LEGISLATIVE AND FINANCIAL REQUIREMENTS
Although the technology and how fixed-route and paratransit demand-response services are managed is moving in the direction of integrated service, several challenges will have to be overcome to fully accomplish the objective.
The current legislative and funding environment do not make it easy to pay for and operate blended services. The rewrite of FTA legislation mandated for 2009 is an opportunity for the industry to press for both regulations and funding that support integrated service delivery. Emerging standards for information technology procurement are of particular interest, as these will define what can be funded by higher levels of government. For example, agencies are now required to be compliant with TCIP standards, as well as the federal IT architecture and state/regional IT plans. In addition, agencies, particularly small and medium-sized ones, can also take a page from BlueGO and make creative use of other funding sources.
Along with an effort to change the federal environment, changes to motor vehicle legislation governing taxi and private carriers at the state level will be needed to provide a more open playing field for the private sector to offer colectivo-type group taxi service. In any case, much is to be done to overcome the taxi industry’s view that this type of service is bad for their business, including looking at how the current practice of contracting taxis for ADA service can be expanded to the general public with new procedures and larger vehicles.
Larger properties are making an effort to include greater ability to contract out in their labor agreements. Given the fact that the majority of paratransit services are contracted out now, it may be possible to open up these services more to the general public rather than negotiating entirely within fixed-route agreements.
The conditions of dramatic socio-economic change affecting the public transit industry, the pace of the response, the very rapid evolution of technology and how it is being applied all combine to make it difficult for transit agencies to keep up.
Often the fastest way to do so is to take a careful look at “best practices” of the many transit authorities that do blend service, do contract operate and do use automation effectively. Share the vision!
Douglas Spaeth is product manager for TranSched Systems — Ontira Communications Division.