Metro receives 2012 APTA Innovation Award
Agency recognized for managing paratransit demand
Metro will receive the 2012 Innovation Award from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for its approach to managing the demand for transportation for paratransit service.
APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy made the announcement at today’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors. The APTA Innovation Award honors a public transportation system member that has demonstrated innovative concepts or effective problem-solving techniques not previously applied in the public transportation industry.
By streamlining its eligibility process and fine-tuning its travel training program, Metro has enabled customers with disabilities to travel more independently, improved the rider’s experience, and saved the transit agency and its stakeholders millions of dollars.
“Congratulations to Metro for being selected to receive the Innovation Award. Metro’s initiatives have increased options and access for customers with disabilities. This comprehensive approach will serve as a model for transit systems around the country,” Melaniphy said.
“We are pleased and honored to receive this award recognizing our commitment to providing quality service for our customers with disabilities,” said Metro Assistant General Manager of Access Services Christian T. Kent. “Metro’s one-stop-shop for the disability community has empowered customers with better information, offered them better choices, and made the best use of our resources for the greatest number of people.”
Metro, like many transit agencies, faces the challenge of providing service for a growing numbers of customers with disabilities while containing the high cost of providing paratransit service. It costs Metro nearly $50 per trip for its reservations-based MetroAccess paratransit service as compared with $4 per trip for Metro’s bus and rail services. When customers with disabilities are able to make effective use of bus and rail, they are able to travel more independently and spontaneously, and the savings in cost is substantial.
With the goals of managing costs and providing efficient service, Metro adopted a new business model for connecting customers with the service that best meets their needs, promoted discounted and free, fixed-route service for qualified riders with disabilities, and provided extensive training on how to use the bus and rail services as a more convenient and affordable alternative to MetroAccess.
The new business model integrated Metro’s free and reduced fare programs into its paratransit eligibility process, providing a single point of contact for customers applying for any disability-related benefit or service. Nearly all riders who do not qualify for paratransit service are enrolled in Metro’s discounted fixed-route travel program where riders pay half the regular fare of Metrorail and Metrobus. Since fiscal year 2010, two million trips have been taken on Metrorail and Metrobus through this program.
Metro also provides travel training and outreach to customers with disabilities to teach them about the accessibility features of the bus and rail systems. Riders who qualify for MetroAccess service but are able to make use of bus and rail services for some trips are offered free rides on Metrobus and Metrorail as an incentive. In fiscal year 2011, customers opted for the free ride on 559,106 bus and rail trips, saving Metro more than $25 million in paratransit service costs.
“Metro has improved the eligibility process for individuals who are seeking MetroAccess services. As a member of the appeals panel for three years, I have seen the number of appeals reduced significantly and those appeals that reach the panel are upheld more often. This means that the eligibility process and the staff administering the analysis are doing a more thorough job of carefully evaluating each individual who seeks eligibility,” said Chair of Accessibility Advisory Committee Bus and Rail Subcommittee Susan Holland. “As part of the eligibility process, Metro also is providing information about travel training and is able to immediately refer those who do not qualify for MetroAccess to the travel trainer program, giving individuals alternatives before they leave the building.”
The success of Metro’s business model is a result of attention to detail, strong customer focus, and several innovative approaches:
• Assigning a case worker to every customer—under this model, a designated specialist is assigned to work with each customer from the beginning to the end of the application and eligibility determination process. This provided a simpler, more user-friendly experience that improved the quality of assessments and substantially shortened the time to complete the process, and customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
• Employing recreation therapists—trained recreation therapists are used to conduct paratransit eligibility assessments because of their unique expertise in assisting customers with disabilities in the pursuit of various life activities.
• Improving quality control—managers now review all findings of paratransit service ineligibility, providing a new level of quality assurance at the end of the application process. This practice has improved the customer relationship and resulted in an 80 percent decrease in appeals.
Metro previously received the APTA Innovation Award in 2004 for its Emergency Response Training Facility. APTA will present the 2012 Innovation Award to Metro at its annual meeting in October.
News release issued at 11:47 am, June 28, 2012.