“These people are taking care of their own clients instead of us taking them,” he explains. “They charge us and we pay the bill. They’re basically helping us out.”
With the agency’s employee driving and it’s the agency’s equipment, it is less cost than if WT were doing it. “We feel like it’s a win-win situation,” says Banasiak.
“We pay for the trips, otherwise we would be taking those clients anyways at probably a higher rate,” he explains. It also provides another benefit. “It’s more personalized service for their clients; they like that. They can kind of take care of their own…give a little more TLC to their clients.”
All of these different vans are being serviced at a variety of places. As Banasiak says, these agencies oftentimes rely on mom-and-pop shops or somebody that is not really specialized in working on the large, 16-passenger cutaway vans.
“This Van Maintenance Facility is going to be another partnership where we’re going to build a van maintenance facility, we’re going to staff it, we’re going to take care of our vehicles there, but we’re also going to take care of those agencies’ vehicles that want to participate with us,” he explains. “The benefit for them is it’s going to cost a lot less money to repair their vehicles and they’re going to get their vehicles repaired quicker because we’re specialists in these types of vehicles.” He adds, “Once again, it will be something that will help them and us in lowering our cost in maintenance.”
The VMF will be able to perform all maintenance functions on 30 WT federally funded paratransit vans and support vehicles, with the exception of engine and transmission rebuilds. WT will offer those same services at a reasonable rate to other agencies providing paratransit rides.
The grant was submitted in June of this year and was accepted in September. The design work will be complete by March of ‘08, construction should start in July and operation in January ‘09.
Making things run smoother
2007 marks the 40th anniversary of public transit in Wichita. In 1967 the Wichita Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMTA) began public operations of mass transit service. In 1997, WMTA became Wichita Transit, a city department. Within the past few years, WT has added new technologies that have contributed to the success of the agency. Some of those include automated scheduling, onboard and facility video surveillance, electronic registering farebox technology and computer maintenance software.
“You know it’s funny because every new piece of technology, we [can’t understand] how we lived without it,” Banasiak says. He shares an example.
“We bought new fareboxes back in 2003, GFI Odyssey,” he says. “We used to count money in the back and we used to have two people that would count money for two hours every day. It would be picked up everyday by an armored car.” He adds, “It was just quite a big hassle.”
Not only a hassle, but not always accurate. “We relied a lot on our drivers and formulas to get ridership figures,” he says. “We saw that when we did it by formulas, we estimated higher than what we thought.”
He continues, “It’s amazing how the accuracy is unbelievable. Those fareboxes are just so perfect and close to what the bank counts that we don’t need people to mess with counting money anymore.
“Also, the information on our ridership is very accurate.” He says, “Just knowing exact ridership counts and the money we’re getting, we can analyze our system better and figure out what’s best to do.
“The other thing that we did get that was very good for us was our paratransit scheduling package,” Banasiak says. WT has about 70,000 trips a year that it used to do by hand. “That was real intensive and our ladies back in dispatch were pulling their hair out trying to get schedules done everyday for 300 to 400 rides a day.
“Now with the scheduling package we can give information back to passengers when they request service and by the end of the day, you press a button and you get these schedules out,” he says. “That has increased our efficiency in paratransit immensely and it just makes it a lot less stressful for our schedulers.”