Capabilities of the Backend Components

Fixed Route Schedule Data Input/Modification Process

The heart of any CAD/AVL system is the ability to determine when reality is deviating from the fixed route schedule. Tracking and reporting reality is a well understood technical challenge. myAvail uses GPS location data, time of day and the intended schedule data to perform actions on the vehicle. myAvail communicates information about these actions from the vehicle to the servers that process the data. This effort requires the property to maintain the in-vehicle equipment and the operator to identify the correct piece of work being executed, which requires minimal staff effort.

Entering the plan (a.k.a. Fixed Route Schedule) is different. This process requires staff to know every detail of the schedule. The user needs the exact latitude and longitude of every stop, the direction the vehicle approaches the stop, which stops are announced, when to start the announcement, how to set the headsign and farebox, and which stops have departure times listed for the public. This information is provided to myAvail through a geo-fence concept that Avail refers to as a “trigger box.”

A trigger box is a virtual boundary around each stop. Authorized transit property personnel create trigger boxes using myAvail. The MDT uses current GPS data to determine when the vehicle enters a trigger box. However, the system must determine whether that the trigger box is valid for the active trip based on time and direction. After the system confirms it is a valid stop, the system performs actions upon entry, such as changing the destination sign. At the end of a trip, trigger boxes prompt the advance to the next trip in the current run.

Exiting trigger boxes cause additional actions, such as relaying passenger boards and alights and schedule adherence information to myAvail’s backend. For more considerations when creating trigger boxes, see An Overview Of Trigger Boxes and Considerations When Creating Them.

In myAvail, each route has one or more unique collections of stops with specific distances between each pair of stops that defines a “Pattern.” All differences in the stops that a route services and the order of stops require the setup of a separate pattern. After all stops are defined and all patterns for all routes are defined, then properties must define all trips. Trips specify the start time and stop-to-stop running times for a specific pattern of a given route. The list of trips includes “deadhead” trips, which occur when the vehicle moves from one location to another in non-revenue service.

NOTE: There is a defined “Deadhead” route to which all “Deadhead” trips must be assigned.

All trips must be assigned to a block. Avail refers to a vehicle’s work for a given day as a block. All routes and deadheads, driven by one or more operators, can comprise a block. However, the block must be complete and logical, meaning that each trip must begin where the previous trip ends, and the end of the previous trip must be before the start of the next. The system can accommodate down time and layovers between trips.

It is important to remember for a CAD/AVL system that minor overlaps or gaps which an operator and dispatcher would adjust for without a second thought become a problem because the plan as defined is different from reality.

After the blocks are created, users must assign them to operators. Avail defines an operator’s work for a given day as a run. A run can use from one to several blocks. A block is portioned out to runs based on the start and end time of trips. All trips in a block must be assigned to a run.

The final major concept in myAvail Fixed Route Schedule data is that of Service Level. Every day of the year must be mapped to exactly one Service Level. This map includes days where the property provides no service, such as Christmas or other holidays. While there are exceptions, properties frequently have only the following service levels:

  • No Service
  • Weekday
  • Saturday
  • Sunday
  • Holiday

However, seasonal factors such as tourists and school/university schedules can require additional service levels. Keep in mind that each day can provide only one service level.

Blocks are built by service level to allow blocks to run a slightly different service on Saturday than on Weekdays. Assigning operators’ work in block run mapping also depends on service level, which again allows a run to have different hours for different service levels.

NOTE: Schedule data errors impact EVERYONE who uses the system, including the public. Avail can’t emphasize enough the need to exercise great care when entering these data.

myAvail supports importing fixed route schedule data from several scheduling packages. Please see the myAvail User Guide for the full details. Additionally, myAvail Schedule Import Process in this manual provides some related information.

The time needed between when there is a decision to change the Fixed Route Schedule and when that change can be active is impacted by the existence of a CAD/AVL system. As an example, consider a simple change such as a shopping center closing and new one opening a half mile further down the route. Without a CAD/AVL system, properties must do the following:

  • Inform the public
  • Edit the appropriate operator paddles
  • Inform a limited number of staff

However, with a CAD/AVL system in place there are a few more steps:

  • Determine the latitude/longitude of the new stop
    • If announced, have a new recording made
  • Modify the stop data
  • Modify the impacted patterns
    • Adjust the stop to stop distances
  • Modify the impacted Trips
    • Adjust the running time between stops
  • Validate all the information is correctly entered
  • Build the files for download to the vehicles
  • Schedule the publish (go live) date
  • Schedule the vehicle downloads with enough time for all vehicles to receive the files and there continues to be a need to:
  • Inform the Public
  • Edit the appropriate operator paddles
  • Inform the staff of the changes

The time needed between when the decision to make changes is finalized and when they can be made effective for the fleet greatly depends on the complexity and scope of the changes and the size of the fleet. Avail Support is available to assist in making schedule changes and assigning a reasonable timeframe for each of the major steps in the process as outlined lower.

myAvail Administration Functions

This section describes myAvail functions that administer the system, without always being “System Administrator” tasks. Properties often delegate these tasks to staff who have Planning or Operational Positions. Carefully consider who will perform these tasks.

POSITION SETTINGS - Define the positions available to assign to users. See Introduction to the Concept of a Position for a discussion of the Position Concept and the myAvail User Guide for the detailed instructions on adding or editing a position.

  • The key points to remember while editing a position are the following:
    • List of Functions in the Position card controls the list of product suites that myAvail presents when accessing that position.

    • User Settings under Position Settings tab of the Users card, in this context, control Fleet and Talk Groups as well as Alert Notifications when the user is assigned the selected position.

    • DataPoint is security options for the freestanding DataPoint application.

USERS SETTINGS - Create or edit a User account for in-office users and for operators

  • Using the Edit User screen in myAvail
    • The User Settings screen has three sections:

    • Basic Info
      • First and Last name, Display name
      • Is Active checkbox: Uncheck it to make the user inactive and unable to log into the system.
      • Position: Select the position the user is assigned.
      • Phone
      • Mobile Phone
      • Email
    • User Settings: user name and password
    • Position Settings

    • User Alert Dates and Times
    • User Settings: Default Fleet and Talk Groups, Event Email and Text Alerts, Incident Email and Text Alerts.

ANNOUNCEMENTS - Import, assemble, and publish vehicle announcements. Announcement or segments of announcements (snippets) are recorded in WAV, MP3, and WMA format. Users must import these files into myAvail, associate them with other information, and then export/publish them for distribution to vehicles via the Bulk Download feature. See Bulk Download GUI, an Avail Developed Application. To schedule an announcement to play across the fleet, see Public Messaging Interface.

  • When using the Announcements screen in myAvail consider:
    • The ID must be unique for the announcement. myAvail uses this value in Geographic Tools tab to assign an announcement to a stop. Avail Support uses these IDs to alter the safety announcements available to operators. See In-Vehicle Pre-Recorded Announcements.
  • The length of the announcement. If you add an announcement to a stop or change the length of an existing announcement, the size of the trigger box may need to be changed.
NOTE: Your scheduling package must be used to create a new route or to change characteristics listed below. Use myAvail’s Routes tab to change characteristics related to public internet access and Operational Information.

ROUTES - Modify how routes myStop® (webpage, Android and iPhone) displays routes and operational information.

  • Information that must be changed in the scheduling package
    • Route ID
    • Report Label
    • Route Internet Name
    • Route Description
    • Route Abbreviation
NOTE: Users can edit multiple routes before saving their changes. However, keep in mind that the Save and Cancel buttons apply to ALL changes.

SIGNS - Use to disable and enable LED or LCD signs, and to group signs for message display purposes.

NOTE: Reasons to disable a sign include a stop closure due to construction and a sign that needs repairs.

CANNED MESSAGES - Create, edit or delete “Canned Message” for either dispatchers or operators to use in text only messages.

FLEET GROUPS - Create, edit or delete Fleet Groups. Use fleet groups to divide the fleet into smaller groups. This feature allows dispatchers to monitor specific groups rather than the entire fleet. Fleet Groups can be assigned by any combination of service level, vehicle type, vehicle ID, block, run or route. The most common way to assign fleet groups is by vehicle type or ID for a single garage operation. When multiple dispatch operations in multiple garages, particularly when vehicles move between the garages then route may be used to create fleet groups. This feature is also used when responsibility is divided by geographic area.

NOTE: Dispatchers can select a canned message then edit the content, which allows templates of common messages to be created. For example, a user can create a canned message that says, “Can you work overtime on _______?”, then fill in the date after it is selected.
NOTE: The selection columns operate as if there are AND functions between them. Suppose an administrator creates a fleet group both by selecting vehicles IDs and by selecting routes. Dispatchers monitoring that fleet group will see all vehicles selected by ID AND all vehicles that log onto the selected route. For this reason, Avail recommends using a single category to create Fleet Groups.

INSPECTION SETTINGS - Set the screens and content for operators to record the vehicle pre-trip inspections while they log on of the MDT. See Pre-Trip Option for where this fits into the log on process.

NOTE: During the initial set up, Avail installs the wireframe vehicle images that the MDT displays. To change these images, please contact Avail Support.
NOTE: If a Fleet Group has been added in error or is no longer needed, please contact Avail Support for assistance in removing the Fleet Group ID.

VEHICLE FILES TAB - Provides access to review the status of vehicle software and schedule data downloads. In addition, users with the proper permissions may schedule software and firmware updates for vehicle components when directed by Avail Support.

NOTE: The deployment of schedule data files is handled through the Build & Deploy tab. This tab will also provide a general status of the download. This tab is used to review details for specific vehicles.
  • Status Tab Presents
    • Vehicle Type and whether anything is scheduled for download to that vehicle.
    • Connection Status of the vehicle
    • Current Version (last scheduled) of
      • Block Files
      • MDT
      • Pre-Trip
    • Details (Button)
      • Click this button to display the download status for all downloadable files, schedule data, and software.
  • Schedule tab
    • This tab provides the means to download software and firmware to the various vehicle components. Use this tab only under the direction of Avail Support.
NOTE: This tab allows your company to maintain the fleet at peak of performance. However, using this tab improperly can disable the myAvail system on one or all your vehicles.

Fixed Route's Operational Process 

This section provides an overview of the features and capabilities that myAvail provides to the back-office positions such as:

  • Yard Coordinator
  • Dispatcher/Road Supervisor
  • Customer Service
  • Maintenance

The following outline provides a general context. However, operating procedures, staffing and workflow can all vary from property to property.

  • Before the day starts
    • All the fixed route schedules executed for today’s service level are up to date and distributed to all the fixed route vehicles.
    • All the vehicles have been assigned to a fleet group using myAvail’s Fleet Groups feature.
    • All the regular operators have been assigned their normal runs using myAvail’s Operator Assignment feature.
    • Extra board operators have been assigned to runs where regular operators have booked off in advance using myAvail’s Operator Assignment feature.
  • Before the operators begin to arrive
    • The Yard Coordinator has entered the location of all vehicles into the yard map using myAvail’s Vehicle Locations feature. Avail supports tablet entry for untethered work in the vehicle yard.
      • All vehicle(s) down for maintenance are identified using myAvail’s Vehicle Locations feature.
    • The Yard Coordinator assigns a vehicle to all Blocks to be run that day using the Pullout window on the Operations tab. For long-term block assignments, use the Vehicle Assignment feature.
    • Use the Pullout window to select extra board operators for all operators that called off at the last minute.
  • Operators begin to arrive (Pullout)
    • Dispatchers indicate operators have arrived for their shifts using myAvail’s Pullout window in the Operations tab.
    • Dispatchers indicate extra-board operators have arrived for their shifts using myAvail’s Yard Map Grids in the Operations tab.
NOTE: Checking the box auto-fills the current time. If there was a delay in checking the box, the operator or extra board operator check-in time can be edited manually.
    • Dispatchers watch for late arriving operators using myAvail’s Pullout window in the Operations tab.
      • The status on the run, in question changes to “Waiting Check-in.” This status appears a configurable number of minutes before scheduled check-in times.
      • The status field turns red and the status changes to “Missed Check-in” when operators do not check in by their scheduled time.
    • When operators notify dispatch of late arrivals for their shifts, dispatchers identify extra board operators and assign them to drive the needed trips using myAvail’s Pullout window in the Operations tab.
      • Dispatchers watch for late log-ins using myAvail’s Pullout window in the Operations tab.
      • Operators must be logged into the MDT on their vehicles by the scheduled time or the status turns red and displays “Missed Log In.”
    • Dispatchers watch for late Pull Outs using myAvail’s Pullout window in the Operations tab.
      • The statuses turn red and display “Missed Pull Out” when operators log in to their MDTs but have not pulled out by their scheduled pull out time. See Pre-Trip or vehicle steps.
    • When operators inform dispatchers that an assigned vehicle is not street worthy, the dispatchers use myAvail’s Pullout and Yard Map screens in the Operations tab. They open both windows and click and drag an available vehicle in the Yard Map window to replace the out of service vehicle in the Pullout window.
  • Normal daily activity
    • Dispatchers select Fleet Groups to monitor
      • Administrators assign a user’s default fleet group(s) during user set-up.
      • The gear icon  in the upper-right corner of myAvail allows users to change the Fleet Groups they are monitoring.
    • Dispatcher monitors vehicle status
      • Using the Status window in the Operations tab in myAvail
    • Dispatchers monitor schedule adherence
      • Using the Status window in the Operations tab in myAvail
      • On vehicles showing an early or late status the dispatcher can check the Deviation column to determine the amount of time the vehicle is off schedule.
NOTE: To interpret a schedule deviation the Dispatcher should first check the time signature on the status line to verify the information is current. Then verify the vehicle is on the expected route and trip. Finally check the vehicle location on the map display to confirm the location of the vehicle is consistent with the deviation.
    • Dispatcher observes vehicle status by route
      • Using the Route Status window, showing all vehicles grouped by route
    • Dispatchers observe vehicle location by Route
      • Selection of a route on the route status window will display the location of vehicles currently running that route
      • The vehicles being displayed can also be filtered by direction, allowing dispatchers to see all vehicle for one route and one direction.
    • Dispatchers observe vehicles prioritized by need
      • The Timeline window shows vehicles that were added by dispatchers for monitoring or were triggered to be monitored by having a configured event
      • Timeline is a visual representation of the vehicle’s status
    • Dispatchers observe vehicle locations
      • Using the Map window in the Operations tab in myAvail
      • Can set the map display to follow a selected vehicle
      • Can filter within the map display for
        • Route traces
        • How the vehicles are labeled
        • To display All Stops or only timepoints
      • Vehicle icons indicate locations and headings
      • Vehicle icons are colored coded to match the vehicle status in tabular display
      • A left click on a vehicle icon will display detailed information.
      • Street names and other details are shown/hidden as zoom level increases/decreases
      • Can select “Find Vehicle” to center the map and follow a specific vehicle
      • Can ‘follow’ a selected vehicle (the map will auto center on the specified vehicle)
    • Dispatchers monitor myAvail events
      • Using the Events window in the Operations tab in myAvail
      • The Events window lists events by priority and then by time with the newest message in a specific priority being first. Events older than a set amount of time are color coded.
      • The Event Queue contains events from vehicles, such as vehicle health alarms, as well as system detected events such as a sign communication alarm
      • The Dispatcher resolves each event as needed then removes the event by logging it.
        • A serious event can be logged as an Incident which invokes the Incident Tracking system to track further details.
    • Dispatchers monitor myAvail communications requests
      • Using the Communications window in the Operations tab in myAvail
      • The Communications window lists events by priority and then time with the oldest message in a specific priority being first.
      • The Communications Queue contains text messages from a vehicle and, for closed-mic systems, is where RTT and PRTT messages are displayed.
      • The Dispatcher resolves each communications request as needed then removes the communications request by logging it.
        • A serious issue associated with a communications request can be logged as an Incident which invokes the Incident Tracking system to track further details.
    • Dispatchers and/or Maintenance staff monitor maintenance events
      • Using the Maintenance window in the Operations feature in myAvail
      • The Maintenance window lists events by priority and then time with the newest message in a specific priority being first.
      • The Maintenance window receives events that indicate equipment failures on the vehicle, which is limited to Avail equipment unless the optional Vehicle Health Monitoring (VHM) feature is implemented.
        • The VHM feature is available then selected messages generated on the J1939 message system are sent in real-time to this feature.
  • Unusual activities
    • Dispatchers receive an Emergency Alarm
        • myAvail will notify the dispatcher of a vehicle in an emergency state via both audible and visual alerts.
          • Using the Events window in the Operations tab in myAvail The dispatcher must “Take” the emergency event to begin resolution.
        • myAvail will increase the rate at which the vehicle location is reported and will block the sending of messages to the vehicle.
        • The map view will auto-center on a vehicle in ‘emergency mode’
          • Vehicle icon will change to indicate an emergency state.
        • The dispatcher can activate a covert microphone on the vehicle if so equipped.
        • The Dispatcher resolves each event as needed then removes the event by logging it.
          • A serious event can be logged as an Incident which invokes the Incident Tracking system to track further details.
    • Dispatchers can save map center point and zoom level
        • Using the Save View button on the Map window in the Operations tab in myAvail.
        • The dispatcher names a given map center point and zoom level to allow them to quickly switch between views. As an example, they have an overview of the entire service area and a close view of the major transit hub or other critical points in the system.
    • Dispatchers send a text only message to a vehicle
        • Using the “Send Text” button from the Communications or Events window of myAvail.
        • Alternate methods include clicking an Event or Communications entry or right clicking a vehicle icon on the map window
          • The message can be sent to one or many vehicles by various selection options.
          • The message can require a yes/no response, an acknowledgement when it was read or no response.
    • Dispatchers review information on a selected vehicle
      • Using the Block Info window in the Operations tab in myAvail
      • The dispatcher can review for the entire day
        • Block
        • Run
        • Route
        • Trip
        • Direction
        • Start Time
        • End Time
        • Layover
      • Using the Text History window in the Operations tab of myAvail
        • The dispatcher can review all message sent by anyone to the selected vehicle
        • The dispatcher will see the status of each message and any response from the operator
      • Using the Vehicle Event History window in the Operations tab in myAvail
        • The dispatcher can review event generated by the vehicle for the entire day
          • Time (event received)
          • Message
          • Block
          • Run
          • Operator (who was logged on)
          • Dispatcher (who has the event or logged the event)
    • Dispatchers review messages they or all dispatchers have sent that day.
      • Using the “Sent Msgs” window in the Operations tab of myAvail
        • The dispatcher can review
          • Time (when the message was sent)
          • Dispatcher (who sent the message)
          • Message
          • Response Type (Yes/No, ACK Response, No Response)
          • Responses (how vehicles have responded/number of vehicles sent the message)
          • Failed (number of vehicles that failed to receive the message)
    • Dispatchers adjust vehicle status
      • The dispatcher can log on a vehicle
      • The dispatcher can log off a vehicle
      • The dispatcher can clear the vehicle status of a vehicle that is no longer active
      • The dispatcher can enter a delay in minutes in the departure estimation of a block (vehicle)
      • The dispatcher can set a block to enable or disable departure estimation
    • Dispatcher sets myAvail to open a voice radio contact in a closed mic system
      • The dispatcher can have myAvail automatically open the voice radio for an operator that has requested voice communications and the dispatcher needs to leave their station
    • Dispatcher opens Decision Support window
      • The dispatcher can open the Decision Support window, which provides functions that assist when actions are needed to restore service after a disruption.
    • Dispatcher opens supporting documents
      • The dispatcher can open document (Word, Excel, …) used to provide property specific instructions or track information outside of myAvail
    • Dispatcher can adjust the layout
      • It is important the administrator carefully considers who if anyone gets permission to this functionality.
      • The dispatcher can edit the tabs that show up in each region of the screen.
      • The dispatcher can add a region to an existing window or add an additional window.
      • The dispatcher can reset the layout to factory default.
      • The dispatcher can save the current user layout settings as the default dispatcher layout for all myAvail users.

Reporting and System Administration Tool (Datapoint)

The DataPoint tool may be used by many positions within the organization. Operations staff is provided reports to assess operator performance, to match vehicles to routes based on historical ridership and other reports. Maintenance is provided reports on Pre-Trip Inspection issues. Administration uses it to add vehicles and to add and edit user and operator information. However, the staff involved with planning and adjusting the overall service will be very extensive users of this tool. The DataPoint tool provides many reports related to schedule adherence, vehicle running times, dwell times and ridership. All this information requires effort to evaluate and to distill into specific service changes that will lead to a more efficient and beneficial service for your ridership.

DataPoint is an intranet web-based application that provides reporting and system administration functions. myAvail’s position-based security scheme controls security in DataPoint.

Please consult the myAvail User Guide for instructions on how to provide users permission to the desired functions in this application.

The reporting features include:

Summary Reports - These are pre-defined reports covering all aspects of operations and planning. Please consult the DataPoint Report Details User Guide for complete details on all DataPoint Summary Reports

Analysis Reports - This is an “ad hoc” analysis tool that provides detailed analysis capabilities of your ridership and farebox data. There is extensive “drill down” capabilities allowing the user to focus on areas of interest.

My Reports - DataPoint provides a “SAVE” option in the Summary Reports execution screen that allows the user to save Summary Reports they commonly use, including the selected filter and dates for quick access. This option allows access to these saved reports to execute them and or modify the run time options.

My Schedule - DataPoint allows Summary reports that were saved to My Reports to be scheduled for automatic execution on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The report output can be sent to a file and/or emailed to one or more recipients. The date period of the report can be previous, current or rolling, which means for example a weekly report can report on the last full week, the current week to date or the last 7 days from the date executed.

Report Filter - The report filter option allows the user to set up filters by Time, Route, Trip Direction, Fare Type and Service Level of one or many reports. This option provides the ability to set a filter once and then run multiple reports using the same criteria without needing to reset the filter for each report.

NOTE: The reporting feature of DataPoint is being supplemented by Avail’s Business Intelligence tool, which has enhanced reporting capabilities.

The System Admin features include:

  • Setup
    • Allows adjustments to the current setup.
  • Import
    • This is the first step for the import of farebox data from the GFI fare collection system. Fare data is pulled from the GFI database into a holding area within the myAvail system.
    • Provides the monitoring of automatic import for data.
    • Allows for a manual import process in place of the available automatic feature.
    • NOTE: The processing of farebox data for exceptions was moved to a tab in myAvail in release 6.3.5
  • Adjustments
    • This section provides the ability to make the data adjustments and clarifications necessary for National Transit Database (NTD) reporting. Examples of what can be adjusted are:
      • Marking “atypical service days” such as when snow or other inclement weather forces the alteration of normal service.
      • Adjusting for trips that can’t be used in the sample set due to anomalies such as high ride through count or abnormally high passenger miles.

Special Event

Special events are additional service your property provides that are not part of its scheduled service. Examples include providing a parking lot shuttle for an event and aiding an evacuation. myAvail’s Special Events feature provides a block/run number for operators to use during log on to indicate what service they are providing. These special numbers are established at system configuration and further configured by myAvail users for each use.

The special block/run numbers allow myAvail to track the vehicles using the “Special” fleet group. The vehicle will report location information and display on the map for dispatchers who are monitoring the Special fleet group. Avail recommends that at least one dispatcher monitors the Special fleet group so that all events from this fleet will go to that dispatcher. If no dispatcher monitors the Special fleet group, those events will go to all dispatchers.

NOTE: An operator that logs in using a Special run outside an active date and time range will be allowed to log on. The vehicle AVL reports will display in the special fleet group, no announcements will be made, no headsign value is set, and no passenger counts are recorded. Operating in
this mode is not recommended
NOTE: In this context, closed mic applies only to radio systems. When using a VoIP system, all revenue vehicles must use the RTT and PRTT functions to communicate.

The Special Event feature allows vehicle(s) to operate on “Special” or non-regular service with a special route number assigned during a specific date and time range. There is no schedule to track adherence or stops for automatic announcements. However, the system can track ridership, play an announcement when the door opens, and a set a headsign value. In a closed mic radio system, Special Event has an option to set the route as Open Mic.

Hastus DDAM Interface

This feature is only available if the Hastus scheduling package with this option is implemented.

myAvail provides a service that will connect to the Hastus DDAM database to validate operator and vehicle assignments for Fixed-Route operations. If the connection can’t be established between BusinessWebServices and the Hastus DDAM database, the system generates a connection error event that it displays in myAvail’s Event Queue. If this event is generated contact Avail Support.

Hastus Driver Import Utility

This feature is only available if the Hastus scheduling package with this option is implemented.

The driver import utility is an application that can be used to import operator data from a Hastus database. This utility can only be used with data exported by Hastus. This allows the user to specify one or more ranges of Operator IDs to import from the file. All other Operator IDs will be ignored during the import.



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