Transit is more than public buses and trains and riders waiting at stops with boarding passes in hand. Transportation today is much more robust, serving diverse riders with differing needs—and they have more options to get around than ever before! Paratransit is a major category, but it still has several barriers.
So, what is paratransit service, and how can your agency take advantage of it? Learn the ins and outs of paratransit, including its biggest challenges and how to overcome them.
What is paratransit service?
Riders of all physical and mental abilities need to be able to easily navigate their world. Paratransit provides demand-responsive transport for disabled and aging people who cannot use fixed-route public transit services, adding layers of convenience to daily life.
Usually provided by public transportation companies, nonprofit organizations, community groups, and for-profit private agencies, paratransit moves riders to their destinations via buses, vans, or taxis accessible by ramps or lifts.
Why paratransit is important
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 24.6 million Americans 18 or older have travel-limiting disabilities. But life doesn’t stop, and these people need to be able to get around. Paratransit helps them do so with a similar level of effort as riders without disabilities so they can get to doctors’ appointments, work, and school and run errands such as grocery shopping.
What challenges exist in paratransit?
Successful paratransit operations aren’t as simple as they seem. Your agency has to keep several moving parts in mind, both operationally and for riders. So, what is paratransit service up against? Consider these top three challenges:
Paratransit scheduling is much more complex than fixed-route transport systems. Each route, like each rider, is unique.
For one thing, with riders coming and going from very different places, agencies need to match them with the right vehicles based on these factors. On top of this, eligibility for service changes monthly for some riders, so you need to integrate eligibility with the trip scheduling system to verify.
2. Accounting for the Unknown
Traffic conditions, time of day, rider-ready times, and destination changes will impact service, but you can’t predict everything. Humans can’t deal with high levels of unpredictable change on their own. Luckily, real-time technology picks up the slack to lend a helping hand and fill in the gaps.
3. Accessibility Limitations
Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, impacting how people get around. Some riders require different types of vehicles, such as vans with wheelchair access. Others can’t ride in vehicles with other passengers.
Agency partnerships with ride-sharing services such as Uber, Lyft, and taxis show enormous potential for elevating paratransit, but we’re far from making that a standard. That’s because private vehicles are rarely equipped for paratransit riders. But by increasing driver training and wheelchair-accessible vehicles, agencies like yours could better accommodate diverse physical needs, increase service capacity, and manage costs.
What is the solution?
With so many different variables at play, agencies have to figure out how to maximize their efficiency and service, provide a five-star customer experience, and still remain profitable. But what is paratransit service without the right tools in place? A mess. Modern technology could elevate paratransit through several key benefits:
- Aerial views of routes to help agencies pivot to meet needs
- Features for both dispatchers and riders
- Reporting capabilities to assess operations
Ecolane helps agencies do more, streamlining travel for paratransit riders to get from point A to point B. Our software delivers benefits to keep your wheels moving, including:
The Evolution platform keeps you on top of your game so you’re never left scrambling. Advanced scheduling gives schedulers, drivers, operations managers, and customers the real-time data they need and optimizes routes automatically based on data flowing back to the system, with no human input needed.
When you’re in the industry long enough, you know that transit doesn’t always go to plan. So many factors can impact efficiency, from traffic conditions to vehicles that need to be taken out of service. But Evolution helps you minimize trip inconsistencies and improve efficiency. And it’s a win-win because this boost provides better mobility for riders and increases cost savings for agencies.
Get a handle on paratransit.
Paratransit could change the face of transportation for riders regardless of their physical or mental abilities. But many agencies struggle to implement it successfully, running into roadblocks ranging from variability in eligibility and needs to wrong vehicles being dispatched for disabled passengers. While the industry as a whole continues to develop solutions to strengthen transportation, paratransit software can begin delivering results for you today.
Do you need a better solution to your paratransit puzzle? Ecolane can help. Get in touch to schedule a demo and see how the platform could help you and your riders.
About the Author
Read Ecolane's blog articles for perspective, opinion and information on transit and paratransit issues.