OCTA CEO: Maintaining customer service as paratransit grows

Posted on February 1, 2012 by Will Kempton

Paratransit service is an essential component of our transit network in Orange County, as it is throughout the nation. This service provides independence to those who need it most, and because the demand for this lifeline service continues to grow, it has far outpaced the available funding.

A decade ago, Orange County Transportation Authority’s (OCTA) paratransit ACCESS Service was growing at a rate twice that of the fixed-route service. Managing that increased demand and the spiraling cost of added usage has been a necessity to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of our entire transit system.

However, managing that growth did not come at a cost to customer satisfaction. Through strategic planning, program structuring and implementation, OCTA has successfully kept paratransit services at a manageable level, while maintaining high customer satisfaction.

A recent customer satisfaction survey of OCTA’s paratransit service, known as ACCESS, showed 88% of those who use ACCESS are satisfied with the service, with the majority of users highly satisfied.

Customers also show increased satisfaction in travel time, on-time performance, bus driver courtesy, cleanliness of the bus, safety on the bus, the reservation process and the cost of riding ACCESS.

This survey comes on the heels of six years of implementing changes to manage the growth of ACCESS, both on the operations side and through community partnerships.

We have been able to improve the efficiency of ACCESS by expanding taxi service during lower productivity hours and using same-day taxi programs as an alternative for paratransit customers.

These changes save OCTA more than $1 million a year. Customers show increased satisfaction in the use of taxi services as well, with 83% satisfied — an increase of 13% from 2008.

Collaborating with local agencies and organizations also has been a key element to reducing the demand on ACCESS. OCTA has provided more than $18 million to various organizations who provide trip services for their ACCESS eligible clients. To date, these grants have provided nearly two million trips, saving OCTA more than $63 million.

Together, these strategies have produced significant cost savings while maintaining the quality of service and transportation options our customers expect and deserve.

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