Monday, March 18, 2013

Encouraging ridership

The last newsletter was the first article in a series that highlighted a department at LANta and reviewed cost saving efforts. Each department is doing their part, and this week we go in depth in the Marketing and Publicity Department and have found they are working diligently to achieve cost savings in through addressing certain target audiences.  This is one area where money invested can achieve a return: each new rider for LANTA brings in revenue and since the Authority's purpose is to provide service, the more provided, the more success is gained.

1. LANta’s web page, which was designed as part of the Authority’s Moving LANta Forward initiative and implemented a year and ½ ago, was a result of a thorough analysis of LANta’s corporate brand. The page,, was revamped, given a face-lift, and tested for ease of use locating bus information, as well as background about the Authority.

This new web site is more user-friendly and almost anything you would like to find out about LANta can be found there. Technology makes the web site available for access 24/7. With this option customers have far greater opportunities to ride the bus and it also gives them the choice to ride at all different times.

Last year LANta took home the AD Wheel Award from the Annual APTA meeting. This recognized them for excellence in communications and web page design. LANta was also called the “best of the best” of the public transportation industry, representing an outstanding role model of excellence, leadership and innovation whose accomplishments on their website have greatly advanced public transportation.

2. As always, LANta has live operators answering the phones from 7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday and Saturday from 9:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m. If the phones were covered 24/7 the costs would skyrocket.  During times when Customer Service is closed, or even if they are open, we encourage customers to download our free app. to their iPhone or iPad and access bus real-time information (a Droid app is in the works). They are also encouraged to go through the,, to access weather alerts, LANtaVan information, and stay current on happenings at the transit Authority.  This gives riders, and future riders, a far greater opportunity to ride the bus and it also allows them the option to ride at all times. As ridership goes up so does revenue!

3. LANta can be found on social media sites, currently Facebook, Twitter,  YouTube, , and this blog which also appears on the on the home page of LANTA's website: These are additional avenues that customers can follow to find out the latest news and updates with their public transit system.  Staff is very diligent in answering all posts, as each one of our customers is important.

4. A series of How to Ride the Bus videos, which can be found on the Authority’s website and at You Tube, have been updated to give a more accurate and up-to-date overview of the system. Currently, there is a separate video which provides an introduction to riding public transit in the Lehigh Valley. The other videos highlight tips, suggestions, and rules for riders; explain people with disabilities accessing the service; a tutorial on how to read LANta bus schedule; and current fares.  In the works is a chapter on technology and how to access transit information 24/7.

With the technology that LANta is providing the community to access public transportation information, our ridership is being supported in various alternative ways. Also, it is imperative that the younger, technical generation be addressed, as they are the future riders of public transportation. Providing technical opportunities to access the bus will go a long way with them, and provide LANta with an increase in revenue.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Efficiencies in Transit - LANTA style

We are publishing a series or articles on the savings the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) has achieved over the past few years.  These were originally published in a series of weekly newletters:

In today’s economy it’s all about making shrinking dollars go further and LANta is doing its best to keep costs down. Over the next few weeks, we intend to highlight various areas of LANta operations and focus on efforts to keep costs down.

Information technology (IT) is one of the major costs any business has today. Hodges Technology, Inc. (HTI) of Easton is LAnta’s subcontracted IT Department and one of their goals is to reduce the need for costly IT infrastructure investments. 

1. About 1 ½ years ago HTI looked into changing the data communications system from a T1 line to a dedicated high-speed fiber-optic system.  At that time LANTA was using two T1 circuits with a total of 3Mg /second bandwidth and LANta was paying close to $1,268 a month. RCN fiber-optic lines are now providing LANta 20Mg /second of dedicated bandwidth for $560 a month. Increasing the data communication performance by 677%, while at the same time saving LANta $700 a month is the kind of efficiency we strive to achieve

2. Systamec System Recovery is the industry standard for server backup and recovery. This software costs $600 per license. Due to the complexity of LANta’s server installation, it requires 19 licenses in order to fully protect in the event of a disaster. The backup software needs to be updated every three years. This works out to $316.67 per month, and does not include the costs of hardware replacement and maintenance. HTI estimates the hardware costs to be approximately $150 per year. Recently LANta has been migrated to a cloud-integrated Barracuda Backup Server with automatic redundant off-site replication. 
         The Barracuda Backup combines a plug-and-play appliance for onsite backups with cloud and private cloud disc-based replication to quickly and securely store data in multiple locations off-site. This service, with higher functionality and reliability, and lower maintenance overhead costs LANta $250 per month. This works out to nearly a $1000 savings per year.

3. HTI has proposed the consolidation of LANta’s current file and SQL Database servers down to a single Unified Commuting System (UCS) server. The UCS will take the place of two physical servers, as well as allow for low cost expansion.   The new UCS server will be able to provide resources for up to six virtual servers.  Another advantage of the UCS system is that this new file server will provide increased data security and protection against corruption, virus and malware damage, as compared to a Windows server based system. 

While all this is technical in nature, the bottom line is, it is an example of the continuing effort to improve LANta’s bottom line. Constantly evaluating its network and taking steps to reduce ongoing and capital costs will have a significant return on investment as funding becomes more and more constrained.