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Webinar Recording: CapMetro's journey to transform ADA paratransit

Spare recently hosted a webinar featuring Capital Metro's first-hand experience in launching one of the world's largest ADA paratransit systems with the help of Spare's innovative transit technology. You can find the recording along with answers to some of our attendees' pressing questions in this blog.


Jenna Dhanani


Summary

We recently sat down with Chad Ballentine, VP of Demand Response & Innovative Mobility at CapMetro who played a pivotal role in launching one of the world’s most advanced automated paratransit systems in Austin, Texas in October 2023 for a candid 'Ask Me Anything' webinar, hosted by Metro Magazine on December 6 2023.

During the live session, Chad walked attendees through an in-depth exploration of CapMetro's journey in upgrading their ADA paratransit services, including:

  • Why CapMetro decided to update their paratransit services
  • The selection process for their technology provider
  • The impact and results following the system upgrade
  • Best practices for other agencies planning to modernize their ADA paratransit operations

The discussion wrapped up with a highly engaging Q&A where viewers had the opportunity to submit their most pressing questions for CapMetro and Spare. We’ve summarized the top questions into specific categories below.

From the AMA

Open Fleets

Will the application interact with overflow providers?

Yes - Spare's Open Fleets module natively integrates dedicated public transit fleets with overflow providers, like local taxis, TNCs and other local transport providers in a single cloud-based software platform. This makes Spare uniquely positioned to run a cost effective and rider friendly, mixed fleet paratransit or microtransit service.

Is CapMetro using a combination of both direct and indirect transportation providers, and if so, how does the Spare platform function within this context?

CapMetro is currently only operating with a dedicated fleet with Spare. Spare's Open Fleets module centralizes dedicated and non-dedicated service providers into one platform for real-time trip brokering, visibility, and dispatch. This is already operational in other cities like Pinellas County, Florida for their paratransit and Mobility-on-Demand program. You can read more about Open Fleets, here.

Real-time Routing and Optimization Engine

Drivers tend to plan 4 or 5 trips out, seems like a 5 minute reevaluation of trips would create a lot of radio traffic?

A continuous engine optimization is a key efficiency driver, but also a fundamentally different way to run paratransit. MetroAccess drivers now enjoy real-time turn-by-turn navigation, as opposed to viewing a pickup window (i.e. 9am-9:30am) and the ETA, which decreases safety as they rush to the pickup late and rider satisfaction if trips were picked up late. Feedback from drivers thus far have been overwhelmingly positive - some have even said that they feel less stressed overall!

In regards to optimization, how far ahead does the optimization engine move trips around and does it analyze all vehicles on the road?

Spare's engine optimization analyzes all active vehicles on the road, scanning every few minutes to re-shuffle both scheduled and active trips (i.e. trips matched to a driver). However, it does not re-shuffle any in-progress trips where a passenger is already on the vehicle.

Engine Productivity

Does Spare maintain grouped subscription trips for human service agency clients both for smooth operations and productivity (boardings/vehicle service hour)?

Yes, Spare offers and maintains subscription trips.

How is productivity?

Productivity has been good for us but On Time Performance (OTP) was our key focus. This is because productivity is not as pressing as On-Time Performance, OTP is very public facing and we wanted our customers to come first. As we get more comfortable with the system, will start changing parameters to get more productive.

Cost Efficiency

Do you foresee cost efficiencies or workforce count reductions? Can you elaborate on the hurdles you faced to ensure the software could accommodate the complexity of FTA ADA complementary paratransit rules?

We don't foresee workforce reductions as we already have a hard time hiring drivers. But we think efficiencies will happen as our ridership continues to grow which historically, it has for the last 20 years at a pretty standard, regular pace.

As for complying with ADA rules, they are very complex and there's a lot of them. And so we spent a lot of time working with Spare to make sure that the software met every single rule that is required of the FTA for this service type. The rules are a lot more intense for ADA than it is for on-demand microtransit service, so there was a lot of work to be done to make sure that we can not only meet those rules, but report on them. We're very confident now in the accuracy of the information and our ability to comply with the ADA FTA regulations.

Eligibility

Does the digital receipt of applications require manual data entry, or is it all automated?

Spare reduces manual data entry at multiple points of the eligibility process. For example, if you allow riders to apply online, you can include a link to Spare Engage on your agency’s website. Once a rider clicks the link, Engage securely collects the rider’s name, phone number, and completed forms. When a rider submits their response, a new case is automatically created in Engage - reducing manual data entry. If your agency prefers to receive applications by mail, agency staff can manually enter the information and create a digital case within Engage.

Does Spare automate the online eligibility application process with customers and their healthcare providers, and are the application results automatically uploaded into a customer profile on the CapMetro side?

Yes, the online eligibility process is housed inside Spare. Applications can be received online, then tracked and evaluated all within Spare. The results are then included on the rider/customer profile in Spare's system to enforce all future trips.