Driving the Future of Rail: Precision Planning, Peak Performance
Service and Operations Planning is the core of a railway business and determines customer experience, service quality, ridership, revenue, and operational costs. Optimized service and operations plans are critical to maximizing ridership while minimizing costs.
We offer a range of specialized services from facilitating transformation of legacy commuter rail agencies into efficient regional rail models to cost-effective analysis of capacity on mixed-use freight and passenger rail corridors. Together, we shape the future of rail services, driven by innovation and customer-centric solutions.
The DB team is composed of experts in rail operations, service planning, data analysis, and modeling, and is knowledgeable in the financial intricacies of North American railroading and business planning. DB E.C.O. North America advises new and established rail agencies in all aspects of service planning and operations from long-term strategic planning to next-day production timetables.
The DB team understands the complex interplay of operating conditions and costs when analyzing new or changing operations. The DB team is equipped to analyze capacity, operating practices, resource levels, market viability, and operational and maintenance costs.
DB E.C.O. North America applies a strategic, transparent, iterative approach to service planning, enabling clients to make informed decisions, gain stakeholder support, and implement their service visions. Through performance monitoring, modeling, simulation, and analysis the DB team helps clients continuously improve and optimize operations and timetables.
Service planning is the core of the railway business; it determines the product (rail service), operating needs, crew and rolling stock requirements, maintenance and storage facility demands, infrastructure needs, and long-term capital investment.
When do trains run? Where do they go? When do they arrive at their destination? What connectivity can be designed in the network? How does the service work around constraints? Service planning involves many interdependent variables that are difficult to effectively manage without a structured, stable process for developing, refining, adopting, and implementing service plans.
Effective, structured service planning is crucial for empowering organizational leadership to make decisions, gain stakeholder support, and manage successful service delivery. DB E.C.O. North America employs a rigorous and strategic approach to service planning. Our methodology enables agency stakeholders to make informed decisions by considering tradeoffs, costs, and implications.
We develop a long-term service vision and derive implementation plans that align with existing and planned infrastructure, avoiding unnecessary investments. Service design concepts are the basis for developing and evaluating operating plans and analyzing costs, ridership, revenue, and benefits.
Leveraging experience from Deutsche Bahn’s home network in Germany where tens of thousands of freight and passenger trains are planned and operated daily, DB E.C.O. North America supports structured service planning. The DB team employs a proven timetable-centric approach that integrates service, operations, and infrastructure planning around customer needs and policy goals– rather than as a function of engineering or technology.
DB E.C.O. North America works with a range of clients, from single corridor operators to full multi-modal network owners and managers. We design service planning processes, perform analysis, and provide recommendations across the full cycle of service planning and design. Our support encompasses long-term vision development all the way to immediate production planning and implementation.
Passenger rail agencies face complex, dynamic operational challenges ranging from shared right of way, aging infrastructure, and inefficient legacy service plans resulting in unreliable service, underserved markets, and excessive operational costs.
Addressing operational challenges begins with service design and operations planning. DB E.C.O. North America’s operations experts gain a full understanding of any given corridor’s existing conditions including infrastructure, line capacity, existing operating practices, signal systems, and location-specific challenges. DB’s experts collaborate with rail operators to identify operations planning solutions that utilize existing capacity and resources that align with future growth goals and immediate wins.
Solutions include existing operating practice adjustments, timetable changes, or capital investments that will result in on-time performance improvements, timetable adherence, and reduced costs. Developing a plan is only the first step, DB works with agencies to ensure that those responsible for service delivery understand the plan to guarantee efficient and reliable operations.
Our experts consist of experienced freight and passenger rail operators and managers from North American railroads and around the globe. Since DB E.C.O. North America’s inception, our team has worked with state and local rail agencies on diverse operations-oriented projects.
Our portfolio includes the creation of new rail agencies by providing technical and tactical skills for new personnel, and the development and execution of long- and near-term service goals.
Our team works with established operators to improve unreliable service and ensure accountability to produce immediate improvement in on-time performance, operating cost reduction, and establishing operating practices that promote rail agency success.
Regional Rail Transformation
As pandemic-era government subsidies expire and ridership recovery plateaus below pre-pandemic levels, commuter rail agencies face an existential crisis. Regional rail is an established business model that serves a much broader market with greater operational efficiency.
However, transitioning to such a new business model requires traditional commuter rail agencies to rethink service design, connectivity, utilization of crew and equipment, use of infrastructure, coordination with host railroads, fare structures, and many other aspects of service delivery.
Leveraging technical tools and processes utilized in planning and delivering Deutsche Bahn’s home network in Germany, DB E.C.O. North America provides a framework for managing evolution toward a regional rail business model for legacy commuter rail agencies. Deutsche Bahn utilizes regional rail on its own networks to drive ridership gains, operational efficiency, and robust post-Covid ridership recovery and growth.
The regional rail operating model requires balanced, all-day service with connections by design that focus on service availability, network integration, and reducing barriers for customers to utilize the service. For operators, benefits include more efficient use of crew and equipment resources and better utilization of infrastructure.
DB E.C.O. North America provides technical and strategic support to transform legacy operating models, understanding the service design process and implications on various aspects of planning, and how to tell the story to boards of directors, elected officials, and customers.
Mixed Environment Capacity Planning
Defining capacity is critical to planning and managing operations on a mixed-use corridor. While various tools exist to address questions of capacity, they either function at a micro level with high labor and time requirements or at a macro level that is overly abstract in nature. Outputs from these other approaches are often overly technical in nature, do not align with common railroad operational metrics, and are too complicated for many rail-adjacent professionals to understand.
Our capacity analysis tool – the Capacity Marketplace – is used to quantitatively compare infrastructure and operational opportunities to improve rail network utilization in a timely and cost-effective manner. The Capacity Marketplace tool breaks down capacity supply into discrete components, providing a detailed understanding of how capacity is used, constrained, and in need of improvement on a corridor. Our tool is driven by the operating plan by defining capacity benefits and costs of operating decisions.
We produce quantitative results quickly and efficiently, which can be used iteratively with simulation tools such as Rail Traffic Controller (RTC). By being built upon real world data with results reflecting actual operating choices and the physical infrastructure, the process uniformly quantifies abstract concepts like variability in freight operation. The results are transparent, reproducible, and easy to understand by rail professionals and industry outsiders alike.
Since developing our tool in 2020, Capacity Marketplace has been deployed in several locations across the country to successfully enable clients to answer complex questions about capacity.
- Identified target infrastructure investments to support expanded passenger and freight services between Oceanside, CA and San Diego, CA
- Quantified available capacity on a prospective Amtrak rail corridor along the Gulf Coast
- Combined Capacity Marketplace and Service Planning to identify an operating plan and the infrastructure required to support new or expanded regional and intercity passenger rail service on various locations on a Class I network
Market Viability & Travel Demand Analysis
Making decisions about service delivery requires not just technical operational knowledge of the service, but also of the market to be served. As changing short term-conditions such as pandemic recovery and economic changes combine with broader long-term trends like population and employment growth, increased remote work, and new technology, the outlook for five-year and ten-year planning horizons is more dynamic than ever. Clients need robust technical analysis of current and future travel demands to frame strategic service deployment and capital investment planning decisions.
DB E.C.O. North America’s unique Market Viability Assessment brings a new approach and new tools to find the right level detail at a given phase in the planning process to empower decision makers, without overinvesting in complicated processes and false precision in forecasting the future. DB E.C.O. North America utilizes real-time third-party travel demand data, GIS spatial analysis, and service and operations planning software.
Our team can identify the addressable travel market accessible to a given service corridor or network, set minimum thresholds for viable service utilization, and iterate across multiple future service concepts to empower public agency decision makers to right size service delivery. Market Viability Assessments allow agencies to understand the financial sustainability of a range of potential service concepts given analysis of real-world travel demand and a clear understanding of cost structures and available subsidies.
DB E.C.O. North America works with clients across the U.S. to quickly understand current and future demand volumes to implement near-term production service schedules and strategically plan long-term investment programs. We assess travel demand for service in any market and empower transit agencies to iteratively adapt and plan operations to optimize market potential, with a focus on specific sub-markets (specific station pairs, off-peak, equity). Utilizing real world travel data, GIS, and Viriato planning software, we leverage passenger rail technical expertise to assess local, commuter, regional, and intercity rail markets.
Dynamic Operations Simulation
Ensuring timetable and operational stability is key to reliable rail services. Although planners develop conflict-free timetable concepts, trains do not run perfectly according to schedule. Depending on the system’s stability, not considering typical schedule variability could lead to system degradation and compounding delays. While planners can identify vulnerable points in a timetable concept, gauging the extent of delays involves complex interactions among the timetable, infrastructure, and rolling stock. This complexity becomes particularly pronounced in the case of large and complex rail networks, where multiple factors contribute to delays. Simulation is key to processing the continuous development of train movements.
DB E.C.O. North America collaborates with clients to conduct dynamic simulations to validate proposed timetable concepts. Dynamic simulation refers to applying stochastic perturbations, such as delay scenarios, to timetables. This emulates day-to-day rail operation environments such as dwell time extension at stations to test the stability of timetable concepts. DB E.C.O. North America is dedicated to collaborating with our clients for the entire simulation lifecycle. Included is initial model setup, such as the infrastructure and signaling system, delay scenarios definition, model calibration to mimic real operations, and simulation result analysis. With regular technical meetings, we aim to make our simulation process transparent and keep our clients’ project development on track.
DB E.C.O. North America has extensive experience in dynamic simulations for rail projects in North America applied to intercity, commuter, regional, and transit rail services. Our experts have hands-on experience with multiple rail simulation tools that are industry standards such as RailSys, RTC, and OpenTrack to provide tailor-made services to our clients.
Operations Performance Management
Rail agencies often lack visibility into performance data and are thus unable to meaningfully understand and engage in discussions to maintain and improve performance. Operations Performance Management provides a structure to engage agencies, operators, and host railroads in meaningful, substantive discussions on service performance and identify tactics to improve performance.
DB E.C.O. North America’s Operations Performance Management is a complete structure to identify issues impacting train performance and solutions to improve performance. Our program is specifically targeted on operational or process improvements that can be implemented immediately.
The DB team works with our clients to collect, compile, and analyze train performance data. Using advanced software packages such as Tableau and Treno, we specialize in root cause analysis to understand performance issues and identify operational and/or infrastructure solutions.
We work with our clients to determine the best way to visualize and present data, empowering decision-makers to improve operational performance. Our team develops automated dashboards detailing key performance indicators and facilitates in-person meetings with key stakeholders including agencies, operators, and host railroads.
With an experienced team of railroad professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada, the DB team has extensive experience helping rail operators manage operations.