Evan Siroky at Tacoma Tomorrow had a great catch: the new Pierce Transit service reduction plan has 88,000 more service hours than the old one.  Here’s part of what he got from a PT spokesman:

By far, the majority of the increase comes from identifying the impact of SHUTTLE paratransit reductions- in terms of geographic coverage and scheduling. We’re estimating that 15% of current SHUTTLE trips will no longer be in the ADA defined ¾ mile from a local fixed route and some SHUTTLE trips will be lost due to the reduced span of service. As you may be aware, the average one-way cost of a SHUTTLE trip is over $38.00 …

In other words, the ADA requires that you provide ACCESS-type service within 3/4 mile of anywhere you run a regular bus.  When you shrink the system, you reduce the number of disabled people you’re required to serve, which saves a ton of money.

Here in King County, Metro actually goes beyond the strict requirements of the law, a policy identified as a potential source of savings in the audit.  If they were to relax that policy, the system provides perverse incentives by making reducing geographic and temporal spread of service extremely cost-effective.

There’s much more at TT.

13 Replies to “Analysis of PT Alternatives”

  1. It is a somewhat perverse incentive. But the goal of the ADA is helping with equality, not providing additional transportation to the disabled. That is, if King County wants to serve the disabled outside of Metro’s area and the requirements of the law, it should be a separate fund (probably in the health department) from Metro transit.

  2. …the average one-way cost of a SHUTTLE trip is over $38.00

    Maybe time to encourage more handicap accessible taxis and use them for some of the single person trips.

  3. its an unfunded mandate from the ADA. Now, there are several ways you can implement the service but its main goal is to provide access to individuals who cannot make it to a bus stop under normal circumstances on their own, for those who live within 3/4 of a mile.

    Now, should uncle sam, and various public health agencys be subsidising part of this service, in my opinion yes. As capt. spock once said “whats good for the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”. Now, what catpt spock and the ADA laws say are two diffrent things.

    Now, with conventional paratransit service, you cannot have small dougnut holes in the paratransit service boundrys (if they are big enough they are ok). In my opinion there are other ways to implement the service, which is something that should be looked at more closely regionwide.

    First off, shifting more medical trips to medicare/medicaid funded service. It may make sense to consolidate medicare/medicaid and paratransit scheduling/dispatching into the same operation. This has numberous benefits including a single contact for the rider, and on the business end, the trip can come from the right provider (public transit or medical) the scheduler/dispatcher can book the appropriate modes/contractor.

    Second, convert from door to door taxi type service which is what is mostly provided now, to feeding into the transit system, and letting the scheuled service provide the middle connectity. I think that a lot of these riders regard this service as their own private taxi, at the publics expense.

    Third, convert outlaying areas to flexible routing service consolidating the paratransit and fixed route. for this some of the mathmatical formuals for how much it costs to provide the service would need to be adjusted, but i think you could save some money by not having to provide a shadow paratransit service to outlaying areas. again, those using the paratransit portion would have to trasfer, however it would be fair and just because everyone else has to as well.

    just some thoughts.

  4. “Second, convert from door to door taxi type service which is what is mostly provided now, to feeding into the transit system, and letting the scheuled service provide the middle connectity. I think that a lot of these riders regard this service as their own private taxi, at the publics expense.”

    Scheduling a paratransit ride with transfers can cost the taxpayers more than just providing a direct ride. Check out the various paratransit transfer sites and watch how long operators have to wait for the exchange vans. It is not a smoothe clockwork operation.

    Also, the categories of paratransit riders who can safely ride fixed routes and Link is rather narrow. I don’t have statistics. But there are issues with securement, custody and vulnerability, movement support, and others I am forgetting that wipe out big swaths of paratransit riders from being able to ride fixed routes. About the only ones who would be able to transfer onto fixed routes are those who have been admitted into the system due to distance from the nearest bus stop, with no additional reasons.

    Moreover, scheduling a paratransit-to-fixed-route-to-paratransit trip typically involves having an operator wait for the client and then wait for the bus/train, and then another operator waiting for the bus/train and then waiting for the client to gain access to their destination. That’s doubling the downtime for the trip. And in the case of wheelchair passengers, that means a fixed route stops for a few minutes to perform the boarding and securement, and then for a few more minutes to perform the desecurement and deboarding. I’m not whining about wheelchair boardings, mind you. I’m just pointing out that there really isn’t any money saved by creating paratransit-to-fixed-route-to-paratransit trips. There may be handful of exceptions, involving really long trips, but the overhead cost of identifying and handling the differential scheduling of those trips probably wipes out whatever remaining savings there was.

    BTW, consolidation of specialty van service into the paratransit system is being implemented for various of the specialty services. The proof will be in the pudding of the ledger figures, but from what I’ve seen, this consolidation has made a number of efficiencies possible. (It has also led to lots of pink slips for specialty-service operators, so part of the cost savings comes out of the hide of the labor force.)

    1. Yes, “private taxi” implies you can go anywhere at any time, but I think with paratransit you have to schedule the trip a day ahead, within the 1-hour intervals the transit runs, and it’ll only take you within the local area or to the nearest transit center. Many people use it mainly for medical appointments, which besides grocery shopping are the main reasons they leave home.

      1. Yes, you have to schedule by a deadline the day before, or have a standard regularly-scheduled ride. And there is a limit to how many grocery bags one can take home.

        A taxi, it is not.

        The predominant destination on Sundays is churches. The operator pay is substantially less than the fixed-route operators. As one of them likes to say on Sundays, “I’m working for Jesus.”

    2. thats true the recievind end transfer times would be a bit of a challenge, unless you ran a shadow paratransit vehicle for every fixed route trip (picking up eligible people, and moving them to their destination on that route).

      Your points are well made about those with extreme disabilitys needing hand to hand door to door service. i had forgotten about those cases in which you’d probally still need to provide that kind of service. I think this is where more coordinated scheduling and dispatch of trips would come in helpful, since the appropraite agency would pay for the trip (medicare/medicaid, health & human svcs etc) rather than just coming out of transit’s budget. Yes, it might mean some hard times for the contract operators, however it may improve their business as more eligible medical trips are moved that direction.

      Some overhead would be shifted of course, from the contract operator to whomever does the consolidated scheduling, as their eligibility departments, and reservations and scheduling departments would have a fair amount more work to handle. I’m sure any savings would be overall rahter than in one specific line item though, which makes it harder to justify.

    3. For some reason, buses seem to require a massive amount of paratransit expense.

      I’m always a bit surprised by this. Modern mass transportation trains are designed so that only a small fraction of the disabled need paratransit.

      But nobody seems to have been able to build a bus system with the same features: fast wheelchair loading (to low floors from level platforms), self-securement, tactile strips and audible announcements on the platform for the blind, etc.

  5. its ironic that the ada, whitch was entended to help disabled people, ends up hurting blind people. take me, a pharmacist with verry low vission, because of the ada paratransit requirements, I am unable to practice pharmacy on sundays, and had to choose betwwen lossing my job or moving.

      1. there is no bus service period on sundays, in part because comunity transit has no money for sunday service, in large part because of the ada paratransit requirments. My point was that if comunity transit didn’t have to do paratransit services, we would likely still have sunday service in shahomish county.

      2. It’s my understanding that its about a 50% split. So, for roughly every dollar that you put into fixed route, you need to put another dollar into paratransit. 60/40 also comes to mind, but still that puts you in the ballpark for how much this service costs.

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