As popularity grows for on-demand transit, many paratransit and dial-a-ride programs have found their passengers expecting more from their mobility services. Using traditional paratransit software, riders are often required to book their rides days, and sometimes up to a week, in advance. Now, passengers are looking for more of the flexibility, spontaneity, and freedom offered by on-demand transit. Features like same-day booking and independent trip management through an app-based platform seem like they should be commonplace in today’s paratransit and mobility services, but many traditional software providers have yet to offer these options. As personalized mobility services evolve, providing a user-friendly and modern approach to paratransit service is essential to ensuring that public transit’s most vulnerable customers have equal access to the evolution of the services that they rely upon.
In addition to looking for ways to improve the rider experience, many agencies are struggling to keep up with rising ridership demand post-pandemic, in conjunction with staffing shortages. Despite this, manual and repetitive processes that can be addressed with automation are still handled by agency staff. Passengers are regularly required to call in multiple times to manage the same booking, and can be left waiting on hold when a schedule is busy. Similarly, drivers often need to call in to dispatch for common shift functions like leaving and entering the yard, going on break, or responding to cancellations or no-shows. In addition to this, dispatchers have to balance handling these requests while attempting to re-optimize driver schedules based on the day’s events. This manual handling of schedules often results in finding the first solution for an impacted ride, which isn’t necessarily the best solution for on-time performance, vehicle efficiency, or passenger experience. These inefficiencies can compound to result in an overall decrease in on-time performance and productivity. Introducing automation can help drivers perform more trips in the same shift, while allowing dispatchers to focus on driver support rather than schedule re-optimization. These issues and many more are present in the day-to-day of everyone involved in the processes tied to traditional paratransit software. RideCo’s modern paratransit platform helps with a two-fold improvement that increases operational efficiency and reduces staffing allocation needed for schedule management. Let’s discuss how to bridge that technology gap.
To overcome the aforementioned challenges, RideCo offers robust on-demand transit software that has a proven track record of delivering paratransit and microtransit services for agencies of all sizes. RideCo’s patented optimization algorithm, Solver, eases the burden of repetitive paratransit operations, allowing staff to focus more of their time on delivering an exceptional passenger experience. The booking experience provides multiple ride options within a predetermined booking window, which represent available pick-up and arrive-before times that have been checked against real vehicle manifests. This allows reservationists to focus on fulfilling the passenger’s ride request, without having to put the rider on hold while they try to negotiate an available booking. With dispatchers no longer manually re-optimizing schedules, they have more time to support drivers with courtesy call-outs for no-shows, and with vehicle incidents. Driver schedules automatically adjust to real-time data, so they never have to worry about calling to confirm breaks, and their on-time performance is not impacted during the day due to an unforeseen slow down of an earlier trip. In general, RideCo’s software helps make the most of existing staff and vehicles to help agency operations run more smoothly.
RideCo boasts a unified booking interface for both self-service and call centers, which elevates the experience for passengers and reservationists alike. Passengers can save time by booking through a fully accessible mobile or web application, or can call in if they prefer to speak with a reservationist. After implementing RideCo’s platform to replace the previous dial-a-ride service, Houston METRO found 57% of their bookings were being made by passengers through the mobile app, allowing call center agents to spend less time coordinating rides manually. Additionally, 37% of these trips were booked on demand, within 30 minutes of their scheduled time, which increased service flexibility for these passengers who were previously encouraged to book rides at least an hour prior. Whether a passenger or reservationist searches for a ride, they are presented with the same pre-negotiated trip windows, so the booking experience is equitable for everyone.
When a search is conducted, Solver checks for ride options against existing vehicle manifests, ensuring that passengers and reservationists are only provided trip options that will not impact trips that are already in the system. The pick-up window and drop-off time are pre-negotiated within ADA requirements and are guaranteed at the time of booking, which eliminates the need for an additional confirmation call out. When a booking is confirmed, it is instantly assigned to the vehicle’s itinerary, so Solver already knows when and how that ride will be served. Additional accommodations like door-to-door escorts, wheelchair securements, and maximum on-board times for ADA service are also handled by Solver, and these requirements are factored into the vehicle manifests to ensure that passengers receive the appropriate level of service.
With multiple booking options and same-day availability, dispatchers no longer have to worry about long will-call lists and passengers needing last-minute rescue rides. Passengers are given real-time tracking capabilities as well as SMS and IVR alerts regarding their ride status, resulting in less courtesy call-outs for no shows and less passengers calling in to ask about their rides due to increased rider awareness. After Concord Kannapolis Area Transit launched their paratransit service with RideCo, the agency canceled most of their manual courtesy call-outs by replacing them with automated SMS messaging, and look forward to removing the remaining outgoing calls when they introduce IVR alerting. They also reported a reduction in incoming calls from passengers asking about the status of their ride. Prior to RideCo, non-booking inbound and outbound calls took up a large amount of the team’s bandwidth but now, reservationists and dispatchers can spend more time focusing on ride booking, customer service, and driver support.
RideCo’s automated dispatching tracks all vehicle routing, including to and from vehicle yards or depots. When drivers leave the yard, the system provides steps that ensure they make it to their first pickup on time, as well as steps that get them back to the depot on time. This allows agencies to accommodate for things like vehicle changeovers and ensure that fleet utilization is maximized. Also core to the RideCo platform is the patented Dynamic Breaks feature. With this feature, drivers are prompted to travel to locations that meet specific requirements including food, restrooms, or even charging stations for electrified fleets. Solver continuously optimizes the break times within the shift schedule to ensure breaks do not impact scheduled rides and on-time performance.
To ensure the service is operating at peak performance, Solver continuously re-evaluates and re-optimizes schedules every 20 seconds. By factoring in traffic data, Solver is able to predict where slowdowns are likely to occur and leverages this information when scheduling new rides and optimizing existing bookings. If a vehicle needs to go out of service temporarily, dispatchers can modify vehicle availability so that each impacted ride will be automatically shifted to the next best vehicle, eliminating the domino effect that vehicle breakdowns can often cause later in a vehicle’s itinerary. Similarly, if a ride is canceled or a no-show occurs, the gap in the vehicle itinerary will be evaluated to see if it can be utilized to better fulfill rides currently scheduled to a different vehicle. After using RideCo’s platform to replace their existing paratransit software in Porter County, Indiana, Porter County Aging & Community Services saw a 39% increase in passengers per vehicle hour, along with a 22% reduction in the cost per passenger. They were able to maintain 90% on-time performance in a large, low density service area, which allowed them to service 28% more rides per day. With Solver’s dynamic global optimization capabilities, agencies can see a significant increase in productivity, while giving dispatchers more time to assist drivers with incident management and provide courtesy callouts.
As agencies struggle with staffing shortages and the rising demand for more convenient and flexible service from their passengers, features like same-day booking, automated dispatching, and independent trip management have become essential in today’s paratransit and mobility space. RideCo provides a modern, automated, and user-friendly approach to paratransit service delivery.
Is your agency ready to make the switch? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how transitioning to a modern software solution can help improve your paratransit operations.