April 21, 2010

Web Extra: Calif. Bay Area agencies improve paratransit services

The Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) recently conducted a survey of its paratransit customers to assess satisfaction with the programs the agency funds through a half-cent transportation sales tax.

Compared to the first survey ACTIA conducted in 2007, respondents reported overall that services have improved, with one program receiving an 86-percent approval rating. Customers reported high satisfaction with safety, driver courtesy and destination availability. More customers also rated their most recent transit experience as "excellent" and an increase in on-time arrivals compared to 2007, the Oakland Tribune reported.

"Our providers are doing something right and they're working very hard," said Tess Lengyel, ACTIA's programs and public affairs manager. "They're all very conscientious of providing good service to seniors and people with disabilities."

Still, survey respondents had some dissatisfaction with programs that were reportedly more likely to turn down a ride request. "Some of the services provide same-day [rides], but not all of them. I think that's an interest you'll find in any senior and disabled mobility transportation," Lengyel noted.

The survey was conducted via phone calls to the agency's paratransit customers, with service in multiple languages for non-English speaking customers. ACTIA plans to conduct the survey every two years, Lengyel said.

Not only does the agency want to provide customers the opportunity to give their feedback, but also to assess the need for service changes, Lengyel said. "For example, between the 2007 and 2009 survey, we found that more of the patrons were using assistive devices — more of them needed people to assist them. It's helping us to see the reality of the trends of an aging population," she said.

To read the full survey report, click here.

In addition, the City of Alameda this month launched a new paratransit shuttle offering free rides for seniors and people with disabilities to area shopping centers and medical facilities. Previously, the city only provided taxi-based and group trip paratransit service.

The service is being launched as a pilot project and may be altered depending on usage and customer feedback, according to the city's Website. Similar shuttles have been implemented in the county and have been very successful, Lengyel said.

The suggestion to add the shuttle service came out of ACTIA's 28-member paratransit committee, which comprises senior citizens and people with disabilities, and makes recommendations to the agency's elected board.

"We give out about $10.5 million a year for [paratransit] services," Lengyel said. "The City of Alameda had a large reserve and this public committee said, 'you have this money, make sure you're using it.'"

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