertise provided by the Microsoft Consulting Services team. The exposure and learnings from other organizations and similar projects helped Microsoft Consulting Services drive and deliver best practices in order to plan and execute a seamless project, from beginning to end.

“They were extremely competent and it was evident throughout the process that this was nothing new; that they had done this and seen problems like ours before. Of course they weren’t transit problems, but everything seemed to have a pattern so they were able to take their previous experience and show us how we were going to be able to do it. This provided us with great comfort and confidence,” said Meilach.

Knowledge transfer enabled increased IT control and ability to scale for future needs, resulting in a higher ROI

Over the course of the project, Microsoft Consulting Services shared best practices and transferred knowledge to Toronto Transit Commission IT staff, giving them the ability to effectively maintain and optimize the software for future iterations of the product, resulting in a higher return on investment. The solution can be scaled to meet the changing needs of the business and the Toronto Transit Commission’s internal IT team now has the control and ability to easily expand, modify or make updates to the system to integrate new features and processes as needed.

“It was a challenging puzzle to solve, but now we can continue to grow the system as we start knitting together other solutions for the Toronto Transit Commission,” said Iannucci. “The benefit of having control when it comes to a system like this means that we’ll be able to provide a reliable service for our customers regardless of how things may change in the vendor landscape. So in knitting together the multiple vendors and different pieces of software, we can now use the middleware and BizTalk as if it was the hub of a wheel. We’re able to change out one of the spokes and easily make modifications to the system. This is the control that we needed to ensure that we could continue to provide appropriate service to our customers,” said Iannucci.

Depth and expertise of Microsoft Consulting Services enabled faster roll-out

With the support of Microsoft Consulting Services throughout the project, the Toronto Transit Commission was given direct access to developers, product managers and system engineers who had actually developed the software, and ensured that any challenges were solved quickly.

“It was very important for us to get this job done in a short period of time and that meant doing a lot of the work in parallel. When you do that, your risks are amplified tremendously because you’re sitting on higher burn rates for resources working in parallel. We felt Microsoft addressed those issues by employing their established methodology and putting a well-structured project plan together based on proven practices. Because of this, they were able to deliver and execute according to the tight project schedule,” said Clunies, who added that the delivery of the project on time and within budget boosted the credibility of the IT team.

New, unique features provide better customer service

The new, unique features that have been implemented by Microsoft Consulting Services will benefit Toronto citizens by maximizing the availability of the Wheel-Trans service, reducing wait times, and improving communication by providing up-to-date scheduling information to riders. The call-ahead function will let riders know exactly when the transit vehicle will be arriving, allowing them
to stay inside or under cover until their
bus arrives.

“What our riders are looking for is to save time, and have the information at their fingertips. The new solution has allowed us to provide our customers with reliable, timely information that can help them carry out their regular day-to-day lives,” said Visconti. “Since the solution was implemented for the Toronto Transit Commission, we have been able to improve on-time delivery of service to our customers, we have been able to carry more passengers with the same number of vehicles, and we’ve also been able to communicate more effectively with our customers.”

Drivers can also provide better, more efficient service as they now receive information about their riders, including what kind of support they will require, ahead of pick-ups.

The Toronto Transit Commission maintains deep-rooted high standards for customer care, service and courtesy. With the help of Microsoft Consulting Services they have been able to further improve their service, which is one of their key objectives in the company-wide strategic plan.

Moving Forward

The Toronto Transit Commission attributes the overall success of the Wheel-Trans project to the experience, leadership and expertise provided by Microsoft Consulting Services. The new, optimized solution for Wheel-Trans has contributed to meeting the overall business objectives of the Toronto Transit Commission.

“The vision for the future of Toronto regarding transportation is customer-centered modernization. I believe we’re in the forefront with the Wheel-Trans program leading the way,” said Meilach.

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview




Organization Profile

The Toronto Transit Commission is a public transit organization operating bus, streetcar, subway, and paratransit services. After more than 90 years of service they have grown to become one of the most visible and vital public service organizations in the Greater Toronto Area.


Business Situation
The TTC wanted to provide a more reliable, consistent service for wheel-trans riders, while providing them with up-to-date information on expected wait times. At the same time, they needed to increase efficiencies in regard to maximizing vehicle capacities and scheduling, and provide internal business users with real-time information to monitor the transit system.

Solution
Microsoft Consulting Services worked with the TTC and leveraged their knowledge and deep expertise while working with the TTC to develop an optimized, cohesive communication system that increased operational efficiencies, while vastly improving the level of customer service for Wheel-Trans riders in the process.

Benefits
Dynamic scheduling system boosted efficiency and optimized resources, leading to significant cost savings
Transferable experience and knowledge of Microsoft Consulting Services enabled seamless project execution
Knowledge transfer enabled increased IT control and ability to scale for future needs, resulting in a higher ROI
Depth and expertise of Microsoft Consulting Services enabled faster roll-out

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Microsoft BizTalk Server
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Windows Server
  • BMC - Mission Critical

Vertical Industries
  • Transportation
  • Public Works & Transportation

Country/Region
Canada

Business Need
  • Support and Services
  • Mission Critical
  • Business Critical

IT Issue
Interoperability

Languages
English

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