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Birmingham-Jefferson County Transportation Authority - Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Initiative Grant Application - Mobile Proximity Fare Collection

Application Planning Considerations

Period of Performance and Deployment Plan

The period of performance for this project is planned to begin in 2018 and complete in 2021, with the 2021 calendar year being utilized largely to evaluate the project's implementation and ensure project developers are readily engaged in the 2021 World Games. The project timeline and key activities are captured in Figures 16 through 19.

Figure 16. 2018 Process and Flow Time

Figure 16. 2018 Process and Flow Time

Figure 17. 2019 Process and Flow Time

Figure 17. 2019 Process and Flow Time

Figure 18. 2020 Process and Flow Time

Figure 18. 2020 Process and Flow Time

Figure 19. 2021 Process and Flow Time

Figure 19. 2021 Process and Flow Time

Federal Involvement

Substantial Federal involvement including technical assistance and guidance is requested. We appreciate that this is a research grant. To support the effective project documentation and evaluation we are proposing to engage a national leader in transportation research, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center (SSCRC) to be the primary party responsible for project evaluation and documentation. They will act as an objective, on-site observer for the ATCMTD program staff, ready to engage in any project data requests in a timely and effective manner. The planned interactions are shown in Figures 11-14, delineated as red squares.

Model Deployment

Recognizing that the award is to develop a model deployment site for large scale installation and operations of advanced transportation technologies to improve safety, efficiency, system performance, and infrastructure return on investment, we have engaged a key partner whose sole responsibility will be to support this critical ATCMTD goal, the UAB SSCRC.

The UAB SSCRC integrates health, socio-economic impacts, and infrastructure design for the purpose of developing innovative solutions for sustainable smart cities and communities. The diverse faculty participating in the program specializes in disciplines that work together to develop tools for sustainable infrastructure design. Sustainable smart cities are environmentally friendly, with reduced costs and an increased quality of life. These areas preserve the natural environment, are energy efficient, provide access to health services, and are economically sound with engaged citizens.

Figure 20. UAB SSCRC Logo

Figure 20. UAB SSCRC Logo

The SSCRC will be a valuable component of this proposed project. Students participating in the Master's Degree program will carefully study the integrated transportation system created by this project. Through their research, these students will evaluate the technologies and applications used to determine the resulting impacts on safety, efficiency, and sustainable movement both along the interstate system and through the public transit system. The research will prove the effectiveness of the mobile application in reducing traffic congestion, increasing the use and ease of public transit, and simplifying the lives of the Birmingham area residents. This research will further demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of reducing congestion and pollution and increasing the efficiency and reliability of the region's workforce.

Through this research and analysis, students participating in the Master's program will provide reports on their findings that will analyze the impact of this project on the city and surrounding areas. Other cities and communities throughout the country will then be able to utilize such reports to reproduce this technology for their transit systems. The program students will be able to collaborate with partners throughout the country to further develop and utilize this technology across various systems, all while furthering the concept and purpose of both this grant and the SSRC.

Proposal Management

The BJCTA has well-established business systems to manage grant, financial, and compliance management. These systems are subject to Federal Transit Agency Triennial Reviews as well as regular accounting audits. The BJCTA is in good standing and qualifies for continued federal grant funding and had no significant findings in the most recent regular audit.

Mobile Proximity Fare Collection Tool (MPFCT) is a complex application involving many aspects of BJCTA as an agency to integrate the concept into the existing fare collection and bus operations system. The development of the MPFCT will be supported by the services of a technical consultant to be engaged by BJCTA and supported by the City of Birmingham's Information Management System (IMS) department.

The overall effort for BJTCA will be Redacted                                                                                                                                                                          
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Figure 21 - Redacted BJCTA Staff Chart

Figure 21. BJCTA Staff

Beyond BJCTA staff, Figure 22 shows key project participants:

Figure 22. Kay Participants - BJCTA, STRADA Professional Services, Owner's Agent, Arriv. IO, Parking Integrator, Avail, BJCTA Mobile Data Terminal Developer, City of Birmingham IT Department, UAB SSCRC

Figure 22. Kay Participants

Description of geographic area or jurisdiction the deployment will service

Located in a dramatic physical landscape, Birmingham (Figure 23) is the county seat of Jefferson County and is the largest city in Alabama. Birmingham was founded in 1871 at the crossing of two railroad lines and quickly grew to become the center of industry in the southern United States. As coal, iron ore, and limestone were prevalent throughout the region, it was only natural that the city became known for its iron and steel production. This important piece of infrastructure was, and still is, a key component of the city's development as an industrial powerhouse.

Birmingham is re-emerging as a vibrant southern city where people choose to live, thanks to comprehensive community planning, strong leadership, collaboration, and reinvestment. Revitalization efforts focus on improving quality of life for citizens, protecting and enhancing the unique sense of place, rebuilding the economy with a foundation of diversity and resiliency, and creating an innovative and healthy workforce. The signs of reinvestment and revitalization are occurring citywide. Public and private confidence in Birmingham's future is strong, with the city center growing significantly as reflected through increased opportunities for jobs, education, healthcare, and government services. According to Forbes Magazine, Birmingham is among the fastest emerging downtowns in the nation.

Birmingham is the southern hub of America's expanding automobile manufacturing footprint. Interstate 65 is the main freight corridor for the nation's entire automotive industry. Furthermore, Birmingham is the largest population center on the M-65 marine highway corridor, which is the only marine highway that can provide direct relief to America's most trafficked marine highway, the M-55 Marine Highway Corridor.

Figure 23. Scope Area - Aerial map of Birmingham area

Figure 23. Scope Area

Interstate 65 in the Birmingham region is a major freight corridor, with more than 8,500 trucks per day and 50 million tons annually traveling the corridor. This interstate demands continual flow to support the automotive industry's just-in-time supply systems that deliver parts and materials around the clock. Interstate 65 travels through five different ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains, creating a cost prohibitive obstacle to highway expansion. Interstate 65's congestion is exacerbated by the reality that Birmingham, as most southern cities, does not have a public transit centric culture. Birmingham's geographic expansion over the past three decades has increasingly moved along Interstate 65 south of the city center. The population in this region has increased to equal the entire population of Birmingham. Future expansion has been funneled into the already congested five passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Figure 17 illustrates the project scope area.

Birmingham has recently emerged from a United States Environmental Protection Agency designated air quality maintenance program. Increases in automobile traffic would further this problem. Birmingham has also recently established the Birmingham-Jefferson County Port Authority and is working to establish port facilities and a public-private partnership to reduce both interstate traffic and M-55 Marine Highway Corridor traffic.

Birmingham is continually investing in the city to create a public transit culture through the BRT system, and the city is creating redevelopment downtown through mixed-use development. The BJCTA continues to realign its route network through its Transit Development Plan to improve on-time performance and increase route frequency. In conjunction with the Transit Development Plan, the city continues to re-brand key routes to appeal to a new generation of residents in professional careers and who are technologically savvy.

This project will be implemented within the BJCTA service area and will focus on the BRT system routes shown in Figure 24, with a focus on the east-west and south routes and the airport express routes. Select local bus routes may also be included as the BRT system is refined. The airport express routes will allow utilization by riders who have a choice in how they will travel and could serve to encourage further use by this travel market segment. This project will provide a showcase to the transit industry and firmly establish Birmingham and its state of the art technology as a pioneer in the industry.

Regulatory Issues

The Mobile Proximity Fare Collection technology does not present any regulatory issues at any level. The existing system of fare collection, the magnetic strip card, will continue to be available in its present form. The Mobile Proximity Fare Collection Technology system will supplement the existing fare collection system. The Mobile Proximity Fare Collection Technology meets ADA compliance for similar reasons. The app's mobile ticketing application will utilize travelers' existing smart phone, tablet, or compatible mobile device. These devices would likely be already consistent with user needs.

Mobile Proximity Fare Collection utilizes existing technology that is readily available and able to be connected by custom mobile applications in order to provide a product that meets identified needs. It will provide a safe and affordable way for transportation challenged individuals and households to easily and conveniently gain access to transportation services, without bank or credit accounts.

There are two key issues that will be important to implementing the Mobile Proximity Fare Collection technology that are not part of the BJCTA's staff capabilities, but consultant services could be engaged to assist in resolving them. First, inherent in Mobile Proximity Fare Collection is a linkage to banking and fund transfers. Secondly, the agreements of various types may be negotiated with private transportation providers and retail vendors. These services, while not part of the primary Mobile Proximity Fare Collection Technology application, could provide substantial convenience to the transit patrons.

System Performance Improvements

The Mobile Proximity Fare Collection technology is focused on improving access to transportation services, particularly for the transportation disadvantaged. The system will broaden payment options and substantially improve convenience. Ideally, fare evasion will be reduced, as well as financial security through the reduction of cash accounting. The overall accounting and financial systems should be considerably more secure as transit patrons migrate to cashless systems.

One of the key performance measures for any transit system is on-time performance. That is, the buses are consistently on time. The Mobile Proximity Fare Collection Technology will speed the loading of the buses at each stop. This will improve the speed of the bus along the route, and enhance their on-time performance. Universally, most every bus operator suggests that collecting cash fares is a key cause of delays in route performance. The mobile ticketing app is designed to reduce cash payments at the farebox, and optimize efficiency in fare collection.

Mobile Proximity Fare Collection Technology will ideally reduce fare evasion, reducing the opportunity for theft of services and embezzlement. Both the electronic fare collection system and the vehicle operator will be aware of each discrete boarding, and will be able to advise transit patrons' if their fare have not been paid. In addition, by reducing the amount of cash that must be accounted for in the office, the opportunity for accounting errors will be substantially reduced.

Quantifiable Safety, Mobility, and Environmental Benefit Projections

The use of the Mobile Proximity Fare Collection technology will substantially improve the average vehicle speed along the BRT route system, and increase on-time performance by reducing one of the key contributors to delay for transit vehicles; use of cash for fare payment. System operational performance will be tracked before and after implementation of the mobile ticketing application. Improvements will be identified and issues resolved, resulting in an overall enhancement of system speed.

Transit use will also be measured and evaluated. The Birmingham market presents a unique research opportunity for FHWA by evaluating the potential for increased transit ridership when a city makes a multi-pronged commitment to increasing transit ridership (BRT, TOD, Intermodal and Electronic Payment), driven by a burning imperative (2021 World Games). To establish precise metrics the UAB SSCRC will be engaged so that peer-reviewed-quality research is conducted as part of this project.

Cashless systems are inherently safer and more secure. The fare collection system will be significantly more resilient through the provision of two parallel systems: a non-smart phone NFC card system, and the mobile ticketing application. Mobile Proximity Fare Collection Technology will also be significantly more convenient for transit patrons. Transit patron focus groups of travelers using both local and express transit routes will be developed, and used to help identify the requirements for the Mobile Proximity Fare Collection Technology and the accompanying app. Focus group interviews will be followed up with statistically significant fare survey that will be administered prior to development and implementation of the mobile ticketing application. Following implementation of the Tool and the associated applications, additional surveys will be administered with the purpose of gauging customer reaction and refining the system.

Vision, Goals and Objectives

BJCTA's Transit Vision, Goals and Objectives are embodied in the agency's 2008 Comprehensive Transit Development Plan. BJTCA's vision is:

"… to become a transportation system that is seamlessly connected, offering safe, affordable, reliable and accessible services that improves mobility, flexibility and choices for all users, while supporting the social, economic and physical health of the region's communities."

BJCTA goals for the mobile ticketing technology application are:

  • To develop a fare payment system that maximizes the ability of all system patrons to pay fares in the most convenient and efficient way possible.
  • To ensure that the fare payment system continues to afford the opportunity to use cash as necessary, but the cash fare payment system is minimized to the greatest extent possible.
  • To reduce accounting and administrative costs.
  • To develop strong data, that includes but is not limited to origin-destination information, and trip/tour data in order to improve system planning and route efficiency.
  • Provide an incrementally scalable and expandable fare collection system.

Public Private Partnership Opportunities

Mobile Proximity Fare Collection Technology offers multiple opportunities for partnering with both private entities and other public sector agencies. As the patron approaches the transit stop they could receive coupons and/or discounts from various merchants located along the route. Negotiations for the distribution of and on the use of the coupon could result in non-transit revenue for the BJCTA. Through the transit wallet concept, travelers could utilize the application to procure other transportation services. This could be either public or private entities, and includes, but is not limited to: intercity bus, bikeshare and traditional bicycle rental services, ridesharing services, car-sharing services, structure, surface, and on-street parking, or taxis. The potential exists for further enhancing the application to link it to WIC, SNAP and other EBT services provided by social service agencies. The patron could have all of their services and payment options located on their phone, easily accessible.

Leverage existing technology

BJTCA has just implemented Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) technology on the transit system. This technology could be linked to the mobile ticketing application to identify the schedule for the next bus.

DOT ITS Program Leverage

The Mobile Proximity Fare Collection technology can be developed and applied consistently with the development of the Birmingham BRT system. The four-year schedule assumes a grant award in the fourth quarter of 2017. The BRT system is anticipated to be operational in the third quarter of 2020. Deployment and testing of the mobile ticketing application will be consistent with the construction of the BRT system in late 2019 and early 2020.

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