Software Used in the Public Transit Industry: Hastus by GIRO
Specialized Software Used in the Transit Industry
In addition to the normal Microsoft Office software suite, the transit industry utilizes several important specialized software packages. In this article, I describe the use of scheduling software, especially Hastus by GIRO. Also see my article on ArcGIS software by the ESRI corporation .
Overview of Scheduling Software
Before the advent of the computer age, transit systems had to do all of their work by hand. Bus timetables had to carefully be created by hand and then blocked into vehicle schedules. Run-cutting used to literally involve physically cutting the vehicle schedules int o pieces that would then form the basis of the work that individual drivers would do.
Employee productivity significantly increased when computers began to be widely adopted by transit systems. Even Microsoft Excel was helpful in the scheduling process - I have successfully used Excel to schedule buses and runs for a network of thirty peak buses. In today's world, almost every transit system in the industrialized world uses one of two different high specialized scheduling software packages - Trapeze by Trapeze Group and Hastus by GIRO.
Scheduling software allows a transit agency to design bus routes, create bus stops, schedule bus routes, combine individual bus trips into blocks, cut blocks into pieces that individual drivers will operate, on a daily basis assign individual drivers into runs, and provide customer information about the network. The automation allows for schedulers and transit planners to quickly develop many different scheduling scenarios rather than rely on just one, which has significantly increase the operational efficiency of today's transit systems.
Because in my career I have exclusively used Hastus (which stands for Horaires et Assignments pour Systems de Transport Urban et Semi-Urban), the rest of this article will only deal with that program.
GIRO is a software company that is headquartered in a non-descript office building in an industrial part of north Montreal, Quebec (interestingly, Trapeze is headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, which means that both major scheduling software packages are made by Canadian companies - which seems to support the stereotype of Canada being an "orderly" society). In addition to Hastus, they make GeoRoute, which allows the purchaser to design routes for individual letter carriers, sanitation engineers, and meter readers, and Acces, which allows the purchaser to schedule paratransit trips. What makes GIRO different from most software companies is that they were transit people interested in making software to help themselves and not software people interested in making transit scheduling software to broaden their company's scope.
Because Hastus software is highly dependent on the size of the individual transit system and the number of software modules installed, it is difficult to get a general idea on how much it would cost for someone to purchase it without in-depth investigation. Golden Gate Transit in the San Francisco Bay area, which has 172 buses in maximum service, recently renewed a three year contract with GIRO at a cost of $288,925. In 2003, Jacksonville, FL, which operates about 160 buses, has reported spending $240,534 plus an additional $16,112 in annual maintenance costs for the use of Hastus software. Contrast this with Los Angeles Metro, which has over 2,000 peak buses: their Hastus contract is worth over $2 million.
How Hastus Works
Hastus is the software that makes today's transit systems work. With Hastus, you can create the schedules that buses will follow every day (for more information about this, see writing the bus schedule ); it creates the runs that determine what work a given driver will do in a day (for more information about this, see completing a run-cut ); and it allows you to schedule people on a day-to-day basis to make sure every run is covered.
Use of Hastus and Other Scheduling Software in the Transit Industry
As scheduling software packages are highly customizable, and feature many different modules, usage of them varies widely. This feature allows transit systems to gradually replace their old, often custom-made software with modern technology as funds permit. Most systems use at least the vehicle scheduling and the crew scheduling aspects of Hastus. Others use the network map function, called Geo, which allow them to geographically locate and analyze routes, stops, ticket agents, and other places. Many also use the "Daily" module, which allows them to schedule individual drivers for work on a daily basis, as well as the modules that allow customer service agents to access scheduling data and marketing employees to print out maps and schedules. Easy conversion of data to a format that Google Transit can read is also of great importance to today's transit system.
Outlook of Scheduling Software
In the future, I foresee further automation of transit scheduling activities, particularly in the area of daily operations. For example, the "mark-up", where a supervisor manually selects available employees to cover empty runs on a daily basis, could become automated with the software automatically selecting appropriate employees to cover work. In addition, the operator bid, which is a time-consuming process in which employees must come into a particular room in seniority order to select what work they will do in the next service change - which has to be manually entered into a computer - could be done via self-selection from a menu much as one might purchase an airline ticket. Automation of the above activities would allow supervisors to spend more time on the road, with a result that the actual service, which would be better managed, would more closely approximate the theoretical scheduled service.
I also envision the continuing effort to make scheduling software work better with other transit technology. For example, data from automatic vehicle location systems, which we use to analyze bus running time, could be automatically downloaded into Hastus, saving time. Similarly, data from automated passenger counting systems could be downloaded. Accomplishing these goals would allow schedulers to spend more time in the field getting the judgement they need to accurately analyze all the data that comes in.