Orion at MBTA: Innovative Operations and Collaboration

Orion at MBTA: Innovative Operations and Collaboration
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) paratransit service, the RIDE, makes over 7,500 trips per day, serving 58 cities and towns seven days a week. With such a large operation, dispatchers and drivers are constantly busy navigating the dynamic, on-demand routes of Eastern Massachusetts’ rural and urban areas.

Traditionally, dispatchers and drivers relied on outdated radio systems for coordination. These systems provided limited location and status updates, leading to manual radio checks that burdened dispatchers and caused customer service delays. Furthermore, frequent checks throughout the day distracted dispatchers from more important tasks.

MBTA’s Control Center, customer service representatives, and dispatchers also needed to ensure drivers were productive and completing routes as assigned.

To manage the increasingly complex operating environment and the distributed, on-the-go workforce, the MBTA needed new intelligent technology to provide centralized management, decision-making, and organizational visibility for the RIDE.

Aging Radio Technology Hampers Operational Control and Collaboration

Legacy radio technology hindered operations and could not offer the necessary benefits the MBTA needed to transform its communications and operations of the RIDE. Collaboration with support staff such as mechanics, customer service, and safety personnel was a challenge.

Additionally, radios were costly to maintain, unable to scale, and only supported a limited range. These limitations made communications unreliable for drivers operating in remote, unfamiliar areas.

Ultimately, the slow, manual processes stalled the higher-value productivity of MBTA’s large fleet of vehicles and dispatchers.

Innovation in Operations and Collaboration

It was time to upgrade the fleet’s communications system. That’s when the MBTA turned to the Orion Collaboration Platform for Transportation. MBTA’s Command Center equipped dispatchers with Orion’s web-based Dispatch Console and 750 vehicles with a tablet enabling the Orion app. The Samsung Tab A with GPS Lockbox was installed in each vehicle with a digital speaker-mic, allowing for easy sending and receiving of messages.

Voice-First Communication for Incident Response

With the Orion system, drivers can always reach dispatch with PTT, which is available on both the tablet app and web-based Dispatch Console. During an incident or emergency, dispatchers create and move the driver into an ad hoc 1:1 or limited group environment with necessary personnel like supervisors, customer service representatives, emergency responders, or maintenance. The driver receives immediate, undivided attention while other drivers remain undistracted.

Automation for Processes

The unique Process Automation Suite enables bots and workflows to automate previously manual procedures like pre-ride vehicle inspections and radio checks required for safety and compliance. Orion’s Status Check Bot automatically responds when drivers say the words “Radio Check.” Drivers can confirm they are online without a manual response from dispatch.

Enhanced Operational Control

The Orion Management Console with Advanced Location Services provides centralized operational visibility, management, and decision-making. MBTA’s Control Center, managers, customer service representatives, and dispatchers see a real-time view of operations and driver location information in a single web-based console. Incident response is centrally managed through the web-based Console. Supervisors and dispatchers are able to download message logs and playback or view sent messages.

 Aging Radio Technology Hampers Operational Control and Collaboration

How Digital Transformation in Transportation Operations Drives Results

Safety and Compliance

With Orion, all messages are stored and recorded for review or future compliance needs. Incident reporting for compliance becomes much easier with automated archival of all information. MBTA’s operations management can also review, analyze, and evaluate incident information to improve driver and passenger safety and prevent future incidents.

Expand Collaboration

Orion enabled the RIDE to immediately expand collaboration into customer service, maintenance, safety, operations, and on-demand driver services — a task previously improbable with radios. MBTA Operations manages the dynamic nature of its frontline workforce by seamlessly including new group members when responding to demand surges, unusual driver activity, or incidents.

Eliminate Time-Consuming Manual Processes

Orion is used to eliminate all manual radio checks, saving MBTA up to 10 minutes for each driver at the start of each shift. Over a year, this adds up to:

  • 45 Hours per weekday driver each year
  • 17 hours per weekend driver each year
  • $700,000 of annual ROI gains each year

The result? The RIDE’s drivers and dispatchers are able to stay connected without wasted time, and operations managers and other stakeholders have better visibility into vehicle, driver, and passenger locations.

“Before Orion, if 25 drivers came online during 10 minutes at the start of a new shift, dispatch was overloaded responding to each radio check and delaying other drivers from starting their route. Dispatchers also had to manually respond to hundreds of radio checks throughout the day. By eliminating the need for manual radio checks, dispatchers can focus on their higher-value responsibilities, and drivers get out on the road faster.”

Jim Nihan, Manager of Paratransit Operations at MBTA

Learn more about how MBTA improved safety and compliance and eliminated time-consuming manual operations by adopting the Orion Collaboration Platform for Transportation.

Scroll to Top