Paratransit – The Way Forward
By Steve LoPiano VP, Paratransit Division
With over 6 million trips completed in 2016, Access-A-Ride (AAR) is the largest Paratransit service in North America. The exponential growth in paratransit demand since 1993 has exposed a number of challenges. The bottom line is that the current system is simply not working for many of our customers. Customers have told us that shared rides take too long, booking must be made too far in advance, rules are too rigid, payment options are limited, reimbursements are subject to long delays, same-day travel information is often inaccurate, and there are too many late pickups and no shows.
Paratransit is working on developing solutions and is prepared to take the kind of steps needed to: improve on-time performance, reduce ride times, provide flexible booking, enhance trip management options, and develop a more customer oriented system. Our strategies for improving service include expanding the use of E-hail services, improving broker and dedicated services, enhancing our GPS system, implementing a new scheduling system to replace the current one, and improving our customer metrics to better reflect our customer-experience.
Some of these strategies have already been implemented or will be completed by the end of the year, while others will be implemented beyond 2017 and will require some upfront investment. Paratransit’s general approach is to become increasingly multi-modal (with different types of travel options) and match each customer with the best possible service option for them. We will leverage technology such as the latest GPS and scheduling technology to decrease ride times, improve on-time performance, and provide our customers with better information.
Finally, we intend to be far more customer-centric as an organization. We are examining every touch point with Paratransit our customers have, including the establishment of eligibility, trip reservations, pickup and arrival times, service delivery and the process for reimbursements and complaints. We plan to increase our outreach efforts to include more of our stakeholders and garner as much feedback and input as possible as we move forward implementing our strategy.
Back to Top
Paratransit service should not be a “one size fits all” operation. We work on matching our customers’ needs with the best travel options for them. To that end, we have been exploring the use of E-hail service to build a better, more efficient and flexible multi-modal trip platform.
E-hail services use web-based applications to match customers with drivers. It works with yellow and green taxis, and companies like Uber and Lyft. As we become increasingly multi-modal, our plan is to expand the use of both accessible and non-accessible car services.
A significant benefit of the E-hail program is that our customers are not expected to pay any out-of-pocket expenses other than the $2.75 transit fare for themselves and their guests. E-hail services also result in greater efficiency by providing additional options and greater flexibility for customers. For example, previously, if we knew that a trip was late we did not have many efficient options to deal with it. Now, instead of making customers wait for a vehicle we know is delayed, we can rebook the trip using E-hail services. Proactively removing these delayed trips, helps our customers get to their destinations on time. Additionally, these services also allow for real-time dispatch and same day service, where customers can book their travel the same day they wish to travel.
Our plan is to launch a pilot in the fourth quarter of this year. The pilot will enable us to test same day and real-time booking. Our customers will have the ability to change a booked pick-up time or location in real-time. It will also allow us to provide customers with pre-assigned authorizations and the flexibility to schedule their trip the same day of service in real time. We also plan to accelerate the development of apps for these services to provide greater independence for our customers.
Manage My Trip
In the fourth quarter of this year, we will launch a web-based app to provide greater flexibility booking AAR trips with immediate confirmation. This will help satisfy demand for those customers who want to book their own trips through a mobile app or the website. The “where’s my trip” function will allow customers to log into the site one hour before their scheduled pickup time, see the current location of their ride and receive continuous ETA updates as the vehicle approaches. Given that the majority of our customers today continue to be dependent on our AAR dedicated carriers and our broker (black car) service, we are very focused on making these services better. We have heard your concerns and have already implemented some critical changes.
This is the beginning of a process that will transform AAR service so that every one of our customers receives the travel options and customer service they deserve. We will keep you updated on our progress as we modify the following aspects of our business:
• Re-train AAR drivers on proper customer communication
• Introduce 400 new vehicles to replace older fleet
• Ensure schedules focus more on shorter ride times and better on-time performance
• Assign fewer trips to underperforming carriers
Brokers (Black Car):
• Introduce accessible trips
• Install GPS on 100% of vehicles
• Provide door-to-door service for customers requiring assistance
• Improve driver/customer communication and make vehicles easier to identify
• Implement a Broker Team to conduct quality assurance checks daily to ensure compliance with our standards
Navigating through New York traffic is challenging, so we are looking to leverage the latest technology to focus on improving schedule adherence and providing our customers with the most up to date information about their trip.
• Replace GPS fleet management system (AVLM)
• Implement a new state-of-the-art scheduling system
• Provide real-time dispatch capability to facilitate same-day schedule adjustments
AAR operates within the guidelines issued by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and guarantees a trip for those who are eligible but does not ensure a specific type of vehicle unless an accessible vehicle (e.g. lift/ramp equipped) is needed. Please note, AAR is public transportation and there are no priority trips. MTA New York City Transit determines how best to deliver service to our customers, including offering E-Hail / Broker Car Service.
As some of you may know, we currently get feedback in a number of different ways. We have a Paratransit Advisory Committee (with 15 members), we coordinate with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), we schedule over 100 + outreach events each year, and conduct an annual customer satisfaction survey. People can also reach us via our Comment Line, Web mail and traditional mail. We would like to obtain as much feedback and input as possible as we move forward implementing our strategy.
Did you know??? AAR has: • Over 150,000 Registrants • 21,000 average weekday trips • Provided 6.4 million trips in 2016 throughout the 5 boroughs of NYC • Operating hours 24/7/365
Back to Top
How to be a Savvy AAR Customer
Making a Reservation
Did you know that the records established during your initial assessment help us schedule the appropriate vehicle when traveling on AAR? However, if there has been a change in your ability or mobility device (e.g. walker, wheelchair) please contact the Eligibility Unit and use prompt #1. An associate will be able to guide you on how to update your records.
Traffic is a daily, unpredictable occurrence in our city. When traveling on AAR, it is best to build in extra time, just as if you were traveling by car, bus, or subway. Therefore, we suggest to make your reservations as an “appointment time.” AAR customers are required to wait up to 30 minutes for their vehicle to arrive. This time period is called the “wait-window.” You can call AAR prompt #5 any time before or during the wait-window to check on the status of your vehicle: Where is my vehicle? Am I the next pickup? A vehicle arriving within the wait-window is considered on time. However, if the wait-window passes, please call and use prompt #5 and an agent will assist you 24/7.
Keeping Your Records Up to Date
A fond wish for happiness and health to our colleague Denise Ann McQuade who retired in January! A well-known activist and advocate throughout the NYC disability community long before she started her career with NYC Transit 24 years ago, Denise was our “go to” expert in all things ADA. We applaud and thank her for her efforts to educate the community through AAR publications and outreach. She has enriched us all!
Back to Top
Please consider rescheduling an AAR trip when bad weather is forecast. While AAR may continue to operate during adverse weather conditions, there may be times when local road conditions prevent us from reaching you.
For weather and service messages, please call AAR at 877-337-2017 or consult the
MTA website at: www.mta.info
Why should AAR Customers Always Travel with a Cell Phone?
- A cell phone allows the carrier dispatcher to reach you to help avoid a missed connection.
- It also allows you to contact the AAR Command Center more easily if there is an issue on the day of travel.
- AAR Interactive Voice Response (IVR) messages can be sent to your cell phone. IVR provides important AAR-related information automatically.
A group of Kingsborough Community College (KBCC) students brought to our attention the problem they and others were having connecting with their vehicles on the large campus. AAR worked with KBCC administration to establish three campus AAR pickup locations. Because this was private property, coordinated efforts by Paratransit and KBCC were made to inform staff, students, and AAR carriers about the new locations added. Detailed signage was created by the college and placed throughout the campus. To learn how to book a trip to KBCC with AAR visit: www.kbcc.cuny.edu/access-ability/Pages/AccessARide.aspx. To request an AAR outreach presentation or Bus Demo for your organization or a representative for your resource fair, please call 877-337-2017 and press prompt #8 or visit: www.mta.info and click on “contact us.”
Access-A-Ride Telephone Directory
Call 877-337-2017 toll-free from area codes 212, 718, 347, 516, 631, 646, 914, 917, 332 and 845. From other area codes, dial 718-393-4999. Customers who are deaf/hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or the free 711 relay service.
When connected you will hear:
Thank you for calling Access-A-Ride; Access-A-Ride now offers an automated phone system to assist you. If you wish to check the status of a trip, cancel a reservation, or manage your subscription, please press “7” now. Also you can now book your trips online at www.mta.info and select the “Accessibility” option. To continue in English, press “1.” If “1” is not pressed, callers will hear choices in each of the respective languages: for Spanish, press “2,” for
Russian, Chinese, French Creole or Korean, please press “3.” For all other languages, press “4.” For questions regarding applications, eligibility, appeals, re-certification, or to update your records, please press 1.
To request a trip, please press 2.
To change a trip, please press 3.
To cancel a trip, please press 4.
For same-day trip problems (24/7), please press 5.
For subscription service, please press 6.
To use our automated system, please press 7.
To give a comment, commendation or complaint, please press 8.
To repeat this announcement, please press 0. Hold for assistance if you do not have a touch-tone phone.
Telephonic Interpretation Service is provided in many languages when calling AAR or visiting our Assessment Centers.
Follow us on Twitter @nyctAAR
Back to Top