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OCR for page 73
73 The use of AVL/MDTs is intended to accomplish all but address Welfare-to-Work transportation service needs; how- the last goal, which will result from full implementation of ever, due to a lack of state funds for Welfare-to-Work trans- computerized scheduling and dispatch software. portation, the focus shifted to transporting clients of mental Implementation of AVL/MDTs at OTA has taken several health agencies. years. While the original FTA grant for this demonstration The call centers and radio dispatch centers of the four orig- project was executed in 1995, implementation of the AVL/ inal paratransit providers were linked by means of a com- MDTs did not start until late in 1999, and implementation of munications network of T1 lines. This network, together with the scheduling and dispatch software did not start until sum- paratransit reservation and scheduling software enables the mer 2000. Full installation occurred in March 2000, and the agencies to book trips for their customers on vehicles oper- scheduling and dispatch software is not yet operational. ated by the other providers, thereby filling empty seats. The software shows all routes, scheduled trips, and available slack time. Demand-responsive trips can then be assigned to appro- TMA priate routes with sufficient slack time. The St. Louis TMA serves the City and County of St. Louis MDTs installed in all the larger providers' vehicles are and adjoining St. Charles County, Missouri. It is an example used to communicate with drivers and to capture operational of cooperation and coordination among local planning agen- data; smaller providers use cell phones for communication. cies, transportation providers, and human services agencies. Because of the linked dispatch centers, dispatchers are able The focus of this coordination effort is a trip reservations and to assign trips to the most appropriate vehicle even if it is scheduling system operated by Metro (name adopted February operated by another provider. 1, 2003; formerly known as Bi-State Development Agency) The St. Louis TMA has managed to coordinate service in with transportation provided by multiple operators. the city and surrounding two-county area. Trips are shared A number of paratransit providers serving the City of and riders from different agencies and programs are mixed St. Louis and two surrounding counties (St. Louis and St. on the same vehicles. Resources, particularly vehicles and Charles Counties) are participating in a joint effort led by the drivers, are used more effectively. Client agencies receive TMA, which was created for this purpose, the East-West the benefit of more revenue when they are given riders from Gateway Coordinating Council, and Metro (formerly known other programs. as Bi-State Development Agency). Four agencies--Metro, Some service to the general public in rural areas is able to OATS, MTM, and Care Cab Transportation Service--were be accommodated by mixing these trips with agency trips. the original core members of the TMA. Metro serves as the Otherwise, these general public trips could not be served managing contractor but only provides service in St. Louis because of program eligibility restrictions. City and County. Metro performs the functions of a partial Another benefit to the TMA arrangement is that Metro is broker, by providing centralized planning and management; able to provide backup vehicles and drivers for the small grants administration; accounting, billing and record keep- providers when they experience a vehicle breakdown or driver ing; vehicle maintenance; and, driver training.4 In addition to problem. Another interesting feature is that Metro, with its Metro, there have been as many as 11 transportation pro- resources and expertise, is able to involve a number of very viders involved; currently there are 6 transportation pro- small providers in the system. These small providers would viders in addition to Metro and OATS. not otherwise have the ability or resources to participate in The vast majority (over 90%) of trips are performed in the large agency contracts that the larger TMA is able to bid St. Louis City/County. Users of the services include ADA- on and win. eligible individuals, seniors, the general public in rural areas, Finally, a major benefit to the TMA arrangement is that individuals with developmental disabilities, and Medicaid Metro is able and willing to pay the other transportation recipients (MTM operates a Medicaid brokerage throughout providers immediately, then submit an invoice to the funding Missouri). agencies for subsequent payment. Otherwise, the providers The original coordination concept came from the East- would often have to wait months to be paid. West Gateway Coordinating Council paratransit committee. Committee members believed that paratransit service deliv- ery was fragmented and inefficient in the St. Louis area and sought a means to maximize service efficiency as well as to ADVICE FROM PRACTITIONERS achieve economies of scale through coordinated vehicle oper- ations and maintenance. The TMA was originally formed to Several factors were cited by key staff at each case study site as being critical to the successful development and implementation of a technological aid to coordination. Some 4 The program manager believes that a pure brokerage arrangement would not work of the projects implemented at the case study sites benefited in this situation. It is only through Metro's ability and willingness to provide a number of other resources such as hardware and software technology that the TMA has been from the existence of these factors; in other cases, their able to function effectively. absence caused project delays or required specific actions to