Operator Questionnaire and Summaries of Responses
TCRP Project A-46, “Quantitative Procedures for Designing and Operating Ferry Transit Services Questions for Ferry Operators”
KPFF and Arup, with the guidance of a panel of ferry and transit experts, are performing research related to ferry capacity concepts and analysis methods. The objective of this research is to present key quantitative procedures for planning, designing, and operating ferry transit services that will be useful to ferry system operators and transit planners. The resulting report and procedures will be published by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and incorporated into the next edition of TRB’s Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual.
More information on the Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual, Third Edition, is available here: http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/169437.aspx. Other ferry reports include TCRP Report 152: Guidelines for Ferry Transportation Services (http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/166721.aspx), and TCRP Synthesis 102: Integrating Passenger Ferry Service with Mass Transit (http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/168711.aspx).
A summary of this research effort (TCRP Project A-46) is available here: https://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=4882
Purpose of Questionnaire
To support the development of key quantitative procedures, the research team is asking select ferry operators to share best practices and available data related to how they address capacity through planning, design, and operations. Your responses will help improve research and guidance for existing ferry operators as well as communities and jurisdictions considering ferries as a potential transit mode. In addition to your responses to this questionnaire, if your agency has completed any study documents addressing ferry capacity considerations, please attach them with your questionnaire responses. Responses are requested by April 28th.
(Note that some questions are specific for passenger-only ferry or vehicle ferry services)
Terminals and vessels: How is throughput measured and planned?
- Does your service have video that captures passenger or vehicle movements between the terminal and vessel that you would be willing to share with us? Video will be used to quantify pedestrian and/or vehicle flow rates through facility elements (on ramps, on the dock, loading/unloading, through vessel doors, etc.)
Summary of operator responses: Four operators indicated that they could potentially share video. The research team reviewed video from three of the operators as part of terminal observations.
- Does your service have fare collection data that could be used to quantify automated fare collection/passenger counting rates? Have you taken any other action to measure the pedestrian and/or vehicle flow rates? If so, what methods did you employ (e.g., direct counts over time, other) and do you have data you would be willing to share with us?
Summary of operator responses: Operators noted various fare collection data and passenger counting methods, and six operators indicated that they would be willing to share data.
- What type(s) of fare collection is/are used, and where is fare collection located in relation to queuing/vessel loading? Does any fare validation take place at the time of boarding, or after fare collection is there a prepaid capture area where customers wait prior to loading?
Summary of operator responses: Operator responses detail use of a variety of fare types as well as fare collection practices. Vehicle ferry operators noted pay booths accepting multiple fare types, self-ticketing kiosks, online ticketing, and handheld scanners used by crew. Passenger-only ferry operators noted self-ticketing kiosks, ticket counters, and handheld scanners at the boarding gate or on the vessel, with four operators noting fare integration with regional transit systems. Six of the operators collect or validate fares as passengers/vehicles board the ferry, three collect fares before passengers/vehicles enter a prepaid holding area, one typically collects fares onboard the vessel, and one uses a “borderless” system.
(For passenger-only ferry operators) We are collecting best practices for queuing practices and space allocation at terminals—please provide information on your standard operating procedures or procedures specific to your service’s terminal that most efficiently move passengers. How much space is allocated for queuing/ticketing and support services?
- How many routes are served at the terminal?
- Layout [number of lanes (queuing/loading and unloading), width of ramps and other walkways, planned queuing capacity relative to total vessel capacity, seating availability]
- If reservations are used, how are passengers with reservations managed (queuing and loading)?
- What are the procedures for queuing and boarding bicycles?
Summary of operator responses: Operators provided detail on queuing layout/number of queuing lanes, lane and ramp widths (ranging from a minimum 36 inches, to 13 feet), and some queuing management best practices. One operator noted that because it does not own its pontoons, it is unable to install queuing hardware, and bunched queuing creates problems and slows down the boarding/alighting process. None of the responding operators use reservations for passenger services. Bikes are typically queued/loaded in the regular passenger lane, although one of the services unloads bikes last, and one high-speed passenger-only ferry service stores bikes prior to passengers loading. Best practices for queue management included stationing customer service agents at the terminal during busy periods and the use of overhead electronic signage for queue management.
(For vehicle ferry operators) We are collecting best practices for queuing layout and space allocation at terminals—please provide information specific to your service’s terminal about what most efficiently moves vehicles. How much space is allocated for holding/ticketing and support services?
- Layout (number of lanes (holding, loading, and unloading), planned queuing capacity relative to total vessel capacity, seating availability)
- How are large vehicles managed (queuing and loading)?
- How are priority vehicles such as those for emergency response or commercial/goods (if applicable) managed (queuing and loading)?
- If reservations are used, how are vehicles with reservations differentiated from those without reservations?
- Within the group having reservations, is there any preferential loading? As an example, do emergency vehicles or trucks carrying livestock or perishable goods get priority loading over other customers (with or without reservations)?
Summary of operator responses: Even within each system, vehicle holding capacity and layout vary by terminal size/route traffic, ranging from no holding space (queuing on local roads) to 2.5 vessels’ worth of vehicles. All operators indicated strategies for separate staging and priority loading of emergency and other priority vehicles. Operators noted using separate holding lanes for large vehicles, vehicles with reservations, and priority vehicles (including emergency response, VIPs, mobility-impaired drivers, and trucks with livestock or perishable goods).
(For vehicle ferry operators) What size/footprint (length, width, and space between vehicles) is used for auto equivalent units (the representative vehicle size for planning capacity)? If your service operates multiple routes, do assumptions for auto capacity planning differ by route type (commuter routes versus lifeline routes with heavier freight/truck usage)? If a route has multiple stops, how do you allocate space by destination?
Summary of operator responses: Standard vehicle lengths provided ranged from 16'11'' to 20'. One European operator observed that vehicles have become significantly wider over the past 40 years. Operators with multiple routes noted that the same AEU dimensions are used across all routes, although some weight limitations may differ based on terminal infrastructure. Specific responses included:
- 1 Space < = 16’11”; 1 Space Oversized 17’ < 20’; 2 Space 20’ < 35’; 3 Space 35’ < 55’; 4 Space 55’ < 65’; 5 Space >=65’
- 18 feet per standard vehicle. Long vehicles are allocated in multiple unit ranges by fare class.
6.1m (long) x 2.6m (wide).
- For minor routes, we use a conversion factor of 1.0 for regular vehicles, 1.5 for over-heights, 2.5 for commercial vehicles, 3.0 for buses
- For major routes, we use a conversion factor of 1.0 for regular vehicles, 1.5 for over-heights, 3.75 for commercial vehicles, 3.0 for buses
Schedule planning: How does your system maximize schedule capacity while maintaining on-time service?
- What is the operating margin (difference between actual sailing time and allotted/scheduled trip time) used to maintain on-time service? Are there any instances of extra time built into the schedule to allow vessels that are running late to get back on time? If so, how frequently does this allowance occur? Are there seasonal considerations, wake-sensitive areas, tidal variations, or instances of vessel traffic that affect your scheduling?
Summary of operator responses: No operators identified a standard operating margin, although all but one (with a 2.5-minute river crossing) discussed having extra time built into the schedule in different ways. Operators vary scheduled dwell times by route and time of day to account for periods of known heavy ridership or harbor traffic, build the schedule assuming less-than-maximum vessel speed (if vessels are running late they can go faster; if they are on time they can go slower and save fuel), round scheduled trip times up to the nearest 5 minutes, or schedule longer dwell times during shift changes or vessel maintenance activities that allow service to make up time if needed to get back on schedule.
- How much time is allotted in the dock for loading, unloading, and other required at-dock activities (dwell time)? Is the allotted time consistent or does it change by time of day, day of week, or season? What determines the allotted dwell time? Is it vehicle load/unload time, passenger load/unload time, or other factors such as any outside of your facility (please specify)?
Summary of operator responses: Three operators indicated that there is little or no variation in their allotted dwell time, while others noted that allotted dwell time differs based on constraints (coordination with other operators at a shared facility), anticipated type/volume of ridership, or daily/seasonal schedule.
- Are there observed differences or available data comparing passenger throughput for regular commuters versus special-event or tourist traffic? (For vehicle ferry operators) Does this differ between walk-on passengers and cars?
Summary of operator responses: No operators identified data supporting this difference, but several offered observed differences in queuing, ticketing, and vessel boarding efficiencies. Observed differences include that tourists tend to board and disembark slower when walking and less efficiently when driving, and slower boarding/disembarking time during special events. One operator estimated that tourists asking questions adds about 1 minute to the boarding process. Several operators observed that regular commuters are much more likely to follow queuing protocols and be prepared for fare payment.
Long-term planning: How are other planning considerations expected to impact the capacity of your service?
- Does your service see a potential for future vessel electrification or alternative fuel use? If so, what are the known infrastructure/planning needs at the terminal to support electrification or alternative fuels (space for equipment or batteries at terminal and on the vessel)? Are there any known implications to dwell time due to charging time or battery change out?
Summary of operator responses: Several operators are in the early planning stages of vessel electrification or application of hydrogen fuel and indicated that infrastructure needs and dwell time impacts are not yet known.
- What performance metrics and goals/targets are used by your service? (For example: on-time performance targets, level of service metrics related to wait times, vessel capacity/ridership or overloads)
Summary of operator responses: Most operators track on-time performance, reliability, and ridership/vessel capacity utilization. Other performance metrics track revenue, passenger/vehicle wait times, safety, and customer satisfaction.
- What changes have been made to your system’s operations and capacity management in response to COVID-19? Do you anticipate that any of these changes will remain in place after COVID-19?
Summary of operator responses: Most operators implemented reduced capacity restrictions to allow for social distancing and reduced sailings due to operational challenges. Only one operator anticipates a lasting change after COVID-19 measures are lifted, with a continued shift toward contactless payment.
- Are there limiting factors on capacity in the systems connecting to your facility (roadways/intersections, parking, multimodal/transit connections)? Are there pulse-point relationships or non-scheduled links with other intermodal transit (buses, rail, other)?
Summary of operator responses: Operators noted that limiting factors were different by terminal, but included parking, availability and timeliness of connecting transit, and traffic congestion on connecting roadways (especially for terminals located in urban centers). One operator noted that bike lane capacity connecting to the terminal was limited. For operators with one or more terminals well-serviced by transit, all noted that schedules were coordinated with the connecting transit agency to the extent possible.
- Does your system use other best practices for planning or managing capacity that you would like to share?
Summary of operator responses: Operators shared recommendations focused on service level and capacity planning, including:
- Base planning on historical demand data and capacity data at a trip level.
- Coordinate capacity increases and decreases with connecting modes of transit.
- Include coordination of vessel dry-dock and overhaul maintenance activities in scheduling.
- Design to support standardization of fleet and terminal assets to allow for flexibility and interoperability, which allows vessels to be deployed as needed to meet high demand.
- Develop a strong feedback culture within the company/agency to get insight on problems and potential solutions.
- Use video surveillance at terminals to understand how many passengers are waiting.
- Minimize the number of seasonal schedules used throughout the year.