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28 CHAPTER FIVE CONCLUSIONS From 1992, the first year of the Americans with Disabilities Act best use of the software. Mobile data terminals in vehicles (ADA)-complementary paratransit service, to 2004, paratransit and global positioning systems for tracking vehicle move- ridership in the United States increased by 58.3%, to more than ment have aided drivers and dispatchers, especially in the 114 million trips, most of which were ADA-complementary ad hoc world of paratransit. Dallas Area Rapid Transit paratransit trips. Although growth in paratransit ridership has (Dallas, Texas) has an automated system that allows its slowed since the early 1990s, over a 5-year period (1999 to riders to request and confirm trips over the phone without 2004), paratransit ridership rose by 14%. Nevertheless, this rate the need of a call taker. This option makes trip requests of increase far exceeds public transit as a whole for the same more convenient for riders and less labor-intensive for the period (4.4%). Paratransit ridership is slightly more than 1% of agency. the total transit ridership. However, as stated earlier, an Paratransit coordination can involve much more than agency's costs to provide paratransit trips are disproportionate daily service delivery. In states where coordination has to the ridership share. In 2004, paratransit comprised 9% of been mandated for a long period, transit agencies have transit operating costs. The operating cost per trip for paratran- served as the county or regional service coordinator or sit service was $22.14. For all other modes, the operating cost broker. Beyond daily operations, examples of coordina- per trip was $2.75. tion reported in the survey include joint travel training (Intercity Transit, Olympia, Washington), vehicle main- These figures and trends are prompting transit agencies to tenance and vehicle lending (Transit Authority of River seek ways to meet the growing demand for ADA-complemen- City, Louisville, Kentucky), and a regional call center for transit information (Santa Fe Trails, New Mexico). tary paratransit service more effectively and efficiently. This Two transit systems that have demonstrated significant synthesis identifies policies and practices, both proven and benefits from their travel training programs are: Regional promising, from fellow paratransit operators. Transportation Commission (RTC) Washoe (Reno, Nevada), which found a net savings of $233,000 for one Transit agencies of different sizes are improving the effi- year; and Intercity Transit (Olympia, Washington), which ciency of ADA paratransit service. They are providing better had a "very conservative" annual savings of $260,000. As and more flexible service to individuals who rely on paratran- demonstrated in a small transit system such as Sandy sit service to travel to work, to school, to medical appoint- (Oregon) Area Metro (SAM), travel training can have ments, to shopping, and to anywhere else that fixed-route the added benefit of gaining fixed-route transit riders service can take them. who had never ridden transit before. SAM's Travel Adventures program targets and trains not only persons For eligibility determination, King County Metro (Wash- with disabilities, but anyone who is uncomfortable or ington State) has invested much effort in developing poli- unfamiliar with riding a bus. cies for making determinations of conditional eligibility. The agency also invests staff resources to collect the path- Despite the success stories, the transit industry could do way data necessary to make determinations for trip-by-trip more to serve its ADA paratransit riders more effectively and eligibility. The agency has used its paratransit software to efficiently. There can be greater efforts to make the fixed route make use of these determinations in its daily Metro Access more accessible and inviting to current and future paratransit operations. Access Services, Inc. (paratransit contractor in riders. Transit agencies must realize the idea that an accessible Los Angeles) conducts in-person functional assessments fixed route benefits them as well as their riders. The intent of of all applicants for ADA paratransit. Although the portion the ADA and the department of transportation regulations is of applicants determined not eligible has increased only for riders to use fixed-route service whenever possible. ADA slightly (11% to 12.5%) since switching to in-person func- paratransit is meant to be the safety net, a costlier transit mode tional assessments, the portion of conditional or trip-by- provided for riders unable to use fixed-route service. trip determinations has increased from 0.4% to 10.1%. Technology has helped paratransit operations handle an The responses to the survey indicated that the most com- increasing number of trips, clients, and vehicles. Trip mon practice of transit agencies for improving fixed-route scheduling software is much more sophisticated, although accessibility has been increasing the accessibility of their a person skilled in scheduling is still crucial to make the vehicles. This is not surprising, because the ADA regulations

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29 have mandated the acquisition of accessible vehicles. It is for collecting data on pathway barriers, along with instruc- surprising, however, that among the survey respondents only tions for its use, similar to the workbook described in the case 56% reported that they had a travel training program. Based study on King County Metro's conditional and trip-by-trip on the findings summarized earlier (and presented in more eligibility process. As noted, many transit agencies are already detail in chapter four), a good investment for transit agencies making determinations of conditional and trip-by-trip eligibil- to promote use of the fixed route for persons with disabilities ity, but are not enforcing the conditions because of the lack of would be to develop or expand travel training programs. data. Transit agencies would still need to collect the data and make the judgments for each trip; however, the workbook The survey also showed that a smaller portion of transit would help them to make comprehensive and consistent agencies make improvements to stops and paths, as these ele- determinations. ments are often out of a transit agency's control. But a transit agency's interests are well served when it works with agen- Taxis could play a larger role in the provision of ADA- cies responsible for pathways and private partners to design complementary paratransit service and other types of flexible and create an environment that makes it easier for all riders, transit for persons with disabilities. In rural areas, school buses whether disabled or not, to use fixed-route transit. could also provide flexible capacity. The survey shows that a small set of respondents used taxis for ADA-complementary Topics for further study would include a more comprehen- paratransit service: 16% as regular contractors, 21% as over- sive study of transit agency policies and practices that have flow contractors, and 12% as same-day contractors. The devel- lead to increased fixed-route ridership by persons with dis- opment of more widely available accessible taxis could spur a abilities. The research would gather information from transit greater use of them by paratransit operators. For school buses, agencies about what they have done to attract persons with the barriers to greater use appear to be physical, institutional, disabilities to their fixed-route service. This would encompass and regulatory in nature. The Mason Transit case study shows changes in areas such as policies, operations, vehicles, facili- how one transit agency has made good use of school buses. ties, and operating environment. The research would evaluate The ongoing TCRP research, Vehicle Guide for Integrating policies and practices to determine their success and to judge Non-Urban School and Public Transportation Services [Proj- their potential for transferability to other agencies. An inter- ect A-19A(2)] should provide useful findings and recommen- esting portion of this research would be to learn how transit dations in this area. Although fleet size is not currently a agencies measure their fixed-route ridership of persons with capacity limitation for most paratransit operators, taxis and disabilities. school buses can provide transit agencies with lower-cost capacity without the need for a long-term capital commitment. It would be helpful to transit agencies to have a more wide- There should be continued efforts to integrate these vehicles spread dissemination of a workbook or software application into paratransit operations.