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2015 Paratransit Survey: Growing Demand for Service Tops Challenges

Posted on September 2, 2015 by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

Respondents to METRO Magazine’s Annual Paratransit Survey transported 21.2 million passengers last year. There are a total of 8,357 paratransit service vehicles represented in this year’s survey results, with the smallest fleet having one vehicle and the largest fleet coming in at 1,946 vehicles.

Buses comprised 47% of the total fleet makeup reported, with vans coming in second at 36% and taxis/sedans at 16%. Operations plan on buying a total of 906 vehicles this year.
Only 23% of operations say they partner with taxi services to supplement their fleets.

Some of the benefits to tapping this resource cited by respondents include flexibility and adherence to on-time performance and scheduling. Some of the negative challenges seen with using taxi services were poor driver/service quality and low availability of accessible vehicles.

Growing demand for service topped the list for the greatest challenge with providing the service overall, with 31% reporting. Costs and funding were the second-highest issue cited by operations at 23%. Next in line at 10% were “Other” concerns, which ranged from maintaining aging fleets to on-time performance and moving customers to fixed-route service.

Travel training, technology
To that end, 56% reported having travel training programs in place, with the longest-tenured being in place for 30 years and the newest one at two years. Nearly 70% say the programs have helped their agencies cut costs by moving more riders to fixed-route systems. Twelve percent of operations are considering implementing a travel training program.

Recruitment and retention once again was the top driver-related challenge reported at 48%. Customer service issues came in second, with 20% reporting and “Other” concerns in this category included FMLA and absenteeism, CDL changes, aging workforce and scheduling of drivers.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents say they implemented new technologies or programs to enhance their services last year. Of those that did, use of scheduling and dispatch software was the most prevalent at 65%. A new trend in this year’s survey was the mention of swapping out MDT’s with tablets.

This year’s survey, which provides a brief snapshot of the industry’s trends, received responses from 106 paratransit providers from 34 states in the U.S. and one system in Canada. Respondents answered 32 questions about issues related to providing service.

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