Change is hard, but sometimes it’s necessary—especially if your transit technology is holding you back. Maybe it crashes, or perhaps it just wasn’t designed to function with your current processes. A fresh approach can help your agency realize a new level of efficiency. Improve your operations with an upgrade to your transit scheduling technology. We’ve got five steps to help you transition successfully.
5 Steps to Upgrade Your Transit Scheduling Technology
So, where do you begin? Implementing any technology solution is a process. You’ll need to collaborate and research to get the best solution in place. Use these steps as guidelines:
1. Determine agency roles.
You can’t make a major change in your agency’s operations without good old-fashioned teamwork. Several key players must participate when you upgrade your transit scheduling technology:
- The project manager acts as the agency representative to ensure the project stays on track.
- Software champions include internal subject matter experts for all software-related questions.
- Key operational staff members need to be involved early in the implementation process, so they're familiar with how the product works.
Each function area brings unique expertise. By bringing everyone together, your agency can be better positioned to manage risks, address concerns, and deploy the new technology effectively and on time.
2. Review and clean your data.
Things change all the time, and your records need to reflect this. Never import your old data as-is. Instead, weed through it for inconsistencies that reveal what you may need to update in your records and ask several basic questions:
- Does [client] still ride with us (And if it’s been some time, will they return)?
- Is this address right?
- Are we noting [client]’s special needs?
- Are rider profiles up to date with our reporting needs?
Maybe rider needs have changed, or maybe you have several names to delete from the system. Regardless, by cleaning your data, your agency gets an updated view of its ridership, with insights to future-proof your ongoing operations.
3. Communicate with internal and external stakeholders.
Everyone involved with your agency needs to know the who, what, when, where, and why surrounding your transit scheduling technology upgrade. After all, any change you make impacts peoples’ routines. Think about what matters to each of these sides—riders, drivers, and partner agencies—and get organized.
What do riders need to know?
Start by identifying the changes clients might expect. “The customer is No. 1” is true, and alterations to your reservation process or even your routes can impact how you and your riders interact. Inform riders before making sweeping changes such as new pickup and drop-off times—they might have to shift their own schedules.
What do drivers need to know?
Even if your drivers know that change is in the works, it doesn’t mean they want to have it thrust upon them. So, keep them in the loop and get buy-in ASAP on how and when to transition from the old to the new transit scheduling technology. It may help to collaborate with drivers who are considered leaders of the driver corps to get faster buy-in, but also to emphasize benefits, such as:
- Less manual paperwork
- Better driver protection against customer disputes
- Turn-by-turn navigation and quick rerouting capabilities
Procrastination makes everything harder. Mitigate the transition and pushback by communicating your plans early rather than waiting until right before the go-live to start training.
What do partners need to know?
Don’t forget about your partners! Between various senior facilities and nonprofits your agency serves, external parties need to know about operational changes, too. This might include changes to:
- Drop-off and pickup scheduling
- Scheduling procedures for visitors to obtain service
- Drivers who serve the facility’s route
Don’t underestimate the importance of communicating when it matters. If you fail to do so, it will likely cause unnecessary friction.
4. Pick a provider to join your team.
The most important pieces of the puzzle—the vendor and technology solution—come together through a process. What are your must-haves, and which strategy will guide your choice?
Contract directly with a preferred vendor or issue an RFP for services.
Do your homework! Don’t pick a software solution randomly off the rack. Instead, begin by researching vendors and get in touch with the ones that fit your needs. Talk alternative solutions with those vendors to see how they would approach your issues. If your procurement procedures require it, or even if you’re still deciding software priorities from available features, send out a request for proposal (RFP), so vendors can offer their solution instead of dictating your preferred solution.
Choose a partner that goes above and beyond.
First and foremost, your transit scheduling technology needs to fulfill your agency’s core needs: functionality and affordability. Is the platform flexible? Does it come with robust reporting capabilities and infrastructure? What about cost? All-inclusive pricing, hardware, and even price locking can make major differences when compared to flexible subscription-based or per-trip software pricing. Select a vendor who can deliver the best value option for you.
Moving forward, what can your software partner do to set your agency up for continued success? Implementation support and training can go a long way, especially when your team grows or changes and new employees need to get up to speed. For our part, Ecolane offers a robust implementation process, online learning center, and optional ongoing training to keep your team sharp. We have upgraded hundreds of agencies like yours to our software platform, and our team has the experience to do it smoothly.
5. Implement your game plan for go-live.
It’s go time! Once you’ve chosen a solution and worked out how your agency will use it, there’s nothing holding you back. But you can’t turn on a new system overnight, either. A few quick steps can get your ducks in a row and set the agency up for a successful deployment.
Get fully staffed.
Start updating your agency’s information and training managers and staff members to kick things off. Doing so communicates your readiness to customers and partner agencies and ensures the transition to the new transit scheduling technology goes smoothly.
Prepare agency staff.
Every change brings the possibility of pushback, so prepare your staff to handle questions and complaints ahead of time. This could include a script of canned responses to reassure customers and partner agencies as well as a list of procedures to equip staff to handle issues consistently.
Expect the unexpected.
You never want to be caught off-guard because it can reflect poorly on your agency. Avoid this risk by establishing a system to handle unanticipated problems. While there’s no formula for every contingency, a good rule of thumb is to start by ensuring staff members know how to handle complaints, how to report them, and how to follow up. Riders and partners alike need to trust you, so take measures that reinforce your caring reputation.
Do the Work to Deploy a Winning Solution
Don’t set it and forget it; upgrade your transit scheduling technology the right way. From involving the right agency personnel in key ways to communicating about the change and getting set up with a right-fit provider, switching software solutions takes effort. Follow these steps as your guide toward a successful software implementation. Looking for a little extra help? Explore the Ecolane blog to learn how to avoid common software pitfalls.
About the Author
Read Ecolane's blog articles for perspective, opinion and information on transit and paratransit issues.