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21 analysis, Metro was planning to review the paratransit feeder GPS allow dispatchers to track the location of vehicles in trips of certain riders to determine if the riders could use fixed real time. Paratransit operations are making use of this tech- route instead of Metro Access on these feeder trips. nology in several ways. For example, if a driver is lost, a dis- patcher can give the driver directions. A dispatcher can also view a map to decide which vehicle is best positioned to han- OPERATING PRACTICES dle an additional trip. Included in this topic are all activities related to the daily oper- Using taxis as part of a paratransit vehicle fleet is a practice ations of a paratransit service. Major components include: more common for larger paratransit operations. For the tran- sit agencies that carried fewer than 500 trips per day that Accepting trip requests, responded to the survey, less than 20% used taxis. Of those Scheduling trip requests, carrying more than 500 trips per day, more than one-third used Assigning trips to vehicle routes, taxis, with nearly half of the largest operations (more than Dispatching vehicles, and 1,000 daily trips) using them. A further discussion on taxis and Monitoring operations. other flexible capacity is presented later in this chapter. A major evolution in paratransit operations since the years before ADA and its early years was the increasing use of Dallas Area Rapid Transit: Express Booking automation. Specialized software packages and other tech- nology are now available to help paratransit staff in all aspects DART offers Express Booking (XPB), an automated tele- of operations. phone system available at all times, to its paratransit riders to make trip reservations. It provides immediate confirmation of For trip requests, some transit agencies are developing ways the trip request without making a confirmation call--or wait- to allow riders to make the requests on-line. A number of sys- ing for a confirmation call from DART--on the night before tems already allow riders to cancel or confirm trips through the trip. automated phone systems. Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has an automated phone system that allows its paratransit rid- There are two ways to use XPB. The first is to set up a per- ers to make trip requests and have them confirmed in a single sonal trip list. This lets a rider identify a set of 10 destinations phone call. More details on this "Express Paratransit Booking" to which the rider frequently travels. Once this personal trip list system are presented later in this section. is established, the rider can use XPB to book a trip to one of the destinations by specifying that destination, along with the date Many paratransit operations, even smaller ones that provide and time of travel. The second way to use XPB is for a rider to fewer than 250 trips per day, use paratransit software for vehi- request a trip with the same origin and destination as he or she cle scheduling. Transit agencies use the software in different booked within the past three days. XPB offers a list of these ways; some rely on the software to make most of the choices potential trips. in assigning trips to routes, whereas other transit agencies use the software as an aid to trip assignment. Most transit agencies When the rider calls, he or she selects the origin and desti- realize that a skilled and experienced scheduler is still crucial nation, then provides the date and requested time; either a to review any vehicle routes created by the automated system pickup or drop-off time can be requested. XPB will then pro- and then to make adjustments as needed. vide confirmation of the requested date and time or it will pro- vide a negotiated time within the allowed 60 min negotiation There is also an increasing use of vehicles equipped with window. XPB provides a pickup time (subject to a pickup win- mobile data terminals (MDTs) and global positioning systems dow of 0/+20 min) and an estimated drop-off time for all con- (GPS). Both of these technologies enable paratransit opera- firmed trips. tions to dispatch vehicles and monitor operations in real time. Using MDTs, text messages can be sent and received between Riders can also use XPB to cancel up to two days' worth a paratransit dispatcher and a driver. MDTs on vehicles could of trips in one phone call. Riders can book only one round trip eventually eliminate the need for drivers to carry paper sched- per call with XPB. The deadline for booking a trip using XPB ules (manifests). However, even when paratransit systems is the same as booking a trip with a call taker (5:00 p.m. of the have this option, they tend to continue to use paper--partly day before service). Another benefit DART offers XPB users because drivers prefer to keep them and partly as a manual is the ability to request a trip three days in advance; however, backup to MDTs. One practice in use at systems with MDTs individuals who request a trip through a live call taker from is "performing" trips--sending a message to dispatch that a Monday to Wednesday can only request a trip up to two days pickup or drop off has occurred using the MDTs rather than in advance. the radio. This has reduced the use of radios for such routine communication and kept the radio lines available for other DART has been offering XPB since February 2000 as an messages between driver and dispatcher. additional feature to its existing interactive voice response