Increasing use of the wireless spectrum has resulted in situations in which inadvertent interferences and disruption of communications is common, which has caused re-examination of the rules and regulations that govern spectrum allocations. As a result of this re-examination, the FCC has issued a variety of rules that set dates for specific changes in wireless spectrum allocations. These changes include refarming and narrow-banding of some regions of the spectrum that are currently used by the transit industry. As a result, the spectrum currently used by some transit industry wireless communications will cease to be available for this use, while other regions of the spectrum that have not been used by the industry will become available as licensed, and in some cases, perhaps as unlicensed spectrum. The FCC public rulemaking process for developing and finalizing these changes is followed by varying degrees within the transit industry, raising concerns that some agencies may soon find themselves with no communications ability due to equipment obsolescence.
Based on the TCRP Project J-06, Task 67 survey of transit industry wireless capabilities, awareness of spectrum changes decreases with fleet size. Roughly 25% of small transit agencies (i.e., the largest fleet-size sector in the transit industry) reported both use of radio bands that are undergoing changes, and lack of knowledge of the rule changes that affect the bands they use.This suggests that a significant number of transit agencies are not planning the necessary purchases to assure that they do not lose communications ability due to equipment obsolescence.
To prevent loss of critical communication needs, the entire public transportation industry needs to be aware of ongoing changes in spectrum allocations. To assure its communications capabilities, the industry as a whole needs to be prepared to provide comments on future FCC-proposed rule changes, and have a timely plan for adapting to finalized rules. As such, industry communications capabilities will benefit from a strategic plan that is responsive to future changes over the entire communications spectrum used by the industry and its partners, and that promotes interoperability.
The objective of this research is to develop a strategic plan for the transit industry to assure the industry’s needs are considered in relevant rule changes, and to assist the industry in both implementing pending changes in spectrum allocations, and promoting communications interoperability. The research will identify and assess pending and proposed changes in wireless spectrum allocations in light of current and potential future usage of wireless spectrum by the transit industry and partner groups such as public safety. Stakeholders and their potential role in facilitating necessary transitions in the industry’s spectrum usage are to be identified, and specific steps are to be developed to assure continuous attainment of the transit industry’s wireless communications needs throughout the implementation of spectrum re-allocations.