New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is advancing a number of technological initiatives to improve the experience for Paratransit customers, who cannot use fixed-route public transport services such as buses or subways due to disabilities or other medical conditions.
The MTA’s Paratransit Division provides around-the-clock origin-to-destination transportation for customers with mobility issues. Personal care attendants accompanying Paratransit customers do not pay an additional fare. The new technology initiative includes: the launch of a pilot program to provide the first ever on-demand e-hail trip bookings, GPS-based vehicle tracking, and the accelerated development of a unified app for all Access-A-Ride services. The e-hail app pilot, which launches this month, will allow Paratransit customers to electronically hail yellow or green taxicabs on-demand, similar to popular services such as Uber and Lyft.
Paratransit, which is a division of MTA NYC Transit’s Department of Buses, has contracted Verifone to support the technological services required to disseminate trip requests to approximately 13,500 Taxi & Limousine Commission-licensed cabs throughout the city. The commission has also been a partner in developing and launching this program.
The pilot will test the app with 200 Access-A-Ride (AAR) customers to gather feedback, with plans to expand the pool of users and ultimately to increase significantly the number of on-demand e-hail trips. During the first phase of the pilot, half of the initial group will use a customized smartphone app to hail their rides either on-demand or reserve a trip up to 24 hours in advance. The other 100 volunteers will book their trips through a dedicated line at the Paratransit call center.
Since the program launched in 2016, Access-A-Ride customers have made more than 122,500 e-hail trips and provided positive feedback ranging from the desire for increased travel options to real-time rescheduling and improved accountability through GPS tracking.
Paratransit is also accelerating the development of a single unified app for release by mid-2018, which would incorporate all aspects of customer service. The existing Paratransit web portal is also being updated to incorporate the new customer service functions, such as trip management and vehicle tracking with real-time Google Maps locators, and continuous updates for estimated arrival times.
“We’ve been working hard to improve the quality of service and convenience for Paratransit riders, using advanced technologies from the private sector, and incorporating feedback from our customers,” said Patrick Foye, MTA president. “Real-time, on-demand, GPS-based trip booking and tracking will bring significant improvements to the Paratransit experience.”