Case Study

How WRTA Mitigates Driver Shortages with Optibus

Overview

The operator [driver] shortage has led to large-scale service cancellations and delays and increased pressure on drivers, agencies, and operators. To better manage local operator shortages, the Western Reserve Transit Authority (WRTA) used Optibus’ planning and scheduling modules to increase the quality of drivers’ work shifts, optimize their budget, and work faster. 

Background

The WRTA is a public transportation agency in the greater Youngstown, Ohio area with thirty scheduled bus routes and over one million annual passengers. The agency provides vital services to the community, as forty-eight percent of riders use WRTA to get to their jobs and sixty-nine percent of riders do not own cars. 

Challenges and Results

Reducing Split Schedules and Runs

The power to customize runs to meet drivers’ preferences while reducing runs is key to overcoming a driver shortage. Maintaining peak services while minimizing splits, for example, and shaving off runs is possible with the capability to run multiple scenarios quickly and find a balance that satisfies both drivers, operational staff, and riders. 

WRTA used Multiple Scenario Creation from Optibus to create a valid weekday run cut with no part-time runs (trippers), a seventeen percent reduction in average split duration, and nearly identical service levels. 

“Optibus offers hundreds of preferences we can use to optimize different scenarios and costs. We have had a lot of driver shortages, but we are fortunate to have good operators that will work overtime when needed to cover trips. I would recommend Optibus to all of my peers,” said Judy Rodriguez, Director of Transportation, WRTA.

Over the course of half a year, WRTA used Optibus to reduce runs by twelve percent and completely eliminate the need for part-time runs. By improving the quality of Saturday runs, this agency also saw fewer driver call-outs and complaints, resulting in improved driver relationships, which is crucial during a shortage.

“Our overtime costs have increased due to the driver shortage, but that cost is more than offset by the savings we’ve realized through Optibus,” said Rodriguez.

Optimization that Accounts for Union Regulations and Driver Needs

Optibus made it easy for WRTA to perform accurate spread premiums and other calculations per their union contract. 

“If operators [drivers] make certain requests, I can plug those into Optibus and immediately see if the idea is a practical one, or explain why the idea is infeasible. I can show operators potential scenarios on the screen so that they can understand, too. I also get more information from the operators and can modify the preferences to align with their requests while still balancing my costs,” said Rodriguez.

This feature was at no extra cost to WRTA’s existing preferences and did not require WRTA to manually edit pay times outside of the system once the work was finished.

Increasing Work Efficiency with One End-to-End Platform

WRTA previously used two separate systems for planning and scheduling. It took about one month, many manual entries, and separate calculating to determine what each job paid. Switching to Optibus’ comprehensive, end-to-end platform made route planning and calculations much simpler and faster.

“Optibus has saved WRTA so much time in the planning process. This platform does it all. I can run timetables, operator assignments, and GTFS, all in a couple of clicks,” said Rodriguez.

Moving to a comprehensive platform also eliminated WRTA’s data migration issues. 

“It wasn’t easy to move data across two separate systems. It was triple the work, so I was better off doing it manually instead of using the software,” Rodriguez explained. 

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