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10 CHAPTER THREE SURVEY RESULTS--A COMPILATION OF INNOVATIONS A survey of state DOTs, state and national associations, and automatic vehicle locator (AVL) systems], or initiating a new transit providers was conducted to discover additional inno- route in a rural area. vations at the local level. The response rate was 82% of those surveyed. In addition, other organizations were contacted The compilation consists of those innovations discov- for information on innovations. Although these organiza- ered in the survey process through professional contacts tions did not point to specific innovations, they were helpful and, in some cases, through the literature. The reader is also in directing the synthesis team to innovative operators. directed to several TCRP reports on innovations that were cited in chapter two. Innovations identified through prior The survey responses revealed many successful prac- research are not repeated in this synthesis. tices for rural transit, but few true innovations using the synthesis's definition of innovation. This was similar to the Innovative Agency Characteristics researchers' experience when conducting TCRP Report 70. Study efforts for the synthesis found a number of innovations Most innovators do not realize that what they are doing that revolved around transit agencies reinventing themselves is innovative. Responses such as "we just thought that was when confronted with a major loss of service. Faced with a common sense" or "I thought it was the logical thing to do" catastrophic loss of business, an organization can either rein- were frequent. Many of the respondents did not consider vent itself through change and innovation or fold its doors. that their practices might be innovative. Although inno- vations were discovered through the DOTs and state and Both Treasure Valley Transit (TVT) in Idaho and TRAX national association survey, others were discovered through based in Texas lost major portions of their service, but were the consultant's network of transit professionals throughout able to gain new service through concerted efforts to change the industry. and create new opportunities. Details of these two rural tran- sit agencies are discussed in the case study summaries that follow. PROACTIVE AND REACTIVE INNOVATORS TVT lost 60% of its service when most of its service The review and surveys indicated that there are two major area became urbanized and was absorbed into the service approaches to change: those who change out of necessity as area of the region's urban transit agency. TVT immediately a reaction to a problem, and those who change as a proactive started marketing its services to other communities in its measure. As seen in the next chapter, the case study opera- rural region, looking as far as 200 miles beyond its facility tors are innovators that produced change as a reaction to a location. TVT devised a plan to find new service; follow- problem (often potentially catastrophic). After the crisis was ing the plan essentially invented new markets; and the rural resolved, however, these systems and their managers became transit agency was able to grow all of its service back within proactive innovators. 2 years. TRAX, the rural transit provider for nine counties of COMPILATION OF INNOVATIONS northeastern Texas, lost its Medicaid contract, which com- prised about 40% of its service, in 2006. Similar to TVT, What is innovative? The definitions cited in chapter one TRAX chose to reinvent itself and start marketing its ser- were used to the greatest extent possible in assembling the vices to other entities. The rural transit agency now has compilation of innovations in this section. However, there many sponsors and constituents and has increased service is often a fine line between innovative and successful prac- beyond the 40% that it lost. TRAX went from a single-mode tice. Many of the "innovations" identified through the survey agency that operated only demand-response service to a sys- process may be over that line. For the most part, we have tem that reinvented itself as a multimodal provider to meet not included those responses that are only good practice the needs of the different new markets it created. TRAX now [examples include procuring smart bus technology such as operates fixed-route and commuter service, in addition to
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11 demand-response service, tailoring the service to the transit role in providing transportation for their increasing numbers needs of the various communities it now serves. of employees and guests. Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) in central Estuary Transit District (ETD) in Connecticut, while see- Vermont is a third example of rural transit agency reinven- ing an increase in the ranks of the elderly, has noted that the tion. In this case, the impetus was a new manager. He changed senior citizens of today are different from seniors in years the organization from a human service-oriented demand- past. According to ETD management, today's senior citizens response program with a handful of riders to a dynamic are healthier, more active, and more independent, which has system offering commuter service, regional service, local led to a decline in the percentage of seniors using public trans- fixed routes, and demand-response service, depending on portation. Because of the changing demographics and life the transit needs of the ridership markets that he recognized. styles of an important transit market segment, ETD decided Among the most visible results are significantly higher rid- to diversify and pursue a broader range of transit customers. ership levels. As part of the reinvention efforts, the manager has also forged new partnerships with the local college and Many of ETD's routes and schedules were designed to the adjacent transit systems, which have helped grow the transport seniors who were not working. This made the system and increase its stature in the community. routes unusable by the general public and seniors who were still working, a demographic that has increased in recent Service Responses to Changing Demographics years. So ETD changed many of its fixed routes and sched- ules as well as the hours of its demand-response service to The population in Williamson County, Texas, 20 miles north better accommodate customers' work hours. Work com- of Austin, is growing at record levels. Available data show mute times are now the busiest time of day for the demand- 100% population growth in the county from 1990 to 2000, response service. and growth continues at high levels (69% growth between 2001 and 2010). The addition of major businesses and uni- Historically, the Eureka Springs Transit System in versities in the area makes transit a high need. Despite the Arkansas has provided fixed-route services to the hundreds growing needs for transit, the local communities in the of thousands of tourists who visit the area each year. The county were not able to follow through with funding as the transit system is operated by the city of Eureka Springs, a economy had turned and local tax revenues had dwindled. small community, with a permanent population of just under Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS), a rural 2,400 people. Residents living outside the primary service transit agency based in Austin, Texas, recognized the need area believed they would benefit from an expanded transit for transit and responded with a network of intercity services system. Two years ago, the rural transit system expanded designed for regional connection. CARTS's buses will inter- its ADA complementary paratransit program, Share-A- line with CARTS's partners, Arrow Trailways and Grey- Ride. Using excess capacity in their ADA complementary hound, intercity carriers operating traditional over-the-road paratransit program has allowed the system to provide coaches. The service will also connect to the large urban transportation to areas outside the city at little additional transit's (Capital Metro) park-and-ride facility. The CARTS cost. Ridership on the Eureka Springs Transit System has buses will be listed in Greyhound and Arrows schedule increased as more riders now have access to fixed-route ser- guide, and a passenger will be able to get a ticket to go any- vice and the system has gained significant recognition in the where in the country through the CARTS network. community for expanding its services. Faced with increasing population and a growing need TriCounty Link, a rural system in Moncks Corner, South for its residents to travel to employment opportunities in Carolina, implemented new commuter routes to meet the a neighboring community, Dover, Idaho, applied for and changing transportation needs of its residents. The system received transit funding to purchase a bus. The small com- initiated three new "commuter solution" routes in 2008 and munity of Dover realized that it did not have the funding offered free rides on the service as part of a 90-day intro- resources to operate transit service by itself. Working with ductory period. The commuter routes pick up customers from the Community Transit Association of Idaho's (CTAI) park-and-ride locations in the rural areas and transport them mobility manager, Dover joined forces with other small cit- to locations where they can connect with the urban system's ies in the region, which offered portions of their hotel bed tax express bus service in Charleston. Customers were offered to support the transit operation that they recognized would free service, not only on the new commuter routes but also benefit their own communities as well. One of the region's throughout the entire fixed-route system for a 3-month period. communities recently won an election for a hotel bed tax that The free rides, plus an added incentive for customers to enter is dedicated for public transit. With the dramatic growth of a drawing to win a free trip to Las Vegas, jumpstarted rider- tourism in northern Idaho, the hotels support the funding ship on the new service. Ridership doubled within 3 weeks of of transit service because they recognize transit's important the start-up date, and customers expressed their satisfaction
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12 with the new service. The new service showed a 40% increase ees--decide how FTA funding is allocated. The division has in ridership after the 90-day trial. recently handed this planning program to CTAI to provide vision, management, and oversight of the new I-way plan- Few rural systems have grown as rapidly as Maui Tran- ning process. sit (Hawaii). A fixed-route service was implemented on the island in 2006; in its first month, 30,000 trips were provided. CTAI works with mobility stakeholders and the public at Over the next 18 months, service increased 400% to almost large to identify issues of concern, articulate desired future 120,000 one-way trips in January 2008 (Figure 1). Manage- conditions, and identify the opportunities and work needed ment quickly realized that the system would need to catch to achieve that future. CTAI has also hired six mobil- up to this growth. Forty-foot transit coaches were ordered ity managers, locally based, to guide the process. Most and a full-scale bus stop inventory was conducted. This was important, each of the state's six districts determines how perhaps the first time a full bus inventory with an interactive its funding is allocated in an open forum, which is a truly electronic database was used in a rural transit environment. transparent process. Each of the 120 bus stops was assessed for amenities, acces- sibility, safety, and appropriateness. All were photographed JAUNT, the rural transit system based in Charlottesville, and their exact locations were determined using satellite nav- Virginia, has taken an innovative approach to the mobil- igation; the stops were all placed in a geographic informa- ity manager position. This mobility manager's job includes tion system database. The needs for each stop were assessed developing plans for human service agencies that oper- and prioritized. The database is used for capital planning, ate their own service. The goals of the mobility manager maintenance of the stops, and determining whether persons include helping agencies use transportation resources more with disabilities can access the bus stop. effectively. The mobility manager identifies deficiencies in a human service agency operation and works with the agen- cies to come up with an appropriate solution. JAUNT rea- sons that if they cannot combine operations, at least they can improve the agencies' services and gain a level of trust for future efforts. Alternative Service Modes It is widely recognized that paratransit is the most expensive form of transit on a per trip basis because of its low pro- ductivity. At the same time, it is arguably the most difficult form of transit to operate because of the constant change. Alternative service modes, in part, seek to reduce the role of paratransit. CARTS, in Texas, developed a new rural hybrid service design called "fixed-schedule" service. That is, the FIGURE 1 Maui Transit's transfer center struggled to keep up service is available in a designated community to designated with ridership. destinations on a fixed-schedule basis. Passengers can still be picked up at the curb, but they must adhere to a schedule. Involvement in Transportation Planning Process This arrangement significantly improved productivity. Fig- ure 2 is a sample of this type of schedule. CTAI and the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) have taken public participation in the transportation planning pro- Immediate-response dial-a-ride service can offer some cess to a new level through a participation process known as service and operational advantages in selected areas, such as "I-way" (I-way.org). those where the service area is relatively small and compact. Immediate response service remains the mode of choice in ITD's Division of Public Transportation embraced some parts of the country, including small, rural commu- the challenge of major change to its planning process to nities in places such as Wilmington, Ohio; Ludington and enhance mobility and provide a transparent planning pro- Ionia, Michigan; Cleburne, Texas; and Fresno, California. cess. ITD has given each of 17 mobility networks, formed into six districts, which are composed of stakeholders, the Ben Franklin Transit, in rural central Washington State, decision-making powers related to FTA funding in rural operates a vanpool program that has successfully grown to areas (Section 5310--Elderly and Disabled, Section 5311-- become the fourth largest in the nation through a variety of Rural Transit, Section 5316--New Freedom, and Section practices, some that would be considered successful prac- 5317--Job Access and Reverse Commute [JARC]). Under tices and others innovative. Most innovative about this pro- this arrangement, the local stakeholders--not ITD employ- gram is that a small urban/rural transit system has embraced
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13 FIGURE 2 Sample fixed schedule guide. [Source : CARTS website.] ridesharing to this extent. This is another idea, such as the Vanpool drivers are required to attend a workshop, which bicycle rack, that could have been embraced by most rural covers defensive driving with hands-on practice, mainte- transit systems years ago. nance, accident procedures, and more. Rider fares are charged
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14 as a fixed-cost plus per-mile rate that varies by the size of the "self-organize" a vanpool, with local government providing vehicle and number of days the van operates per year. The equipment, insurance, and other logistics. These vanpools fares cover capital costs, insurance, maintenance, the cost of now cover 4.8 million miles a year, giving rural workers a a guaranteed ride home program, and fuel. Some employers safe and sustainable lifeline to work. KCAPTA's services help subsidize the vanpool costs for their employees. The include 23 rural bus routes and 346 vanpool services. program has been so successful that larger vehicles are now needed. The transit agency is training vanpool drivers to use Outreach, Education, and Training 25 passenger cutaways (also innovative in and of itself). Many systems are changing the way they communicate with The New Mexico Park and Ride program has the larg- the public. Typical now is a web page, email, Facebook, est service area of any public transit provider in the State of and other electronic communications techniques. Ark-Tex New Mexico. The program has routes in northern, central, TRAX based in northeastern Texas has a website and email and southern New Mexico, with one route extending into but started a new approach to communicate with its riders west Texas. During the past 5 years, the program has secured with its "Meeting on a Bus" program. TRAX, like many rights to use lots or stops on property owned or controlled by rural transit systems, has had difficulty in generating inter- two federal agencies, two tribal entities, one university, eight est in a public meeting. Experience indicates that people will local governments, and six private property owners. not attend a meeting unless drastic cuts or major changes are being made to the service or if the service is really poor. Baltimore County's (Maryland) specialized transporta- "Meeting on a Bus" brings the meeting to riders who would tion program, known as CountyRide, uses the sophisticated otherwise not provide input to the transit agency. TRAX des- computerized scheduling/dispatch system Trapeze (with ignates a location for the meeting and sets up the bus with interactive voice response/interactive web response), but in posters, maps, and informational materials. TRAX uses the an unusual and innovative way. The transportation program local media (newspapers and radio), getting interviews and takes trip requests in advance, but schedules the trips in real raising awareness. Management has stated that it helps to time, digitally dispatching the trips to drivers to optimize have coffee, water, and pastries. Initial meetings through the scheduling. CountyRide also uses the real-time dispatching "Meeting on a Bus" program have expanded public meeting function to collect fare and service data. participants 10-fold over previous meetings. As rural areas change and commuters with young fami- The Modoc Transportation Agency (MTA)/Sage Stage lies move in, services geared toward children and their Bus in rural northern California has taken its driver training families may be an important option. In Zanesville, Ohio, program public. The rural transit agency trains not just its the South East Transit Authority recognized that a growing own drivers, but those at several local social service trans- population of single working mothers created a need for reli- portation providers, and also provides periodic driver safety able services to transport children to and from daycare. In courses to the general public at three local senior centers. response, the transit authority implemented a successful ser- The latter practice has been extremely valuable in market- vice transporting children to and from the local Early Start ing the agency's transit services, which has in turn increased program, adding a paid part-time attendant to ride with the ridership. The practice also has built "goodwill" and positive children, securing their seat belts and ensuring their safety recognition in the transit agency's rural area. and comfort while on board. The Community Transportation Association of Virginia The IT Network in Portland, Maine, charges different developed a simple training education tool by printing driver fares for individual travel and shared ride service; riders emergency procedures on the driver clipboard. This leaves willing to wait longer, be flexible in their pick-up times, and nothing to chance in an emergency, as the driver can quickly incur longer ride times are charged less. Riders who wish refer to his or her clipboard for guidance. to travel immediately and alone are charged premium fares. The fare differentials make the premium services more The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has attractive to well-off retirees who have migrated to rural developed a network of intercity services. These intercity areas, yet steers other riders to the lowest cost service that routes are competitively procured, and each is specifically meets their needs. branded and marketed to the public. ODOT has implemented two routes, with a third in the planning stage. The service The Kings County Area Public Transportation Agency is supported by web-based information. ODOT is now in (KCAPTA) innovative system of vanpools and rural buses the process of developing a full management information ensures access to schools, jobs, and medical services in the system to better monitor service and make adjustments as rural reaches of California's San Joaquin Valley. The system needed. This service is highlighted as a case study in the provides a safe, practical way for workers at a job site to next chapter.
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15 JAUNT in Virginia has recently launched a new twist to market, the communities and their hotels recognize the need the mobility manager function--that of a mentoring/train- to support local transit. ing role with human service agencies that operate their own vehicles. The goals of the mobility management program are The CTAI mobility manager in Ponderay, Idaho, also to help human service agencies use transportation resources has worked with local cities and agencies and the tourism more effectively, identify gaps in service that prevent clients industry to generate revenue for a new transit system, in from getting the services they need, and link resources with part using hotel tax from an election won in 2010. ACTR in needs to improve mobility. Vermont also has had success in generating tax revenue at the local level. Although becoming a public system was important to the JAUNT Board of Directors, there was a desire for the A number of transit systems have generated revenue from agency to reconnect with human transportation providers agreements with "big box" stores and grocery stores. These in the area. This mobility management project provided examples have been well documented in TCRP Report 70. the opportunity to renew relationships with local human Examples can include advertising, provision of direct ser- service agencies and engage them in mobility management vice, and bus shelters. services. The project also allowed JAUNT to assess how the landscape has changed over the years since the organization Mountain Rides Transit Authority in Idaho receives was formed and to identify new opportunities for coordina- local funding in part from local option sales tax. The transit tion. Although there have been no surprises in this assess- authority has been able to better leverage the funding dol- ment, JAUNT reports that it has provided the opportunity to lars available by consolidating three organizations (dollars reacquaint some human service agencies with the services go farther with less overhead, etc.). The funding has enabled provided by JAUNT. the authority to respond to service needs in areas not previ- ously served. Leveraging Funding Opportunities With limited resources, support, or funding, Kingman Generating local matching funds remains one of the greatest Area Regional Transit in Arizona uses many types of bar- barriers facing many rural transit systems. Some states can- tering to achieve its goals while limiting expenses for the not spend all of their FTA funds because of lack of a match agency. As one example, advertising on the buses is traded at the local level. Some transit systems have had success in with the local cell phone provider for mobile cell phones and generating local revenue through local elections. In Idaho, usage. where local funding is limited and there is no state fund- ing for transportation, several systems have successfully JAUNT has had great success generating local funding appealed to local voters with passage of a hotel tax dedicated and ties its service levels to the level of local funding avail- to transit. TVT in Idaho is one such system, with several of able. Management includes a community relations special- the small communities it serves passing a hotel tax to help ist, whose job includes working with each local community provide local funds for the service. With a growing tourism about the importance of the local match.