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55 A best practice that was identified in the early research was · "You don't get help from them. They don't know the city scaling back on schedules for newer operators. A number of sys- themselves. It is frustrating when you can't do what you tems reported that they identify the runs that will be performed could because of poor planning." by new operators and reduce the number of trips on those runs. · "Dispatchers are disrespectful and rude." This is done by either reducing the estimated travel speeds on · "Dispatchers sometimes don't sympathize with what the those runs (thereby allowing more time between pick-ups and operators are dealing with." drop-offs), or by simply limiting the total number of trips per hour. Systems typically reported reducing travel speeds to 80% Managers who participated in the focus groups concurred of the speeds of other, fully utilized runs. with operators that disrespectful dispatchers negatively impact The research also noted that more experienced vehicle operator job satisfaction. operators, who have seniority and first choice in the selec- Transit systems and service providers need to select dis- tion of shifts, often will choose runs with set subscription patchers who can not only manage runs but can effectively riders. These runs are more stable from day to day and once manage the workforce they are assigned to oversee. Training learned are easier to perform than runs that involve a lot of dispatchers on how to manage the workforce in a positive way many-to-many trips. As a result, newer operators may end during times of stress can be very helpful. Selecting dispatch- up with more of the difficult run assignments which when ers who can work effectively with operators in a positive way combined with less knowledge of the area and less experi- is also important. ence with map reading, can impact performance and job satisfaction. Management Support Beyond the radio dispatchers, vehicle operators need the Dispatch Support support of others in the organization, particularly their direct The level of support received from radio dispatchers was also supervisors and the system managers. These other staff can a key factor noted by vehicle operators who participated in the have a major impact on the degree to which the organization focus groups. The importance of the relationship between operates effectively and as a team. Supervisors and managers vehicle operators and dispatchers is also well documented in need to understand the conditions under which vehicle oper- the literature. A lack of support by dispatchers or outright con- ators and other staff are operating and need to be supportive flict between vehicle operators and dispatchers can have a when appropriate. major impact on job satisfaction and performance. Several A lack of management support, or even worse--poor operators indicated that they recognize that the job of dis- management or dispatch--can undermine other efforts to patchers is very difficult but cited a lack of teamwork to address improve retention. Modest increases in wages, improvements difficult situations. in benefits, and improved training are not likely to be enough The provision of shared-ride ADA paratransit service is a to keep good employees if they feel that they are "on their difficult job even under the best of circumstances. With traf- own" when there are difficult paratransit operating issues or if fic, weather, missed customer connections, issues with riders, they are made to feel that service problems are "their fault." and other factors, it can be difficult to manage and perform a During focus groups, managers expressed their desire to schedule. In many areas, the situation is also exacerbated by make employees feel they are appreciated and listened to and the fact that resources are stretched to the limits. As a result, said they provide opportunities that encourage operators to scheduling is often tight. Service may sometimes run late and communicate their concerns. They spoke about regularly riders may often be upset with the service they are provided. scheduled open forums in which operators get to talk about In these situations, the daily provision of service can be even anything they want to discuss. Some organizations have more difficult. employee committees set up that employees can access if they Vehicle operators who provided input at the focus group need to air any concerns. meetings seemed to understand the pressures on the system TCRP Synthesis 71: Paratransit Manager's Skills, Qualifi- and the pressures that dispatchers were under. There was a cations, and Needs profiled four paratransit managers. One sense that they were willing to "share the load" and work manager stated that "good managers must be able to moti- with dispatchers to make the best of the situation they were vate the drivers in a manner that allows the driver to feel in. They did not, however, appreciate it when dispatchers `ownership' in the operation. . . . A good paratransit man- seemed to take out their frustrations and difficulties on ager must also ensure that the dispatchers, reservationists, them or did not seem to do their part in trying to address schedulers, and vehicle operators communicate effectively these issues as a team. Some of the feelings expressed with each other on an ongoing and consistent basis." In regard included: to employee involvement, comfortable settings, consistent