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26 policy; therefore, it is not known whether the policy will be advised verbally of the no-show policy and a letter will be acceptable to FTA. sent to the customer's residence with a copy of the policy enclosed. Background When the no-show percentage reaches 5%, the customer The paratransit agency reported that the revised draft policy will be issued a notice of a 3-day suspension of ADA para- was developed to address customer no-shows that were cre- transit service, subject to the appeals hearing process. With ating problems in four areas: each successive no-show, the percentage will be recalcu- lated. If the percentage is equal to or greater than 5%, each First, no-shows waste the time of the driver (by) traveling to a successive no-show (within 6 months of the last suspension) location when there is no customer waiting for the service. This will result in the length of suspension as follows: wasted trip reduces the driver's productivity and inconveniences the rest of the passengers on that van. · Second occurrence--5 consecutive day suspension. Second, such trips are a waste of taxpayers' funds. The average · Third occurrence--10 consecutive day suspension. cost of one Van Tran trip is $24.18 (July 2004); therefore, the · Fourth occurrence--15 consecutive day suspension. average no-show costs the taxpayers $24.18. · Fifth occurrence--20 consecutive day suspension. Third, placing a trip on the schedule when the trip will not be · Sixth occurrence--25 consecutive day suspension. used can interfere with the ability of other customers to book trips at a time they would prefer to travel. The agency will provide rides for a medical service appointment that occurs during any suspension period, but Fourth, a pattern of such trip bookings followed by no-shows both reveals a disregard for the service and encourages more dis- no additional ride(s) will be allowed. regard for the service and its clientele. This behavioral pattern encourages a practice of such trip bookings just in case they may be needed (`trip hoarding'). Summary The agency's policy is designed to identify those customers Draft No-Show Policy who have a pattern and practice of violating the no-show pol- icy based on their frequency of use. All punitive or corrective The transit agency defines a no-show as occurring when all measures are applied to those customers with a documented five of the following circumstances have occurred: frequency of violations within the previous 6 months. No cor- rective action is applied to the infrequent violator; that is, one 1. The customer (or the customer's representative) has with no-shows of less than 5% of scheduled trips. The focal scheduled ADA paratransit service. point of this policy is to first gain customer cooperation 2. There has been no call by the customer or his/her rep- through education. Punitive measures are used only as a sec- resentative to cancel the scheduled trip two or more ondary measure and only when (1) educational efforts have hours before the start of the pick-up window. failed to gain the needed cooperation, and (2) there is a suffi- 3. The paratransit vehicle has arrived at the scheduled pick- cient pattern and practice of no-shows to cause an accumu- up point within the specified 25-min pick-up window. lated no-show rate of at least 5% within a 6-month period. 4. The driver has waited at least two full minutes beyond the beginning of the 25-min pick-up window, but the Few other systems mentioned using any type of percent- customer has failed to board the vehicle. age basis for considering no-shows. This was the only policy 5. The driver (while sitting in the driver's seat) cannot submitted for this study to include as detailed a description reasonably see the customer approaching the vehicle. of its (draft) no-show policy based on frequency of use. The transit agency defines a cancellation as occurring HIGHLIGHT 3: TECHNOLOGY AS A TOOL when the customer (or the customer's representative) calls and speaks to a paratransit reservation or dispatch staff mem- ADA paratransit systems use a variety of technologies to ber two or more hours before the beginning of the pick-up enhance service provision, including handling gaps in sched- window and specifies that a scheduled trip is to be canceled. ules created as a result of no-shows and late cancellations. Based on comments from the survey and interviews with The agency computer system keeps track of each trip a several transit agencies, it appears that there is a better customer has requested, scheduled, taken, cancelled, and chance of using the time resulting from a late cancellation no-showed. When a no-show occurs, the computer will cal- than that from a no-show at the door. According to the sur- culate the percentage of no-shows that have occurred in that vey responses, the most commonly used technology applica- customer's scheduled trips for the preceding 6 months. When tions are computerized scheduling and dispatching (79.2%), the no-show percentage reaches 3%, the customer will be AVL (28.0%), and MDTs (27.2%). Systems also were asked
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27 an open-ended question about what technologies can be used nontraveled leg of a "no-ride" (i.e., no-show). Houston Metro to reduce the impact of no-shows and late cancellations. encourages patrons to call the agency as soon as they real- Many of the 83 responses described how MDTs and/or AVL ize they are not taking a trip, even if it is at the pick-up time; can help expedite communications and provide information the theory being that cancellations and no-rides will gener- to dispatchers so that they can reassign trips to optimize ate excess capacity on routes, which is now available to routes. Many also described the ability to handle some same- dispatchers to handle same-day demand, sometimes called day trip requests to fill slack time or simply using AVL to "unrouted" trips. confirm the whereabouts of a driver in real time. Houston Metro noted that it is important for the dispatch system to have direct control over the drivers. Some systems MDTs and AVL have decentralized dispatching or the schedules must go though a third party. Responding quickly to unrouted trips From the survey responses and interviews, it appears that generated every few minutes in a large system such as Hous- agencies that have MDTs and other technology tools believe ton Metro's requires a same-day router to focus on the that they are able to respond more quickly to reassign trips in unrouted trips and a large enough dispatch staff to ensure that the event of a no-show or late cancellation. In the survey, driver routes (trip times) are consistently updated throughout transit agencies were asked whether they were able to reas- the day. Updated routes are critical to sound routing deci- sign the slack time created by passenger no-shows or late sions. AVL is also invaluable for finding the closest vehicle cancellations. Of the 128 responses to this question, 13.3% to a waiting rider so that a trip can be assigned. said "yes," they could use the time, and 11.7% said "no," they could not use the opening in the schedule. Another Interactive Voice Response 75.0% indicated that they sometimes are able to make use of the time. When asked how the time was used, the responses Interactive voice response (IVR) technology allows customers could be divided into the following categories: to use the keypad on their touch tone telephone to communi- cate with the computer's database to cancel a trip, check · 55%--enable dispatchers to reassign trips or allow scheduled pick-up times, and book trips. A few transit agen- drivers to catch up on schedule. cies, including Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Hillsbor- · 29%--use time for will calls, same-day service, or to ough Area Regional Transit (HARTline), and Niagara Fron- clear wait list/unscheduled trips. tier Transportation Authority (NFTA) in Buffalo use this · 11%--use time for breaks, reassign from a taxi, or technology. assist other services within the system. · 5%--use late cancellation time but not no-show time to DART has been using IVR technology for several years. reassign trips. Customers can book, cancel, and confirm trips. HARTline, in Tampa, is also phasing it in, because the IVR promises to The Spokane Transit Authority (STA) in Washington be another tool for consumers to use at their convenience. State has MDTs on its paratransit vehicles and for the past The superintendent of paratransit reported that HARTline few years trip requests have been transmitted to drivers by introduced IVR at the request of customers. It is credited with means of these MDTs without using paper manifests. This reducing telephone hold times. Also, customers may cancel approach provides greater flexibility, allowing dispatchers to and confirm reservations. HARTline is testing the potential make changes to schedules throughout the day. According to to use IVR to make reservations. In that case, an individual the paratransit manager, the STA is able to use excess capac- would be able to select from a menu of 10 predetermined ori- ity generated by no-shows and late cancellations because of gins and destinations; 5 would be preset (such as home), the this flexibility. other 5 would be user defined. HARTline also uses an auto- mated module that allows the IVR information to be auto- In addition, if a customer claims that he or she waited for matically written into the computer file. NFTA indicated that a vehicle whereas the driver says the passenger was a no-show it is using IVR for confirming and canceling trips. NFTA's that information will be date and time stamped, when the dispatcher retrieves recorded messages left by means of IVR driver reports the no-show. Because the location was captured and incorporates the changes into the computer. as part of the trip disposition, the STA is able to determine whether the driver was in the right place at the right time or if It should be noted that transit agencies using IVR must the driver was not there and the passenger is correct. also provide an equivalent opportunity for individuals who cannot use the technology to perform the same functions. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County For example, someone who is deaf and uses a TTY (text (Houston Metro) has had a similar experience. According to telephone) or relay service cannot use IVR. Instead, they the director of transportation programs, Houston Metro is must contact an individual to make the request or leave a able to use the capacity generated by cancellations and the message on an answering machine (using the relay service)