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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B - ASP and Thin Client Usage Survey." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2002. e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation, Volume 2, Application Service Provider Implementation Guidelines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24724.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B - ASP and Thin Client Usage Survey." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2002. e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation, Volume 2, Application Service Provider Implementation Guidelines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24724.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B - ASP and Thin Client Usage Survey." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2002. e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation, Volume 2, Application Service Provider Implementation Guidelines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24724.
×
Page 30
Page 31
Suggested Citation:"Appendix B - ASP and Thin Client Usage Survey." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2002. e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation, Volume 2, Application Service Provider Implementation Guidelines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24724.
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B-1 APPENDIX B ASP AND THIN CLIENT USAGE SURVEY INTRODUCTION The following sections describe the transit agency surveys that were conducted as part of the research into ASP and thin client use. The goal of these surveys was threefold. First, the research team wanted to determine the extent to which tran- sit agencies understand the concept of ASP or thin clients. Second, if transit agencies were currently using ASP or thin clients, the research team wanted to understand how the ASPs or thin clients were being used and what effects they have had on business operations. Finally, the team was interested to know what the agencies’ thoughts were on transit-specific ASPs or thin client applications. DATA COLLECTION In order to collect the necessary data, a survey form was developed (see Appendix A). The survey was designed to gain a quick understanding of a transit agency’s use of either ASP or thin clients. If the transit agency did not currently use ASP or thin clients, the survey took about 4 minutes to complete. If the transit agency currently uses or had used ASP or thin clients, the survey form took about 20 minutes to complete. The survey form was divided into two parts. Part I was filled out by all of the respondents while Part II was only filled out if certain questions in Part I were answered. In addition, all survey respondents were asked to give thoughts on possi- ble transit-specific applications that were well suited for either ASPs or thin clients. Part I was divided into two sections: one section was for ASPs, and the other was for thin clients and asked general questions about the transit agency’s under- standing, current use, and consideration of using ASPs or thin clients. Part II of the survey form was filled out only if the transit agency currently uses or had previously used an ASP or thin client. Part II of the survey was much more detailed in the questions and asked the respondent to quantify how ASPs or thin clients have affected his or her agency’s operations. The following questions were asked in Part II: • How long have you used either ASP or thin client? • Did the size of your staff change as a result of using ASP or thin client? • Did your organization realize any benefits from using ASP or thin client? • Did your organization encounter any problems while implementing ASP or thin client? • How were your organization’s overall computing costs affected by the change to ASP or thin client? • Which of your organization’s specific costs were affected by going to ASP or thin client? (Please circle Increase or Decrease and indicate a dollar amount or percent if known.) • Were any staff functions eliminated by going to ASP or thin client? • Were any staff functions or roles introduced by going to ASP or thin client? • Based on your experience do you consider the use of ASP or thin client processing beneficial? The survey was initially designed to be completed over the phone through interviews. A list of transit agencies to be sur- veyed was developed using the APTA 2001 Member Direc- tory. The list was quite diverse and included transit agencies of different size, geographic location, and operations. In all, 39 transit agencies were identified to be surveyed. Between November 19, 2001, and December 3, 2001, the 39 transit agencies were contacted. Eight of the 39 transit agencies responded to the survey—a 21% response rate. An additional list of transit agencies to be surveyed was compiled from various sources, including the TCRP Project J-09 Steering Committee, FTA Bus Rapid Transit Consor- tium members, and the FTA APTA Stakeholders. These contacts were e-mailed an electronic version of the survey. In all, 25 people were e-mailed the electronic version of the survey and 2 responded—an 8% response rate. All totaled, 64 transit agencies were contacted and 10 responded—a 15% response rate. ANALYSIS The following transit agencies responded to the ASP and thin client survey: • Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (Alabama); • Central Arkansas Transit Authority; • Greater Peoria Mass Transit District (Illinois); • Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority (Kansas); • Blacksburg Transit (Virginia); • City of Fairfax City-University-Energysaver (CUE) Bus (Virginia); • Virginia Railway Express; • Beaver County Transit Authority (Pennsylvania); • Orange County (California) (via e-mail); and • Maricopa County (Arizona) (via e-mail).

B-2 Table B-1 provides a summary of the responses to Part I of the survey. Because of the response rate and the number of transit agencies currently using ASP or thin clients, a sim- ilar analysis was not conducted for Part II. Instead, sum- maries of the responses are provided in the following two sections. ASP Survey Response Initially, those interviewed were asked the question: “Are you familiar with an ASP?” Some were unsure, but after a definition of an ASP was read to them, seven respondents (70%) were familiar with what an ASP entails. Of those that were familiar with ASPs, two (29%) currently use an ASP. Overall, three respondents (30%) currently use an ASP. However, the only anomaly was with the City of Fairfax CUE Bus (in Virginia). The person interviewed was not familiar with ASPs but after a conversation regarding the agency’s operations, it was determined that the agency does indeed use an ASP for traveler information services. Of the seven respondents that do not currently use an ASP, two (29%) had considered using an ASP. The reasons for not using an ASP were concerns regarding uptime of the com- puter software and system and the availability of resources within the organizations to use ASP. The two transit agencies that currently use ASPs are the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (in Alabama) and the Fairfax’s CUE Bus. Both use an ASP for two com- pletely different functions. Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority currently uses an ASP for both human- resource and financial functions. The primary reason for this was to enable the agency to concentrate on its core mission of providing transportation services to its citizens. By not having to worry about the human-resource and financial functions of the operations, the agency was better able to allocate all available resources to providing better transit ser- vice. On the other hand, Fairfax’s CUE Bus uses an ASP for traveler information. The City of Fairfax has a contract with NextBus to use its technology to provide CUE Bus riders with traveler information. Thin Client Survey Response As with the ASP section of the survey, those interviewed were initially asked the question: “Are you familiar with thin client?” Some were unsure, but after a definition of a thin client was read to them, five respondents (50%) were famil- iar with what a thin client entails. Of those that were famil- iar with ASPs, two (40%) currently use a thin client. Over- all, two respondents (20%) currently use a thin client. Of the eight respondents that do not currently use a thin client, zero (0%) had considered using a thin client. There were no specific reasons given as to why the transit agencies did not consider using a thin client. However, there seemed to be a general lack of awareness regarding the benefits of thin clients and their specific use with transit agency operations. Two of the transit agencies currently use a thin client— Orange County, California, and Maricopa County, Arizona. Both agencies use a Citrix MetaFrame as their thin client. Orange County currently uses its thin client for route plan- ning, scheduling and dispatching, occurrence tracking, pas- senger count reporting, and fuel management. The size of its staff did not increase or decrease; however, the new role of Citrix MetaFrame Administrator was created as part using thin clients. The benefit that Orange County gained from using thin clients was a single point of application for installation and upgrading of software rather than hundreds of points. The problems encountered were printing and the installa- tion of print drivers on the Citrix MetaFrame computer. Orange County believes that thin client will be beneficial; however, the initial start-up cost and psychological barriers were hurdles that had to be overcome. CONCLUSIONS The response to the surveys regarding transit agency use of ASP or thin client did not provide any groundbreaking insights. There are several reasons for this. First, many of the transit agencies were not currently using an ASP or thin clients. Second, those transit agencies that are using ASP or thin clients did not have any data regarding the cost savings associated with their use. This was due in part to the amount of time the agencies had been using the technology—in some cases, just 4 months. Third, the chosen methodology to col- lect the data, limited by both available time and funding, made it difficult to collect the necessary data from the knowl- edgeable person within the organization. Finally, in general, transit agencies have not necessarily been thinking about using either ASPs or thin clients. Agencies might hear about ASPs or thin clients in magazines, on the news, or in jour- nals, but they are not sure of the application as it relates to their operations. In many instances, it is just a matter of edu- cation and information dissemination. Regardless of the survey responses and the amount of data collected, the phone interviews with the various transit agen- cies did provide valuable insights. First, the institutional set- ting of the transit agency will have a direct impact on its use of an ASP or thin clients. For instance, a number of transit agencies were not their own operating authority, but rather a department of the local county or city government. In these instances, all of the human-resource and financial functions (some of the more common functions for ASPs or thin clients) were controlled by the local government. Therefore, the tran- sit agency had little, if any, knowledge of how ASPs or thin clients were being used. Second, the use of an ASP or thin client may not neces- sarily be to control costs. Instead, the use may allow the tran- sit agency to focus more on its core mission of providing transportation services. This argument for using an ASP or

TABLE B-1 Part I survey response B i r m i n g h a m - J e f f e r s o n C o u n t y T r a n s i t A u t h o r i t y C e n t r a l A r k a n s a s T r a n s i t A u t h o r i t y G r e a t e r P e o r i a M a s s T r a n s i t D i s t r i c t T o p e k a M e t r o p o l i t a n T r a n s i t A u t h o r i t y B l a c k s b u r g T r a n s i t C i t y o f F a i r f a x C U E B u s V i r g i n i a R a i l w a y E x p r e s s B e a v e r C o u n t y t r a n s i t A u t h o r i t y O r a n g e C o u n t y C a l i f o r n i a M a r i c o p a C o u n t y ( A r i z o n a ) ASP Are you familiar with ASP? Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes 7 70% 3 30% Do you currently, or have you previously, used an ASP? Yes No No No No Yes Yes No No No 3 30% 7 70% If NO, have you considered using an ASP? n/a No No No No n/a n/a No Yes Yes 2 29% 5 71% Thin Client Are you familiar with "Thin Client"? Yes Yes Yes No No No No No Yes Yes 5 50% 5 50% Do you currently, or have you previously, used a "Thin Client"? No No No No No No No No Yes Yes 2 20% 8 80% If, NO, have you considered using a "Thin Client"? No No No No No No No No n/a n/a 0 0% 8 100% Yes No Yes No

thin client was brought up in a number of the interviews—for example, the transit agency already uses an outside vendor to provide Internet and e-mail access for employees to concen- trate on the core mission. In another instance, a transit agency used an ASP specifically for human-resource and financial functions so that it does not have to worry about them. Third, there needs to be more attention provided for transit- specific ASP or thin client applications, primarily the appli- cations’ availability and benefits. When discussing the use of ASP or thin clients, many of the transit agencies had heard of non-transit ASP or thin client uses. When asked the question of whether they see any transit-specific applications well suited for ASP or thin client, most agencies did not have ideas. However, some agencies did provide possible transit-specific applications that included the following: • Vehicle management, • Traveler information, • Passenger count reporting, • Occurrence tracking, • Fuel management, B-4 • Call centers, • Trip planning system, and • Complaint system. Finally, the size of the transit system may dictate the need for an ASP or thin client. In some cases, the larger transit agencies may provide all of their needed computer applica- tions in-house. Because of their size or number of years in operation, the larger agencies may have systems that work efficiently, and the cost to change to an ASP or thin client may not be warranted. Medium-size transit agencies may have similar computing requirements as the larger agencies, but may lack the ability to procure the needed hardware or soft- ware. In this instance, an ASP or thin client model may prove to be beneficial. The smaller agencies, aside from Internet or e-mail services, may not have the need for many of the more robust applications required by the larger agencies; however, their small size and limited technical resources may make the ASP alternative an attractive option for implementing new computing services without having to invest already-scarce capital and technical resources.

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TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 84: e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation, Volume 2: Application Service Provider Implementation Guidelines, presents the results of an investigation into the use of application service providers and thin client computing technologies by transit agencies.

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