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25 CHAPTER SIX CASE STUDIES Five transit systems with flexible services have been cho- sen for case studies. Included are more detailed service de- scriptions, operating methods, some history and back- ground, and operating results. These case studies were chosen because of their innovative character, performance, established history, likelihood of continuation, and avail- ability of information and are: â¢ DART at the Winnipeg Transit System; â¢ OmniLink Flex-Routes at PRTC in Virginia; â¢ Ride Solution in Palatka, Florida; â¢ Flex routes and reservation stops at the MVTA in Minnesota; and â¢ Route deviation service at OTA in Iowa. DIAL-A-RIDE TRANSIT AT WINNIPEG TRANSIT SYSTEM The Winnipeg Transit System operates four demand- responsive connector services that replace fixed-route ser- vice during periods of low demand. The services are known as Dial-a-Ride Transit or DART. The Winnipeg Transit System is a service of the city of Winnipeg, Mani- toba. According to city statistics, Winnipeg is home to 633,000 people, approximately 55% of the population of Manitoba. Information for this case study comes primarily from the detailed survey response to this synthesis provided by the cityâs manager of planning and schedules; a compre- hensive evaluation of the first two DART services prepared by Winnipeg Transit System staff in 1997 (City of Winni- peg 1997); and route and schedule information on the tran- sit systemâs website at http://winnipegtransit.com/. Where appropriate, material from these sources is incorporated verbatim. Supplementary information comes from a pub- lished case study by Cervero and Beutler (1999). Some features that make DART especially noteworthy are the use of marked bus stops for demand-responsive service, an extremely well-documented history, good per- formance levels, and a particularly detailed and compre- hensive planning and evaluation process. Service Description The Winnipeg Transit System operates a comprehensive network of 85 transit routes, including main-line, express, and suburban feeder routes, with a peak pullout of 440 buses. Buses run 365 days a year, usually from 6:00 a.m. until past midnight. A paratransit service called Handi-Transit provides demand-responsive service to people with disabilities. The four DART services provide connections between a transfer point and destinations within a defined neighbor- hood zone, as well as trips between points within the zones. In each area, DART service is provided by a single 30-ft, low-floor transit bus. Each DART service is sched- uled to meet an outbound bus arriving at the DART termi- nal on a main-line transit route from downtown. The DART terminal is usually located at a shopping center at the edge of the DART service area. Figure 7 shows pas- sengers boarding a DART bus at the terminal. FIGURE 7 Passengers boarding at DART terminal.
26 FIGURE 8 DART neighborhood stop. At the DART terminal, outbound passengers with destinations in the demand-responsive service area transfer to the DART bus and, upon boarding, inform the bus op- erator of their final destinations. The bus operator then plans a route to deliver passengers to their destinations so that overall travel time is minimized for all passengers. Passengers wishing to travel inbound from their homes in the service area call the bus operator (who is equipped with a mobile phone) to reserve a trip. The operator then fits the requested pick-ups into the vehicle route. Reservations must be made at least 30 min before the pick-up time. Passengers are picked up at their homes and dropped off at DART stops (or at their homes at the bus operatorâs dis- cretion). DART stops are placed at a much higher density in the service area than are regular transit stops. Figure 8 shows a typical neighborhood DART stop. Providing home pick-ups is important for minimizing passenger wait times, especially in winter, because passengers can be given only approximate pick-up times when they reserve trips. The DART services typically operate at approximately 50-min intervals from the DART terminal. Three of the four existing services are in suburban areas and operate during weekday evenings, Saturday mornings and evenings, and all day on Sundays and holidays. These services operate until midnight or later during the week. During other time periods, regular fixed-route service is operated in the same areas. The fourth service is in an area on the edge of downtown with a high concentration of the elderly. It operates during the midday on weekdays and throughout the day on Saturdays. The DART fare is the same as the fixed-route fare, and transfers to and from connecting fixed routes are free. Operating Methods The service map for DART 102 Southdale/Island Lakes (Figure 9) illustrates the method of operation. The South- dale neighborhood to the north and the Island Lakes neighborhood to the south are divided by Bishop Grandin, a high-speed, divided roadway (but not a freeway). The area served measures approximately 2 mi2 (about 5 km2). On weekdays, Route 16 operating from downtown Winni- peg (not shown) stops at Southdale Centre (a shopping mall) and continues through the neighborhoods to a termi- nus at stop number 127. Beginning at 7:18 p.m. on week- days, Saturday mornings and evenings, and all day Sunday, Route 16 ends at Southdale Centre, and DART provides replacement service every 50 min. The full schedule of de- partures is given in Figure 10. Passengers can board at Southdale Centre without a res- ervation. The map shows the 84 numbered stops that are the preferred drop-off points. Passengers who want to board within the DART zone call a reservation number that serves all four DART routes. An automated system asks the passenger to choose a DART service area by using the tele- phone touch-tone keypad, and it forwards the call to the DART bus driver in that zone. Drivers use a graphical trip sheet to plan each trip from the transfer center (Figure 11). Before departing the trans- fer point, the driver colors in all stops where drop-offs have been requested, and marks with an X all addresses where a pick-up has been requested. To assist with marking pick-up locations, the map shows the beginning and ending house numbers on each street segment.
27 FIGURE 9 DART 102 Southdale/Island Lakes service area map. For each schedule period, DART work assignments are included in the general bus operator sign-up. Bus operators who select DART work must attend special training for the service. Drivers are paid for the time they spend attending the training. The training involves classroom sessions that cover cell phone use, telephone courtesy, route planning techniques, and record keeping. In addition, time is spent in the field to learn the local geography of each service area. A number of extraboard operators are also trained to replace regular operators who might be sick or on vacation. DART drivers receive the equipment needed for hands- free cell phone operation and are encouraged to safely use it. Personal use of the cell phones is discouraged and can be monitored by reviewing the bill from the service provider. When DART began in 1996, it used 25-ft, 20-passenger, low-floor buses. Those buses were later replaced with 30- ft, 25-passenger, low-floor buses to provide better ride quality and to provide drivers with better maneuverability. The buses have two wheelchair positions and are equipped with wheelchair ramps. Although the newer buses are lar- ger than those initially used, Winnipeg Transit staff report that residents still perceive them as small buses. The buses are part of a fleet that also provides downtown shuttle ser- vice and a number of feeder routes. History and Background Between 1974 and 1977, the Winnipeg Transit System op- erated a dial-a-bus experiment in two areas. Dial-a-bus provided trips to and from a transfer point and passengersâ homes. It was popular, but as demand grew it became dif- ficult to effectively service all the requested trips. As re- gional development continued, fixed-route service was
28 Weekdays Saturdays Sundays Fixed-route service operates untilâ¦ 19:18 20:10 21:02 21:52 22:42 23:32 00:32# # Drop off only. No reservations accepted. 6:06 6:57 7:44 8:31 9:18 10:04 10:51 11:45 Fixed-route service operates untilâ¦ 19:21 20:10 21:02 21:52 22:42 23:32 00:32 # 7:05 7:57 8:49 9:41 10:33 11:25 12:17 13:03 13:48 14:33 15:18 16:03 16:48 17:34 18:26 19:18 20:10 21:02 21:52 22:42 23:32 # FIGURE 10 DART 102 Southdale/Island Lakes schedule (departure times from Southdale Centre). FIGURE 11 DART driver trip sheet.
29 eventually extended to the built-up areas and dial-a-bus was discontinued. Reviewing this experience, staff con- cluded that â¢ Demand-responsive service is an effective approach to develop ridership in small, but growing low- density residential areas. â¢ Demand-responsive service works well when the level of transit demand is relatively low. At higher levels of demand, better service at lower cost can be provided by fixed-route transit. By 1996, changing circumstances led to renewed inter- est in alternatives to fixed-route service. DART was first implemented in June 1996 as a trial demonstration on two routes, DART 101 St. Amant/Plaza Drive and DART 102 Southdale/Island Lakes. A written demonstration plan pre- pared by Winnipeg Transit staff in March 1996 describes the situation that led to implementing DART. Development in Winnipeg has been characterized by construction of low-density residential areas with circuitous street systems at the edges of the city. Suburban employment has also grown, and major regional shopping centers have ex- panded. Extending transit service to areas of low-density development is difficult owing to circuitous street net- works, which create pockets of isolated development and indirect, inconvenient pedestrian access to potential transit routes. Low densities, traffic congestion, and the circuitous street network require lengthy transit routes with long run- ning times that can be operated only at infrequent intervals and that provide a low level of service for passengers. Although the city is able to justify extending peak- period service to most areas of recent development, budg- etary limitations make it difficult to maintain adequate ser- vice at other times. Staff were concerned that households would tend to purchase second and even third automobiles before transit service expansion could be completed, and that this would limit the potential to attract additional rid- ership when service was ultimately expanded. In considering options for DART, staff determined that a flexible approach was needed, one that used fixed-route service at times when demand was high and demand- responsive service at other times. The DART concept built on the earlier dial-a-bus experience, a survey of six other demand-responsive operations (five in Canada and one in Virginia), and technological advances developed since the time of the dial-a-bus experiment. The principal innova- tions were (1) using marked stops for drop-offs to simplify the scheduling of drop-offs and (2) taking advantage of cell phone technology and touch-tone-activated call routing to eliminate the need for a separate dispatching function. Potential riders are provided the following detailed in- formation about how to use DART: â¢ An informational brochure and a detailed how-to-use pocket timetable were distributed to each household in each service area immediately before service start- up. â¢ A detailed map of the service area showing the loca- tions of DART stops and detailed how-to-use infor- mation are posted at each DART terminal. One of the terminal information signs is shown in Figure 12. â¢ A detailed map of the service area showing the loca- tions of DART stops is posted in each DART bus, on the back of the panel behind the bus operator. This map provides a convenient reference for passengers when informing the DART operator of their destina- tion DART stop. â¢ The DART phone number is posted prominently on the DART bus destination signs and on the street signs designating the DART stops. In addition, the transit system website includes detailed in- formation about how to use each of the four DART ser- vices. After some initial adjustments, the DART experiments were determined to be cost-effective, operationally feasi- ble, and popular with riders. The initial two services were made permanent and extended to weekends. Since 1997, four more DART services have been started, of which two were converted back to fixed-route operation, and two con- tinue to operate. The two DART services that were discon- tinued were midday and Saturday services in areas where the reduction in walking time provided by DART com- pared with that for fixed-route service was not sufficient to compensate for the inconvenience of needing to reserve trips. The city is considering implementing DART service in three or four additional areas. Outcomes The four DART services carried 75,000 passengers (unlinked boardings) in calendar year 2002 and operated 10,165 VRH, for an average productivity of 7.3 passengers per VRH. Productivity on individual routes ranged from a low of approximately 5 passengers per VRH to a high of 15 passengers per VRH. Productivity varies considerably among individual DART vehicle tours. Buses leaving the DART terminals early in the evening often carry 15 to 20 passengers. Later in the evening, when demand is lower, buses carry 3 to 5 passengers per trip. Winnipeg Transit staff estimated that DART service can carry a maximum of approximately 20 passengers per hour. At the time of evaluation, the existing service was close to its limit during the early evening hours and also during the day on Saturday. However, demand was not expected to grow much during those hours.
30 FIGURE 12 DART terminal information sign. For purposes of evaluation, the transit systemâs main consideration was that DART was more cost-effective than fixed-route service in a low-density area because it could serve a much larger geographical area than fixed-route ser- vice could using the same resources. A key point in this line of reasoning is that the city council has established service level warrants that the transit system strives to meet in a cost-efficient manner. From this point of view, the relatively low productivity of DART services is a confir- mation that demand-responsive service is more appropriate in these times and areas than fixed-route service. DART uses the same number of vehicles as the prior fixed-route services. Because DART operates only off peak, it does not add to the transit systemâs peak vehicle requirement. Addi- tional positive considerations are that DART makes it pos- sible to provide service with minimal intrusion in neighborhoods by the larger transit vehicles used for fixed- route service, and it addresses public concerns about large buses with few riders. Most trips are provided to and from the transfer points. Because weekday service on three of the four DART ser- vices is limited to evenings, most trips begin at the transfer point and do not involve a reservation. For example, during the demonstration period, which had very limited daytime service, 75% of trips on DART 101 began at the transfer center or another timed departure point at the opposite side of the DART area, and 68% of trips on DART 102 began at the transfer center. During midday periods, a higher per- centage of trips originate within the DART area, including trips between points within the DART areas. The 1997 DART evaluation included a passenger sur- vey, which found a mostly positive response to the service. Very large majorities of passengers indicated that drivers answered calls promptly, that passengers were able to get convenient pick-up times, that the reservations procedure was âeasyâ or âjust right,â that passengers were picked up on time, that there were enough DART stops, that the di- rectness of trips provided on DART service was either âvery directâ or âjust right,â and that drivers were courte- ous and helpful. The evaluation of the initial DART services found that DART users were generally typical of the service areas, which had above-average concentrations of young people.
31 In general, users were a broad cross section of age and gender: 53% female and 47% male, 29% age 18 and under, and 69% age 19 to 64. In the 18-and-under age group, users were mostly women. In the passenger survey, young women reported that the short walking distances provided by DART made public transit safer to use. Key user groups include workers returning home from jobs in the downtown area and young people returning home from evening activities. One negative feature of the cell phone reservations sys- tem is that it is possible for a customer to receive a busy signal if the driverâs cell phone is already in use. In these cases, the customer must call the main DART phone num- ber again. However, the passenger survey indicated that busy signals were infrequent, and no complaints were re- ceived about them. Drivers who participated in meetings to discuss DART service provided positive feedback. The drivers are a self- selected group who choose to operate this kind of service. Compared with the situation for fixed-route service, DART provides an opportunity for an operator to practice a broader range of skills on the job. In addition to using cus- tomer relations and driving skills, the operator must do route planning and scheduling, and must provide customer information while the service is in operation. In effect, the bus operator provides a community-based transit service in each DART service area. DART provides an opportunity for the operator to deliver more personalized service to customers. Bus operators on DART are paid at the same rate as those operating fixed-route service. Because Winnipeg experiences severe winter weather, the evaluation of DART specifically examined winter driv- ing conditions. Average operating speeds are generally lower in winter than in summer. Despite this and despite higher ridership levels in winter, schedule adherence re- mained good, and there were few late arrivals at the transfer point. In very extreme conditions, DART buses were re- stricted to the fixed-route alignment through the DART ar- eas. In these situations, passengers made arrangements with the bus drivers to walk to the nearest stop to be picked up. OMNILINK FLEX-ROUTES AT THE POTOMAC AND RAPPAHANNOCK TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION PRTC operates a network of route deviation services as the exclusive mode of local transit in its service area. PRTC serves the counties of Stafford and Prince William in the outer Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. PRTC de- scribes the service as âflex-routeâ and uses the service name OmniLink. Information for this case study comes from the survey response provided by PRTCâs director of planning and operations; a service description provided by the same source (âPRTCâs Innovative Local Transit Ser- vices . . .â 2003); information provided by PRTC for a case study that forms part of the National Transit Instituteâs course, âPlanning Flexible Community Transit Services: Planning, Operations, and Technologyâ (Nelson\Nygaard 2003); and service descriptions on PRTCâs website at http://www. omniride.com/link/. Distinctive features of PRTCâs experience are that flex- route services constitute the entire local transit system, there is a major focus on using information technology (ITS) to improve flexible service operation, and there is an emphasis on serving people with disabilities with the same service used for other riders. Service Description PRTC operates flex-route service on five routes using 13 peak vehicles. On each route, buses stop at marked stops and can also deviate up to three-quarters of a mile on either side of the route in response to service requests. Three- quarters of a mile is the same distance as in the ADA re- quirement for complementary paratransit around fixed routes. However, PRTCâs flex-routes are general public service. PRTC does not operate separate ADA paratransit. There are also a limited number of on-demand stops close to the main routes. Omni-Link service operates from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Until 7:30 p.m., two routes operate on 60-min headways, and three routes operate on 45-min headways. After 7:30 p.m., headways are doubled. Passengers wanting an off-route stop are required to call PRTC at least 2 h in advance between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.; however, PRTC advises that âfor best results, reser- vations should be made 1 to 2 days in advance.â PRTC limits the number of off-route requests that will be ac- cepted on each vehicle trip and advises passengers that they may be asked to get on or off the bus at a location that is within a few blocks of their origin or destination, be- cause some locations are not accessible to OmniLink buses. Passengers whose requests cannot be accommo- dated are advised to ask for a different time or walk to a bus stop. Passengers can request service to one of the on- demand bus stops when they board. The base fare for OmniLink is $1.00 per trip or $2.25 for a day pass (half-price for riders 60 years and older and those with disabilities). There is a deviation surcharge of $1.00 per trip, except for riders 60 years and older and those with disabilities. Operating Methods The route map and schedule for PRTCâs Dale City flex- route, shown in Figures 13 and 14, illustrate the method of
32 FIGURE 13 OmniLink Dale City flex-route map. operations for OmniLink. The 13-mi-long Dale City route is one of three flex-routes that operate in eastern Prince William County. It operates every 45 min using two buses. At the PRTC Transit Center it meets the two other routes in this area. Schedules indicate times at the four numbered time points. In addition, each bus stops at all the marked stops, which are shown by diamonds on the route map. Boarding passengers can also request service to the two on-demand bus stops, shown by triangles on the route map. On receiving a request to a point that is not near an existing bus stop, customer service agents (CSAs) estab- lish off-route pick-up and drop-off locations that are a reasonable distance from those requested, at points that are efficient to serve and that allow the bus to continue making forward progress along the route. The CSAs use a customized version of a popular paratransit scheduling program to schedule off-route trip requests. The software includes mapping capability to view off-route trip loca- tions, and it enables the CSAs to determine whether a given trip has sufficient slack time to accommodate a re- quest. Since June 2003, vehicles have been dispatched by means of MDTs (mobile data terminals), which list all bus stops and off-route trips. The buses are equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) transponders that allow the MDTs to calculate estimated arrival times, to aid in im- proving on-time performance. The MDTs also can display a built-in map with suggested routing to aid in servicing off-route trips and returning to the route. The information is also transmitted to dispatch, and exception reports are provided to identify vehicles that are or are expected to be excessively late. Before June 2003, requests received a day or more ahead, along with subscription off-route trips, were shown on printed manifests provided to the drivers. Off-route pick-ups scheduled in response to same-day re- quests were dispatched to drivers by voice radio. To increase operating efficiency, buses do not have to return to the route at their point of departure as long as they serve all fixed stops. Operators have the freedom to select the route they drive between stops when deviations are required. The average stop spacing is a little under 0.5 mi (or about 0.75 km). Approximately 12% of OmniLink passenger trips entail a deviation on one or both ends. The
33 WEEKDAYS  Chinn Center  Mapledale Plaza  Dale Blvd & Minnieville Rd  PRTC Transit Center  Dale Blvd & Minnieville Rd  Mapledale Plaza  Chinn Center 5:47 AM 6:00 AM 6:10 AM 6:35 AM 6:54 AM 7:05 AM 7:17 AM 6:32 6:45 6:55 7:20 7:39 7:50 8:02 7:27 7:40 7:50 8:15 8:34 8:45 9:02 8:12 8:25 8:35 9:00 9:19 9:30 9:42 8:57 9:10 9:20 9:45 10:04 10:15 10:27 9:42 9:55 10:05 10:30 10:49 11:00 11:12 10:27 10:40 10:50 11:15 11:34 11:45 11:57 11:12 11:25 11:35 12:00 12:19 PM 12:30 PM 12:42 PM 11:57 12:10 PM 12:20 PM 12:45 PM 1:04 1:15 1:27 12:42 12:55 1:05 1:30 1:49 2:00 2:12 1:27 1:40 1:50 2:15 2:34 2:45 2:57 2:12 2:25 2:35 3:00 3:19 3:30 3:42 2:57 3:10 3:20 3:45 4:04 4:15 4:27 3:42 3:55 4:05 4:30 4:49 5:00 5:12 4:27 4:40 4:50 5:15 5:34 5:45 5:57 5:22 5:35 5:45 6:10 6:29 6:40 6:52 6:07 6:20 6:30 6:55 7:14 7:25 7:37 7:37 7:50 8:00 8:25 8:44 8:55 9:07 9:07 9:20 9:30 9:55 10:14 10:25 10:37 FIGURE 14 OmniLink Dale City flex route schedule. basic schedules include approximately 20% slack time to accommodate off-route trip requests. The buses are me- dium-duty, 28-passenger, body-on-chassis vehicles with wheelchair lifts and the ability to accommodate two pas- sengers in wheelchairs. PRTC is currently acquiring the funds to replace these buses with heavy-duty, low-floor transit buses. History and Background PRTC was created in 1986 to develop and operate transit services in a rapidly growing suburban area approximately 20 mi southwest of Washington, D.C. Until 1995, PRTCâs services consisted of express commuter bus and commuter rail service, primarily into Washington, and a rideshare matching program. OmniLink service was begun in 1995 in response to requests for local transit service. PRTC determined that conventional transit service would not be attractive to riders in its low-density service area. The area has grown rapidly in recent decades, with pockets of development connected by an irregular and of- ten circuitous road network. The area has no downtown and no major travel pattern focus other than Washington, D.C. An affordable transit route network would not reach many residential areas. Streets often lack sidewalks, so that walking to bus stops would be difficult. In addition to not- ing these difficulties, PRTC realized that providing con- ventional local transit service would also bring with it a re- quirement to provide ADA-complementary paratransit service. The flex-route concept was seen as resolving these dif- ficulties. The deviation component made it possible to pro- vide service throughout the service area, as well as to com- bine service for the general public and people with disabilities. The deviation component also addressed the difficulty of customers walking to bus stops along streets without sidewalks. A further attraction of flex-route service was that it responded to a desire by human services agen- cies in the area for additional capacity to serve their trans- portation-disadvantaged clients. OmniLink service began in April 1995. It was adjusted and expanded later the same year and several times since then. Initially, deviation requests were only accepted 24 h in advance. Reservations were taken in one phone call, all trips for the day were then scheduled, and customers were then called back with detailed information on their re- served trips. In October 1997, the advance reservations re- quirement was shortened to 2 h, taking advantage of a re-
34 cently installed automated scheduling system, and off-route trips were scheduled and confirmed in one phone call. Information Technology at PRTC PRTC began automating the operation of OmniLink in 1993 when the service was in the planning stages. PRTCâs Smart Flex-route Integrated Real-time Enhancement Sys- tem project, known as SaFIRES, was established to sched- ule demand-responsive and prescheduled service, dispatch flex-route trips to OmniLink vehicles by means of MDTs, automatically track vehicle locations using GPS, and pro- vide dispatchers with real-time information about on-time performance. Initially, PRTC assumed that ITS technologies were necessary to operate flex-route service successfully. How- ever, because technologies were not ready by the time on- street operations were scheduled to begin, the system oper- ated for the first few years in a completely manual mode. Approximately 3 years after service initiation, PRTC began using a customized version of a widely used paratransit scheduling product as part of its day-to-day operation. De- velopment and integration of the remaining ITS compo- nents were delayed, largely as a result of the bankruptcy of PRTCâs then commercial communications provider. PRTC credits the automated scheduling system with al- lowing the minimum reservation lead time to be reduced from 24 h to 2 h by allowing CSAs to negotiate and sched- ule reservations with riders in one phone call. The ITS project was restarted in October 2001 when PRTC solicited proposals for high-technology enhance- ments to its local bus flex-route service. PRTC awarded a contract to a team of four technology companies in January 2002, and began using the new system full-time in June 2003. According to PRTC, it works as follows: â¢ A driver log-on triggers the downloading of the route to the MDTs on board buses, using a wireless cellular digital packet data network. â¢ The MDT is a ruggedized Windows-based computer system that uses a 10.4-in. color touch screen to dis- play the combination of fixed-route stops and flex- route deviations in chronological order. Color coding highlights the deviations from the fixed-route stops. â¢ When a deviation stop is at the top of the list, the driver leaves his or her route and drives to the stop location. Drivers who do not know how to get to the address can press a button to show a color map on the MDT screen, with the deviation stop plotted in the center. Pressing another button on the map screen causes the MDT to calculate a âsuggested routeâ and highlight the streets from where the bus is located (its GPS position is shown on the display) to the devia- tion stop. After completing the pick-up or drop-off, the driver can have the MDT calculate and display on the map the suggested streets to return to the fixed route. â¢ For fixed-route stops and time points, the MDTs use a built-in GPS capability to detect that the bus has ar- rived. The screen then enables the driver to enter the number of passengers boarding or alighting. These ridership data are transmitted for stop analysis. As each fixed-route or deviated stop at the top of the list is completed, it is removed from the list and the re- maining stops scroll upward to the top. â¢ The MDTs also allow the drivers to send messages to dispatch. These are frequently used canned messages or messages typed using the keyboard provided on the touch screen. Dispatch can send messages to the drivers that pop up on the driverâs display as well as cancellations and insertions (add-ons) to modify the driverâs route in real time. â¢ The MDT also transmits AVL and schedule adherence data back to dispatch every 2 min (parameters are changeable). At dispatch, the location and on-time status are plotted on maps shown on workstation monitors. Vehicle icons show the location, direction, and color- coded on-time status. Filtering shows, for example, âonly the vehicles running late,â resulting in only red vehicle icons being displayed on the map. The system is integrated with the routing and scheduling software. The project was scheduled to be integrated with elec- tronic fareboxes in late 2003. According to PRTC, the ITS project has produced the following benefits: â¢ Improved ability to provide customers with informa- tion about vehicle arrival times, â¢ Improved ability to track vehicle schedule adherence and take corrective action, â¢ Improved emergency response capability, â¢ Simplified driver record keeping, and â¢ Implemented easier navigation to off-route destina- tions for drivers. Outcomes By its second full year of service, OmniLink was carrying 1,044 passengers per day, or 8.7 passengers per VRH. In- dividual routes were carrying between 5.2 and 12.7 pas- sengers per VRH. Ridership grew slowly for several years, rising rapidly again in fiscal year 2001â2002, when eve- ning service was added. In fiscal year 2002â2003, the sys- tem carried 14.2 passengers per VRH, with individual routes carrying between 4.7 and 20.7 passengers per VRH. In the first full year of operation, 25% of trips provided involved a deviation. Subsequent efforts at route refine-
35 ment and rider education efforts reduced the deviation per- centage to approximately 15%. In December 2002, PRTC implemented a policy reducing the number of off-route re- quests accepted on each vehicle trip. This change was adopted in response to chronic lateness that was the result of increasing traffic congestion and ridership. Currently, approximately 12% of trips require a deviation. PRTC continues to regard flex-route service as a suc- cessful method of operation in its service area. The agency reports that 74% of riders âlikeâ or âvery much likeâ the flexible aspect of the service, even though 76% do not use deviations. More than two-thirds of riders use the service to commute to local jobs, and 34% have a car available. From a financial perspective, PRTC estimates that convert- ing to separate fixed-route and paratransit operations would require an operating budget increase of at least 50%. If ridership continues to increase, making it difficult to sus- tain flexible operation, the agency would most likely in- crease service frequency rather than change the mode of operation. RIDE SOLUTION IN PALATKA, FLORIDA In Putnam County, Florida, ARC Transit, Inc., a subsidiary of the ARC of Putnam County, operates a flexible service called Ride Solution. Putnam County is located in north- eastern Florida, approximately 50 mi south of Jacksonville and 40 mi east of Gainesville. Its 2000 census population was 70,423 in 722 mi2. The largest incorporated area in the county is Palatka, with a 2000 population of 10,033. The median household income of Putnam County in 1999 was $28,000, making it one of the poorest counties in Florida. Information about the service was provided by the di- rector of ARC Transit. Additional information about the use of technology for Ride Solution comes from a recent report from the FHWA, Rural Transit ITS Best Practices (Conklin 2003). Ride Solutionâs distinctive characteristics are that it is a general public flexible service that is built on coordinated human services transportation, and that it serves a very low-density, low-income, rural area. Service Description and Background Ride Solution is the designated County Transportation Coordinator (CTC) for Putnam County. In the CTC capac- ity, it provides coordinated transportation for multiple hu- man services agencies, including the state Medicaid agency, programs for the elderly, services for people with developmental disabilities, and job access. Ride Solution was first designated as the CTC in 1984, and it has been operating flexible service since 1988. Ride Solutionâs flexible service consists of three components: 1. Subscription service for human service agencies, 70%; 2. Individual reservation trips for Medicaid recipients, 20%; and 3. General public service in the form of walk-ons at bus stops, 10%. Ride Solution operates six routes, including one within the city of Palatka, two that connect to other communities in the county, two that connect to neighboring counties, and one that can be used only by reservation for medical trips. Although the routes are constructed on the basis of the needs of the human services agencies, they are all open to the general public and, except for medical runs, can be boarded at any published stop without a reservation. Res- ervations for medical trips must be received by noon the previous workday. Operating Methods Ride Solution service is provided using a staff of 31 full- and part-time drivers, 2 operations staff, 8 support employ- ees, and 3 maintenance employees. The fleet consists of 42 vehicles ranging in size from 8 vans that carry 8 seated passengers and 1 or 2 passengers in wheelchairs to 4 school bus-type vehicles that can carry 32 seated passen- gers and 3 passengers in wheelchairs. Because of Ride Solutionâs large service area, drivers need a very good knowledge of their area of the county to operate flexible service. Similarly, the agency finds that it takes a new scheduler the better part of a year to be able to work independently. Ride Solution is one of the most technologically ad- vanced rural operators in Florida. Its vehicles are equipped with MDTs and AVL, and the dispatch office uses proprie- tary software developed by a local consultant to help it with routing and scheduling. Ride Solution considers the scheduling software as having been an important factor in making it possible to establish its flexible services. The MDTs and AVL are used primarily for payroll timekeeping. A project to enable monitoring of automated schedule compliance is still in process. Communications with vehi- cles is accomplished by voice radio and by cell phones when vehicles are out of radio range. Outcomes Ride Solution provided 135,922 passenger trips to 6,865 total individuals in 2001. In other words, the average rider made approximately 20 trips on the service over the course of the year. As a measure of productivity, the agency tracks trips per driver hour, which averaged 2.4 in 2001. Because
36 most of the patronage is prescheduled, this productivity most likely reflects the rural nature of the service area, which requires traveling long distances. Ride Solution staff believes that using the human ser- vices-consolidated transportation as a foundation made it possible to establish transit service for the general public in an area where it would otherwise probably not be possible. The system does not depend on general public ridership for its base of support. However, dependence on human ser- vices funding does make the service vulnerable in other ways. Ride Solution has sustained several recent funding cuts, which have forced it to reduce service. In the long run, however, the agency sees opportunities to expand flexible service by bringing in additional human services agencies. FLEX ROUTES AND RESERVATION STOPS AT THE MINNESOTA VALLEY TRANSIT AUTHORITY MVTA operates a network of transit routes, including two in route deviation mode and one in a request stop mode. MVTA is the public transportation agency for five suburbs located approximately 15 mi south of Minneapolis and St. Paul: Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, and Rosemount in Dakota County; and Savage in Scott County. MVTAâs flexible services illustrate two modes of operation particu- larly well. Information for the case study comes from the survey response of MVTA staff and service information on MVTAâs website at http://www.mvta.com/. Service Description MVTA operates 21 transit routes, including local routes, commuter express routes into Minneapolis and St. Paul, shuttles that connect to the express routes, and reverse commute routes. Three major transit centers also include park-and-ride facilities. Paratransit service is provided by a separate agency under contract to the regional provider, Metro Mobility. MVTA designates Routes 420 and 421 as flex routes. Both routes have a series of fixed stops that are served in sequence according to an established schedule, and also deviate to serve requests within approximately one-half mile of the primary route. Passengers can board at any of the stops without a reservation, and they can request devia- tions through MVTAâs dispatch center. Riders are encour- aged to schedule deviations 1 day ahead, but same-day res- ervations are accepted on a space-available basis up to the time of the trip. MVTA accepts deviation reservations up to 2 days in advance, between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Mon- day through Friday, and it also accepts standing orders for repeated deviations. At the time of boarding, riders can also request to be dropped off at an off-route location. There is a $0.50 surcharge for off-route service on top of the regular base fare of $1.00 or the senior or disabled pas- sengerâs fare of $0.50. Route 440 is designated as local service. It operates in conventional fixed-route and schedule mode, but also serves eight reservation stops at locations near the route, where access by pedestrians is limited. The reservations policies are the same as for the flex routes. There is no ex- tra charge for service to or from the reservation stops. Operating Methods MVTAâs pocket schedule for Flex Route 420 helps to illus- trate how the flex routes work (Figure 15). The basic route runs 5.5 mi between Rosemount Plaza and Apple Valley Transit Station, where it connects with five other MVTA routes. The central portion of the deviation corridor is 1 mi wide from north to south. According to MVTA staff, the scheduled running time of 30 min per trip leaves âample time for deviations.â Between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. there are 10 trips in each direction, Monday through Fri- day, with no service between 9:25 a.m. and 2:25 p.m. In addition to the route end points, all buses stop at one of the two time points marked by open squares and also at four designated âflag stopsâ marked on the map by black circles. A third time point (Galaxie Library) is always served on some trips and by reservation only on others. A fifth flag stop, near the Apple Valley end of the route, is served only on Rosemount-bound trips. The average stop spacing is almost 0.8 mi. With the limited number of stops, and long distances between some stops, this service occu- pies a middle ground between the route deviation and point deviation categories, as defined in chapter two. Deviations are permitted within the marked shaded area that averages 1-mi wide but is not always centered on the route. MVTAâs policy on deviation locations, as stated in the pocket timetable, is as follows: If you cannot get to a flag stop or time point, or if your desti- nation is not close to a stop, you may still use the FLEX by calling our reservation line at (952) 882-6000. The dispatcher will work with you to reroute the vehicle closer to where you live or want to go. Please note that some locations are not ac- cessible to FLEX buses. In such cases, the dispatcher will work with you to find an alternative stop close by. In many cases, serving a deviation would bring the bus back to the route beyond the point at which it left the route. Figure 16 is a detail from the route map for Route 440. The segment pictured is approximately 2 mi long and in- cludes six of the eight available reservation stops, marked
37 FIGURE 15 MVTA Flex Route 420. FIGURE 16 MVTA Route 440 detail.
38 on the map by black circles numbered 1 through 6. The en- tire route runs approximately 14 mi between the Mall of America, where it connects with the regional transit pro- vider, Metro Transit, and the same Apple Valley Transit Station served by Flex Route 420. The reservation stops include an apartment complex, a discount department store, a supermarket, two medical clinics, a school, and a library. Route 440 operates six southbound trips and seven northbound trips, with a 2-h gap during midday. When a Route 440 bus deviates to serve a reservations stop, it al- ways returns to the route at the point where it left. Each evening, the dispatcher prepares manifests for the flex route and Route 440 drivers that include those devia- tion requests already received. Deviation requests received on the day of service are communicated to the drivers by means of cell phones. Cell phones are used because they provide more privacy than voice radio, which is used for normal dispatching functions. In regard to technology, MVTA has concluded that, with at most three buses in flexible service, there is no value to extensive high- technology installations. MVTA planners believe that a competent dispatcher can adequately manage the small number of vehicles and modest level of reservation re- quests. MVTA does use some computer tools to keep track of requests and scheduled rides, but it does not link these tools to any sort of automated dispatch system. All of MVTAâs services are operated by three contrac- tors, including two private companies and Metro Transit. The contractor that operates the flex routes does not apply any special criteria to selecting drivers for this service. A few drivers have chosen not to work flex routes because they feel uncomfortable with the level of decision making required. In general, however, MVTA finds that the ability to perform the flex routes is within the overall minimum abilities of the contractorâs drivers. Driver training for the flex routes includes orientation to the street network and major destinations within the flex areas; review of fare policy differences; and procedures for pick-up deviations, missed pick-ups, same-day scheduling, and on-demand scheduling of drop-offs. Most of the contractorâs drivers undergo this training eventually. Training for Route 440 is very similar to training for fixed-route operation, except that route familiarization includes the reservation stops. Flex-route dispatching is performed by the same staff that dispatch other services. They are trained in procedures for taking reservations and how to determine when a trip is full; that is, when no additional deviation requests can be accepted. Both flex routes and Route 440 are operated using 25-ft cutaway vehicles that can carry 16 seated passengers and 2 passengers in wheelchairs. Because of route interlining, some trips on Route 440 use 35-ft low-floor buses. MVTA considers the small buses appropriate in size for Route 440, but would prefer to use smaller buses for the flex routes if the 25-ft vehicles were not also needed for other services. When the flex routes were first introduced, the buses were wrapped to give them a unique identity. Currently, MVTA simply markets them as part of the âfamily of ser- vicesâ concept that encompasses everything from the flex routes to high-frequency express routes using articulated buses and over-the-road motor coaches. The pocket time- tables include detailed and specific information about how to use the flex routes. History and Background The MVTA is one of six independent transportation agen- cies formed in the late 1980s under state legislation that al- lowed outer-ring suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul to opt out of centrally provided transportation services. Flexi- ble services were introduced in 1998 to address specific is- sues in parts of the service area. In the areas served by flex routes, fixed-route service had low ridership owing to long travel times caused by the need to connect all the major trip generators and attractors. By comparison, MVTA planners feel that the flex routes allow a faster trip, because every location need not be served on every trip unless there is a ride request. Flex routes also allow coverage of low-demand areas that could not be effectively served by the fixed route. In the case of Route 440, the reservation stops developed from a need to provide more convenient access to certain locations that had difficult pedestrian access, such as a school that is set well back from the road without a sidewalk. Outcomes The two flex routes carried 17,300 passengers in 2002, with a productivity of 4.2 passengers per VRH. Route 440 carried 17,900 passengers, with a productivity of 5.8 pas- sengers per VRH. These performance levels are well below MVTAâs system average of 25.6 passengers per VRH, which includes the express and commuter routes. On the flex routes, slightly less than 50% of passenger trips re- quire a deviation. On Route 440, staff estimated that less than 15% of passenger trips use the reservation stops. MVTA staff would prefer to see the flex routes operat- ing at 6 passengers per VRH or more, and they would pre- fer to see Route 440 operating at 8 to 9 passengers per VRH. MVTAâs subsidy per-passenger standard for its other local route services is equivalent to 10 to 11 passengers per VRH. Although the productivity of the flex routes is below MVTAâs desired levels, the agencyâs policy commitments include serving areas with small numbers of riders with great needs. The agency believes that there is a fundamental
39 need for transit services in the areas being served by flex routes, and that the flex routes provide better coverage than fixed-route service and better productivity than conventional dial-a-ride. ROUTE DEVIATION SERVICE AT THE OTTUMWA TRANSIT AUTHORITY OTA operates a fixed-route transit system with limited de- viations, primarily for older passengers. The system illustrates the kind of practical flexibility, with relatively informal rules, that is possible in a small town setting. Ottumwa is a city of 25,000 people in 16 mi2 in southeastern Iowa. People age 65 and older make up 19% of the population, and account for a high proportion of transit ridership. The nearest large city, Des Moines, is approximately 90 mi away. Information for the case study comes from the survey response of OTAâs transit administrator, supplemented with technology information from Conklin et al. (2003). OTA is a department of the city of Ottumwa. It operates a local transit system within the city and also acts as the designated provider of coordinated human services trans- portation in a much larger 10-county region. The local transit system consists of route deviation service using eight 42-ft buses and ADA-complementary paratransit us- ing two vans. The routes operate on 50-min headways dur- ing the midday and on weekends, and 40-min headways during peak periods. According to the transit administrator, OTAâs basic ser- vice design is fixed route and fixed schedule. However, in an attempt to accommodate customers with special needs, the agency created a deviation system. Customers may call the office and request a deviation. Drivers may receive di- rect requests and have been instructed to radio them to the office for final approval. In some cases, drivers receive a request for a deviation for a return trip later in the day, which the driver then relays to the office. This flexible mode of operation has been in use since 1982. There is no formal policy concerning how far off the route a bus will deviate. In most cases, deviations are no more than one or two blocks. Examples include pick-ups or drop-offs at the front door of a business or residence. Deviation requests can be accepted with as little as 10 min advance notice. The deviations are used primarily by older passengers and people with disabilities to get closer to their destinations. The deviations permit these customers to re- main independent and avoid having to use ADA paratran- sit. There is no extra charge for deviations. From the point of view of the transit system, the devia- tions also help to control ADA paratransit costs. Because the same person dispatches the local fixed-route service and the ADA paratransit service, it is possible to have the two services share trips. The availability of deviations is not formally marketed. However, in their presentations, staff routinely mentions the availability of deviations, and drivers can suggest de- viations to customers. Beyond these sources, passengers learn about deviations by word of mouth. OTA does not formally track the number of deviations it makes, but it was estimated to be about 2% of total rider- ship. The current low deviation percentage partly reflects a recent redesign of some routes to serve areas of new de- velopment. At the time of the redesign, staff examined the history of deviations and made adjustments that reduced the number of deviation requests. Because OTA is able to maintain productivity of 20 passengers per VRH, it appears that deviations do not seriously affect the performance of the system. OTA has been active in pursuing technology to help op- erate transit services. An AVL system and MDTs help in coordinating the far-flung services that OTA operates in the surrounding region. For the local transit service, the dis- patcher is able to use the AVL display to help determine if a deviation is possible or if a deviation can be used to serve a paratransit service request in a timely manner.