Piatt County Public Transportation
Realizing Peak Efficiency and Superior Customer Service
Headquartered in Monticello, Illinois, Piatt County Public Transportation (Piattran) is a demand-response operation whose mission is to serve the public transportation needs of the largely rural Piatt County area. Established in 1988, Piattran provides door-to-door service with a fleet of paratransit buses and smaller vehicles. With a goal of providing the most economical and eco-friendly service possible, Piattran needs to operate at peak efficiency to provide superior customer service to their riders.
One of Piattran's biggest challenges was managing customer requests and schedule changes. The use of standard office software applications for scheduling and dispatch, and paper manifests in the vehicle, made it difficult to find and relay information to drivers. Assessing their operations, Piattran decided that to be efficient they needed new processes. As Finance Manager Tia Blakeman explains, "We were looking for a comprehensive paratransit management software and MDT solution to streamline every point of our operation—we needed it all."
Piattran chose CTS Software to supply Trip Master Enterprise Edition (TMEE) paratransit management software. TMEE provides a complete package of routing, scheduling and reporting functionality. Seamlessly integrated with TMEE and installed in each vehicle are Mentor Ranger® rugged mobile computers. The joint solution allows Piattran to easily make on-the-fly schedule changes and collect accurate data for operational planning, while providing greater flexibility in all areas of their operation.
"We are so happy with the system," says Tia. "It has solved all of the functional problems that took so much of our time and effort. The ease of scheduling and improvement in communications with our drivers was imperative for what we do and the reporting and billing components are fantastic. Now all of the tools that our staff need to effectively get the job done are right there."
With burdensome paper processes and a noisy radio system, Piattran knew that they needed to make sweeping changes in order to streamline operations from top to bottom. They wanted a solution that would address all aspects of their system but also be user friendly and affordable. Says Tia, "We were looking for a solution that had everything we needed and CTS Software's Trip Master Enterprise Edition (TMEE) was the complete package." In addition, they wanted to make sure the solution was specifically designed for the unique needs of their business. "Other vendors were using consumer grade products which was concerning to us," explains Tia. "We found it very attractive that the Ranger MDCs were built for our industry and that they were hardwired into the vehicle."
One of the greatest challenges Piattran was facing was a lack of flexibility. First, when dispatchers received a request for same day service, it was difficult to see where and when the ride could best fit into their schedule. Second, relaying the new information was problematic as the drivers would often need to pull over and write down information and pickup directions, causing wasted time for both drivers and dispatchers. With the new CTS/Mentor system, dispatchers always know where each vehicle is and how many seats are available, making it easy to rearrange and update the schedule in real-time without needing to use the radio since the ride details automatically appear on the driver's Ranger. "It really cuts down on errors," says Tia. "Plus, it keeps the transfer of information private rather than broadcasting client specific details to the whole bus when it comes over the radio."
Piattran has also seen a dramatic difference in their data entry requirements. Tia explains, "Manual data entry has been eliminated almost entirely and the time we spend validating the data has been reduced by about 85%, a number we are confident is going to improve even more. The accuracy of the data is also much better which is very important for planning how we use our resources."
Not only has the system reduced data entry, but Piattran is also able to complete more rides each day. "We are able to meet nearly all of the same day requests that we get," says Tia. "Before, we always tried to accommodate same day requests but seeing where they could fit into the schedule could be difficult. Now we have the necessary knowledge to easily see where the most effective placement will be and seat almost every request that comes in."
When speaking about the system's implementation, Tia says, "Operating a demand response system is a daily challenge and we have little time to spare. We expected executing a project of this magnitude to be a nightmare, but the plan that CTS and Mentor provided kept us on track every step of the way."
"Overall, I really can't say enough about how effective the joint effort between CTS and Mentor is, from how well the products work together, to how seamless the implementation was," Tia continues. "Ultimately, their partnership gives us more time to fulfill our purpose which is to provide exceptional service to our customers."
With their new technology in place, Piattran is looking forward to the future and the goal for their trips to be 100% paperless. "The response from our drivers has been really positive," Tia explains. "We have given them a paperless date and they can't wait. It's so much fun for everyone to use the Rangers and the TMEE Software. We learn new things every day and it really has been a very enjoyable experience."