Some Facts About HandyDART
April 19, 2012
HandyDART, sometimes called custom transit, is part of our integrated transportation system. HandyDART is a shared-ride transportation service for those people who are unable to use the conventional transit system without assistance.
TransLink established the Access Transit Secretariat and Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee in 2007 as part of its commitment to ensure that public transit in this region is accessible to as many people as possible, at all life stages and levels of mobility. In April 2008, when the last of the 1980s-vintage Flyer trolley buses was replaced by new New Flyer trolleys, the TransLink fleet became one of the first major North American transit agencies to be 100 per cent accessible.
HandyDART enjoys high customer satisfaction ratings, according to market research surveys done for TransLink.
- 68 per cent rate overall service as 8 or better out of 10
- 92 per cent report courteous, competent and helpful drivers
- 91 per cent report feeling safe from injury while riding
The surveys also found customers would still like to see improvements to on-time reliability, service availability and ease of booking and these will continue to be examined to find improvements. Factors such as traffic conditions, customer no-shows and the size of the fleet compared to the level of demand all play a role in finding the solutions.
In 2009, MVT Canadian Bus (MVT), a locally-based subsidiary of MV Transportation of Dallas, Texas, was awarded a contract to operate HandyDART. All but two of its nearly 600 employees are Canadian: over 95 per cent hired from the previous service providers. Since then, the number of trips has increased by four per cent to more than 1.2 million in 2011.
In order to improve efficiency and serve more people, TransLink has made significant investments in registration and trip-booking software, vehicle technology and also implemented consistent hours of service and operating procedures throughout the region.
Reservations are primarily on a first-come-first-served basis, with the only priority given to subscription trips -- ongoing trip requests for the same pickup and dropoff location, and day of the week and time. Subscriptions now form the backbone of HandyDART service – 62 per cent of trips in 2011 were subscription trips.
From time to time, a trip request may be denied if there is no available space at the time requested. When that happens, the booking agent attempts to find an alternate time, and if that is not agreeable to the customer, the trip is refused.
In 2011, there were 24,732 refusals and denials – 2.04 per cent of the total number of client trips. This percentage of refusal/denials is a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for HandyDART and the current target is 1 per cent for refusals and 0.5 per cent for denials. This is not a mandated “limit” but a means of monitoring demand and availability, and if the target is not met MVT reviews its shifting and scheduling to try to meet that demand.
While this percentage appears to have increased from just a few years ago when it was less than one per cent, not all refusals and denials were recorded prior to 2010. Instead, a booking agent might tell the customer the trip was not possible and ask if there was anything else they could help with, without entering the request into the system. Since 2010, Access Transit and MVT have worked together to ensure all bookings are entered into the reservation system. Recording all requests, denials and refusals permits more accurate planning for more efficient service.
An even greater issue affecting HandyDART’s efficiency is the number of “at-the-door” cancellations and “no-shows” by customers. TransLink recorded more than 36,000 such cancellations in 2010 – one of the highest rates of any major custom transit company in North America and more than double the number of refusals/denials that year (just under 17,000). This can be extremely inconvenient for other customers, both because a space is needlessly taken up and other people on the vehicle have a longer-than-necessary trip.
HandyDART has adopted a system in which a customer who repeatedly cancels at the door, or is a no-show or cancels on less than one hour’s notice, may face a progressive series of actions, including short suspensions from service. This is to encourage the customer to notify HandyDART in advance if they need to cancel, so that their seat may be used by another customer. While suspensions from service are only used in the most egregious circumstances, this system has succeeded in reducing at-the-door cancellations and no-shows by 30 per cent in 2011.
In order to accommodate the growing number of people in the region who require HandyDART’s specialized service, the system is becoming more of a shared-ride service and may not always be able to travel directly between Point A and Point B. Operators are trained in communicating with clients about their individual needs. This communication is particularly important for customers with incontinence issues or who require oxygen. We also remind our clients (or their attendants) to consider factors such as traffic conditions, multiple stops en route to pick up and drop off other clients, and unexpected cancellations by other customers as they plan their trips.
As part of his review of TransLink efficiency, the Regional Commissioner on TransLink made observations to make HandyDART service more efficient and cost effective. Opportunities to reduce costs are being explored while continuing to deliver quality service for these customers.