@ Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida
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Technology Application among Florida Community Transportation Coordinators

(Center Identification Number: 77970-00)

Principal Investigator:

Nevine Labib Georggi, Senior Research Associate
National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) at the
Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, CUT 100
Tampa, Florida  33620-5375
georggi@cutr.usf.edu
(813) 974-9770

Co-Principal Investigator:

Joel Volinski, NCTR Program Director
National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) at the
Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, CUT 100
Tampa, Florida  33620-5375
volinski@cutr.usf.edu
(813) 974-9847

DSR Contact:

Sharon Pinson, Division of Sponsored Research
Office of Research and Innovation
University of South Florida
3702 Spectrum Blvd, Suite 165
Tampa, Florida  33612-9445
spinson@research.usf.edu
(813) 974-0360

Project Manager:

Sheri Powers, Area 5 Project Manager
Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged
Florida Department of Transportation
605 Suwannee Street, MS 49
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450
sheri.powers@dot.state.fl.us
850-410-5710

Background Statement

Individuals who are “transportation disadvantaged” may include people who are elderly, have disabilities, or low-income. A survey by the U. S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) of transit agencies found that demand for paratransit trips increased from 2007 to 2010.   About 73 percent of agencies surveyed experienced an increase of approximately 12 percent in the number of individuals registered to use ADA paratransit service[1]. The pressure to provide adequate service to the disadvantaged and the individuals with disabilities while containing costs is and will continue to be a balancing act as long as demand continues to increase. All competing aspects of the cost-effectiveness of operations are constantly being studied to find best practices that would help provide quality service even with funding limitations.

This scope defines paratransit services as the complementary ADA services as well as door-to-door services, including those provided by the Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD)’s Community Transportation Coordinators (CTCs).

In a recent GAO survey of transit agencies, the use of contracting to provide services was reviewed. [2] Transit agencies GAO surveyed use various methods to select contractors and oversee contractor performance.   Cost-effectiveness of operational and technological monitoring processes can help transit agencies verify and track trips taken by preventing any gaps that might lead to abusing the systems in place.   Also, protocols in place to ensure customer satisfaction are important tools to ensure and improve service.

To ensure that the transit benefits available to seniors and disadvantaged populations are fully utilized, this research will focus on collecting best practices in the application of technology. The study will also gather success stories in customer service practices that incorporated technologies that help assist customers with real-time information.

[1] Demand Has Increased, but Little is Known about Compliance GAO-13-17, Nov 15, 2012 http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/650084.pdf

[2] Public Transit: Transit Agencies’ Use of Contracting to Provide Service GAO-13-782, September 2013. http://www.gao.gov/special.pubs/gao-13-824sp/index.htm

Research Objectives

The objective of this project is to gather and disseminate best practices in the application of technology in the paratransit field. The report will provide a comprehensive assessment on how representative agencies deliver successful services provided to ADA and non-ADA riders on demand-responsive mode of transportation. This study will inform the industry on the state of the practice and initiate an exchange among providers in the state of Florida that documents successful practices.

This project will particularly focus on collecting successful practices employed by transit agencies and providers in low cost solutions that work as well as innovative practices that have proven to be effective within funding limitations while maintaining good customer service. A survey of all Florida transit systems and all CTCs will be conducted. The participants in the survey will represent different sizes of agencies in both rural and urban settings.

Overview of efforts planned to accomplish objective:

  • Provide case studies of successful practices of the recent applications of paratransit technology to foster adoption, when practical, by Florida CTCs.
  • Identify proven and potential technology applications to help paratransit services improve the operation and efficiency of paratransit services
  • Develop an inventory of the paratransit technology applications deployed within the past five years or in the planning process for implementation among Florida CTCs to facilitate peer-to-peer communications

Benefits

Providing transit service to the disadvantaged and to persons with disabilities more effectively and more efficiently is a goal of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), and the Florida CTD. As demand for paratransit continues to increase in many communities, transit agencies must find innovative, creative, and cost-efficient ways to meet increasing demand even when resources are not increasing at the same pace. This report will help agencies immediately apply effective practices that have been successful in solving challenges with the application of new innovative technologies that are available to the industry.

Supporting Tasks and Deliverables

Task 1. Establish a Peer Review Panel and Conduct a Literature Review

This project benefits from a peer review panel representing different organizations involved in demand responsive transportation services including staff of the Florida CTD and as well as representatives from CTCs in small, medium, and large communities in both rural and urban settings. A solicitation for participation will be coordinated with assistance from the FDOT Project manager, Sheri Powers of the Florida CTD.

The panel will serve in an advisory capacity role to guide the efforts of the research team members to the approach and methodology of collecting pertinent information.

A literature review will be conducted to assist in articulating the particulars of practices published. The review will document potential technology applications that will improve the operation and efficiency of paratransit services.

To make sure that this project covers the state-of-practice, the literature review will be national in scope in an effort to document what technologies have recently or are in the process of being implemented in areas of paratransit management and operation. For example, at a minimum, the literature review will define the following technologies, how they have been used, associated costs and implementation timelines, potential cost/benefit outcomes, any difficulties or obstacles in implementation and how they were overcome, etc.:

  • AVL
  • GPS
  • Mobile Data Terminals
  • Reservation and scheduling software
  • Telephone systems
  • Security cameras
  • Customer serviced and information
  • Vehicle improvement and applications
  • Optimal routing (mapping assistance for driver)

Deliverable 1: CUTR will submit a written report to Sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us of the literature review.

Task 2. Survey of Transit Agencies and Demand-Responsive Service Providers

Based upon Task 1, the survey instrument will be designed by the research team and reviewed by the peer review panel. Edits and comments will be incorporated/addressed as the survey tool is finalized. CUTR will conduct a web-based survey of transit agencies and demand-responsive service providers. This survey will solicit feedback on technology and operational issues within the past five years and potential applications in the planning process for implementation among Florida CTCs, including any impacts of implementing these technologies on customer service.[1] The 2012 Metro magazine survey on paratransit highlighted the increase in demand and challenges in funding make customer service a growing concern for paratransit operators.

CUTR will coordinate closely with the peer review panel as the primary means of garnering participation in the survey.

Follow up phone interviews will be conducted by the research team to illuminate any responses that need clarification.

With assistance of the peer review panel and from survey results, research team will identify and select candidate agencies for best practices documentation. It is proposed that site trips will be scheduled in this task to document firsthand up to 6 case studies of successful examples of how

[1] Nicole Schlosser, “Paratransit Survey: Customer Service a Growing Concern,” Metro Magazine, August 2012

the use and integration of technology supports the operations and management of paratransit trips. The different case studies will represent small, medium, and large agencies in both rural and urban settings.   The peer review panel and CTD’s Project Manager will help in identifying where the site visits should be targeted.

Deliverable 2: The Principal Investigator will submit to the FDOT Project Manager for approval, and a copy to Sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us, a listing of the selected sites, justification for selecting the site and a cost estimate of travel for each site.      

Task 3.   Survey Analysis and Case Studies Documentation

The research team will conduct a detailed analysis of all data collected on types of mechanisms, operational, or technological issues that assist transit agencies with monitoring demand-responsive trips.

Documentation from site visits of agencies’ internal processes (including checks and balances) and their use of technology will be completed in this task. Real-work practices of how agencies overcame any issues with low-cost practical solutions will be sought out from the agencies visited. The documentation and overview of implementation and experiences to include:

  • Description of technology, when and why it was implemented
  • Funding
  • Procurement process
  • Issues and lessons learned
  • Staff & training requirements
  • Benefits from technology
    • Costs
    • Benefits
    • Improvements to operations, customer service, etc.

It is also important to disseminate success stories on new and innovative ways agencies have been conducting customer satisfactions surveys and how the results and knowledge gained from these surveys were put in practice producing changes to the way business is conducted.

Deliverable 3:   CUTR will submit a written report to Sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us with case studies synopsis

Task 4. Conclusions and Recommendations

Successful practices will be highlighted, particularly those considered low-investment solutions to transit agencies.

Recommendations will be drafted with feedback from the peer review panel to promote cost effective solutions to challenging issues in demand-responsive trips.

Deliverable 4: CUTR will submit a draft report to Sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us detailing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations from this study.

Task 5. Final Report

Ninety (90) days prior to the end date of the task work order, the university will submit a draft final report to sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us The draft final report will contain the literature review from Task 1, the survey analysis from Task 3, and the synthesis, conclusions and Recommendations from Task 4. The final report will also include appendices with the questionnaire and tables of responses received from the agencies.

The draft final and final reports must follow the Guidelines for University Presentation and Publication of Research available at http://www.dot.state.fl.us/research-center/Project_Mgt_Resources.shtm The report must be well-written and edited for technical accuracy, grammar, clarity, organization, and format.

Deliverable 5: Upon Department approval of the draft final report, the university will submit the Final Report on two (2) CDs. Both CDs shall contain the report in PDF and Word formats. CDs should be labeled in a professional manner and include contract number, task work order number, project title, and date.

The final report is due by the end date of the task work order and should be mailed to the Florida Department of Transportation, Research Center, 605 Suwannee Street, MS 30, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450.

Use of Graduate Students (s) and other Research Assistants

One graduate assistant will be working on all tasks of the project as part of the NCTR training and mentoring program.

Travel

Travel by the research team inside the State of Florida to capture successful practices though previously-described site visit to document first-hand experiences in technology application and observe customer service practices. During Task 2, it is anticipated that 6 separate visits to 6 different sites will be conducted. Two CUTR staff will be traveling to complete these documentations.   Depending on the site activities to be studied and the proximity of the site to Tampa as well as the paratransit staff that will participate in these visits, it is anticipated that each visit will be completed in 2 days (and 1 overnight stay) The table below outlines the estimated travel expenses.

The maximum amount of travel is limited to $ 3102.00. The maximum amount of indirect cost on travel is limited to $310.20. All travel shall be in accordance with Section 112.061, Florida Statutes. FDOT employees may not travel on research contracts. Travel must only be requested when teleconference and web meetings cannot achieve the purpose of the travel.

All travel must be approved in writing by the FDOT Project Manager and Research Center in advance of travel occurring. Failure to obtain written pre-approval will result in non-payment of travel cost.

Expenses

Tuition fees will be requested for the grad student.

Project Kickoff Teleconference

The Principal Investigator will schedule a kickoff teleconference that shall be held within the first 30 days of execution. The project manager, principal investigator, and research performance coordinator shall attend. Other parties may be invited if appropriate. The purpose of the meeting is to review the tasks, deliverables, and deployment plan. Teleconference/web meeting should be used.

Project Closeout Teleconference

The principal investigator will schedule a closeout teleconference that shall be held during the final 30 days of the task work order. The principal investigator, project manager, and research performance coordinator shall attend. Other parties may be invited, if appropriate. The purpose of the meeting is to review project performance, the deployment plan, and next steps.

Performance and Financial Consequences

Work not identified and included in this scope of service is not to be performed and will not be subject to compensation by the Department.

Financial consequences for unsatisfactory performance are referenced in Section 10 and Section 11 of the Master University Agreement, Form No. 375-040-64.

Publication Provision

If at any time during a TWO the University desires to publish in any form any material developed under the TWO, the University must submit to the TWO Manager a written abstract and notification of intent to publish the material and receive the TWO Manager’s concurrence to publish. Such approval to publish shall not be unreasonably withheld. If the TWO Manager does not provide a written response within 30 days after receipt, the University may publish. The publication must include the following language:

“The opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Florida Department of Transportation or the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

Project Schedule

February 2014 to March 2015

Budget Summary

Total Project Cost $67,153

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Sponsors

  • Florida Department of Transportation
  • US Department of Transportation

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National Center for Transit Research c/o Center for Urban Transportation Research 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 Tampa, FL 33620-5375