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Webinar Recording: Putting Riders First

This webinar features speakers Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) first-hand experiences managing ADA and Non ADA paratransit with the help of modern paratransit technology


Jenna Dhanani

Webinar Recording

Summary

In this webinar, we heard from Bonnie Epstein, Director of Mobility at Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), from Noah Berlin, Director of Mobility and Christopher Hawkins, Director of Administration at Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) about their experiences managing ADA, non ADA paratransit and rider assistance programs with the help of modern paratransit technology.

Between both transit agencies, we explored how a mixed fleet model is leveraged to drive high-quality service at a lower cost. We also touched on providing a new level of flexibility to riders through same-day paratransit offerings. Lastly, we discussed the new age of eligibility management: securely automated and digitized, making workflows more customer friendly for eligibility teams and riders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ridership

How many riders does PSTA currently serve? What is the daily or annual number of trips for each agency?

PSTA currently has nearly 14,000 riders in Spare, though not all are currently active.

What's the average weekday trip provided by both PSTA and DART?

The DART RAP Program completes anywhere from roughly 100-150 trips per day on Spare. PSTA completes around 1600 trips per day on Spare, which is a mix of their programs. The MOD service makes up about 900-1000 of those daily boardings!

Reporting

Does PSTA report the Mobility on Demand trips to the Federal Transit Administration National Transportation Database?

PSTA reports any local taxi trips including the on-demand trips and plans to report trips made on TNCs like Uber and Lyft in the future by working with them to access the necessary documentation.

Operations

How does PSTA manage same-day trip requests for riders who need an accessible vehicle?

If a rider needs an accessible vehicle, PSTA currently only books them through to their Mobility On Demand provider that provides wheelchair accessible service.

Are PSTA’s Mobility On Demand and ADA Paratransit resources managed as a collective unit? Or are the fleets and operations still separate?

The way that PSTA’s services are currently set up is that all future trips all allocated to their dedicated fleet and all same day trips go to TNCs (Uber, Lyft) and a local wheelchair accessible vehicle provider. Now that everything is in Spare, PSTA is exploring alternate fleet allocation options.

What type of change management techniques were implemented to help transition to the new system for both staff and customers?

PSTA phased their launch of Access and MOD, launching with Spare internally with their team prior to rolling out the ability for riders to book trips in the rider app.

This allowed reservationists to book trips in Spare and get comfortable with booking in the Spare platform prior to having to answer questions from riders about the app. Using this strategy, PSTA and Spare avoided overwhelming the internal team with phone calls from riders while changing their booking system.

Have the online payment systems replaced the farebox?

In the case of MOD, the payment integration has fully replaced the farebox, which was an important consideration as PSTA is using non-dedicated providers and Open Fleets (Uber, Lyft, etc.).

For PSTA’s paratransit, PSTA offers the option to pay digitally or continue to use on-vehicle payment methods.

Engage, Eligibility and Accessibility

When it comes to processing eligibility applications, are healthcare professionals required to sign the applications or are they processed internally?

Healthcare professionals are not required to sign the application although they have to on the paratransit side. Since DART RAP is not a paratransit service and is an eligibility based alternative transportation offering, riders that have a disability need to provide a note from a doctor or from their health care professional certifying that they have a disability to meet the eligibility requirements.

Does DART RAP’s eligibility management system work online through Spare?

DART RAP uses Spare Engage, Spare’s Eligibility Management Tool, to manage eligibility online through the Spare Platform. Spare Engage covers the eligibility process, from initial application to awarding eligibility.

You can find out more about Engage here.

Is there a speech to text feature for hearing impaired riders?

Spare currently offers a variety of notification types for riders, including SMS, phone and email notifications, to ensure our notifications can be accessible for all riders.

Is there an alternative option to book PSTA Mobility On Demand trips for clients who do not have a smartphone?

PSTA currently offers the ability to book trips to the MOD service in the rider app as well as the option to call in and book with a reservationist. Spare also offers rider web, our web booking platform, which now has the ability to send a verification code via phone call to be accessible to those who don’t currently have a smartphone!

The Spare Platform

How does the Spare platform account for peak periods and capacity constraints, with the self booking?

Spare currently provides trips in the Rider App when there is available capacity. Typically, riders are directed to call in if they’re unable to book in the app, which is frequently due to capacity constraints.

We provide tooling to PSTA and DART RAP to be able to monitor demand real-time to tackle any capacity issues.

Reservationists have the ability to negotiate the trip into a time frame that might better suited, or use other tools within Spare to ensure the trip is booked (like manual intervention to add a trip to a vehicle). Additionally, for same day trips with MOD, Spare is able to leverage a variety of providers including Lyft, Uber and two local taxi operators to ensure we’re able to meet demand.

Lastly, riders are able to generate estimates for each provider with MOD in the rider app to ensure they can get their ride as quickly as possible!

Does Spare include an admin UI to take trip requests via phone?

Absolutely! We have an admin panel accessible by web where dispatchers and reservationists spend the majority of their day monitoring live operations and booking trips.

Does Spare give riders the option to choose their preferred language when booking a trip?

Spare is offered in many languages including English, Spanish, French, German, Catalan, Icelandic, Japanese, Norwegian (Bokmal), and Swedish, with additional languages like Burmese, Korean, Nepali, Chinese, and Farsi on the roadmap.

The app is available in several languages and will adopt the language of the device.

What resistance from dispatchers have you encountered since the app can schedule a trip or the system can assign a trip to a route/bus (optimized trips)?

The Spare platform automatically schedules trips to an available vehicle for paratransit trips or can automatically dispatch to an external, non-dedicated provider (like Uber, Lyft or a local taxi company). Additionally, Spare has functionality to lock a trip to a specific vehicle should there be a scenario where dispatch needs to add a ride to a specific driver/vehicle.

Are there reports on app usage in Spare?

Yes! Spare’s reporting dashboard includes breaking out bookings by booking method (App, Admin Panel or Rider Web). PSTA saw over 17% of bookings in June originate in the rider app! DART RAP saw over 31% of bookings in June occur from the App 🚀

Under PSTA’s MOD, did PSTA  face challenges with respect to passengers who require wheelchair capable vehicles?

For MOD, PSTA specifically opted to send any trips requiring a wheelchair to a non-dedicated provider with WAVs through Spare’s Open Fleets Integration.

This has allowed us to automatically dispatch MOD trips requiring a wheelchair to this provider.

When a passenger is booking a same-day trip, does the Spare app know or let the passenger know if the day is booked?

Spare provides details of the trip once it is booked so the rider can monitor their ride. This includes being able to see the vehicle coming towards them on the map on the app when the vehicle is on it’s way!