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.