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CHAPTER 5 Assessing Performance-- A Typology of Rural DRT Rural DRT performance can be assessed in different ways. One of the common ways is to com- pare similar systems against each other, but which systems are similar? Why are they similar? This chapter develops a typology of rural demand-responsive systems, so systems are grouped with other systems according to criteria that influence performance. Preliminary to that, it is use- ful to identify the factors that influence DRT performance and different performance assessment methodologies. 5.1 Factors Influencing Rural DRT Performance There are many different factors that affect the performance of a DRT system. For rural sys- tems, one often thinks first of the size of the service area as a major factor affecting performance. This is true for many rural systems, with some serving multi-county areas and providing trip lengths that exceed 100 or more miles. Long trips have a negative affect on DRT productivity, lim- iting the number of passenger trips that can be carried each hour. It is also true that this factor is one that is generally classified as uncontrollable: something that the DRT system manager cannot change. There may, however, be actions that the DRT system might take if providing DRT for a very large service area becomes cost-prohibitive, in which case service-area size could be consid- ered partially controllable. For example, the system could propose service provision to far distant parts of the service area only on a several-days-per-week or even several-days-per-month basis. Beyond size of service area, other uncontrollable factors include the weather and related "Acts of God." However, most of the factors affecting DRT performance are controllable, or at least partially controllable, by the DRT manager. For example, a controllable factor affecting DRT per- formance is the level of scheduling skills possessed by the DRT system. This is highly important for ensuring that effective manifests are created for the vehicle operators, with logical groupings of passenger trips and efficient sequencing of pick-ups and drop-offs at the same time ensuring the riders are picked up on-time and do not have excessive travel times. A DRT manager can improve the system's level of scheduling skills by ensuring that the scheduler or schedulers bring appropriate experience to the position, that initial and ongoing training are provided, that the wage and benefit package encourages stability in the position, that appropriate "tools" are pro- vided for doing the job, and that there are opportunities for feedback from the operators and others out on the road for a "reality check" on the manifests. Table 5-1 lists the major factors that affect DRT performance. Each factor is identified as con- trollable, partially controllable, or uncontrollable. Some circumspection is needed when reading this table. Because a factor is listed as controllable does not mean that a DRT manager can neces- sarily influence that factor quickly or completely. For example, the factor maintenance costs is generally considered a controllable factor (6). A DRT manager does control maintenance practices 33

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34 Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance Table 5-1. Factors influencing DRT performance. Factor "Control" by DRT System? Operations Hiring practices and training for vehicle operators Controllable Operator wages and benefits Controllable / Partially Controllable Timely vehicle pull-outs with back-up operator availability Controllable Relationship of paid operator-hours to vehicle-hours Controllable Wages and benefits for other operating staff Controllable / Partially Controllable Deadhead time and miles Partially Controllable Average system speed Partially Controllable Scheduling/Dispatch Skills in creating effective manifests Controllable Matching vehicle-hours to ridership demand Controllable Service Policies Related to No-shows and late cancellations Controllable Length of advance reservation period Controllable Service span: days and hours of service Controllable Rider assistance: door-to-door, curb-to-curb, packages, child car seat, etc. Controllable Vehicles Vehicle type and mix; vehicle specifications Partially Controllable Vehicle condition and maintenance practices Controllable Maintenance expenses Controllable Administration Staffing and administrative expenses Controllable Safety Safety policies and procedures Controllable System's "culture of safety" Controllable Service-Area Environment Service-area size, roadway network, density, land use patterns, constraints (e.g., mountains, bridges, railroad crossings) Uncontrollable Strength of local economy/job market, affecting employment environment Uncontrollable Weather and "Acts of God" Uncontrollable Other Type of ridership: ADA only, limited eligibility, general public Uncontrollable Contractual constraints: rules imposed by human service agencies that Partially Controllable contract for service (e.g., maximum ride time, etc.) Type of operator (city/county, transit authority, private contractor, taxi co.) Partially Controllable Demand for DRT service Partially Controllable Riders' no-shows and late cancellations Partially Controllable Riders' dwell time Partially Controllable and procedures including the preventive maintenance program, which helps prevent premature major equipment failures and frequent breakdowns. However, the system may have old vehicles that are miles beyond their official useful life, making it more costly to keep the vehicles road- worthy. To procure new vehicles typically requires time and funding from the state or other funding entities, factors that the DRT manager does not control. However, on a day-to-day basis, the DRT manager is responsible for the costs for maintenance; to list maintenance expenses as something other than controllable would ignore this fact. Controllable Factors The factors over which DRT managers have direct influence relate to Vehicle operators: Hiring practices and training; Wages and benefits paid to operators (although these are influenced by the local econ- omy and compensation for similar types of jobs);

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Assessing Performance--A Typology of Rural DRT 35 Timely pull-outs with back-up availability; and Practices impacting the relationship of paid operator-hours to vehicle-hours (such as vaca- tion, absenteeism, and other time for which operators are paid but are not providing pas- senger transportation). Other operating staff--scheduler, dispatch, operations supervisor: Hiring practices and training; and Wages and benefits for these other operating staff. Scheduling/dispatch: Ability to create effective and efficient manifests for operators; and Extent to which scheduled vehicle-hours match ridership demand patterns. Operating policies related to: No-shows and late cancellations--effectiveness of the DRT system's policies and ability to monitor and manage rider infractions; Length of the advance reservation window; Days and hours of operation and, for large service areas, limiting days/hours of service for specific geographic areas; and Passenger assistance--curb-to-curb, door-to-door or door-through-door, handling rid- ers' personal items such as grocery bags, and use of child safety seats. Vehicles: Vehicle condition and maintenance practices. While generally under the control of DRT systems, those with old fleets will need to expend more effort (and cost) to keep their vehicles in operative condition. Maintenance expenses. Costs related to vehicle condition and maintenance practices are generally controllable by the DRT system although these are impacted by the age and type of vehicles. Administrative expenses: How efficiently can the system administer the service, particularly in the number of staff positions required for administration and costs for that administration. Safety: Policies and procedures related to safety; and A management emphasis and commitment to safe operations can influence the DRT system's safety record. Uncontrollable Factors Factors over which DRT managers have no control include the following: Service-area environment--this is a critical factor, impacting all aspects of DRT service: Characteristics such as size, density, land use patterns, roadway network (including unpaved roads) and service area constraints such as rivers with limited bridge crossings and mountains that limit access through the service area, steep terrain (especially in areas that experience heavy snow and ice), and railroad crossings with frequent intersection delays for vehicular traffic have strong impacts on DRT performance. These influence trip lengths, travel times, opportunities to group rides for improved productivity, on-time performance, and average system speed. Areas with limited wireless phone or radio coverage restrict the ability to adjust schedules for late cancellations or to respond to vehicle breakdowns. Strength of the local economy--this affects employment and wage scales, which influences the ease or difficulty in hiring vehicle operators and other transit system staff and the wage/benefits levels that the system must offer. Type of ridership--DRT systems typically have no or very limited control over the type of riders that are served, whether ADA paratransit, limited eligibility, or general public. Weather and other "Acts of God."