Mobility, often considered a freedom and right, continues to be a challenge for many Americans.  In an effort to reduce the mobility gap, the ADA began requiring transit agencies that provide fixed-route to also provide “complementary paratransit” service.

Paratransit is generally defined as special transportation services for those who are physically or mentally unable to transport themselves or utilize fixed-route public transit. It is often used as a to supplement to fixed-route transportation such as buses or metros. Since its inception, paratransit has faced a variety of issues. We have broken down some of the main transportation and logistics issues facing paratransit today and how transit software can help remedy said issues. 


Paratransit Logistics Challenges

The issues facing paratransit are vast and in a constant state of flux. With nearly 212 million demand response (paratransit) rides in 2015, facing these is critical. By no means is this list meant to be exhaustive or all-encompassing.



Paratransit’s new model presented transit agencies with a host of challenges, the first being variability. In contrast with fixed-route, the day-to-day logistics of paratransit contain a significant amount of volatility. Transit agencies must match vehicles with individuals in different origins who are all going to different destinations. And, they must do it efficiently. Even with prior batch scheduling, plans change (we humans are a fickle bunch.)


Urban & Suburban Regions

There is a significant difference between urban and suburban transportation.  Whether they live in a busy urban area or a distant suburb, people use paratransit services. But reaching the riders in suburbs is often seen as inefficient for the providers who calculate their efficiency on the numbers of riders they serve in an hour.  Many paratransit operators attempt to deliver two riders per hour per vehicle.  Agencies struggle to meet this goal due to logistics issues brought about by suburban regions.


Human Limitations

Another issue facing paratransit services is human capacity. While the brain is an astounding computer, it has limitations and cannot process the volatility of paratransit issues nearly as fast and efficiently as technology can.  Variables such as traffic conditions, time of day, different origins, and different destinations change frequently requiring continuous real time scheduling to manage them. While solutions such as ride sharing have remedied some of the issues, humans cannot meet the daily needs of a growing paratransit industry on their own.


Technology’s Role

Using Demand Response Software

Technology has changed the way humans have approached problems. Many of the logistics issues paratransit is faced with are best solved by technology. Software that provides real time scheduling reduces trip inconsistencies resulting in much great efficiency.  These efficiencies result in vastly improved mobility for the riders and significant efficiencies and cost-savings to the operating agency.

Ecolane’s software provides continuous real time scheduling that takes into account all of the factors affecting efficiency. It optimizes routes and ride sharing based on all these factors and the vast quantity of data it maintains. In addition to benefits such as effectiveness and efficiency, It enables organizations to free up resources that are better spent elsewhere. 


The Future of Paratransit

With the advent of new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and the growth of ride-sharing services, mobility will face drastic changes. These changes may not be immediate but they will continue to develop, altering the transit industry as a whole.

The suite of new technologies will bring about new challenges in logistics. Proactivity and technological integration are essential for overcoming the rising obstacles.

The need for paratransit is growing. There is no holy grail.  Ecolane’s software solution provides remedies to many of the most difficult issues facing paratransit today. It allows for continuous scheduling and optimization to ensure maximum efficiency. Ecolane is committed to tackling the logistics issues facing paratransit while focusing on even better solutions for tomorrow. Check out how Ecolane’s software can help your transit agency meet its efficiency goals.

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Mike ScanlonAbout the Author

Michael Scanlon, a leader and a veteran of more than 50 years in the transportation industry was the CEO of SamTrans, but he also spent 26 years for the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) in Pittsburgh, PA; Six years as head of Broward County Transit (BCT) in Florida; 15 years as CEO at the Caltrain, California commuter rail line one the San Francisco Peninsula and in the Santa Clara Valley; 15 years as CEO of San Mateo County Transportation Authority; and Mike is currently an independent consultant for transportation.