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Optimizing your Paratransit Service with Modern Technology Solutions - Webinar Takeaways

Highlights from "Optimizing your Paratransit Service with Modern Technology Solutions", Spare's webinar discussing what innovation looks like within paratransit and how agencies can benefit.


Jenna Dhanani

Spare teamed up with the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) to discuss modern technology-enabled solutions with a panel of transit changemakers including Estella Hollander, Mobility Planner at Mountain Line, and Sharad Agarwal, Senior Advisor at Spare.

The webinar explored real-world examples of what innovation within paratransit looks like and how transit agencies can take advantage of new technologies within their operations to increase automation, lower cost per trip, streamline eligibility and facilitate a seamless rider experience.

History of Mountain Line’s Paratransit Services — 5:28

“What's unique about this microtransit is that it's commingled with our paratransit. Like many agencies, we were challenged with driver shortages. With the commingling, we were able to start this pilot, without having to add a dedicated vehicle.”

Estella Hollander
Estella Hollander Mobility Planner, Mountain Line

Takeaways:

  • Mountain Line used to operate more manually with a traditional paratransit model and faced high downtime for its paratransit vehicles
  • Mountain Line introduced a commingled microtransit and paratransit offering to combat vehicle idleness, and offset effects of the driver shortage
  • The agency also started brokering trips using Spare’s partnership with Lyft allowing for more completed trips without the need to add a vehicle or a driver

Innovations in Paratransit — 9:24

“One of the biggest barriers has always been and is staffing and driver shortages. The more and more that we're starting to see use of, of supporting services like Lyft or other types of providers and  tools that make dispatching and scheduling simpler, I think the barriers will continue to come down”

Sharad Agarwal
Sharad AgarwalSenior Advisor, Spare

Takeaways:

  • The rigid nature of paratransit regulations can be a barrier to creativity and innovation
  • As technology becomes more sophisticated, these barriers may start to lift
  • Improvements to communication with riders improves service efficiency
  • In more rural areas, it’s possible to partner with local taxi companies or volunteer drivers to broker rides where TNCs may not be available
  • Paratransit agencies can evolve with changing times include the self serviceability of tools and improved communication methods with riders as well as increasing fleet size with partners.

The Power of Technology Partners — 15:17

“I think especially with Paratransit riders, making sure that the app provides universal design and accessibility, making sure that there's components for if someone has a visual impairment, that there's an ability to still use the app. Spare brings that wealth of knowledge, but also those functionalities as well.”

Estella Hollander
Estella HollanderMobility Planner, Mountain Line

Takeaways:

  • Agencies should seek to work with a technology partner that is flexible and open to integrations from other partners such as ticketing providers, hardware providers, and other software partners.
  • From an agency perspective, these partnerships available through a technology partner provide a wealth of information and also reduce the number of contracts and help with liability
  • A technology partner should have built-in accessibility features for paratransit riders

Technology Solutions at Mountain Lines — 19:21

“We're able to do more with the same : to be able to provide more service with the same amount of operating hours.”

Estella Hollander
Estella HollanderMobility Planner, Mountain Line

Takeaways:

  • Cost per trip has decreased significantly from $60 with dedicated vehicles to an average of $13 for trips brokered through Lyft
  • Increasing brokered trips would eventually allow Mountain Line to remove a vehicle and save on operating costs
  • Training community members like the senior center for example on how to use the app is a small extra step that goes a long way, especially in paratransit
  • Once riders are comfortable using the app, they embrace it and have full visibility into their ride

Change Management — 27:36

“It's important to really get everyone on board. This should not just be high end leadership or CEO decision; really get buy-in from your dispatch, your drivers, even some riders and really make sure people know why you are making this software change and the benefits”

Estella Hollander
Estella HollanderMobility Planner, Mountain Line

Takeaways:

  • Getting buy-in at all levels of the organization and expressing why you are making a switch to software and what the benefits are is important when it comes to making a switch to software.

The Future of Paratransit Technology — 31:21

"Software moving towards inserting trips in real time during the day of when cancellations come will improve efficiencies automatically without any kind of additional use of services.”

Sharad Agarwal
Sharad AgarwalSenior Advisor, Spare

Takeaways:

  • As the population ages, paratransit ridership will continue to grow
  • Working with other partners to increase fleet size is going to become more common
  • A shift towards dynamic scheduling will take place to maximize service efficiency
  • Technology will continue to connect various players in the transit industry