PWT’s Customer Care Centre is the Heart of our On-Demand Transit Operations

PWT’s Customer Care Centre is the Heart of our On-Demand Transit Operations

On-demand transit service gives underserved Canadians a new, revolutionary option for their public transportation needs. At Pacific Western Transportation, we’re leading the way with multiple municipalities across Canada already utilizing our on-demand systems. What keeps all of them running like clockwork is our centralized Customer Care Centre – a key component and vital hub of our on-demand operations.

Our call centre is fully equipped to offer dedicated support to eight different on-demand transit systems and our On-It and regional commuter services. This flexibility allows us to operate the call centre with agents who look after multiple systems, reducing both staff numbers and expenses.

Our call centre agents are trained to book trips on multiple platforms, while offering impressive call-taking coverage. Pacific Western Transportation can also work in addition to a local transit system’s call-taking staff, facilitating extra coverage during peak customer calls and after-hours communications with riders.

This specialized knowledge makes us unique, as we have the experience required to seamlessly convert a traditional transit operation to an on-demand service with extremely high on-time performance and customer satisfaction. Utilizing PWT’s centralized reservation resources will not only reduce average call times, it will also lower overall costs.

Our On-Demand Customer Care Centre 2021 Performance

  • Operates 365 Days a year, 5:00 AM to midnight
  • Handling over 35,000 calls
  • Resolving over 7,200 support tickets annually
  • On-demand operators completed over 319,000 passenger trips
  • 93% on-time performance with 92% customer satisfaction

Customers Have Multiple Options for Booking a Trip

Our on-demand transit services primarily rely on the customer’s ability to navigate an app or browser to access a ride. However, a significant number of our clients still require a dial in option to book their trip, and that’s why our call centre remains paramount to our success.

Our agents are ready to assist users who can’t access the app for any reason – age, cost, or unfamiliarity with technology. Here’s the bottom line: we are there to support our most vulnerable riders – those who can truly appreciate the convenient accessibility of our On-Demand Customer Care Centre. Call centre staff can create accounts, provide information on the on-demand transit service, make bookings on behalf of customers and manage customer complaints. These people are great at what they do, and there’s no better example of this than Saju Ghimire.

On-Demand Call Centre Representative Wins R.B. Colborne Award of Excellence

Saju Ghimire has been working for Pacific Western Transportation since the summer of 2020 and has recently been recognized with the 2021 R.B. Colborne Award of Excellence. The annual award recognizes and celebrates employees who make a significant contribution to Pacific Western Transportation through a commitment to our core values.

As an on-demand call centre representative, Saju exemplifies the professionalism required to service our clients by troubleshooting technical difficulties, assisting with payments and showing empathy and patience when helping frustrated customers. Her excellent customer service is her defining quality, and it’s precisely what makes Saju such a valuable team member.

“As a customer service representative, I would say that customer service is a main core value for me. Also, the safety of customers, plus drivers and co-workers, is another important core value. In my role, I have the opportunity to help different passengers who are from different cultures and vary in age, and I’m pleased I can assist them.”

Our Call Centre Adds Tremendous Value When PWT Is Contracted to Provide On-Demand Transit Service

At Pacific Western Transportation, our call centre can tailor a unique customer experience to any on-demand transit service. In addition, we can monitor operational KPIs and report on the performance of the many services we offer.

We’re proud of the team we’ve put together in our On-Demand Customer Care Centre. We’d appreciate the opportunity to prove just how valuable this service can be when transitioning from conventional transit to PWT’s revolutionary on-demand service.

Want to learn more about how our on-demand call centre can become an integral part of your local public transportation operation? Get in touch with us at ondemand@pwt.ca.

Edmonton Transit On Demand Celebrates 1-Year of Service

Edmonton Transit On Demand Celebrates 1-Year of Service

On Tuesday, April 26, Edmonton Transit On Demand celebrated one year of operations – and what a year it has been! We are halfway into this two-year pilot, and we have seen incredible growth and adoption of the demand-based transit model.

Edmonton Transit On Demand allows customers to book travel as needed, to be picked up and dropped off 9 different Edmonton Transit Hubs – allowing them to effectively transfer to traditional fixed-route service. Initially designed as a solution to connect 37 neighbourhoods and 16 seniors’ residences that do not have a regular bus route, it has since been expanded to include riders in 49 communities.

  • Starting April 24, 2022 service was added and expanded to the following neighbourhoods: Uplands, Stillwater, Glenridding Ravine, Balwin, as well as portions of Albany, Canossa, Rapperswill, Chambery, Elsinore, Klarvatten and Kinglet Gardens.
  • On Demand Transit bus stops were added to Cavanagh and Henderson Estates, and riders going to/from the Montrose community can now request service to/from Belvedere Transit Centre.

The On Demand Service was launched as part of Edmonton Transit’s redesign of its traditional fixed-route bus routes, adding a new service layer to their integrated transit network. The growth and adoption of the service have been evident in its expansion, but let’s dig into just how well it has performed over the last year:

Ridership Statistics:

Weekly Service Stats

Rides completed in the first full week of operations (April 26 - May 2, 2021)

 

v.s

Rides completed in the most recent week of operations (April 4 to 10, 2022)

%

These numbers reflect a 655% increase in ridership from start of project to present.

Monthly Service Stats

Rides completed in the first full month of operations (May 2021)

 

v.s

Rides completed in the most recent month of operations (April 2022)

%

These numbers reflect a 462% increase ridership from start of project to present.

Growth Statistics:

Ridership Growth

We have had a ridership growth rate of 18.85%, per-month, on average from May 2021 to March 2022.

Record Ridership

For 17 days in 2022, the on-demand service transported more than 1,300 rides daily.

Pick-up Times

The average pickup ETA remains below ten minutes despite increased ridership (see below graph)

Customer Rating

Throughout the year we have maintained an average ride rating of 4.8/5.0

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On-Time Performance

Average on-time performance remains 95%+, including an average trip pick up time deviation of less than one minute

Walk Distance:

The average walk distance to stop has decreased as stop tweaks have been made (see graph below)

 

We are proud to be a part of Canada’s largest On Demand transit service and are excited by the successes we have seen in the first year. We look forward to the promising possibilities of expansion into other communities – connecting people and communities is vital to our mission to be the Service Provider of Choice.

An integral part of building a sustainable future for transportation is creating strong partnerships that foster innovative and future-focused transportation solutions. It is our people who make these solutions a reality. Thank you to the drivers, office, and call centre staff who work tirelessly to deliver this service. Because of your hard work and dedication to your community and clients, we see successes like this across our divisions each day.

Connect with us to see how we can implement an on-demand transportation solution for your community or municipality:

Get your employees back to work and Safely Home with on demand shuttles

Get your employees back to work and Safely Home with on demand shuttles

As a country, we recognize the importance of in-person connection when it comes to workplaces, education, and our daily lives. After two years of intermittent isolation, countless videoconferences, and finding creative ways to hold it all down at home with your children, many employees are eager to return to their offices and adjust to “living with COVID-19” in the safest way possible.  

 

Employers have been preparing in many provinces across Canada, and some are already transitioning to in-office working environments again. We have learned to adapt at a moment’s notice in the last 24 months, and while we have been given the green light by the provinces who have lifted their work from home order, many employers are faced with big questions, such as: who is ready to come back? What will the adjustment to back in office life be like? And finally – perhaps most importantly – how will we safely get them back to the office? 

Offices may be re-opening for in-person work, but that doesn’t mean everyone feels comfortable diving back into their pre-COVID commute. The solution? Demand-based shuttle services. Providing an employee shuttle is a promising and widely accepted solution that benefits both employees and employers alike. Let’s talk about why: 

Fuel Prices  

With rising gas prices across the country, people are hesitant to turn the ignition and commute to the office 5-days a week. Canada, specifically, is more geographically spread out than many metropolitan areas globally. So even people who live within the city limits still often have a lengthy commute to work.  

The daily commute cost is higher than ever, and employees – both current and prospective – are using this metric as a serious factor when it comes to choosing an employer and their willingness to return to the office. Offering an employee shuttle will remove this cost for your employees and do wonders in terms of retention and new candidate attraction. 

Sustainability 

There will be employees who are reluctant to use conventional public transit due to health and safety concerns, or simply don’t have convenient access in their neighbourhood. This will result in an increased number of single-passenger vehicles on the road causing significant environmental and economic consequences. It will increase traffic congestion in communities, pack parking lots, and skyrocket harmful emissions. 

With environmental awareness top of mind, more and more people are considering how we as individuals can make a positive impact. We are taking a critical look at how our environmental values align with the organizations we work for. These considerations are influencing organizations to assess how their operation’s environmental footprint stacks up – evidenced by the implementation of corporate Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) programs.  

Working in partnership with their people, companies can achieve their goals to reduce their carbon footprint by offering convenient demand-based shuttles for their workforce. Now, not only will you be one step closer to achieving your ESG goals, but you will also be contributing to the vital work that needs to be done for the sustainability of our planet. 

Bridging the Gap 

Some people went home in 2020 thinking they’d be remote for a few months, which has turned into two years. For them, the thought of going back to the office full-time has the potential to cause anxiety and apprehension.  

Many employers are offering a hybrid remote-in-office option for those transitioning back to the office, and an on-demand shuttle can help bridge this gap. A demand-responsive service’s flexibility and unique application will work effectively for your employees’ individual and fluctuating schedules. 

Summary 

Providing an employee shuttle is a promising and widely accepted solution that benefits both employees and employers alike. It’s also not new, pre-pandemic organizations worldwide were already using technology to shuttle their essential employees to work, but there was a significant surge in its application in transporting healthcare and essential workers over the last two years.   

 

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For Employers

Demand-based shuttles offer a safe, sustainable, and convenient way to bring people – your most valuable asset as a company – back to the office. Companies can develop a customizable system that gives them control over their return-to-workplace strategy. Employees will spend less time commuting and more time being productive. These systems aren’t limited to healthcare, downtown offices or business parks. We have successfully implemented a demand-based employee shuttle system in the oil, gas, and energy sectors – the first of its kind in Canada. 

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For Employees

Reliable, safe, and easy. Your employees are in control, they make their trip requests through a mobile app selecting convenient pickup points and times. There is also an employee retention benefit to be realized here, and it’s a perk for employees not to have to drive their vehicles to work every day. Between wear and tear, maintenance costs, and the rising cost of gas prices, the option for a private shuttle system is a major aspect of employee satisfaction, talent attraction, and retention.  

On demand transportation grows in interest, awareness, and real-world applications across Canada. It’s not just employers considering it; many communities, transit agencies, and other entities are evaluating on-demand as a viable transportation option. Not only is supplying a demand-based employee shuttle service practical, but it’s also easy – for many, it comes down to deciding to operate on-demand in-house or engaging a contracted operator.  

 

Connect with us to see how we can implement an on-demand transportation solution for your workforce:

2021 Year In Review

2021 Year In Review

Thousands of PWT customers across Canada rely on the mobility solutions provided by our lines of business. During the second year of the pandemic, our services ensured that people had access to medical services, supplies, and other essential needs. We transported many frontline workers to and from their jobs, including members of the general public, construction workers, and essential energy and healthcare sector workers. In addition to this, we saw the revival of the travel and tourism industry in many provinces and the return to a modified state of normal in regards to leisure travel.

Today we are looking back through 2021 with a critical eye, analyzing our service performance, specifically, that of our On-Demand operations. This analysis provides key information about how our customers used our services in 2021 and highlight how we adapted and exceeded goals, despite challenges presented by everchanging restrictions. Throughout the year we adjusted services in response to COVID-related changes in use patterns, by closely following our services metrics. We have celebrated some incredible achievements and learned from the challenges we faced along the way.

 

Top 6 PWT On-Demand Highlights For 2021:

1: Edmonton On Demand Transit: we launched the largest on demand transit system in Canada on April 25th, 2021:

This system was designed as a neighbourhood-to-hub model that helps connect newly developed neighbourhoods, areas of lower density or lower historic transit ridership, and areas otherwise difficult to serve using larger, fixed-route vehicles, to the broader City of Edmonton transit system (LRT and Bus). The success of this complex service is particularly impressive as its launch was organized and coordinated entirely during a global pandemic, with almost no in-person meeting.  Ridership continues to grow dramatically as COVID restrictions ease and workplaces and schools return to normal.

This launch was a great display of resourcefulness and dedication, and another fine example of how PWT can deploy innovative mobility solutions in even the most unprecedented times.

Edmonton On Demand - 2021 Statistics

Service is supported by 57 brand new buses with either 11 or 14 passenger configuration, plus wheelchair accessibility

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Ridership increased 6.6% in November vs. October 2021

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Daily ridership is up over 94% from start of project to present

Average customer satisfaction with service rate is 4.7/5.0

Average time-in-vehicle is 12 minutes

Pickup ETAs average less than 10 minutes

2: Spruce Grove Transit - we converted a small transit system in Spruce Grove, Alberta from fixed-route to on demand to create better community access and more attractive trip alternatives:

This transit system conversion was launched on May 3, 2021 as a weekday-only service, operating primarily during the off-peak periods. The on demand service was designed to replace local Route 568 and offers service within the entire municipal boundary of Spruce Grove. Additionally, all local trips can be booked to connect with the commuter transit system to Edmonton – a convenient integration for those who are not within walking distance of a commuter bus stop.  

This freshly implemented transit service has resulted in substantially reduced travel times, increased connectivity, and flexibility for users throughout Spruce Grove – all of this while leaving a reduced carbon footprint.

Spruce Grove - 2021 Statistics

Pickup ETAs average less than 10 minutes

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November completed rides were 15.8% higher than October

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Completed rides is up over 234% from start of project to present

3: Leduc Transit System: we converted a portion of the Leduc Transit System from fixed-route to on demand on August 16th, 2021:

The reformed Leduc Transit on-demand service offers trips within the City of Leduc and Nisku Business Park and operates during the same time periods as the existing fixed routes: weekday mornings and afternoon peak periods. The service replaced local Routes 2, 3, 4 and 5. Utilizing existing bus stops and new virtual stops, the service offers a variety of benefits to local riders and those coming into the area from around the region. Trips connect to the existing fixed-commuter routes that used to get to Edmonton, the Airport, and the Amazon Facility. 

Thanks to the highly customizable nature of the on-demand service model, we have made several adjustments in the first few months of operation to the vehicle count by the time of day to best match demand. These adjustments were made based on actual demand vs. pre-launch estimates. All of this was done in the background without requiring any customer interruptions, reprinting of scheduling materials, changing the information on websites etc. Going forward, we will continue to use service metrics to inform further adjustments and possible expansion of this transit conversion.

Leduc Transit - 2021 Statistics

Passengers per vehicle Hour (PvH) approaching 4.0 and rising steadily from original base of approx. 2.0 at start of service

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November completed rides were 36.0% higher than October 2021

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Daily ridership is up over 52% from start of project to present

Average customer satisfaction with service rate is 4.8/5.0

Shared rides equaled 49% in November

Average trip duration is less than 10 minutes

4: Cochrane On-Demand Local Transit (COLT): we improved COLT service and planned the system’s expansion for a regionally integrated model:

Launched in late 2019, COLT  is an on-demand transit system that provides the local residents of Cochrane with an affordable and accessible transit option. Today, the service utilizes up to 3 vehicles during peak hours, and their Saturday service was been recently expanded by 30 minutes in November 2021. A new feature that was implemented in 2021 was Side-Road optimization. It allows the system to utilize alternative virtual stops to favour routing efficiency by avoiding navigation constraints such as rerouting due to vehicle/stop heading.

Looking to the future, ongoing planning and modelling of this integrated regional service will allow the OnDemand system users to seamlessly connect via a hub to Calgary’s commuter service. ETA launch 1st quarter of 2022.

COLT - 2021 Statistics

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On-time performance has been maintained at 92%

COLT has completed over 72,500 passenger rides to date

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Despite COVID-19 restriction, the system has managed to achieve 70% shared ridership

Average customer satisfaction with service rate is 4.8/5.0

Customer retention reaches new heights with over 2,000 active users coming back to the system every month

5: Okotoks On-Demand: our Okotoks operation earned the prestigious Minister’s Award for Excellence in Service Delivery & Innovation:

In September 2021, the Okotoks On Demand service was recognized with the Minister’s Award for Excellence in Service Delivery & Innovation. Receiving this award reinforces and acknowledges the hard work and commitment that went into creating an innovative initiative, the first curb-to-curb on-demand shared public transit service of its kind in Canada.

This recognition of operational excellence was a direct result of system optimization as a constant practice. The services’ backend parameters are checked regularly to maximize service availability and minimize failed searches. This year, a wide array of ride credit bulk options were implemented via the App, and users can now buy at a discounted rate up to 100 ride credits at a time. Wheelchair and other ambulatory aids load times have been revised to ensure optimal service.

Since the inception of this service in 2019, all goals created to measure up the system have been surpassed consistently and by a large margin, and have led to contract expansion.

Okotoks On Demand - 2021 Statistics

Completed over 70,000 passenger rides to date

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On-time performance has been maintained at 92%

PvH has averaged around 3.4 for this year, with December peaking at 4.4

Average customer satisfaction with service rate is 4.8/5.0

Average trip ride was 9 minutes

Nearly 2,500 active users every month, growing at a steady rate of 60 new users monthly

6: Diversified On Demand (DOT): our On Demand service in Fort McMurray, AB, celebrates a successful year. This is the first application of demand responsive transportation at an industrial worksite in Canada:

Launched in September of 2020, the Diversified On Demand service was created as a response to finding a cost-effective and comfortable solution to transport employees from Fort McMurray to their respective worksites. Today, DOT transports passengers from Saparee Creek, Fort McMurray & Fort McKay First Nations to worksites at Mildred Lake 41A and Aurora.

Our DOT Service runs seven days a week, 365 days a year, with pick-ups starting between the hours of 4:30-4:45 AM/PM returning from the site at 06:00/18:00. We started with 6 Vans and have since increased to 13 (4 Aurora, 9  Mildred Lake 41A Site)

As you can see from below, the success of the DOT Program in Fort McMurray has been tremendous in the last year.

DOT - 2021 Statistics

In 2021, we transported 57,967 Passengers between the Aurora and Mildred Lake sites

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Our on-time performance holds at 99% on average, between the two sites

Average customer satisfaction with service rate is 4.0/5.0

Average passenger ride time is 42.5min (Mildred)

Average passenger ride time is 65.45min (Aurora)

2021 Challenges & Reflections:

In 2021, we continued to launch and innovate our services while dealing with the ever-changing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For our new service launches, on-site support for pre-launch activities was significantly limited, leaving us to coordinate pre-launch testing and service trials with just virtual support and involvement from technology vendors. Below is a high-level review of some of the obstacles we overcame in 2021.

Equipment Delays: 

Like many others, we faced challenges with vehicle acquisition throughout the year. Ordering vehicles during a pandemic caused us to deal with unanticipated delays and forced us to make creative, quick decisions to keep all of our launch and expansion projects on schedule.

Call Centre Optimization: 

As our operations expanded this year, we conducted an operational analysis of our call centre and chose to centralize the operation. This streamlined the service overall and struck an optimal balance of customer service and cost-effectiveness for clients. 

Pooling resources to book trips for several different systems meant that Call Center staff and hours would be expanded to accommodate the new services. Increased training was necessary to ensure staff were familiar with new software, the new on-demand operations processes, and our other legacy services. These service optimizations resulted in the Call Center providing phone assistance for over 35,000 callers and resolved over 4,000 support tickets combined in 2021.

Network Outages & User Cancellations:  

Determined that network outages can cause big issues as driver’s tablets are dependent on reliable LTE connection. A backup system has been developed and is in version 1 – recovery mode, that warns drivers of network connection errors and presents the option of a static itinerary back up, so booked rides can still be serviced.

In some systems, we noted a high number of user cancellations, resulting in wasted driver time. To combat this, we implemented systems to help curb these late cancellations. Users with high numbers of late-cancellations or no-shows are now automatically flagged by the system for seven days and limited to a max of 2 open bookings at any given time. So far we have seen a decrease in late cancellations and no-shows.

Industry-Wide Driver Shortages: 

Driver shortages have been an ongoing challenge for the transportation industry over the past two years, and intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, our operations have been very lucky not to be impacted in a significant way, but recruitment is still a barrier we have faced. In response to unanticipated driver shortages, we have adjusted our service parameters to accommodate coverages, and booking availability is modified in advance or on the spot to ensure ride requests do not exceed service capacity.

Our On Demand operations found phenomenal success in 2021 — a year that was unlike any other in PWT’s history. Transportation agencies worldwide were faced with new challenges daily as we all waded through the unforgiving waves of a public health crisis. Nonetheless, we saw tremendous optimization, growth, and expansion in our existing operations, providing integral connectivity for customers both loyal and new customers. We found opportunities to launch and convert new on-demand services, uncovering unconventional and innovative solutions to their mobility needs. These ventures will lay the groundwork for future transit expansion and community connectivity. 
Looking forward to 2022, we remain committed to finding innovative ways to get our customers across the country to their destinations and Safely Home, each day. Our success this year, and every year, is a direct result of our people. Our passionate, dedicated, and committed employees are the driving force that will propel us through the coming year and beyond. 

 

Safe Public Transit For Vulnerable Riders With On Demand Transportation

Safe Public Transit For Vulnerable Riders With On Demand Transportation

A study published in 2017 by the Council of Canadian Academies pointed to the mobility needs of our fastest-growing demographic – older adults – and prompted the adoption of inclusivity and technology at the design core of transit systems.

“Older adults are the fastest-growing demographic in Canada, and as this group continues to grow, so too does the demand for an inclusive transportation system. This is an opportune time to look at how Canada can develop such a system, given that the population is ageing quickly, with more approaching that point in our lives every day. Looking at ongoing changes to transportation and accessibility governance is a smart start. An inclusive transportation system would allow for the seamless movement of all Canadians with many potential benefits from enhancing individual well-being to promoting social equity and social inclusion.”

In addition, a 2019 study that focused on the premise of older adults’ use of Autonomous Vehicles as an alternative to current transportation systems found that the idea of on-demand use of transportation services could be of preference due to the numerous barriers found in conventional systems.

Public transport must indeed evolve parallel to the needs of their users. During this process, it should evaluate how to address budgetary constraints and the matters of efficiency, flexibility, scalability, and sustainability.  There has been a  surge of SaaS, MaaS, and on-demand technology platforms entering the transportation market as a solution aimed to address these challenges. Highly customizable, they provide a wide degree of latitude to deploy a transit fleet in various configurations.

Accessible mobility as a critical component of contemporary urban development has in on-demand platforms a strong ally. In PWT’s experience, on-demand platforms have allowed us to approach transit service coverage with many options that help address growth and consider accessibility for vulnerable riders such as older adults, younger riders, and disabled or mobility challenged.

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Customizing loading times for user groups based on their mobility needs:

Accommodating load/unload times by user-group level enhances user experience and automates exceptions without interfering with key service delivery metrics such as on-time performance.

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Safelisting stops to guarantee infrastructure accessibility:

Whether virtual or physical stop locations, the system allows for categorization to ensure users’ pickup or drop-off location, which happens based on their mobility needs. i.e. wheelchair accessible, ramps, deaf/blind-accessible, child friendly, etc.

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Virtual stop set up:

During the system design phase, on-demand technology can re-purpose the existing transit infrastructure and add “virtual stops.” These virtual locations can be added to multiply the system’s infrastructure permanently or during certain times to allow for more efficient and safer stop locations during high-traffic times in areas such as schools, concert/sporting venues, festivals, or conventions.

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Booking reminders:

on-demand systems can provide records of booking confirmations, trip alerts and real-time notifications to every user and every trip. Upcoming trip alerts via SMS are beneficial for older adults and younger riders that may lose track of time.

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Access to a dedicated on-demand call center:

Usually, an oversight aspect of implementing on-demand transit is the enhancement of the customer service delivery, which creates robust support channels to assist those who are not familiar with technology, lack the resources to own smart devices, or who are too young to own one.

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Advance booking:

Trips can be booked in advance to ensure the operator and vehicle performing the trip are available and match the accessibility requirements of the user. i.e. wheelchair accessible, walkers, scooters or other mobility devices, including bicycles

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Customizable or recurrent payment by fare type:

students, seniors, disabled users, veterans or general users can set up recurrent payments or default fare payments in advance – providing the benefit of not having to worry about producing cash, paper tickets, or monthly passes at the time of boarding.

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Customizable special instructions:

the ability to add personalized notes for the driver is a feature that is both user and driver-focused. It gives the user the option to provide various details, such as pickup specifications, exact location in largely populated areas, back alley pickup, a child’s name when travelling alone from a parent’s account, etc.

At PWT, we have longstanding experience with on-demand transportation, not only by our strategic partnerships with technology providers but also operationally by participating in the design, implementation, and operation of several on-demand transit services across Canada.  In addition to the above, there are several other reasons to contract on demand your transit service with PWT.

 

If you are interested in learning more about on-demand, get in touch with us! We will provide you with customized plans to integrate demand-based transportation solutions for your community or business:

5 Key Reasons to Contract On-Demand

5 Key Reasons to Contract On-Demand

On-demand transportation continues to grow in interest, awareness, and real-world applications across Canada. Many communities, transit agencies, and other entities are evaluating on-demand as a viable transportation option and service delivery framework to extract maximum possible value. For many, it comes down to deciding to operate on-demand in-house or engaging a contracted operator. Here are five key reasons why Contracted On-Demand may be the best solution available:

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Flexibility + Speed

Knowledgeable on-demand transportation providers can utilize their expertise and prior experience to make swift decisions related to fleet size and specs, technology and app providers, communications planning, staff training, and much more, depending on the specific project requirements and objectives. In addition, contractors are not subject to the same procurement rules as municipalities or other publicly-funded agencies, facilitating quick procurement of goods and services necessary to launch an on-demand service. PWT has implemented on-demand transportation services for customers in a matter of several weeks and has taken delivery of new vehicles built especially for an on-demand service or client in as fast as five months from the initial contract award.

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Capital Investment

In many cases, our clients and potential clients are unsure of the long-term viability of on-demand and wade into this model by using pilot programs or funding grants with fixed expiration terms. In these cases, the prospect of spending considerable capital on vehicles with unknown useful life is rather challenging in terms of council approval. Engaging with a qualified contractor to operate an on-demand service can eliminate the most significant start-up capital costs. Contractors like PWT are willing and better able to manage fleet utilization risk based on their ability to re-deploy equipment in other divisions at the expiry of pilot projects, contract terms, etc.

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Service Support Capacity

Depending on the goals and objectives of an on-demand service, net additions to a municipal/transit agency fleet or general operations scope may occur. In these cases, there’s a decision regarding the available garage and parking space, parts inventory capacity, and management oversight capacity. PWT has found that, in most cases, municipalities and transit agencies tend to operate at close to maximum capacity in the areas listed above. The introduction of an on-demand service could push the limits of the organization’s available resources. Contracting out an on-demand service allows a municipality/transit agency to focus on its core services while handing off the responsibility for on-demand operations support to a third party. It is important to note that contracting out the service does not equal a total loss of control or direction. A well-written contract governing the service will still allow the municipality/agency to define the overarching goals and KPIs of the service and continuously monitor contractor performance toward these objectives.

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Centralized Resources and Experience

One of the key downfalls of on-demand transit service is that the public cannot rely on a fixed schedule of pick-ups and drop-offs to inform their transportation decisions. In our experience, most customers quickly adapt and get used to an on-demand service offering. Despite the one downfall listed above, it provides significant benefits like direct service (no transfers), expanded service coverage area, flexibility, enhanced ride tracking capabilities, shorter trip duration walk distances, and more. However, customers who would previously rely on a fixed timetable or rider’s guide to navigate the system will need to port over to a smartphone app or dial-in options. As most of our clients insist on dial-in as a trip booking option, personnel may need to be introduced to handle additional call volumes. Contractors like PWT can centralize call-taking/reservation resources to dramatically reduce overall cost and increase customer satisfaction with the service (lower call wait times, for example). PWT has a central on-demand Customer Care Centre that looks after trip reservations, customer communications, and operational support for eight different on-demand systems. This allows PWT to staff the centre with agents who look after multiple systems, not one in specific, reducing overall staff numbers and expenses. PWT’s call centre provides an impressive span of call-taking coverage, and agents are experts in trip booking with multiple tech platforms, reducing average call time. The call centre can also work alongside or in addition to local call-taking resources, facilitating overload call-taking and after-hours communications with riders.

Another key benefit of contracting out on-demand operations is that contractors like PWT have extensive experience operating on-demand services in various communities and using various technology and app vendors. This allows us to see what’s different about the customer experience or service performance metrics depending on the community or tech platform so adjustments can be made in other locations that enhance our clients’ customer experience and overall satisfaction. The ability to scan the marketplace and advise clients on service impacts is extremely beneficial when making adjustments to a new service offering, making it as attractive as possible for users.

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Cost and Overall Value

In most cases, when our municipal/transit agency clients or potential clients have studied the costs of operating on-demand transit service, the cost of operating in-house exceeds the cost of contracting out by about 30%. Much of this can be attributed to the information outlined above, including call-taking resources, fleet and facility expenses. Contractors can also save considerably in areas like technology expense (negotiating pricing for multi-system deals) and system oversight costs. Another critical factor when contracting out on-demand transit is whether it will optimize the labour force, given that on-demand services are most frequently delivered using much smaller transit vehicles. The capacity of these smaller shuttle-style vehicles will typically allow for the employment of vehicle operators with a lower driver’s license qualification (Class 4 vs. Class 2, Class F vs. Class C), which significantly expands the labour pool. Many municipalities/transit agencies struggle to incorporate these different wage classifications into their labour agreements, and contracting out provides the only mechanism to properly match operators’ required skills and qualifications with overall compensation. In our experience, demand for these jobs remains very high. It offers an excellent way for professional drivers with a lower license qualification to get exposure to public transit with the idea of perhaps upgrading to operate larger vehicles in the future.

The great news for municipalities and transit agencies is that the reduced operating cost does not degrade service quality. One of the key advantages of contracting out any service is managing the contractor through contractual performance metrics, which is not possible when delivering a service in-house. In a number of our current on-demand transit contracts, metrics like average wait times, in-vehicle travel times, on-time performance, customer satisfaction and more are written into the agreement as a way to govern the service and highlight where the contractor must direct its attention and resources. When performance metrics are trending in the wrong direction, it’s up to the contractor to fix (in conjunction with its technology vendor/partner) those issues to the client’s satisfaction. The side benefits this provides to the municipality/transit agency are monitoring and overseeing the on-demand service with one contract manager, or even adding to an existing transit professional’s duties.

The information outlined above highlights some key reasons why contracting out on-demand transit services may prove most effective, both in terms of cost and operational effectiveness – especially for municipalities and transit agencies who are still investigating the introduction of this delivery model to solve problems within their transit portfolio. Contractors like PWT continue to gather more and more experience providing on-demand services that operate in vastly different communities and environments. These services are designed to address different client needs, operated using various methods, including technology platforms and apps. This experience can be leveraged by other clients interested in approaching the implementation of on-demand transit by studying what’s currently happening in the industry and what has and has worked or not worked for cities and communities that have already “taken the plunge.”

 

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