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OCR for page 36
36 Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance Partially Controllable Factors Beyond controllable and non-controllable factors, there are factors impacting DRT service per- formance that can be considered partially controllable by the DRT system. Among these include Operational issues: Deadhead time and miles. Deadhead is impacted by the location of the garage in relation to the service area and the size of the service area, but can be influenced to some extent if the DRT system can establish satellite parking locations for the vehicles or even allow oper- ators to take vehicles home with them at night to minimize deadhead the next service day; for contracted service, garage location can be influenced by contractual requirements. Average system speed, which influences productivity as well as safety. This speed will depend on the type and environmental characteristics of the service area, scheduling/ dispatch efforts as well as dwell times at individual pick-up and drop-off locations, vehi- cle operator experience, and the roadway network and travel constraints in the service area. Rider no-shows and late cancellations. While every DRT system will experience some level of no-shows and late cancellations, they can be partially controlled by policies that address their occurrence as well as performance levels that ensure service is reliable and timely. Dwell time: this is influenced by DRT system policy (i.e., the wait time) but also by pas- sengers, their mobility levels, the weather (snowy/icy sidewalks will slow riders' access to the vehicle) and the degree to which riders adhere to the policy. Vehicles: Vehicle type and mix. This is considered partially controllable since many rural systems do not directly purchase vehicles, but rely on state procurement programs, with some choice as to type of vehicle and sometimes with lengthy timelines to actually obtain the vehicles. Vehicle specifications: appropriate capacity, adequate accessibility, fuel economy, appropriate for weather and terrain (within the parameters of the state's Section 5311 Program or of other procurement schemes). Other factors: Type of operator: whether the DRT service is operated by a private contractor, a taxi com- pany, a city or county, or a full-scale transit authority. While the DRT system does not con- trol the organization providing the service, there may be some control over choice of type of day-to-day operator. Contractual constraints: many rural DRT systems provide services on a contract basis for local human service agencies, which may include certain contractual requirements for their clients such as ride times and which must not exceed 60 minutes or very specific rider pick-up/drop-off times because of day program requirements. Such contractual requirements impact DRT scheduling practices and day-to-day service that in turn impact performance; yet, the rural transit system can try and negotiate such contract terms to ensure that the requirements can be reasonably met without undue negative impact on overall operations. Demand for DRT service: riders' demand for service can be partially controlled by decisions and actions of the DRT system such as marketing and public relations as well as the fare structure, but the response by the community and target rider groups is not controllable. 5.2 Different Methodologies for Assessing DRT Performance Rural DRT systems can assess and analyze their performance in different ways. They may use more than one method, depending on the specific purpose of the assessment or audience of the perfor- mance results. Using a combination of methods may also provide a more thorough assessment.

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Assessing Performance--A Typology of Rural DRT 37 Trend Analysis Also called a time series analysis, trend analysis is a commonly used assessment methodology. With this method, a DRT system compares its own performance on the same measures over time, typically on a monthly and annual basis, with data displayed month by month to account for the seasonal variations of DRT service. Trend analysis allows a DRT system to monitor its performance and measure changes over time. With trend analysis, a DRT system should note time points when significant changes are implemented or major events occur that impact performance. This will allow subsequent assess- ments to review performance in light of those changes or events. For example, should the DRT system implement new technology, performance may be impacted as staff learn and adjust to the procedures. It is important to document when that change occurs on the trend line in the per- formance reports (see Figure 5-1), informing the review of the resulting performance and pro- viding a context for any deviations that might result. Comparison to Established Norms or Standards A DRT system can also compare its performance with an established standard or norm. While there are no hard-and-fast standards that must be met by all DRT systems, some norms have developed over time. For example, a norm of 90% on-time performance for trip pick-ups has evolved, particularly for urban paratransit programs, even though there is no requirement for such performance and despite the fact that DRT systems define "on-time" in varying ways. A DRT system may also set its own standards for performance achievement. This is particu- larly true when service is provided by contract. Specific standards may be set in contract docu- ments, establishing performance levels that the contractor is expected to meet. This can be ben- eficial in ensuring contractor attention to performance. Caution is needed, however, in setting those standards as sometimes they may be unrealistic, setting up a difficult dynamic that may harm the contracting relationship. For contracted service as well as directly operated service, standards must be evaluated periodically to ensure they are reasonable and continue to be rea- sonable in light of any changing conditions that influence performance. State and regional funding organizations may also set standards that must be met by DRT sys- tems for continued funding consideration. The State of California, for instance, has set specific stan- dards for the achievement of farebox recovery for systems that receive certain state transit funds. 5.00 Passenger Trips/Revenue Hour 4.00 3.00 2005 2006 2.00 2007 Implemented computer- 1.00 assisted scheduling/ dispatch technology. 0.00 Jan Feb Mar Apr May June Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Figure 5-1. Example of DRT productivity trends.