Use Cases

The Future of Paratransit: Top 3 Takeaways from RideCo’s Roundtable


Jess Blenkarn


4 minute read

Jess Blenkarn
4 minute read

On May 19, 2021, Dustin Heimler, RideCo’s Director of Business Development and Partnerships, moderated a roundtable discussion with the paratransit leaders from Guelph Transit and the St. Catharines Transit Commission, Adam Arbour and Jason Simmons, respectively. They were joined by their RideCo Customer Success Management counterparts, Rebecca Kundrik and Riana Jagessar, in our webinar “RideCo Roundtable: The Future of Paratransit.”

In July 2019 and June 2020, Guelph and St. Catharines launched on-demand paratransit projects to modernize and improve the efficiency of their existing operations and decrease stress on call center employees.

Throughout the webinar, attendees learned more about the agencies’ motivation to switch to on-demand paratransit, as well as the benefits that this switch has brought to their services. Here are the top three takeaways that you need to know:

1. Most Paratransit Services are Outdated

Currently, most paratransit services are run out of call centers, requiring passengers to book their rides 24+ hours in advance to ensure they get to their important destinations, like doctor’s appointments, on time. Booking that far in advance limits flexibility for riders and adds unnecessary constraints to their lives. Often, passengers are also unable to track their rides to ensure they are ready on time or have certainty their vehicle is on the way.

This outdated method is also overwhelming call centers, causing difficulties with scheduling and dispatching. In St. Catharines, drivers often sacrificed part of their lunch breaks or stayed late to ensure every passenger got their ride.

Everything was being booked through our call center. The phones were nuts. The call queues in the morning at 8:30 were crazy. So, we wanted to give customers the opportunity to book on their own as well.

— Adam Arbour, Superintendent of Planning, St. Catharines Transit Commission

The frequently high number of rider cancellations and no-shows due to miscommunication between dispatchers and riders is also limiting productivity and resulting in empty driving miles, inflating the cost per passenger.

Guelph Transit and the St. Catharines Transit Commission faced many similar challenges which led them to consider on-demand paratransit as a solution.

Guelph Transit and the St. Catharines Transit Commission faced many similar challenges which led them to consider on-demand paratransit as a solution.

2. Embracing Emerging Technology Solves Top Paratransit Challenges

On-demand paratransit software makes scheduling trips easier, enabling riders to book either in advance or on-demand via an app, the agency’s website, or a call center without risking availability. This provides needed flexibility for riders throughout their day, with the reassurance that they will still arrive at their destinations on time.

The technology also improves communication with drivers. The system autonomously and automatically reoptimizes driver’s schedules to the optimal route, ensuring a consistent, reliable experience, and reducing stress on call centers.

[The technology] can not only benefit the agency, but it can benefit the rider. Not only is the agency grateful because they are reducing kilometers driven and increasing capacity, but at the end of the day, people are getting places faster than they would have in the past.

— Jason Simmons, Manager, Operations at Guelph Transit

On-demand paratransit technology has enabled numerous benefits in Guelph and St. Catharines, including:

  • A 9-minute total trip time in Guelph
  • A 2-minute average wait time in St. Catharines
  • A customer satisfaction rating of 4.5+ in Guelph
  • An increase in passengers per vehicle hour in both services
  • A >97% on-time performance in both services

The RideCo Solver considers driver and traffic conditions when determining the best possible route.

3. Taking Your Paratransit Fleet On-Demand is Easy

The first step in taking your paratransit fleet on-demand is to embrace innovation and emerging technologies. Your agency needs to be open to change and understand how technology can improve operational efficiency. It is important to identify someone in the agency who will champion the project internally and be willing and able to navigate and address concerns from passengers and operators that are content with the status quo.

Your agency also needs to use data to make strategic decisions. With RideCo’s on-demand software, daily KPI reports are sent to agencies to help them make informed day-to-day decisions.

Sometimes, this data can also help agencies make longer-term decisions. For example, Guelph and St. Catharines have used data to recognize inefficiencies in their vehicle utilization and have evaluated the benefits of commingling passenger types as the solution.

I’m excited because I think there’s going to be a shift very soon in the industry where we’re not looking at it as separate services. We’re looking at it as one service.

— Jason Simmons, Manager, Operations at Guelph Transit

Both agencies believe commingling is the future of paratransit, and that other agencies around the world should also use the excess capacity in their paratransit vehicles to supplement regular on-demand transit. By mixing door-to-door service for the ADA riders and stop-to-stop service for microtransit riders, all residents in a community can be served with the greatest level of efficiency.

Agencies can set up specified parameters with our Microtransit Service Integrator feature, allowing the same fleet to be used in servicing multiple passenger types. The future certainly is commingled.

To learn more about the future of paratransit, commingling, and the benefits of taking your fleet on-demand, watch the full webinar recording.

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