AWS Public Sector Blog

Transportation resiliency in the cloud: Building systems that survive adversity

According to Donald Firesmith at the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute, “a system is resilient if it continues to carry out its mission in the face of adversity (i.e., if it provides required capabilities despite excessive stresses that can cause disruptions). Being resilient is important because no matter how well a system is engineered, reality will sooner or later conspire to disrupt the system.” The transportation sector is uniquely susceptible to a host of conspiring events. Power outages, severe weather, traffic incidents, and cyberattacks are all examples of disasters that can lead to disruptions in the flow of traffic, the availability of public transit and airport operations, and more necessary transit pipelines. It’s integral for transportation agencies to create a business resiliency strategy to maintain operations through disruptive events.

Constituents rely on state and local government leaders to create resilient transportation networks for every part of their lives: to go to school, to work, to get to the doctor on time, for travel and fun, and to keep emergency services running optimally. Transportation resilience requires digital technology infrastructure that is also resilient in the face of potential disaster. This is why state and local governments are turning to the cloud.

The cloud provides leaders with a resilient foundation that can streamline technology infrastructure and management, and automate manual activities to free up resources so staff can focus on higher impact issues, dedicate more effort to innovation, and scale to the needs of the public during adverse events and emergencies.

Here are some examples of how state and local government agencies are building resilience into their operations with the cloud:

Miami-Dade County, Florida

The Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) is a mobility management agency, fully responsible for traffic control, signals and signs, traffic engineering, bicycles and pedestrians, transit planning, transit operations, and even regulating for-hire vehicles across the 34 municipalities and 2.8 million people who live in the area.

DTPW uses the cloud to help all transportation agencies in the Miami area, including smaller operators, produce and share real-time transit data with riders across multiple channels (mobile apps, SMS, social media, and more) in one interface. DTPW uses analytics to forecast the potential impact of service and schedule changes, and uses real-time data to give accurate expected time of arrival (ETA) information. Travelers are notified of real-time changes via text and messaging on social media, serving them directly in a seamless rider experience across each of the county’s operators—even though each is a different organization and with different systems and processes.

DTPW also uses the cloud to innovate new strategies to make sure the county’s transit offerings are best serving their constituents. DTPW created A Better Bus Project using the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud and working with AWS Partners Swiftly and Remix. A Better Bus Project re-evaluates routes using historical speed data to create accurate schedules, and leverages big data to re-evaluate schedules based on travel patterns. Both Swiftly and Remix used a range of AWS Cloud services to create and maintain the product, including Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), Amazon Aurora, Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), Amazon ElastiCache, and Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS). These cost-effectively and securely store the gigabytes and terabytes of transit data DTPW collects so they can flexibly scale their compute resources. A Better Bus Project turns traditionally siloed data sets into actionable insights, which enables DTPW to drive internal consensus and decision making across departments in a way that benefits commuters and their travel patterns.

MTA Long Island Rail Road, New York

Part of the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NYC MTA), the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) carries over 300,000 commuters between Long Island and New York City every day. It is the largest commuter railroad in the United States. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the LIRR leveraged the cloud to offer a resilient strategy to maintain commuter confidence and keep commuters safe.

According to LIRR chief innovation officer Will Fisher, the LIRR is building resiliency to improve passenger experience by “taking out the unknowns.” In 2020, the LIRR launched its train crowding initiative, which added new functionality to the LIRR’s TrainTime app to deliver customers real-time data insights into seating capacity for each train. Customers using the capacity tracker feature in the app see a diagram of their arriving train and the available seating capacity in each car, which minimizes crowding and maximizes social distancing and comfort.

To build the new feature, LIRR used the AWS Cloud’s AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Amazon RDS, Amazon Rekognition, Amazon MQ, AWS CodeBuild, Amazon CloudWatch, and AWS Systems Manager. This solution encourages customers to make informed decisions about their journeys and feel in control of their trip experience. By using up-to-date information, LIRR wants to make train travel the preferred alternative for regional travel. With advanced analytics and machine learning (ML), the LIRR TrainTime app also answers know-before-you-go questions like “How full will my train be when I travel tomorrow?” Or, “Is there parking available at the station now?”

LIRR’s resilience initiatives extend to taking passenger feedback on the state of the 124 stations and how to navigate there upon arrival. For example, the TrainTime application shares with riders if elevators and escalators are operating. Traveler feedback collected from the app provides qualitative and quantitative data and answers the “How am I doing?” question in near real-time. On the train platform, LIRR plans to deploy color-coded red LED stripes to graphically show which cars on approaching trains are full, and green strips for cars that have space. The AWS Cloud provides the LIRR’s small internal team of developers with flexibility, immediate access to resources, more autonomy and ownership to deploy services, and higher uptime, enabling LIRR to improve operations with more timely information.

City of Canton, Ohio

The City of Canton, Ohio turned to Amazon Partner Network (APN) partner RoadBotics to correct deficiencies in their current asset management and mapping capabilities. According to Nick Loukas, assistant city/traffic engineer for the City of Canton, this enabled the agency to build resiliency into their transportation network. Canton uses the AgileMapper by Roadbotics visual mapping application on AWS to inventory and track their field assets to make sure that they are maintained and operable.

AgileMapper is built on AWS services that include AWS Lambda, Amazon RDS, Amazon DynamoDB, AWS Glue, Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon Elastic Container Registry (Amazon ECR), Amazon Secrets Manager, and Amazon Athena. The city is creating a digital twin that mirrors the installed environment to enable predictive analytics that will increase asset uptime and create better and safer travel experiences for Canton residents and commuters.

California Department of Motor Vehicles

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA DMV) is the largest motor vehicle registration and permitting agency in the nation. They deploy Amazon Connect, Amazon AppStream, Amazon WorkSpaces and other self-service capabilities to streamline the licensing and permitting processes that are key to keeping Californians on the move.

CA DMV began several projects in 2019, including ways to reduce the 45+ minute wait times for constituents, while handling the increased demand of REAL ID requirements. To do this, the CA DMV began exploring and developing effective self-service tools to enable customers to quickly take care of their CA DMV business without an agent. This helped reduce the 15 million calls a year typically fielded by the CA DMV’s 300 call center agents, and enabled the agents to focus on the most complex customer needs for assistance.

When the COVID-19 pandemic limited in-person office work, the CA DMV maintained operations by enabling the CA DMV’s employees to work remotely using Amazon AppStream and Amazon WorkSpaces. “AWS solutions allowed us to very quickly put applications in an environment that would allow people to work from home over the internet using a browser,” said CA DMV executive director Steve Gordon. The CA DMV is currently deploying Amazon Connect in their call centers.

CA DMV is utilizing multiple AWS Managed Services to provide self-service and automated tools to facilitate omni-channel interactions whether with an agent directly or through interactive chatbots. The CA DMV delivered innovation on AWS in hours and days (instead of weeks and months with their prior system). In the near future, the DMV will have real-time access to understanding why customers are calling, and provision modern self-service tools that reduce call volumes and provide a better caller experience.

State agencies, tranist authorities, airports, transportation planning organizations, and others are using AWS to create create better constituent experiences—building resiliency by deploying modern cloud-based technologies.

Read our recent blog on how the cloud enables modernization in the transportation sector. To learn more about what resiliency looks like on the ground in the transportation sector, visit our homepage or contact our team.

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