Magazine article Public Management

Sharing Technology to Improve Service

Magazine article Public Management

Sharing Technology to Improve Service

Article excerpt

In the world of transit, big operations can afford expensive technology. Small operations can't, so they often do without. The result: often smaller cities and counties do not enjoy key technological advantages. To date, for example, only the largest transportation services have afforded the routing and scheduling technology that increases the efficiency of dial-a-ride services.

Dial-a-Ride Example

This gap doesn't have to exist when advanced technology and its prohibitive price tag can be shared by more than one operation. That's the lesson the Senior Ride Program of Alhambra, California, learned. The elderly and disabled dial-a-ride program in this city of 90,000 had been operating a 24-hour advance scheduling system with no automated scheduling capability.

Users complained they didn't always know 24 hours in advance when they'd need to run to the pharmacist or grocery store. Phone lines were busy and callers couldn't get through to book or cancel rides. In the belief that technology should provide a higher rides-per-hour level and allow the booking of same-day trips, the city asked for proposals for a new contractor to operate its system. City officials weren't looking for shared technology but rather for the best technology Alhambra could afford.

Looking at competitive proposals and visiting various facilities taught the officials a great deal, including the fact that label computer-assisted dispatch can be misleading. Sometimes the label only meant the dispatcher was able to point to a database of users. …

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