Overcoming transit funding challenges
Anyone who has lived in, worked in or visited a large urban area in the United States knows that public transit is the artery through which the population flows. It is essential to an area’s livability, economy and quality of life.
But for those on the outside, looking in, they may not recognize that, as public entities, transit systems face many challenges. Resources — in terms of time, money, and expertise — are always in short supply. This fact makes it easy to fall back on a reactive maintenance schedule, rather than a proactive maintenance plan that will save resources and create satisfied users.
Run. Repair. Repeat?
The American Public Transit Association reports that U.S. transit users took more than 10 billion trips in 2015. Over the past 20 years, U.S. public ridership has risen 39 percent, far outpacing the 21 percent rise in U.S. population. While these big numbers represent public trust in, and need for, public transit systems, they also pose a challenge for those responsible for maintaining these systems for safety, efficiency and financial sustainability.
Of course, a solid and sustainable maintenance strategy sounds like a good idea. However, aside from funding challenges, there are other forces at work that make it a challenge to put theory into practice. The traditional method of maintaining assets has created gaps across systems, especially for those that have existed for decades. In the past, many asset management plans have largely been in siloes. Written manuals or documented best practices did not exist.
This has created a culture where duplication of effort is common, as is the risk of noncompliance and litigation. It also leads to a cycle of disrepair and failed equipment. To end the perpetuation of this cycle of run, repair, repeat, it is time to optimize the crucial assets of the 800+ systems across the country.
A strategic approach
Fortunately, big strides have been made in Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) technology. EAM gathers a breadth of data that can be accessed and used to analyze and schedule maintenance, comply with State of Good Repair (SGR) guidelines and prioritize repairs and replacement, allowing managers to move to a strategic approach where issues are easily seen, assessed and addressed to prevent risk and downtime.
While it is true that many agencies have systems that track all assets and are frequently updated, these systems are often limited in their ability to estimate and predict what assets need attention and when. A true asset management system lets managers test impacts and scenarios around different funding sources, which can be complex.
Those enterprises implementing strategic asset management technology are experiencing upticks in performance and efficiency. A study shows that improved maintenance performance between 2004 and 2012 was reflected in a 21 percent increase in the average number of miles between failures across all modes. These systems also work within the broader context of the organization, integrating with other stakeholders in planning, engineering, funding and IT, giving managers a consistent, global view of operations.
Setting off in a new direction
The power of EAM is that it not only allows a focus on the needs of aging systems, but is also integral in protecting the significant investments made in new systems. Even the newest systems can benefit from EAM’s ability to standardize practices and processes, support compliance with State of Good Repair standards, and reward innovation.
As our new systems age, they will be subject to the same maintenance and repair issues of our older systems. With the right EAM system in place, we can avoid the issues that have plagued us previously. Managers can make the best use of every physical asset and create a culture of continuous improvement based on predictive data. Staff is more productive and has access to better reporting on everything from maintenance to key performance indicators.
While proper transit systems are known to improve quality of life, a core goal of any transportation manager is to stay focused on safety. Between 2008 and 2015, U.S. transit agencies logged 46,432 major events, according to the National Transit Summary & Trends 2015, including death, injury, and major transit vehicle damage. Sound maintenance is the cornerstone of preventing such events and improving those statistics.
Efficiency, cost savings, rider satisfaction, and mitigated risk are all the expected outcomes of a successful EAM strategy. EAM technology is one of the most valuable tools today’s transit agencies can use to ensure their systems continue to run smoothly.
Steve Beard is Senior Program Manager at Infor EAM. He may be reached at www.infor.com