King County Metro signed a new contract with MV Transportation to provide Access paratransit service for the next five years. The contract incorporates feedback from customers, caregivers, stakeholders and community organizations to ensure that Access has a stronger focus on performance, accountability, equity and social justice, customer service, innovation, and continuous improvement.
Federally required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, Access provides about 1 million rides annually for qualifying riders who cannot take fixed-route bus service. Metro paratransit service provided under contract exceeds the federally required minimum standards.
Starting this fall, Access will move to a single contract with MV Transportation, a change from the previous three-contractor model. The current contract has been extended to Oct. 31 to provide continued, uninterrupted service for customers.
MV Transportation is an established, national company with experience implementing large paratransit programs in urban locations, including Orange County, Calif., and Dallas, Texas. Metro will be working for the rest of this year to develop the implementation plan for elements in the new contract.
Some of the highlights of the new contract include the following:
- Improved pick-up and drop-off windows to provide a better customer experience. The contract provides significant financial incentives to deliver quality service above established standards. Performance will be closely monitored, with disincentives should trips arrive very late, very early or are otherwise missed.
- Proactive outreach for historically underserved populations, including people with limited English proficiency, to provide improved multi-lingual access, including education about the program, assistance with applying to the program and scheduling trips.
- Integration of industry-leading technology, including a web-based customer interface for arranging trips and paying fares electronically. By using improved technology and data analysis, service will be more efficient and responsive.
- Ability to test and pilot more flexible scheduling options, including same day trips. MV Transportation has experience using non-dedicated services (taxis, for example) to maximize efficiencies.
- In-house Metro customer service, which will better connect Metro with its Access customers. This will also allow King County to provide independent tracking, investigation and accountability for the program.
- A retention plan was developed for current Access contract employees and drivers. About 600 employees operate paratransit service under Metro’s current contracts.
The $424 million five-year contract includes additional provisions for accountability and continuous improvement, giving King County the ability to establish higher standards of performance through the life of the contract. MV Transportation is also incentivized to reduce the cost per trip. The contract can be extended for an additional five years. Metro spent $60 million in 2018 on Access contract services.
MV Transportation was the highest scoring proposer after a competitive “Request for Proposals” process and recommended by the RFP workgroup, which included riders, caregivers, human services agencies and other stakeholders.
By signing a contract with a new provider built on feedback from customers and stakeholders, Metro has thoroughly addressed many concerns raised in a 2017 audit report that focused on performance shortcomings. Two years were focused on ensuring the new service contract would address cost, quality and equity, and some improvements were made during the interim to serve customers better. (A series of Metro Matters blog posts outlines steps taken since 2017.)