Knowing which vehicles in your fleet are active, the drivers who are working, or which routes need attention is too much to manage with phone calls and spreadsheets. Not to mention, your riders are so over collecting paper schedules and calling to verify trips. The 2020s are calling with your invite to the transit scheduling software party. But how do you choose the right tools? Read on for key questions to ask to evaluate your software options.
Effective transit scheduling software is important.
“Do I really need transit scheduling software for my agency? We seem to be getting along fine.” It might not be required, but the right software can reduce or eliminate service delays that hurt your reputation and revenue and also deliver efficiencies, such as:
- Better booking and resource management
- Automated scheduling
But to even realize these benefits, you don’t just need a transit scheduling tool—you need the transit scheduling tool. And you’ll have to do your homework to find what that is for your agency. Start by asking the right questions.
1. Is the software compliant?
Using software that doesn’t help riders equally is asking for trouble, including inconsistent experiences, complaints, and even fines. Avoid the headache and potential consequences by choosing from options that respect compliance, and remember:
Software must adhere to ADA guidelines.
Is the app navigable? Your transit scheduling software must be accessible and equitable. When you’re evaluating options, keep user experience in mind to ensure that riders of all physical and mental capacities can use it with a similar level of effort.
Software must adhere to Section 508.
Does the software have a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)? A VPAT shows that a piece of transit scheduling software has gone through testing, with the VPAT acting as a Section 508 conformance report to demonstrate compliance with accessibility requirements for the customer-facing side of the software.
2. Is the software friendly for both sides?
Is the bus on time? Are there any operational hiccups? Your software is one of the best communication tools your agency has, and it should make life easier inside your operation and for customers. Think about how your top contenders benefit each side.
How does it benefit the agency?
On one hand, transit scheduling software needs to make life easier for dispatchers and drivers. The road is unpredictable, so drivers must have access to real-time traffic updates and be able to reroute when emergencies or traffic throw them off course. The right software can also continuously update any vehicle’s on-time status and notify dispatch of any issues, so your agency can generate accurate reporting, reassign drivers as needed, and improve operations.
How does it benefit riders?
But on the other hand, riders need to know they can count on you and your technology. Their eyes are on your mobile app, the piece of your transit scheduling software that enables riders to manage trips from beginning to end. Your software and its app should include several key features:
- Online reservations
- Real-time vehicle tracking
- Automated updates
- Booking information
3. Is there assistance to help you navigate the software?
Team member: “Oh, new tools!”
Team member, five minutes later: “... I’m lost.”
While you could probably figure out a few basics of using a new transit scheduling software, knowing that the provider is on your side is a tremendous help to ensure your team uses it correctly and effectively. So, find out how they can help.
What’s the onboarding process?
Between managing your team, riders, and even partners, you can’t flip a switch and deploy transit software overnight. All parties need time to learn how the solution works and how it will impact your operations. When you’re weighing your options, ask providers important questions about onboarding, including:
- How long will it take for onboarding and implementation?
- What does onboarding look like?
Does a provider only do online training? They might not be the best fit because how-to videos can only get you so far. To preserve some of the flexibility of digital training and still integrate hands-on practice, explore options that offer a hybrid of in-person and online onboarding.
What training opportunities are available?
Of course, the learning never stops—especially when your team changes. Whether you’re growing and need to train several new hires or just have a little bit of turnover, your team needs to stay on the same page. Don’t leave them in the lurch—choose a transit scheduling software that offers ongoing training to reduce disruption.
4. Is the price reasonable?
Money talks, and if your wallet is crying “too much,” there’s probably something to it. The price has to be right—both on paper and over time based on service quality and ROI. Take the time to ask the right questions to make sure this is the case:
Does it include support and maintenance?
The price your agency pays for its software should be worth it, and the little extras are like the cherry on top of a sweet sundae. Included maintenance is a big help, but it also depends on how that charge is worked into your overall price. Consider the total cost of ownership, and find out if annual maintenance is fixed or variable—that way you’ll know if the rate could go up in the future, and by how much..
Are there hidden costs?
Most purchases are more than their sticker prices, and while you may be prepared for things such as taxes, hidden fees can throw your agency—and its budget—off course. As you search for the right transit scheduling software, keep your eyes peeled for hidden costs, including for:
- User licenses
- Hosted servers
- System upgrades
Not so obvious? Ask to see a cost breakdown. You need to know how and if any pricing elements will increase over time.
How does it impact ROI?
Figure out if various solutions can make a real difference—and not just because your agency fits perfectly within an ideal use case. The right software should deliver results independent of operational processes, with specific hard numbers as its backbone:
- Trips per week
- Rides per hour
- Cost per trip
Don’t break the bank implementing software. Find the solution that delivers more for your investment.
Choose software that meets all your needs.
Compliance? Check. Agency and rider-friendly? Double-check. Transit scheduling software needs to deliver results for your operations and its riders that make a difference. And it goes beyond out-of-the-box capabilities. Remember to think about price and onboarding too.
In a sea of solutions, not many can deliver everything you need—but Ecolane can. See for yourself why it’s the best-fit transit scheduling software. Request your demo to explore Ecolane’s features and capabilities.
About the Author
Read Ecolane's blog articles for perspective, opinion and information on transit and paratransit issues.