Modernizing Paratransit Services: Enhancing Efficiency and User Experience with Spare in Pinellas County
Innovating traditional paratransit services with a technology partner to transform the rider and operator experience.
By the numbers
- On Time Performance for PSTA Access
- Rider Satisfaction
- Increase in app bookings in first three months of adding MOD to the PSTA Access app
- Number of integrated dispatch platforms with Spare Open Fleets
- Dedicated vehicles in operation
- Fleet providers
Pinellas is the most densely populated county in Florida, with 26% of the population being seniors over 65. A tenth of its approximately one million residents live with a disability, making access to paratransit services indispensable in the county.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), selected as APTA’s Transit Agency of the Year in 2023, provides two paratransit services, both powered by the Spare on-demand transit platform. The first, PSTA Access, is an ADA paratransit service delivered using a mix of dedicated vehicles from Transdev, dedicated taxis, and non-dedicated UZURV vehicles. PSTA Access has been powered by the Spare Platform since December 2021.
More recently, PSTA has turned its attention to modernizing its same-day service available to ADA paratransit-eligible riders, Mobility On Demand (MOD). MOD services are powered by four non-dedicated vehicle fleets, including Lyft, Uber, a local taxi company, and a local wheelchair provider.
An average weekday sees 1100-1500 weekday rides between the two paratransit services.
- Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority
- Pinellas County, FL, USA
- December 2021
- Service Type
- ADA Paratransit, Mobility-on-Demand
PSTA encountered several operational hurdles before partnering with Spare.
- Complex data analysis: Multiple, non-integrated transit software systems complicated data analysis, creating disjointed and inconsistent data that hindered decision-making.
- Manual linking of information across systems: Reservationists manually linked information across systems, a time-consuming and error-prone process that increased their workload and slowed overall operations.
- High call volumes: PSTA struggled with an overwhelming volume of calls, putting considerable strain on their call center and leading to decreased rider satisfaction.
In July 2021, PSTA began work with Spare to leverage the platform to modernize the Access and MOD services. In April 2023, PSTA launched an updated MOD service powered by Spare. PSTA leveraged several aspects of the platform to address its operational challenges.
- Spare Launch: The continuously improving cloud-based software configures, launches, automates, and optimizes PSTA’s service.
- Spare Open Fleets: The newly integrated MOD service, powered by Spare’s Open Fleets module, allows PSTA to seamlessly manage trip assignments to the six fleets from a single cloud-based interface, giving PSTA visibility into the live status of most trips.
- Trip Brokering: PSTA optimizes the use of dedicated vs. non-dedicated fleets based on its business goals and rider needs.
- Rider App: PSTA makes Access and MOD trips available through the PSTA Access App, enabling riders to independently schedule their trips. For those uncomfortable with technology, PSTA retains the option to book through the call center. PSTA encourages app use by disseminating educational materials, leveraging a help desk, and sending mailers.
- Rider Notifications: To keep riders informed, PSTA implements trip notifications. These text messages alert riders 24 hours, one hour, and upon arriving, improving their ability to anticipate arrival times.
Spare represents a leap forward in user experience for PSTA. Its clean design makes it easy and intuitive to use. PSTA staff have full visibility into the live status of nearly all of the trips running, which makes it easy to monitor service and address issues as they arise. The app's introduction gives riders more control and independence over their rides by enabling them to easily plan, book, monitor, and pay for trips within the app. It's these kinds of innovations that truly get us excited.
Implementing Spare improved service quality, efficiency, and user experience. Key outcomes included:
- High Service Quality: PSTA Access increased its OTP by 2% to 95% by retraining PSTA traffic after Spare improved its traffic prediction engine in a new release.
- High Rider Satisfaction: Based on rider ratings submitted through the app, the satisfaction rate among PSTA riders stands at 95%.
- Time Savings: Introducing the rider app reduced call volumes and led to a 192% increase in app usage. Additionally, with the launch of Engage, reservationists save time by only needing to enter rider information once, compared to an average of three entries, prior to Spare.
- Cost savings: PSTA lowered the average cost per trip since ⅔ of its ADA-eligible riders are using the Mobility on Demand service rather than the more expensive Access service.
- More Accessible Booking Options: Riders found the app user-friendly and appreciated having greater control over their ride-booking process.
- Enhanced Operations Management: PSTA could integrate with five different dispatch platforms, commingle trips across five programs, and work with six fleet providers from a unified view. This integration gave a comprehensive view of daily services, making it easier for reservationists and transit operators to manage operations.