Mass Transit: Best Practices, TNC Integration

Partnerships between transit providers and Transportation Network Companies can help greatly improve a community’s mobility options.

RICHMOND, VA. – Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) pioneered partnerships with TNCs to respond faster to paratransit service needs. CARE On-Demand taps into the flexibility of the on-demand transportation market, matching available drivers with customers when they want to travel with little notice. CARE On-Demand enables GRTC’s paratransit (CARE) customers the option to use a same-day, direct, non-stop trip. This premium, innovative program responds to industry-wide challenges with paratransit services. Today, GRTC completes about 11 percent of all paratransit trips through CARE On-Demand, saving the company money and improving the customer’s experience. In partnership with UZURV and Roundtrip, most CARE On-Demand trips are delivered through TNCs such as UZURV and Lyft.

For years, GRTC heard from its customers their desire for greater flexibility and privacy in using paratransit service. GRTC also needed to combat traditional paratransit service challenges, including driver shortages, long on-van shared rides, late schedules, no-shows and day-of stand-by trips. The solution needed to be ADA-compliant and meet GRTC’s required qualifications (insurance, safety, budget, trip documentation), as well as offer the customer-oriented solutions requested (solo trips, direct, non-stop service, same-day scheduling and adjustments and the ability to bring a personal care assistant and guests).

GRTC researched traditional taxi and new on-demand options to gauge the market, then issued a Request for Qualifications for a third-party transportation pilot program in October 2016. After reviewing proposals, GRTC began the pilot with UZURV in August 2017 and later welcomed Roundtrip in December 2017. Both partners provide direct, non-stop, door-to-door or curb-to-curb service and offer scheduling assistance through live call centers. Drivers are trained in passenger sensitivity, defensive driving and passenger assistance. UZURV offers an additional layer of training and permits customers to request their favorite driver. Roundtrip specializes in app-based booking. Both partners often pick up customers within 15-30 minutes of booking. Wheelchair accessible vehicles are also available upon request.

CARE On-Demand customers pay a $6 “co-pay” for the trip, with GRTC covering up to an additional $15 of the trip. Should a trip exceed this $21 amount, the remaining cost is explained to the customer in advance of the trip and then billed to the customer. The average total cost per trip is about $26. Because of the nature of the on-demand market, it is important to ensure customers are aware of peak demand pricing increases and understand alternative trip times that may be more cost-effective for the same origin to destination trip.

Customers immediately began trying the new program, with nearly 500 CARE On-Demand trips completed in the first month (August 2017). By January 2018, trips surpassed 1,000 that month. Because the cost to GRTC for a CARE On-Demand trip ($15 max) is less than traditional paratransit (about $28 per trip), we estimate saving approximately $574,000 since launching in August 2017. With on-time-performance consistently higher than 97 percent, customer satisfaction with On-Demand is understandably high. 

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