With the demand for reliable and accessible paratransit increasing as the U.S. population ages, and with the confines of a limited budget, many transit agencies are struggling to serve their ridership. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 set out requirements for all transit agencies to provide paratransit (public transportation for those with reduced mobility), agencies have not received an increase in funds.
As you can expect, the cost of operating a fleet of paratransit vehicles is higher than running and maintaining standard transit vehicles. This situation creates a “perfect storm” for transit agencies that are expected to do more with less.
Unique Challenges Paratransit Faces
- Dispersed riders (suburban vs urban). The ADA stipulates that paratransit routes be within ¾ miles of an existing public transit route. While this may work well with those who live in densely-populated urban areas, what about riders who live in rural or suburban areas?
- The rising cost per ride. The Urban Institute found that the average cost per one-way paratransit ride was $34 in 2011. This number is expected to increase.
- Cutting service to lower costs. Many transit companies no longer can afford to offer services to those who don’t live close to an existing transit route. Transit agencies have strict guidelines in place regarding who is eligible for paratransit services. Someone who is no longer able to drive because of their older age doesn’t necessarily qualify them for paratransit.
Finding the Right Partner
The NYU Rudin Center for Transportation released a report which outlines several suggestions for improving paratransit. One of the suggestions involves the use of real-time access to a vehicle’s expected arrival time to improve the service for passengers. The emerging demand for transit scheduling software is critical in providing transit agencies with the power to manage and dispatch their fleet on demand. Many transit agencies are turning to technology to ease the burden and challenges of providing adequate paratransit on a stretched budget.
With the right technology partner who has the expertise in implementing scalable transit scheduling software, transit agencies will be able to optimize the use of their existing fleet and better schedule and deploy vehicles during peak hours and across geographic areas. Technology can enable improved communication with passengers and streamlined administrative duties which help provide better service to riders while reducing costs.
Transit agencies are beginning to realize that they cannot function alone — they need to use technology to automate and provide real-time information to drivers and riders. Having a solid paratransit system in a community greatly improves the quality of life for the elderly and those with reduced mobility.
To learn more about optimizing technology, check out Ecolane’s How to Get Efficiency and Customer Service Out of Your Provider On-Demand Webinar.