Metro delivering 5 promised improvements to Access service

We acknowledge that Access customers are not consistently satisfied with our delivery of service, and we’re focused on taking action on your concerns. As a result, we now have new more comfortable and efficient vehicles, a mobile ticketing pilot project, and new 7-day advance reservations – just a handful of key improvements to King County Metro’s Access services that are underway and on the horizon.

Access logo

The changes deliver on promises made to Access customers as we worked with the county auditor, reviewed customer needs and looked to establish a new contract and approach to providing Access services. We are in the process of forming an Access community group to help the agency prioritize and address areas of mutual customer concerns – while also developing a vision for ongoing improvements.

As King County celebrates Disability Awareness Month, we’re highlighting the efforts we’ve pioneered in the past and reaffirming our commitments to more improvements for riders. Stay tuned for more updates. In the meantime, here are the details on the changes we’re putting in place to make Access services better for riders.

Advance reservations: Customers can now book 7 days in advance!

In response to customer feedback and advisory recommendations, Access now is able to book trips further in advance – instead of three days ahead, reservations can now be made seven days in advance. This allows riders to book more trips – up to a week’s worth – with a single phone call. No more leaving  work to make reservations; now you can set up your rides a week ahead.

34 new minivans: 50% less fuel, low-floor and more comfortable

Metro Access minivan

Access has purchased 34 new minivans – able to better serve riders with low floors, ramps, greater comfort and more maneuverability. We’re rolling them into service in phases, with all 34 vehicles expected to be in service by mid-November. By providing these vehicles to better serve riders, we’re also responding to an audit finding that called for a better vehicle mix.

Metro Access minivan ramp deployed

Vehicles cost $45,000 each, were vetted during a test run in 2015, and checked out with several peer agencies (which use 660 of these MV-1 vehicles.) They will be assigned only when appropriate to serve customers for their specific needs.

 

Test group for Mobile Ticketing

Transit Go Ticket screenshot

To make it easier to pay – instead of using cash – Access customers will soon have Transit Go Ticket mobile ticketing available via smart phones. More than a dozen Access customers are testing Metro’s mobile ticketing app, giving us feedback so we can fine tune the app before launching it to all Access customers. Once implemented, mobile tickets will allow Access customers to switch from paying cash and transfer their fare to other Metro transit service. This change responds to a county audit finding that called for more fare options for riders, especially those who don’t ride often enough to justify a monthly pass.

Interpreters expedited using language caller ID

When an Access customer who speaks a language other than English calls to make a reservation, our system now uses caller ID to expedite interpreter services. The caller ID also helps the call center with the spelling of customer names. This change, in effect since September, responds to a county audit finding that called for Metro to address barriers to Access for people with limited English.

Regular (standing) rides: easier to revise

Access riders will soon be able to have more flexibility in reserving standing rides and changing existing standing rides, a policy change our advisory group recommended on behalf of customers. The policy change allows exceptions to the 28-day waiting period for making standing reservations for customers who’ve demonstrated stable ridership.

Metro is taking action to address cost, quality, and equity in Access paratransit

(Editor’s Note: Updated 7/18/17 to include a chart of the audit’s recommendations and how Metro is addressing them, as presented to the King County Council)

By Chris O’Claire, Metro Transit Assistant General Manager, and Priscilla Vargas, Managing Director of Paratransit & Rideshare Operations

Metro Transit is committed to continuing to improve the Access paratransit service we provide to qualifying riders who cannot ride fixed-route bus service. The King County Auditor’s Office has presented the findings of a performance audit of Access Transportation to the King County Council. Metro concurs with the recommendations of the audit and is moving forward to address each of them.

The audit results echo feedback Metro staff solicited and received from customers over the last year, even as Metro worked collaboratively with the auditor. Metro listened to public feedback from customers, caregivers, stakeholders, and a community advisory group. Together, this feedback identified areas of improvement that Metro used to inform current and future service improvements.

How Metro is responding to the Paratransit Audit

How Metro is responding to the Paratransit Audit. (Click to enlarge)

In recent months, Metro has already taken steps to reduce costs, better monitor and enforce cost controls and good service quality, and assure equitable access to Access Transportation. Specifically,

  • Metro is buying smaller paratransit vans this summer to improve service flexibility and performance.
  • More fare payment options will be available to customers this summer.
  • New online scheduling features will be implemented later this year so customers can make ride requests outside of normal business hours.
  • Under a new contract expected in 2018, Metro will conduct a monthly review of the mix of service being used to provide rides with the goal to optimize the most cost-effective service. In addition, the contractor will have financial incentives to reduce the cost of each trip and financial disincentives intended to avoid higher trip costs.
  • Also under the new contract, Metro has defined a contract management plan that specifies contract compliance, methods for verifying compliance, and a schedule for reviewing and enforcing performance standards.
  • (Revised) Metro has agreed to adjust drop-off times has already taken action under our current contract to schedule drop-off to no more than 30 minutes from the start of an appointment time by the end of 2017.
  • Preventing excessively long trips: The scheduling system has a series of parameters that ensure trips are scheduled consistent with comparable fixed route trips; however, actual on street conditions can result in longer than a
    nticipated trips. Longer than anticipated trip times area also experienced by users of the fixed route system when the on-street conditions result in the actual trip taking longer than the scheduled trip. Metro staff currently monitor the trip lengths which are also subject to review by the FTA. If a customer feels they have experienced an excessively long trip, we encourage them to report it to Metro customer service so we can monitor emerging patterns in customer experiences and take action if performance falls short of FTA requirements.
  • Access will explore translating its “Access Ride Guide” into King County’s 13 top tier languages. A shorter summary of services is currently translated into 10 languages and some materials are translated online as part of our commitment to address language barriers to our materials. Translation and interpreter services already used by Access also bridge the language challenge experienced by some Access customers as they apply for and use services. Access also works with Community Access Transportation program to better meet the unique needs and help overcome the language barriers of various communities.
  • Access also will work with the Executive’s Office and DOT Director’s Office to begin the Equity Impact Review. The process will include review of the E
  • quity Impact Analysis tool as well as tools currently used by Metro to conduct equity analysis for the fixed route system.

More details about these actions are provided in a survey available to customers now. Access customer prepares to board service provided by MetroMetro mailed this survey to active Access users and has been talking directly with customers in outreach events targeted to hear from populations with limited English proficiency or other barriers to completing a paper or online survey. Metro is invested in making sure we heard from our customers and that the actions we intend to take will respond to their concerns. The survey is available online in English and Spanish is open through the end of June.

Metro’s bus fleet is currently 100 percent accessible to riders with disabilities. For riders with disabilities who cannot ride the public bus system, Metro provides a paratransit service, fully complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Metro also goes above and beyond the ADA to better serve areas and times not served by bus service and at a lower fare – a key element that can drive up costs while we fulfill King County’s greater mission of providing mobility to those who are most dependent.

Metro is committed to continually looking at improvements to the system as we move forward, and we will work with the King County Auditor’s Office and the public to make progress on the recommendations. We look forward to working together to providing a service that is responsive to our customer’s needs.

Do you use Access Transportation? Find out what Metro has planned and let us know how well we listened 

Invitation to provide feedback on changes planned in near, mid, and long-term

King County Metro is inviting more feedback through a survey of customers on how actions planned now, under a new contract, and in the future address key concerns identified by customers.

To better serve Access Transportation customers, Metro already is taking steps to improve service under existing contracts. Those steps include improved scheduling and routing for customers, an upcoming option later this year for making online reservations, and updated travel time estimates that account for current traffic congestion levels.

Access vanUnder a new contract, Metro will do a number of things, including increasing performance goals and incentives and disincentives for meeting those goals, have Metro customer service handle customer complaints, and provide more travel options for customers at the time of booking.

More work remains aside from the current and upcoming contracts, and Metro will continue to explore other changes requested by riders, including flexible pilot programs, vehicle tracking and arrival time estimates and options for paying fares.

Members of the public can learn more about these actions and provide feedback on them via a survey or attending an outreach event through June 5. A link to the survey and calendar of events is available on the project website.

On April 13, Metro released a Request for Proposal for Access Transportation service. Customer feedback, work with a national consultant to help identify service models that were appropriate for King County, outreach to multiple agencies across the Country to gain insight into best practices being applied at other transit locations, and preliminary findings from a King County audit, which is still in process, were taken into consideration in preparing the request for proposals. Information about the Request for Proposals is available at King County’s procurement website.

Metro and its contractors work to provide safe, reliable and consistent Access Transportation services for customers. We appreciate and value the feedback of customers and advocates as we work to improve existing service and strive to improve service going forward.

Need information about this process, the survey, or a calendar of events in a different format?

Leave us a message at 206-263-9768 with your phone number and a good time to reach you. We’ll call you back to discuss options.

 

Usuarios de Access le dicen a Metro qué es lo que funciona o no funciona y comparten ideas

En julio, Metro invitó a los usuarios de Access Transportation y a sus cuidadores a ofrecer sus observaciones sobre el servicio de Access. Más de 800 personas opinaron sobre lo que estamos haciendo, lo que es más importante para ellos y cómo podemos mejorar el servicio de Access.

Un resumen detallado de los comentarios está disponible en el sitio web de Metro, pero aquí tenemos un resumen rápido.

A quiénes escuchamos

access-heardfrom-2015-spanishA través de la encuesta en línea –

  • Gente de todo el condado de King (aquí se encuentra un mapa de Google con los códigos postales de quienes respondieron).
  • Clientes de Access (46%) y cuidadores de clientes (21%); clientes que reúnen los requisitos y cuidadores que nunca han utilizado el servicio (6%); organizaciones que atienden a clientes (16%); y las personas interesadas en asuntos de discapacitados, pero que no utilizan Access (11%).

A través de nueve reuniones de las partes interesadas – Centenares de usuarios de Access, profesionales interesados en el programa Access, cuidadores y grupos de apoyo.

Por llamadas telefónicas, correos electrónicos y cartas – Cerca de 100 personas, la vasta mayoría de las cuales eran usuarios de

Lo que hemos escuchado

Hicimos preguntas acerca de la satisfacción con los diferentes aspectos de Access, incluyendo la calidad del servicio, centro de llamadas / servicio al cliente, conductores, comodidad y limpieza de los vehículos, y seguridad personal. También preguntamos qué opinión general  tenían de Access. Lo que es difícil de reflejar son las innumerables historias que escuchamos que captan los comentarios resumidos aquí y la urgencia con que, según ellos, se necesitan hacer las mejoras.  Aquí están algunos de los principales temas que escuchamos:

Las cosas buenas que Access debe seguir haciendoaccess-wordle-spanish

  1. Los usuarios necesitan y valoran el servicio de Access. Una persona escribió: “Continúen proporcionando un servicio a discapacitados y a personas mayores de una manera profesional y cortés, con conductores competentes y el personal que toma las llamadas”.
  2. Access permite que nuestros clientes tengan libertad. Uno escribió que Access ofrece “… la posibilidad de llegar a lugares de difícil acceso para mí”.
  3. Mantener  la capacitación de los conductores y contrata aquéllos que tienen compasión. Los clientes notan el arduo trabajo de los conductores y valoran a quienes son cariñosos y respetuosos.
  4. Seguir contratando a personal cortés, amable y profesional en el Centro de Llamadas. En general, la gente expresó gran satisfacción con el personal por la ventaja de poder llamar y hablar con alguien directamente cuando quieren programar un viaje y averiguar lo que se necesita para el viaje.

¿Qué es lo que Access no hace bien y que hay que cambiar?

  1. Programación y elaboración del itinerario de rutas: estar en el vehículo demasiado tiempo; conducir por todos lados para llegar de un punto a otro, saltando a veces la parada de un cliente para recoger a alguien más; los conductores dependen de un GPS deficiente y no están facultados para realizar ajustes sensatos en tiempo real para responder al tráfico. Esta fue la preocupación más común que escuchamos.
  2. Falta de fiabilidad en el servicio: no llegar a tiempo; llegar demasiado temprano o demasiado tarde; largas esperas por la llegada del autobús.
  3. Comunicación deficiente o inexistente sobre la hora de llegada o de salida. Es particularmente estresante cuando surge algún problema y no se puede localiza al despachador.
  4. No hay flexibilidad para el pasajero: problemas con la política de cancelaciones; un cliente escribió, “Para mí es un castigo tener que reprogramar mi horario, reajustar mi viaje o cansarme de esperar a Access cuando tengo que llegar a tiempo al trabajo; los conductores de Access, por el contrario, pueden darse el lujo de retrasarse y soy yo quien paga las consecuencias.”
  5. Poca uniformidad en la calidad de la conducción y del servicio del centro de llamadas: muchos elogios y alta satisfacción con los conductores, especialmente los experimentados, pero hay mucho trabajo que hacer con los menos experimentados; se necesita más capacitación; la comunicación y las cuestiones interculturales fueron planteadas por pasajeros cuando el conductor no dominaba bien el inglés.

Sugerencias de los clientes para mejorar el servicio

  • Utilizar una tecnología diferente para elaborar horarios y rutas.
  • Ofrecer más flexibilidad y adaptabilidad a los conductores para responder a las necesidades de viaje en tiempo real de los pasajeros; la tecnología GPS mejorada podría ayudar.
  • Proporcionar la capacidad de hacer reservaciones usando tecnología diferente. Comunicarse de manera más eficiente en tiempo real. Un sistema reservación en línea sería genial, o confirmaciones de texto o de aplicación de los tiempos de recogida o descarga; seguimiento de cada vehículo; proporcionando a los conductores fotos de los pasajeros que van a recoger.
  • Ofrecer más flexibilidad en la programación y cambio de viajes. Un elevado interés en reservaciones del mismo día; deseo de hacer reservaciones con más antelación y ser capaz de hacer ajustes de viaje en tiempo real si las necesidades cambian.
  • Mejor seguimiento de quejas y preguntas. Tener un equipo independiente para manejar las quejas; mejorar el seguimiento para no transferir la llamada a otro agente al que habrá que volver a contar los hechos.
  • Valorar a los miembros del personal. Incentivar y recompensar a los excelentes conductores y al personal del Centro de Llamadas; aprovechar los comentarios para mejorar el rendimiento de aquellos que no están proporcionando un buen servicio al cliente.
  • Ofrecer diferentes formas de pago. Mayor integración de ORCA con Access y tener la capacidad de deducir la tarifa de tarjetas ORCA, pagar con tarjetas de crédito, o tener una tarifa que no implique cambio.
  • Ofrecer más oportunidades para recibir comentarios de los clientes.

access-glance-2015-spanishLos pasos siguientes

Esté pendiente de la información que se brinda en este espacio sobre cómo estamos respondiendo a los comentarios y a las oportunidades para proporcionar comentarios adicionales. Nuestra próxima fase de diálogo se llevará a cabo a finales de este invierno cuando esperamos recibir comentarios sobre nuestras respuestas a las sugerencias que se dieron.

Para obtener más información, visite metro.kingcounty.gov/programs-projects/access-transportation o comuníquese con DeAnna Martin, planificadora de relaciones con la comunidad, al 206-477-3835 o deanna.martin@kingcounty.gov.


How’s our translation? If you speak English and Spanish and want to help us improve our translations, compare this post to the same post we made in English and share your feedback by emailing community.relations@kingcounty.gov.

Access users tell Metro what is and isn’t working, share ideas

Español

In July, Metro invited Access Transportation riders and their caregivers to give us feedback about Access service. More than 800 people weighed in on how we’re doing, what’s most important to them, and how we might improve Access.

A detailed summary of the feedback we received is available on Metro’s website, but here’s a quick rundown.

Who we heard from

access-heardfrom-2015-englishVia online survey –

  • People all over King County (here’s a Google map showing the zip codes of responders).
  • Access customers (46%) and customer caregivers (21%); eligible customers and caregivers who have never used the service (6%); organizations that serve customers (16%); and people who have an interest in disability issues but do not use Access (11%).

Via nine stakeholder meetings – Hundreds of Access riders, professionals interested in the Access program, caregivers, and advocacy groups.

Via phone, e-mails, and letters – Nearly 100 people, the vast majority of whom were Access riders.

What we heard

access-wordle-englishWe asked questions about satisfaction with different aspects of Access, including service quality, call center/customer service, drivers, comfort and cleanliness of vehicles, and personal safety. We also asked for people’s overall opinions of Access. What is hard to reflect back are the countless stories we heard that capture the feedback we’ve summarized here and the urgency with which people feel improvements are needed. That being said, here are some of the main themes we heard:

What does Access do well and should keep doing?

  1. Access is very much needed and is appreciated by users. One person wrote, “Continue to provide service for people with disabilities and seniors in a professional manner with courtesy, skilled drivers, and call takers.”
  2. Access gives our customers freedom. One wrote that it provides “…the ability to get to places I wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to.”
  3. Keep training and hiring compassionate drivers. Customers notice the hard job drivers have and appreciate those who are caring and respectful of them.
  4. Keep hiring courteous, kind, and professional Call Center staff members. In general, people expressed high satisfaction with the staff and with the ability to call and speak with someone directly to schedule a trip and communicate about trip needs.

What does Access not do so well and should be changed?

  1. Ride scheduling and routing: being on the vans too long; driving all over to get from point A to point B, including sometimes past one customer’s drop-off location to pick up someone else; drivers depending on poorly functioning GPS and not empowered to make sensible adjustments in real time to respond to traffic. This was the most common concern we heard.
  2. Lack of service reliability: not arriving on time; arriving too early or too late; long waits for rides to arrive.
  3. Poor or no communication about arrival time or at pickup. It’s especially stressful when there’s a problem and dispatch can’t be reached.
  4. Inflexibility for riders: cancellation policy issues; one customer wrote, “If I have to rearrange my schedule, adjust my trips or give up on waiting for Access to get to work on time, I am punished; but Access can be late as much as they want and I have to deal with the consequences.”
  5. Inconsistency of driver quality, call center: many commendations and high satisfaction with drivers, especially the experienced ones, but we have work to do with the less-experienced drivers; more training is needed; communication and cross-cultural issues were raised by riders whose drivers are English language learners.

Customer ideas for improvement

  • Use different scheduling and routing technology.
  • Offer more flexibility and adaptability to drivers to respond to real-time travel needs of passengers; improved GPS technology could help.
  • Provide the ability to make reservations using different technology and communicate more effectively in real time about trips. An online reservation system would be great, or text/app confirmations of pickup or drop-off times; tracking of each van; providing drivers with pictures of passengers they are picking up.
  • Offer more flexibility in scheduling and changing trips. High interest in same-day reservations; desire to make reservations further in advance and be able to make trip adjustments in real-time if needs change.
  • Better follow-up on complaints and questions. Have an independent team handle complaints; improve tracking so people don’t get passed around to different places and have to re-tell their stories.
  • Value staff members. Incentivize and reward excellent drivers and Call Center staff; use feedback to improve performance of those who aren’t providing good customer service.
  • Offer different forms of payment. Better integrate ORCA with Access and be able to have fare deducted from ORCA cards, pay with credit cards, or have a fee that doesn’t involve change.
  • Provide more opportunities for customer input.

access-glance-2015-englishNext steps

Watch this space for information about how we are responding to this feedback and opportunities to provide additional feedback. Our next phase of engagement will take place later this winter, when we’ll seek feedback how we did at responding to what we heard.

To learn more, visit metro.kingcounty.gov/programs-projects/access-transportation or contact DeAnna Martin, community relations planner, at 206-477-3835 or deanna.martin@kingcounty.gov.

Help shape the future of Access Transportation – Tell us what you think by July 10

AccessBoardingInformación en español

NOTE: This post was edited on July 1 to indicate that the due date for participation has been extended from July 5 to July 10.

Metro needs your feedback to help shape the future of Access Transportation, Metro’s ADA paratransit service.

We’ll reach out to the public several times this year to learn about what’s working well and how Access could be improved. Your feedback will inform Metro staff as they plan for new Access contracts that will take effect in 2018.

In this first phase of outreach, we want to hear about how we’re doing with Access service, what’s most important riders, and ideas for improvements.

Tell us what you think about Access Transportation by July 10

Learn more

Bus announcement volumes adjusted

Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 26, we will be adjusting the volume level of internal stop announcements and external route and destination announcements on all buses to better serve transit customers. Plus, we’re going to be doing external bus announcements at all bus stops served by two or more routes and phasing out external announcements at bus stops served by just a single route.

1115BusAnncmntVolTest018b

Metro gathered a group of riders in November 2015 to give feedback about volume levels for bus announcements.

Consistent audio announcements are required by federal law and provide independence to riders who with vision impairments or other disabilities.

Improved stop, route and destination announcements will meet or exceed Federal Transit Administration requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act and better serve all riders who use the Metro system. The changes address an FTA audit that found Metro did not meet stop and route announcement requirements.

Since November, we’ve implemented comprehensive on-board stop announcements on 100 bus routes, with more to be phased in during the coming months.

Learn more about Metro’s accessible services programs online and contact customer service to talk with a Metro representative about how to navigate the system.