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CHAPTER 7 Improving Performance This chapter presents a range of policies, procedures, strategies, and practices that can improve DRT performance, providing possible ideas and actions that rural transit systems can consider for improving their performance. Some of the actions are discussed in detail, building on the specific experiences of rural DRT systems participating in the research project. This was a major focus of the project: identifying actions and strategies that rural DRT systems have taken to improve their performance and documenting their experiences. In some cases, the participating DRT systems were able to provide data quantifying the positive performance outcomes. More frequently, the systems described the qualitative results of their actions. 7.1 Actions for Improving Rural DRT Performance There are numerous actions that a rural DRT system can consider for improving its perfor- mance. Many of these are similar to those identified through the project's urban phase and doc- umented in TCRP Report 124, such as developing and enforcing a no-show policy to combat the lost time and resources resulting from rider no-shows. To some extent, the areas of emphasis for performance improvement may differ for rural sys- tems as compared with their urban counterparts. Rural systems may be more interested in expanding their ridership base by contracting with local human service agencies to transport those agencies' clients, for example. A large urban DRT providing ADA paratransit service may take a different approach, with a focus on managing demand. Interestingly, some of the rural systems participating in the research project had opposite experiences with the same strategies implemented to improve performance. For example, two of the participating systems changed their route deviation service to demand-response with signif- icant productivity gains. However, another system went the other way, changing part of its demand-response service to route deviation and improving productivity. Thus, it is important to understand the operating environment within which a rural system operates when planning performance improvements. Various policies, procedures, strategies, and practices that can affect DRT service positively in the shorter- and longer-term are listed in Table 7-1. The focus of this list is those actions specif- ically identified by the rural DRT systems included in the research as well as those identified by urban DRT systems that are relevant for rural DRT. Also listed are a number of actions gener- ated during early efforts of the research. Not all the listed actions are appropriate for all rural DRT systems, and, importantly, there are likely other actions and strategies that DRT systems have implemented in their communities across the country with resulting performance improve- ments, which are not captured through this project. 59
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60 Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance Table 7-1. Actions to improve DRT performance identified through research project. Identified By Rural By Urban Through Actions DRT DRT Research & Systems Systems Experience Operations Improve vehicle operator compensation Establish comprehensive vehicle operator training program Use part-time drivers Schedule back-up operators Rotate demand-response and fixed-route operators Establish satellite parking areas for service vehicles Assign certain operators to take DRT vehicle home at night Align operator shifts to meet ridership demand Cross train staff Scheduling/Dispatch Implement computerized scheduling/dispatch system Implement AVL and MDTs Provide scheduled service to frequented destinations Provide immediate response service Professionalize scheduling/dispatch function Maximize use of subscription service Review, refine, tighten subscription trips on periodic basis Accept "will-calls" judiciously Obtain operator input on schedules on periodic basis Service Design Ensure service design "fits" community, revise as needed Use volunteers for long-distance one-to-one trips Use rural DRT as feeder service to rural inter-city routes Policies and Procedures Adopt and enforce no-show/late cancel policy Develop and enforce cancellation policy Shorten the advance reservation period Establish on-time pick-up window Establish wait time policy Establish policies/procedures for bad weather operations Educate riders on policies and procedures Funding Get involved in community, build relationships, and gain funding Establish effective payment schemes for human service agency clients/riders Sell advertising on vehicles Marketing, Public Relations, and Passenger Relations Focus marketing efforts on general public Advertise with campaign/yard signs Identify key person at human service agencies to address rider- related issues Maintenance and Vehicles Provide effective preventive maintenance practices Ensure appropriate mix of DRT vehicles Safety Monitor accident trends Involve operators in a safety committee Reward safe operators Establish a "culture of safety"