With cities and counties facing a large transportation funding shortage, California’s Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has recently introduced a text messaging program designed to save money on its communications with passengers and cut down on call center activity. The service lets passengers text a bus stop and number to the transportation agency’s call center to find out arrival times of the next three buses at that stop. This program will help OCTA cut its call center budget, which costs the agency more than $160,000 a month.
To read more about the OCTA initiative, click here.
Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, Wake Coordinated Transportation Services manages the contractors who provide trips throughout Wake County. The agency has been using a complete Paratransit ITS Solution since June 2009. Ray Woodall, Transportation Broker, discusses the benefits ITS has brought to his operation.
1. Have you seen a change in how dispatchers and drivers communicate?
All of the dispatchers are alive! No, actually, there’s been a very significant improvement in terms of the communication between drivers and dispatchers because with mobile computers, dispatchers can send trips directly to the vehicles. This frees up dispatchers to provide drivers with additional information they may need throughout the day. Plus it’s helped clarify addresses, names, destinations and things like that. When dispatchers repeat details over the radio it doesn’t necessarily get translated in the same way as when it’s written down on a driver manifest. With the system, drivers have the written information right in front of them on their screen. That has helped them to improve their ability to deliver services and increase their on-time performance as well.
2. Has the system affected the complaint resolution process?
It has helped some customer complaints drop, particularly with issues of being on time or late for pickups. We have seen a reduction in the number of monthly complaints that we had been receiving. If there is a complaint that is lodged because of a late pickup or drop off, we can go in and use the data from the mobile computer to tell the passenger “this is when the driver arrived” and “this is how long you were on the vehicle.” A lot of times when a complaint comes in saying, “it took me two hours to get home,” when you give them the data from the Ranger it turns out to be thirty minutes. It’s made it a lot easier to resolve those issues because it’s kind of tough to argue with the hard data. Now that customers know we can do that, it’s helped contribute to a reduction in those types of complaints.
3. Have you seen any changes in the office and bus work environments since you started using the system?
The stress level has gone down considerably. Radio traffic has decreased in terms of providing additions or changes to the schedule but we have been able to use the radio to provide other types of information to drivers, such as daily safety messages and more general information about traffic or construction issues. Dispatchers have been able to use the radios to provide that type of information instead of devoting so much radio time to modifications and schedule changes. It’s been a win-win on both sides, with the mobile computers and the use of the radio.
4. Has the data entry process been affected?
The time we spend on data entry has absolutely lessened. When I used to go into the scheduling application I would have to go back at least 7-10 days to pull up verified data. Now I can go in and the services that were done, for example, on Monday, are available for me to review on Tuesday because they’ve already been verified. We’ve been able to have the verification clerk assume other duties because the automatic data entry has simplified the process for her.
5. Has the system affected your fleet’s on-time performance?
We’ve seen a significant increase. We have an on-time performance requirement in our contracts with our vendors. In order to meet the requirements of the contract, they have to be at a performance level, for example, of 92% for the month. We’ve seen that go up on average 2 to 4 points per month. The only time that we see any issues with that is when they first bring new hires on board. The percentage will drop slightly for a couple of weeks, but it starts climbing right back up again. We’ve had some great success as far as on-time performance goes.
6. Where have you seen the most changes in your operation?
The greatest change that we have seen is the improvements in the ways that the drivers, schedulers, and dispatchers are doing the scheduling. With dispatch being able to do on-the-fly changes it’s certainly helped keep the schedules more in-line with using vehicles as efficiently as possible, which in turn improves on-time performance. There’s also been an improvement in the quality of data we’ve been able to get back from the vehicles with the mobile computers.
Even though real-time access to information anytime and anywhere is considered one of the most important productivity enhancements available, the reality of the situation is that any enterprise is restricted by what they can spend on wireless data services. Mobile Enterprise Magazine has outlined 8 steps that will help you make sense of choosing the right wireless data plan for your enterprise business.
1. Wireless broadband pricing for business customers depends on the number of devices, the types of services you want, and how good you are at telling the wireless carrier what you need.
2. Take into account your organization’s data usage on a per-user basis to determine what your averages will be. Field workers will need more data than business executives, for instance.
3. Look for a monthly per-user contract, or a bucket of data that can be used by everyone in the company, depending on which option results in the best pricing.
4. Ask for a price reduction guarantee, so that when data price points drop, as all wireless pricing does, you will automatically get the reduction.
5. Some carriers are offering a new way to purchase data: they’ll sell 24 hours of data services for about $12. It’s a good way to buy for your organization’s occasional travelers.
6. Ask about becoming a customer without a one-year or two-year contract. If you have a large enough company and the carrier really wants your business you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
7. Buy toward the end of the quarter, when the network operators’ sales forces are scrambling for new net adds that can be reported at the end of that quarter.
8. The bottom line: your organization should end up paying less for your enterprise data than the carrier’s advertised consumer pricing.
To read the entire article by Mobile Enterprise Magazine, click here.
This blog post, courtesy of The Transit Pass, argues for the role of public transit in reducing the number of automobile accidents in the United States. The author points out that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) accounted for 37,261 motor vehicle fatalities in 2008. Compared to this figure, public transit options such as train, bus and light rail provide a safer way to travel overall. The article also argues that the cost of human life should be a bigger issue when considering infrastructure costs. Read the entire article for a different perspective on the advantages of public transit.
Are you trying to find ways to improve your agency’s on-time performance, streamline operations and increase customer satisfaction? With shrinking budgets and a growing need for paratransit service, it can seem like a daunting task.
Check out this free webinar and learn how ITS technology can be used to manage your day-to-day challenges while improving customer service and increasing efficiency. In the webinar, our Transit Project Manager will demonstrate real-life examples of how you can save time, improve on-time performance, make easy on-the-fly schedule changes, and reduce operating costs.
Fixed-route transit ITS solutions were created to help transit agencies deal with the unexpected, including everything from sick employees to traffic jams. A thorough solution should keep your agency running smoothly and efficiently, no matter the reason.
To that end, we’ve created a demo that shows how the various functionalities of an ITS solution can keep an agency on track in one of the most outrageous situations we could imagine: an attack by a group of giant lizards. They’ve invaded the town of Quietville and are making life rather challenging for the local transit agency and its passengers.
While this is obviously a touch on the fanciful side, if a mob of oversized reptiles bent on chaos can’t disrupt the Quietville transit agency, what can? Check out the demo and see who wins.
A blog for those of us who live and work in fleet management. Topics include engine diagnostics, driver safety, mobile workforce management, CAD/AVL, vehicle maintenance, truck distribution, global computing, work order management, and field services.
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