Article Features Joanne HallRob Wilson

Pleasanton Saves Time and Money Through Technology

Joanne Hall is public information officer for the City of Pleasanton and can be reached at Rob Wilson is the director of public works for the City of Pleasanton and can be reached at

The budget challenges facing California cities over the past decade have prompted many communities to explore new ways of increasing the efficiencies of municipal equipment and staff. The City of Pleasanton has identified two very successful routes to saving time and money by using an integrated software system that reduced the amount of staff time spent on water and stormwater regulatory reporting by 90 to 95 percent. And in the area of asset management and maintenance, the system has reduced response time and related costs by approximately 75 percent.

Pleasanton’s integrated system was driven by the evolution of computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), which have had a profound impact on cities throughout the western United States. In 2001, Pleasanton and the City of Fairfield co-founded a CMMS Bay Area User’s Group, which links cities with a CMMS manufacturer; the group’s goal is to expand the use of this technology. The group’s membership has grown to include cities and counties from throughout the Western states, public utilities and consulting firms.

Integrating Municipal Systems Information

One of the group’s first objectives was to integrate a geographic information system (GIS) with the CMMS, a five-year process that was completed in early 2008. As a result, staff believes that Pleasanton is the only city in the nation with a full GIS-CMMS integration of its water, sewer, storm drain, parks and transporta tion systems. Other cities have various combinations, such as water and sewer, or sewer and storm drain, but none have the full complement that Pleasanton has. City staff assisted the manufacturer in designing each module of the program, which helped to significantly offset the cost for the city.

Pleasanton’s integrated GIS-CMMS program addresses and resolves the three major problems in municipal maintenance management:

  • Managing assets;
  • Controlling the interface between asset management and GIS; and
  • Handling regulatory compliance.

Asset management issues involve accurately tracking an asset and measuring its lifetime cost, inventory control, and preventive maintenance and history.

The interface between asset management and GIS was another challenge that was solved by the integrated CMMS. For example, before the system was integrated, in order to respond to a streetlight needing a replacement bulb, staff spent a lot of time identifying its exact location by manually navigating through a GIS da tabase program, determining the fixture’s past history, and then separately preparing a work order that would be sent to a contractor for repair. In stark contrast, the new integrated CMMS enables staff to pull up a report that shows the streetlight location, enter the GIS system and click on the asset for a full display of its history, then generate a work order in the same program and e-mail it to the contractor who performs the needed maintenance. Work that previously took up to two days to complete is now fin ished in a matter of minutes and provides a more accurate chronological history of the asset, thus improving response times and enhancing public safety.

Handling regulatory compliance, which involves reporting to various agencies, was another daunting and time-intensive task for staff. Pleasanton must report to the California Department of Health Services on the municipal water system as well as provide a regional sewer management plan and a regional stormwater permit plan to the Regional Water Quality Control Board that oversees discharges to storm drains. Without the integrated CMMS, the reporting function took hundreds of staff hours to accomplish. The program now allows staff to capture all of the activities in a synthesized report that is directly generated with the push of a button.

The CMMS program can be easily ex panded and upgraded over time; the Bay Area User’s Group is currently using the 10th version of the program. Officials from more than 35 cities throughout California have visited Pleasanton to observe its CMMS system and learn more about it.

East Bay Smart Corridors Address Commute Traffic

Technology also plays a key role in traffic management in and around Pleasanton. Interstate 580 in the Tri-Valley region, which includes the cities of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore, has two of the three worst commutes in the San Fran cisco Bay Area, a problem that Pleasanton cannot mitigate on its own. Faced with that challenge, the region sought to de velop a computerized traffic management system that could interact with each Tri-Valley city and help manage and mitigate the growing number of traffic issues.

The process began in 2001-02 with the Interstate 580 Smart Corridor Project, which linked the traffic signal systems of the three neighboring cities together with a fiber optic backbone and shared traffic management software. This allowed staff to monitor and respond to various incidents and view traffic conditions in real time. The infrastructure installed as part of this project led to the next phase. The Interstate 580 High Occupancy Ve-hicle (HOV) Advance Elements Project, administered by the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency and supported by federal funding, provided a system upgrade and full integration of Pleasanton’s traffic video and data systems. The project links Tri-Valley traffic data and video to popular Bay Area integrated websites for travelers, who can then select the best route for a trip based on real-time traffic conditions. The Tri-Valley area is one of less than a dozen regions with this capacity in the Bay Area.

The project also included installing high-speed DSL modems at a number of intersections in Pleasanton. These devices operate on existing copper communication lines and can transmit data and video more than 500 times faster than previously used equipment. These devices also help eliminate the need to replace copper with expensive fiber optic cable and allow traffic engineers to monitor and modify traffic signal data and video along various corridors. High-speed DSL is also compatible with fiber optic cable and wireless applications. By combining these technologies, staff can achieve far greater data exchange rates at a fraction of the cost of previous solutions in place just a few years ago, which involved changing out equipment and cable buried underground. The project was further enhanced with several other features, including the installation of ramp meters along I-580, changeable and extinguishable message signs to depict travel times and emergency hazards to commuters, a highway radio advisory, and more video cameras and vehicle detection equipment to count and monitor the flow of traffic.

Staff can now monitor traffic conditions without having to leave the office, respond more quickly to potentially dangerous traffic situations and help mitigate problems in real time. Traffic flow is improved, and lives are saved by preventing vehicle accidents. Recent reports indicate that corridorwide travel time has been reduced by 39 percent during peak afternoon traffic between Foothill Road in Pleasanton and the top of the Altamont Pass.

A New Tool Helps With Regulatory Compliance

In 2003, the City of Pleasanton began a comprehensive program to improve its ability to monitor and control chemical addition in its water distribution system. The city added Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) remote telemetry computers to all treated water turnouts to allow full-time monitoring through a central control room. Although SCADA systems are becoming more commonplace, Pleasanton uses samplers on the system to provide real-time monitoring that is used to report directly to the California Department of Health Services for water quality sampling, thus eliminating the need for an employee to perform a large amount of daily sampling. This system is one of the first of its kind used by a California city to meet regulatory compliance requirements, and it is getting high marks from both sides for its efficiency and ease of use.

This article appears in the June 2008 issue of Western City
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