Serverless Example: Greater Cleveland RTA Case Study

November 19, 2019
Author: Roger Hamshaw
Blog | Cloud | Communications | Digital Workspace

This article provides a brief synopsis of how serverless technology transformed the Greater Cleveland RTA’s Short Message Service system. To learn more about this real-world serverless example, download the full case study.

Mass transit authorities are facing a wealth of challenges as they head into a new decade.

From the cost of maintaining infrastructure to keep up with growing populations to ensuring public safety and security, transportation officials find themselves caught between the rock of municipal budget limitations and the hard place of increasingly demanding consumers.

A prime example is the Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). The Greater Cleveland RTA serves upwards of 44 million people in the city of Cleveland and its surrounding suburbs.

Primary problem – antiquated Engagement System unable to sustain growth

The organization employs a state-of-the-art emergency communications system. Its antiquated Engagement System was used to relay general safety messages to riders and to report their concerns. This system was struggling to keep up with expanding workloads.

One of the problems was an inability to quickly develop, and ultimately support, cloud-native applications. This is crucial in the transition from traditional IT architectures toward a more service-driven strategy.

In the digital economy, applications require far less latency than what is available from traditional on-premises infrastructure, particularly when the data environment scales to multiple geographically distributed data centers.

Clearly, Cleveland RTA needed a next-generation solution to solve a next-generation problem.

Solution – a serverless cloud architecture

Ultimately, the organization chose to deploy a serverless cloud architecture backed by CBTS cloud management and support. This change opened a wealth of new tools to create a modern communications framework, including:

  • AI from IBM Watson
  • Text messaging technology from Twilio
  • AWS Lambda services
  • LiveChat capabilities

Even at this early stage of the deployment, the results have been impressive.

Safety improved with direct to dispatch short message service application

The RTA has been able to field a state-of-the-art Short Message Service (SMS) texting application. This application allows riders to transmit safety concerns and other issues directly to dispatchers from their cell phones.

This service is designed for non-emergency issues such as helping a lost child, reporting vandalism, or alerting officials to potential safety concerns. And as with any text, these messages can contain photos, videos, and other attachments. These attachments provide transit officials with more information about the concern. They also assist the rider with maps, instructions, or other tools.

Improved service and lowered costs with AI

In addition, the service provides a real-time dashboard that combines current and historical data with IBM Watson and other Big Data tools to improve service and lower costs.

This gives transit officials valuable information to direct equipment, personnel, and other resources to where they are needed most at any given moment. At the same time, the impact of various solutions over time are gauged to ensure a steadily improving transportation experience for employees and riders alike.

AI can also be used to automate many routine queries from riders, directing them to the proper knowledge stores or otherwise resolving issues much faster than a human operator.

The overall benefit of implementing serverless architectures

The overall benefit of the solution has been to streamline communications between transit operators and the traveling public.

Gone are the days when complaints or concerns were submitted manually, on paper, and then dealt with at the slow pace of the bureaucratic process. Today’s rider can submit a query or make a comment to the authority through a simple text. Just as quickly, they can get an accurate, informative response that is appropriate to the nature of the concern.

And best of all, the system gets better over time as both riders and operators become more familiar with its capabilities.


In this digital age, even public authorities must keep up with the demands of the public.

As new generations of commuters enter the workforce, they expect the same kind of functionality in their transportation as they receive on social platforms, productivity solutions, and shopping sites. Serverless architectures allow organizations to quickly create these environments, even when budgets are tight and there is no guarantee that the new services they support will contribute to additional revenues.

To learn more about how a serverless cloud architecture transformed the Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation Authority’s new texting platform, download the full case study.

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