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Rural DRT and Why Performance Matters 7 Table 2-1. Percentage distribution of rural DRT systems by service-area type.* Service-Area Type Percentage of Total Single municipal area 15% Multi-town area 9% Single county 44% Multi-county 32% Indian tribal reservation <1% Totals 100% *Source: Survey data collected for TCRP Project F-12. profit multi-purpose agency, with the second most common type a department of county gov- ernment (see Table 2-2). 2.3 What Does All This Mean for Rural DRT Performance Assessment? Information and data about the general rural environment, rural transit, and rural DRT suggest that the assessment of rural DRT performance should be approached with acknowledgment of several "truths." These include the great diversity among rural systems and the fact that the mission of the rural transit agency can have a strong influence on performance. Where a rural DRT system transports riders 100 miles round-trip to a medical facility because its mission is one to serve the life-sustaining needs of community residents who lack private transportation, productivity will be low. Additionally, while less "truth" than fact, rural DRT per- formance assessment must also recognize that data collection resources and practices can influence performance reports, particularly regarding mode-specific service for multi-modal rural systems, and that cost performance data may not be com- prehensive, particularly where the rural transit agency is part of a larger organization. Table 2-2. Percentage distribution of rural DRT systems by organization/agency type. Organization/ Percentage Agency Type Distribution Department of County Government 19% Department of City Government 15% Private, Non-Profit--Transportation Only 16% Private, Non-Profit--Multi-Purpose 32% Transit Authority 12% Private, For-Profit 1% Other 5% Totals 100% *Source: Survey data collected for TCRP Project F-12.
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8 Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance This is not to disparage the significant efforts made by rural transit systems to collect and report performance data; yet, as described by the research project's panel overseeing the devel- opment of this Guidebook, "historically, data collection and reporting have not been rigorous among DRT systems." Regarding data collection and reporting, from the standpoint of assessing the performance of rural DRT as opposed to general rural transit, what must be recognized is that operating data for DRT is often combined with data for other modes, particularly route deviation. This becomes a challenge when trying to evaluate DRT as a distinct mode. A related challenge--again where rural transit systems operate more than just demand- response--is that operating costs are often not allocated to the different modes. This makes it difficult to assess the cost-related performance of rural DRT. For example, if the rural transit sys- tem operates both demand-response and route deviation (also called deviated fixed-route and flex route), the differences in cost per passenger trip are difficult to know unless the costs are allo- cated to the two distinct modes. For example, assume a fictitious rural transit system that operates both DR and route deviation for a total annual cost of $800,000 and 20,000 annual vehicle-hours, distributed between the modes 75%25%, as shown in Table 2-3. Based on total system data, the cost per passenger trip is calculated to be $10.67, irrespective of mode, as shown on the top half of Table 2-3. However, a more nuanced evaluation would allo- cate costs to the two modes, with the result that the operating cost for the demand-response ser- vice is $625,000 and $175,000 for route deviation, as shown in the bottom half of the table. With the two separate costs and with operating data segregated by mode, it can be determined that the cost per vehicle-hour and cost per passenger trip vary by mode. In fact, for this fictitious system, the cost per route deviation passenger is 12% higher than for a demand-response passenger. With a higher productivity on demand-response as compared with route deviation (4 versus 3 passenger trips/hour), the cost per passenger trip is less on demand- response even though the cost per hour is more. This more detailed assessment of cost performance data might suggest that the rural transit system take a closer look at its route deviation service. But for many rural systems, it may be difficult to collect and calculate the more comprehen- sive operating and performance data that would allow for more detailed and instructive assess- ments. This may be due to the transit system's staff resources and available technology that can facilitate data collection. Where the rural system is a part of a larger organization, for example, it may be difficult to obtain the data that would show the proportionate costs that should be allocated to the different modes. Table 2-3. Example of multi-modal rural transit system performance data. Annual Performance Data Based on Total System Data Total Operating Costs Total Vehicle Hours Total Passenger Trips Operating Cost/ Operating Cost/ Vehicle Hour Passenger Trip $800,000 20,000 75,000 $40.00 $10.67 Annual Performance Data Based on System Data Allocated by the System's Two Modes Operating Costs Vehicle Hours Passenger Trips Operating Operating Cost/ Cost/Vehicle Hour Passenger Trip Total Total Total Total Total Total Op. Cost/ Op. Op. Cost/ Op. Cost/ Rt DR Rt Dev DR Rt Dev DR Rt Dev DR Cost/ Rt DR Dev Cost Cost Veh. Hrs Veh. Hrs Pass. Pass. Veh. Hr Dev Pass. Trip Pass. Trip Trips Trips Veh. Hr $625,000 $175,000 15,000 5,000 60,000 15,000 $41.67 $35.00 $10.42 $11.67
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Rural DRT and Why Performance Matters 9 Beyond these "truths" and facts about rural DRT, there are a variety of factors that influence performance day-to-day. This may include the considerable deadhead time and miles required because of a large service area, or it may be policies and procedures related to no-shows. Some of these the rural DRT system can control, at least partially; others, it cannot. It is thus important to understand the context of rural transit and specifically rural DRT when assessing performance. This Guidebook attempts to provide that context. More importantly, the Guidebook provides how-to resources for rural DRT performance measurement. What are the key data that should be used? How are the data elements defined, and what data are used for what measures? Once the performance data are calculated, then what? These are the same resources provided for urban DRT systems in the companion guidebook, TCRP Report 124. As in TCRP Report 124, this Guidebook provides sample data from representative DRT sys- tems around the country, providing reference points for rural DRT systems assessing their own performance. The Guidebook also provides information gleaned from these sampled systems about actions and strategies that they have used to improve their own performance. Again, these can serve as reference points for other DRT systems interested in considering performance improvements. While the nuts and bolts of performance assessment--data collection, reporting, and measur- ing data over time and perhaps against other systems--may seem just another task in an already too long list of to-dos for rural transit managers, DRT performance does matter. It needs to be reported so that the manager can demonstrate to the community--the system's riders as well as its staff--what the system has accomplished. It needs to be assessed so that the system can build on what works and then try and fix what could work better. Reporting and assessing performance also matter so that the case can be made to local, state, and federal leaders and policymakers that rural transit is well-deserving of continued financial support.