How Transit Agencies are Pivoting Services During COVID-19
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit transit hard.
But transit still has a vital role to play in serving communities during this essential time of need, even when we’re not operating as usual.
The transit agencies that have been able to quickly modify service and adjust to a new normal have:
- Looked at their existing technology to see how it could be leveraged for new purposes
- Reached out to software vendors like us to implement what others are doing
Here are a few examples of ways that transit agencies are stepping up in this time of need:
A Vital Need: Metro Mobility Using Trapeze Paratransit Software to Deliver Groceries
Metro Mobility in Minneapolis, Minnesota is using Trapeze’s paratransit software, PASS, to deliver groceries to its paratransit clients. Using PASS, individuals who were already certified to use Metro Mobility’s paratransit service can order groceries and household essentials online, with a local pick-up option. Metro Mobility will then pick up the order and deliver it to their house.
Since they are already leveraging Trapeze’s PASS software for paratransit trips, they were able to quickly pivot and use the software instead to track pick-ups and drop-offs; only instead of a passenger, the “pick up location” is now the grocery store.
Accessibility for All: Hamilton DARTS Filling a Need for Fixed Route
In order to limit driver exposure to passengers, and enforce physical distancing, most transit agencies are allowing rear-door boarding only. While this policy has good intentions, an unfortunate consequence is that passengers with mobility aids (like wheelchairs) who would normally be able to ride fixed route service may not be able to do so, since rear doors do not always have platforms that can be lowered like at the front door.
As a result, agencies have had to figure out how to avoid having riders at bus stops who could not board the bus. In Hamilton, Ontario, DARTS, the accessible transportation services for the region, helped solve this problem, by complimenting the HSR with pick-ups of “stranded” passengers with mobility aids at bus stops. Since they were already using Trapeze PASS, they utilized it for this new service too – simply loading the bus stops from their fixed route database into the paratransit database. Now, DARTS can schedule bookings for those “stranded” passengers, from one bus stop to another.
When a “stranded” passenger is at a bus stop, the agency notifies DARTS and DARTS sends a paratransit vehicle to pick them up at the bus stop and drop them off at the bus stop they had intended to travel to or wherever else they’d like to go (a grocery store, home, etc.). Using PASS, they’re treating these trips the same way as if a paratransit passenger booked a trip with their system – booking rides for each request that comes in. They also had the option of creating a generic user in the system for these trips or actually booking these trips with a passenger name – so in the event of needing to trace contacts in case of COVID-19 exposure, they would know exactly which passenger had traveled on the DARTS vehicle.
Essential Services: Hamilton DARTS Transporting Passengers to COVID Testing Sites
DARTS is using their vehicles to transport both non-DARTS users and DARTS customers to COVID testing sites, based on information they’re receiving from the Public Health Department. They are transported on vehicles with hazmat suits and the vehicle is sprayed between riders.
Being able to track all these trips in PASS ensures a safer system for drivers and the general public. Should a passenger who is COVID-19 positive ride a vehicle, the system can see which locations they were dropped off at, and which drivers they might have come into contact with, in order to properly notify all potential infected individuals.
It’s never been more important to keep track of this information where you can easily access the data – rather than on pen and paper or Excel.
Social Distancing: Sun Tran Giving Riders the Information They Need Before They Ride
With social distancing requirements, it’s never been more important to limit exposure whenever possible – and that includes with other passengers aboard transit vehicles.
In Tucson, Arizona, Sun Tran is using Trapeze’s integration between TransitMaster, our Intelligent Transportation Systems software, and INFO (our rider-facing suite of solutions) to let riders know how full a vehicle is, before they get on. In this video, you can see their bus tracker which shows on a map exactly where the bus is, with real-time estimates on when it will arrive at the stop, and how full the bus is – making it easier for passengers to social distance.
Helping Our Communities
COVID-19 has caused us to rethink how transit operates. That’s why we’ve been hosting regular webinars on managing through COVID-19 as well as providing self-help content and free consulting services for our customers to help them use this time to ensure their system is up to best practices and help them make quick changes as needed.
Although this situation has presented many challenges for transit, it’s also made us see the impact transit agencies can have on their communities – and the vital role that transit technology is playing to make it happen.