Best Practices in Fixed-Route Bus Transit Dispatch - Management and Function

In 2006 and 2007, the National Center for Transit Research sponsored a study to examine best practices in extraboard operator management. In most transit agencies, extraboard manpower is managed by the fixed-route bus dispatch function, but extraboard management is but one of the many aspects of operating a transit system managed by Fixed-route bus dispatch. The study for extraboard management yielded a need to have a greater understanding of operational functions within transit systems and to share optimal practices among transit operations personnel both within Florida and around the country. The primary essential functions of fixed-route bus dispatch that are common among transit systems are known and are categorized as two-way radio communications between dispatchers and bus operators, assignment of bus coaches to bus operators, ensure that all bus runs are filled to maintain scheduled service, and incident/accident management. However, very little is known about the differences between transit agencies in terms of the manner in which fixed-route bus dispatch is structured, the operational practices and procedures that dispatchers follow, and a catalog of all of the functions of fixed-route bus dispatch. This NCTR project will investigate best practices, standard operating procedures and uses of technology in dispatch for small, medium, and large transit agencies. The function of fixed-route bus dispatch within a transit environment is the control center of operations, without which there would be no consistent transit service on the street each day. Dispatchers have the responsibility to ensure that there is sufficient labor and equipment to meet the day's scheduled service, act as the primary source of direction for bus operators in the service area via radio communications, coordinate the response and resolution for all incidents that occur in the field, and ensure the safety, security, and performance of the bus system. Fixed-route bus dispatch can be a high paced, fast moving and multi-faceted function wherein each day presents new challenges than the day before. The manner in which individual dispatch offices are structured to function is determined by historical influences, longevity of personnel, the management philosophy of operations managers, and in some cases collective bargaining agreements. However, while the similarities of dispatch functions across all transit agencies are well known, the differences in operating policies, procedures, and functions of dispatch have not been well-researched or documented. In a scan of research on this topic, there is a great deal of research for dispatch in EMS, traffic management, trucking and even milk delivery. A few deal with transit dispatch but only tangentially addressing the impacts of new technologies such as new communications systems and Computer-Aided -Dispatch (CAD) /Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) packages.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Florida Department of Transportation

    605 Suwannee Street
    Tallahassee, FL  USA  32399-0450
  • Project Managers:

    Stutts, Elizabeth

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of South Florida, Tampa

    Center for Urban Transportation Research
    3650 Spectrum Boulevard
    Tampa, FL  USA  33612-9446
  • Principal Investigators:

    DeAnnuntis, Christopher

    Morris, William

  • Start Date: 20090200
  • Actual Completion Date: 20100800
  • Source Data: RiP Project 25144

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01461709
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: University of South Florida, Tampa
  • Contract Numbers: 77907
  • Files: RiP, STATEDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 1:50PM