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Rural DRT performance can be assessed in different ways. One of the common ways is to com- pare similar systems against each other, but which systems are similar? Why are they similar? This chapter develops a typology of rural demand-responsive systems, so systems are grouped with other systems according to criteria that influence performance. Preliminary to that, it is use- ful to identify the factors that influence DRT performance and different performance assessment methodologies. 5.1 Factors Influencing Rural DRT Performance There are many different factors that affect the performance of a DRT system. For rural sys- tems, one often thinks first of the size of the service area as a major factor affecting performance. This is true for many rural systems, with some serving multi-county areas and providing trip lengths that exceed 100 or more miles. Long trips have a negative affect on DRT productivity, lim- iting the number of passenger trips that can be carried each hour. It is also true that this factor is one that is generally classified as uncontrollable: something that the DRT system manager cannot change. There may, however, be actions that the DRT system might take if providing DRT for a very large service area becomes cost-prohibitive, in which case service-area size could be consid- ered partially controllable. For example, the system could propose service provision to far distant parts of the service area only on a several-days-per-week or even several-days-per-month basis. Beyond size of service area, other uncontrollable factors include the weather and related âActs of God.â However, most of the factors affecting DRT performance are controllable, or at least partially controllable, by the DRT manager. For example, a controllable factor affecting DRT per- formance is the level of scheduling skills possessed by the DRT system. This is highly important for ensuring that effective manifests are created for the vehicle operators, with logical groupings of passenger trips and efficient sequencing of pick-ups and drop-offs at the same time ensuring the riders are picked up on-time and do not have excessive travel times. A DRT manager can improve the systemâs level of scheduling skills by ensuring that the scheduler or schedulers bring appropriate experience to the position, that initial and ongoing training are provided, that the wage and benefit package encourages stability in the position, that appropriate âtoolsâ are pro- vided for doing the job, and that there are opportunities for feedback from the operators and others out on the road for a âreality checkâ on the manifests. Table 5-1 lists the major factors that affect DRT performance. Each factor is identified as con- trollable, partially controllable, or uncontrollable. Some circumspection is needed when reading this table. Because a factor is listed as controllable does not mean that a DRT manager can neces- sarily influence that factor quickly or completely. For example, the factor maintenance costs is generally considered a controllable factor (6). A DRT manager does control maintenance practices 33 C H A P T E R 5 Assessing Performanceâ A Typology of Rural DRT
and procedures including the preventive maintenance program, which helps prevent premature major equipment failures and frequent breakdowns. However, the system may have old vehicles that are miles beyond their official useful life, making it more costly to keep the vehicles road- worthy. To procure new vehicles typically requires time and funding from the state or other funding entities, factors that the DRT manager does not control. However, on a day-to-day basis, the DRT manager is responsible for the costs for maintenance; to list maintenance expenses as something other than controllable would ignore this fact. Controllable Factors The factors over which DRT managers have direct influence relate to â¢ Vehicle operators: â Hiring practices and training; â Wages and benefits paid to operators (although these are influenced by the local econ- omy and compensation for similar types of jobs); 34 Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance Table 5-1. Factors influencing DRT performance. Factor âControlâ by DRT System? Operations Hiring practices and training for vehicle operators Controllable Operator wages and benefits Controllable / Partially Controllable Timely vehicle pull-outs with back-up operator availability Controllable Relationship of paid operator-hours to vehicle-hours Controllable Wages and benefits for other operating staff Controllable / Partially Controllable Deadhead time and miles Partially Controllable Average system speed Partially Controllable Scheduling/Dispatch Skills in creating effective manifests Controllable Matching vehicle-hours to ridership demand Controllable Service Policies Related to No-shows and late cancellations Controllable Length of advance reservation period Controllable Service span: days and hours of service Controllable Rider assistance: door-to-door, curb-to-curb, packages, child car seat, etc. Controllable Vehicles Vehicle type and mix; vehicle specifications Partially Controllable Vehicle condition and maintenance practices Controllable Maintenance expenses Controllable Administration Staffing and administrative expenses Controllable Safety Safety policies and procedures Controllable Systemâs âculture of safetyâ Controllable Service-Area Environment Service-area size, roadway network, density, land use patterns, constraints (e.g., mountains, bridges, railroad crossings) Uncontrollable Strength of local economy/job market, affecting employment environment Uncontrollable Weather and âActs of Godâ Uncontrollable Other Type of ridership: ADA only, limited eligibility, general public Uncontrollable Contractual constraints: rules imposed by human service agencies that contract for service (e.g., maximum ride time, etc.) Partially Controllable Type of operator (city/county, transit authority, private contractor, taxi co.) Partially Controllable Demand for DRT service Partially Controllable Ridersâ no-shows and late cancellations Partially Controllable Ridersâ dwell time Partially Controllable
â Timely pull-outs with back-up availability; and â Practices impacting the relationship of paid operator-hours to vehicle-hours (such as vaca- tion, absenteeism, and other time for which operators are paid but are not providing pas- senger transportation). â¢ Other operating staffâscheduler, dispatch, operations supervisor: â Hiring practices and training; and â Wages and benefits for these other operating staff. â¢ Scheduling/dispatch: â Ability to create effective and efficient manifests for operators; and â Extent to which scheduled vehicle-hours match ridership demand patterns. â¢ Operating policies related to: â No-shows and late cancellationsâeffectiveness of the DRT systemâs policies and ability to monitor and manage rider infractions; â Length of the advance reservation window; â Days and hours of operation and, for large service areas, limiting days/hours of service for specific geographic areas; and â Passenger assistanceâcurb-to-curb, door-to-door or door-through-door, handling rid- ersâ personal items such as grocery bags, and use of child safety seats. â¢ Vehicles: â Vehicle condition and maintenance practices. While generally under the control of DRT systems, those with old fleets will need to expend more effort (and cost) to keep their vehicles in operative condition. â Maintenance expenses. Costs related to vehicle condition and maintenance practices are generally controllable by the DRT system although these are impacted by the age and type of vehicles. â¢ Administrative expenses: â How efficiently can the system administer the service, particularly in the number of staff positions required for administration and costs for that administration. â¢ Safety: â Policies and procedures related to safety; and â A management emphasis and commitment to safe operations can influence the DRT systemâs safety record. Uncontrollable Factors Factors over which DRT managers have no control include the following: â¢ Service-area environmentâthis is a critical factor, impacting all aspects of DRT service: â Characteristics such as size, density, land use patterns, roadway network (including unpaved roads) and service area constraints such as rivers with limited bridge crossings and mountains that limit access through the service area, steep terrain (especially in areas that experience heavy snow and ice), and railroad crossings with frequent intersection delays for vehicular traffic have strong impacts on DRT performance. These influence trip lengths, travel times, opportunities to group rides for improved productivity, on-time performance, and average system speed. Areas with limited wireless phone or radio coverage restrict the ability to adjust schedules for late cancellations or to respond to vehicle breakdowns. â¢ Strength of the local economyâthis affects employment and wage scales, which influences the ease or difficulty in hiring vehicle operators and other transit system staff and the wage/benefits levels that the system must offer. â¢ Type of ridershipâDRT systems typically have no or very limited control over the type of riders that are served, whether ADA paratransit, limited eligibility, or general public. â¢ Weather and other âActs of God.â Assessing PerformanceâA Typology of Rural DRT 35
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 â¢ Operational issues: â 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. â 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. â 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. â 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 ridersâ access to the vehicle) and the degree to which riders adhere to the policy. â¢ Vehicles: â 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. â Vehicle specifications: appropriate capacity, adequate accessibility, fuel economy, appropriate for weather and terrain (within the parameters of the stateâs Section 5311 Program or of other procurement schemes). â¢ Other factors: â 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. â 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. â Demand for DRT service: ridersâ 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. 36 Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance
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 âon-timeâ 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. Assessing PerformanceâA Typology of Rural DRT 37 Figure 5-1. Example of DRT productivity trends. 0.00 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 Jan Feb Mar Apr May June Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Pa ss en ge r T rip s/ Re ve nu e Ho ur 2005 2006 2007 Implemented computer- assisted scheduling/ dispatch technology.
Comparison to Peers Peer comparison is another and a common approach to assessing DRT performance. With this approach, the DRT system identifies a number of other systems that share basic character- istics, researches the performance of those similar systems on selected performance measures, and compares its own performance with that of the peers. Sometimes these peer assessments are done at the state level for comparisons of Section 5311 systems across the state. Peer assessments may include caveats, stating something to the effect that peer system com- parisons should be âtreated with cautionâ because although selected DRT systems may share similarities, there are differences that influence performance. This means that direct compar- isons are not exactly âapples with apples.â It may, therefore, be more appropriate to compare a DRT systemâs performance with the range of performance achieved by similar systems rather than with specific individual numbers. Peer comparisons provide useful information for a DRT system interested in knowing the per- formance of other rural systems on specific measures. The range of performance achieved by peer systems provides a context for a rural system to look at its own performance in comparison with that range. This can be a valuable exercise. Choosing peers, however, may not always be straightforward. One of the objectives of this research project was to develop categories of DRT systems so that the systems in each category share criteria affecting performance. With groupings of similar systems, peer assessments would be more appropriate. The development of this categorization of DRT systems is discussed next. 5.3 Categorization of Rural DRT Systems Measuring a DRT system against similar systems can be useful for assessing performance. However, with the many different systems across the country, it may not always be clear as to which DRT systems are similar enough to be appropriate peers. Typology of DRT Systems Based on Criteria Affecting Performance At an early stage of the research project, DRT systems were categorized as either urban or rural, given the significant differences between the two. With this division, then, it was determined that two guidebooks would be developed: one targeted to urban systems (TCRP Report 124) and the second to rural systems, which is this Guidebook (TCRP Report 136). However, in addition to urban versus rural, there are a number of other criteria affecting performance: â¢ Ridership market served, â¢ Service area or operating environment, â¢ Type of routing and scheduling, â¢ Advanced request versus immediate request service, â¢ Type of organizationâtransportation only versus multi-purpose agency, â¢ Type of operatorâpublic agency versus contractor, â¢ Dedicated versus non-dedicated vehicles, â¢ Use of advanced technology, â¢ Door-to-door versus curb-to-curb service, â¢ Use of volunteers, â¢ Provision of Medicaid non-emergency transportation, and â¢ Vehicle operating experience. These criteria are reviewed below. 38 Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance
Criteria Influencing DRT Performance Ridership Market Served A significant characteristic influencing DRT performance is the type of riders that are served (6, 7). In the early years of DRT in the 1970s, a major distinction was made between systems that served the general public and systems that served specific population segments of the commu- nity, often seniors and persons with disabilities. In terms of performance, DRT systems serving the general public can typically achieve higher productivities than systems serving specialized markets, for a number of reasons: â¢ The pool of potential riders from the general public is larger, creating a higher density of potential demand. â¢ Dwell time at pick-up locations is shorter for general public riders. This includes both the established wait time, set by policy, and the time needed for rider boarding and alighting. Data from a number of DRT systems in the mid 1990s found that dwell times at pick-ups for ambulatory riders, which make up the large majority of general public riders, averaged 2 to 4 min, while that for riders using wheelchairs, which may be a significant portion of the specialized rider market, was 4 to 6 min (8). â¢ There tend to be fewer late cancellations and no-shows at systems serving the general pub- lic as general public riders are typically less likely to cancel trips on short notice or no-show trips because of health issues and inclement weather. In the years since the ADA legislation was enacted, a key performance distinction among DRT systems is between those that function as ADA paratransit and those that do not (5, 9, and 10). Importantly, the ADA regulations establish requirements that systems must meet, a number of which essentially set general or specific standards that affect performance (5). Among these include regulations that specify when and where service is to be provided, the fare structure parameters, that all trip purposes be served, that trip requests be taken for next-day service, and that capacity constraints are not allowed. DRT systems that are not ADA paratransit do not have to meet these requirements and have more flexibility in providing service, which means that the DRT systems have more latitude to make changes to improve performance. This criterionâtype of ridership market servedâis particularly significant for urban DRT systems since many urban DRT systems function as ADA paratransit services, with different parameters impacting performance than is the case for limited eligibility or general public DRT systems. Given the important distinctions, ridership market served was one of the criteria used to categorize urban DRT systems for TCRP Report 124. Most rural DRT systems, however, are available to the gen- eral public rather than being limited to specific rider groups, so differences in the rider groups served are less useful for catego- rizing rural systems. To the extent that rural systems operate fixed-route service, however, they have to provide ADA service as a complement to their fixed routes; these systems will have to ensure that their ADA paratransit services meet established regulations. Service Area or Operating Environment The service area influences DRT performance in several significant ways: number of people living in the service area, geographic size, and distribution of residential areas and trip destina- tion areas. A service area with a larger population will have a larger pool of potential riders. A service area that is large geographically will tend to have longer trip lengths, and a low-density dispersion of residential areas and trip destinations across a service area will also mean longer trip lengths and less opportunity to group trips. Assessing PerformanceâA Typology of Rural DRT 39 âService to ALL People, of ALL Ages, for ALL Reasons!â
For a large geographic service area, whether there is just one major center of commerce and retail or two or more centers will also impact DRT trip lengths. With just one major community in a large rural area and with a dispersion of residential areas, many DRT trip lengths will be long. However, if there are two or more larger communities with the same dispersion of residential areas, the DRT system may be able to focus at least some of the trips (e.g., shopping) to the closer communities. In this way, the DRT system may be able to reduce the number of longer trips. Trip length is a particularly important performance factor: DRT systems can serve fewer longer trips in a given amount of time compared with shorter trips, which impacts both productivity and cost per passenger trip (5). Other aspects of the service area may also impact performanceâfor example, geographic fea- tures influencing the ease or difficulty of travel throughout the community. Geographic features such as mountains or coastal barrier islands may limit the highway network so that DRT systems serving such areas have longer trip distances and travel times compared with other DRT systems serving areas where the highway network is not similarly constrained. The service-area criterion has been used to categorize both urban DRT and rural DRT systems for purposes of the research project. For urban systems, service area is defined by population size of the service area, with categories commonly used in the transit industry: small urban, with pop- ulations from 50,000 to 200,000; large urban, with populations from 200,000 to 1 million; and largest urban, with populations greater than 1 million. The urban DRT systems were categorized first by this criterion, then by ridership market served. For rural DRT, the service-area criterion is also used to categorize the systems. Rather than population size, the general geographic size of the service area is used, defined by the three main categories of service area that are used for Rural NTD reporting: municipal (primarily serving a single municipality or town), county (serving primarily a single county), and multi-county (serving primarily within the boundaries of two or more counties). Type of Routing and Scheduling The type of routing and scheduling structure has an important influence on DRT operations and performance (5â7, 9â11). DRT systems with a very flexible or unconstrained routing/scheduling structure will not be as productive as those with a less flexible, constrained structure. The dis- tinction is often described as âmany-to-many,â with many different pick-ups going to many dif- ferent destinations, versus âmany-to-few,â âfew-to-few,â or âfew-to-one,â where groups of riders are transported to only a few drop-offs or just one drop-off. The former type of DRT will have many individualized trips, with less opportunity for shared riding and thus fewer trips provided in a given amount of time, whereas the latter have more opportunity to group passengers since there are limited destinations. The grouping of passenger trips will increase productivity and decrease cost per passenger trip. In order to increase the ability to group trips, many rural DRT systems operate some con- strained service, with service to and from specific parts of the service area or to and from specific destinations operated on a fixed schedule. For example, a county-based system may serve an out- lying small community at a set time each day: a vehicle is scheduled to depart at a fixed time from that community at 9:00 A.M and then is scheduled to arrive in the countyâs main town 90 min later. Individuals in the outlying community who wish to travel to the main town would book a ride for the 9:00 A.M trip, with the DRT vehicle then scheduled for individualized rider pick-ups in the small community and drop-offs in the main town. In this way, the rural DRT system has grouped ridersâ trips from the outlying community by constraining them to a set schedule. Such hybrid demand/scheduled service might be seen as âfew-to-few.â While the type of routing/scheduling has an important affect on DRT performance, it is dif- ficult to capture with discrete categories since DRT systems are not solely many-to-many or 40 Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance
many-to-one or few-to-one and so on. DRT systems typically have a mix of trip types using dif- ferent routing/scheduling schemes. Advanced Request versus Immediate Request Service From the perspective of a DRT system, there are several performance differences between immediate and advance request service. With immediate request service, a DRT system is able to change and insert trips on a real-time basis, providing the opportunity for higher productivity (12). Cancellations and no-shows are less frequent with immediate response DRT systems (13). With advance reservation service, however, a DRT system can focus on refining the service-day schedule and operatorsâ manifests, providing an opportunity for performance improvements. Late cancellations and no-shows, however, will negate some of this effort, creating âholesâ in oper- atorsâ schedules. DRT research has found, using simulation of advanced technology, that there is a 4% to 5% decrease in productivity for every 10% increase in the late cancellation rate (14). Performance data from the sample of rural DRT systems that participated in this research project show that those systems operating as immediate response have a higher productivity than those operating as advance response. The difference is over two passenger trips per hour. (It should be noted that immediate response service is not appropriate in all service areas; this is discussed in more detail in Chapter 7.) While this is a significant performance difference, this criterion has not been used for the typology of DRT systems since the distinction between the two types of scheduling is not a clear and discrete one. As was found in the research, DRT systemsâeven if immediate responseâ provide some subscription service, which is advance reservation service; most DRT systems pro- vide some immediate response service, such as will-calls or âurgent trips,â albeit for many DRT systems, such immediate response service is only a small proportion. Type of OrganizationâTransportation-Only versus Multi-Purpose Agency The type of organization that provides DRT service is another criterion that has been found in prior research to have some affect on cost performance, at least for rural systems. Specifically, an early TCRP study of rural transit suggested that rural services be distinguished between those provided by agencies that function as transportation-only agencies and those provided by multi- purpose agencies (11). That study found wide cost differences between the two types of agencies and reported that such differ- ences seem to reflect different accounting and reporting proce- dures: administrative and overhead costs are spread among dif- ferent services and programs for multi-purpose agencies while transportation-only agencies absorb all administrative and over- head costs. Cost differences, according to the study, may also result from operating practices since multi-purpose agencies may be more likely to use volunteers. Given the cost differences that were found, that study separated the rural agencies on this criterion for purposes of presenting performance data. Some cost differences by type of organization were also found among urban DRT systems through analyses done for this research project. Based on the performance data from the urban DRT systems, it was found that those urban DRT systems oper- ated by transit districts and transit authorities tended to have a higher cost structure than those operated by other types of organizations, predominately cities, as measured by operating Assessing PerformanceâA Typology of Rural DRT 41
cost per revenue-hour. A transit district or authority generally has a full complement of functions needed for transit within one organization, and full cost accounting is more standard when com- pared with other organization types that are not transit only. Recent TCRP research (TCRP Report 127) on transit employee compensation at rural and small urban transit systems looked at employee wages and benefits at different types of transit organizations (15). This research found that non-profit agencies provide lower compensation compared with transit authorities and governmental units (e.g., cities, counties); this will impact the organizationâs cost structure, given that labor is the largest single operating cost component. Furthermore, that studyâs data also suggest that non-profit organizations tend to be the more frequent transit provider in multi-county areas compared with providers in primarily single- municipal or primarily single-county service areas. These findings suggest that the cost struc- ture for rural transit systems operating in multi-county areas will be somewhat lower compared with rural systems in the primarily municipal and primarily single-county service areas, and the performance data from the rural DRT systems participating in this research study bear this out. Data from the studyâs sample of rural DRT systems show that the average operating cost per hour for systems in the multi-county service area are less than the average cost per hour for systems in the other two service-area categories, by roughly 30% to 35%. While type of organization has not been chosen as a criterion to further categorize DRT sys- tems for this Guidebook, to some extent the categorization by service-area type captures cost dif- ferences suggested by organization type, at least for the multi-county category, where the more common organization type is a non-profit agency. Type of OperatorâPublic Agency versus Contractor DRT systems can be differentiated by whether they are directly operated by a public agency versus privately operated by contract (5, 16, and 17). This criterion is more significant for urban DRT systems as the large majority of rural systems operate services directly (4). The major performance distinction between the two types of operator is generally considered to be cost. With differences in labor costs between public and private transit entities and the fact that labor is the dominant component of transit operating costs, it is generally accepted that DRT services that are contracted to private entities may result in some cost savings compared with services directly operated by a public entity. Recent research based on data from urban systems suggests that cost differences may not be statistically significant, however (18). According to this research, this in part may be due to use of financial penalties for contracted service, to the extent that contractors may be bidding price structures that cover expected losses due to the penalties, or to the scheduling of vehicles in such way as to avoid conditions that result in the penalties. Dedicated versus Non-Dedicated Vehicles The issue of dedicated versus non-dedicated vehicles is impor- tant from several perspectives when differentiating types of DRT service. A âdedicatedâ vehicle is one that is used only for the DRT service; a ânon-dedicatedâ vehicle is one that is used for the DRT service some of the time, but is used for other trans- portation purposes when not in use for the DRT system. A taxi vehicle is a good example of a non-dedicated vehicle. A city may purchase its DRT service from a local taxi company, with DRT service provided through user-side subsidies to eligi- ble riders, for example, with coupons or tickets. The taxi vehi- cles provide DRT service when providing a trip to an eligible coupon holder, but provide private taxi service when transport- ing other types of riders. 42 Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance
Use of non-dedicated service may improve cost efficiency since the public entity sponsor pur- chases only that amount of service that is needed; yet, dedicated service provides more control to the sponsoring public agency, which may result in somewhat higher quality service. From a data-collection perspective, data collection may be somewhat more difficult with non-dedicated services, particularly taxis, and this may impact efforts of the public entity sponsor in monitor- ing performance. Use of Advanced Technology Considerable research has been conducted that analyzes the impact of advanced technology on DRT performance, with the general conclusions being that use of advanced technology provides various performance improvements. In particular, the literature suggests that use of CASD systems can improve productivity (18â22) although reportedly the magnitude of improvement was generally not large. Improvements in such areas as the reservations function, dynamic dispatching, and providing improved information to riders have also been reported (22). In addition to CASD, an AVL system has been found to improve DRT performance, according to some published accounts and research (14, 23â25). Improvements relate to higher on-time performance and productivity gains to the extent that the real-time information provided through AVL can be used to make scheduling adjustments. For rural transit, advanced technology has also been found to facilitate performance improvements in customer service with improved information available to give to riders, improved system safety, reduced data entry time, and improved control of vehicle operators and their hours (26). Door-to-Door versus Curb-to-Curb Service The distinction between DRT that operates as door to door and curb to curb is another crite- rion affecting DRT operations and performance. From an operational perspective, door-to-door service is sometimes considered to increase dwell time, measured as the time that the vehicle spends from the time it arrives at the pick-up or drop-off location to the time that it departs, given that the vehicle operator goes to the door of the passengerâs building at both the pick-up and drop-off to provide assistance to and from the vehicle. However, the paratransit industry lacks good, quantifiable data as to the extent of the effect, and there are some who maintain that door-to-door service may shorten dwell time (at least at the pick-up end). This is because the operator announces his arrival by going to the riderâs door (rather than sitting passively in his vehicle and waiting for the rider) and then helps the rider negotiateâand perhaps negotiate more quickly with the assistanceâthe distance from the pick-up building to the vehicle. The level of rider assistanceâdoor-to-door versus curb-to-curb serviceâis a performance- related criterion that receives more attention at urban DRT systems than at rural systems. Rural DRT systems typically have a policy regarding the level of rider assistance that is offered, but there is often considerable flexibility with respect to individual ridersâ assistance needs. Use of Volunteers The use of volunteers for DRT is another practice that affects DRT performance. DRT systems, particularly in rural areas and smaller communities, may use volunteers as drivers in conjunction Assessing PerformanceâA Typology of Rural DRT 43
with paid drivers; these systems may also use volunteers to serve in other capacities, such as administrative assistance (5, 27). Use of volunteers will provide a different cost structure than a system that uses only paid staff. For example, if operat- ing statistics for the volunteer component are included in the systemâs total operating data and costs, performance on mea- sures that use operating costs may look âbetterâ given that there will be no labor costs for the volunteers. This research study found that only one of the participating rural DRT systems uses volunteers on a regular basis, and oper- ating data and costs for this service component are kept sepa- rate from other DRT services. This allows the rural system to assess its volunteer component as a distinct service and not one that is commingled with the rest of the systemâs services. Provision of Medicaid Non-Emergency Transportation The provision of Medicaid non-emergency transportation is yet another factor that can affect the operations and performance of DRT systems. According to research, its impact on DRT per- formance is mixed (28). Providing Medicaid transportation may have the potential to enhance performance as the addition of the Medicaid clients adds to the pool of riders, thus allowing the system to schedule more trips per unit of service supplied. Yet, Medicaid trips may also hinder performance. Where such trips are long to distant med- ical facilities, performance will be negatively impacted. Other Medicaid-related factors can neg- atively impact performance, including the level of recordkeeping required for Medicaid trans- portation providers and the eligibility verification process, which can be difficult and time consuming. Additionally, state Medicaid agencies typically require specific software programs to interface with central state records, and these programs are expensive to purchase. Importantly, Medicaidâs impacts on DRT service are affected by location since Medicaid is a state-administered program, with each state determining its own approach to providing Medic- aid transportation and with varying requirements on the transportation providers. Some states have very stringent requirements for Medicaid transportation, similar to ADA paratransit requirements, which can significantly impact DRT performance. The analysis of data and information collected from the rural DRT systems participating in this research project suggests that the impacts of Medicaid transportation are particularly affected by the distances that must be traveled to serve the medical destinations, with high mileage and time-consuming trips. Several of the systems have developed practices which try to mitigate some of these service impacts, such as serving the distant facilities only on selected days each week (not all states allow systems to implement such practices). One multi-county system coordinates some of its medical trips including Medicaid with neighboring providers to try and create efficiencies. A single-county system opened up its longer-distance Medicaid trips to other riders to improve productivity. The contract arrangements for payment of Medicaid transportation service was another Medicaid-related topic raised by some of the participating rural DRT systems. Several systems reported that their contract provided essentially a fixed amount pre-determined at the start of the year. While there might be options to ask for supplemental funds or to obtain a fuel adjust- ment, several of the rural systems reported financial difficulties in providing the Medicaid trans- portation, with two multi-county systems reporting that they were running a deficit on that part of their service. 44 Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance Volunteer Driver Program The Volunteer Driver Program provides safe, reliable transportation to individuals who are on assistance or have needs that can not be met by our public transit systems. Paul Bunyan Transit works in cooperation with Beltrami County, MNDOT and private pay individuals to transport customers to doctor's appointments, clinics, treatment centers and home visits.
Several of the other participating rural transit systems mentioned more flexibility in relation to payment, with less stress on the DRT system. One county-based system where close to one- third of all trips are Medicaid explained that its Medicaid budget, submitted each quarter, will be adjusted up or down based on the actual costs incurred during the preceding quarter. Medicaid is a large funding resource for transportation in all states. In rural areas, funding for Medicaid can be a significant source of operating revenue yet rural systems have to grapple with the operational impacts that such service can have on the overall DRT system. Vehicle Operator Experience The tenure and experience of DRT vehicle operators is increasingly being recognized as a cri- terion affecting DRT performance. Experienced DRT vehicle operatorsâthose who are familiar with the service area, know their passengersâ trip patterns, and understand the systemâs policies and proceduresâcan contribute to improved DRT performance, including productivity. DRT performance can be impacted where there are high rates of turnover among vehicle operators as many operators leave their positions before they become experienced. TCRP Proj- ect F-13, âVehicle Operator Recruitment, Retention, and Performance in ADA Complemen- tary Paratransit Services,â has been investigating the relationships among vehicle operator recruitment, retention, and performance, specifically in relation to ADA paratransit services. As part of that study, a national survey of public transit agencies and their contractors was con- ducted, and high annual turnover rates were noted in many operations. The survey also indi- cated that a lack of workforce stability is having an impact on performance in some systems. The research is identifying the factors that affect recruitment and retention and is examining suc- cessful practices, including wage parity and integration of fixed-route and ADA paratransit work- forces at some public transit agencies. The research is also attempting to quantify the impacts of turnover on service productivity and service quality. Typology of DRT Systems Developed Through the Research Project Building on earlier research that attempted to classify DRT services and analyses of perfor- mance data collected through this research project, a typology of rural DRT systems has been developed and is shown in Table 5-2. Use of the three-part service-area criterion captures the relative size of the area within which rural DRT systems operate. Service area size is highly cor- related with trip lengthâa factor with great influence on DRT productivity. This typology of rural DRT systems is used to present the performance data of the DRT systems that participated in the rural phase of the research project, which is the topic of Chapter 6. Assessing PerformanceâA Typology of Rural DRT 45 Table 5-2. Typology of rural DRT systems. Municipal DRT Systems Service operated primarily within a single city, village, or town County DRT Systems Service operated primarily within boundaries of one county Multi-County DRT Systems Service operated primarily within boundaries of two or more counties