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Via paratransit service introduces automatic vehicle locators

On an average day, Via’s dispatchers  are busy tracking 33 vehicles traveling throughout Boulder County and beyond, communicating with drivers about the hundreds of clients who are using the nonprofit organization’s transportation service to get where they need to go despite their mobility limitations. Thanks to the recent introduction of mobile tablets and wireless scheduling software, Via is on track for more efficient scheduling and ultimately, more rides for its clients.

Funded by a grant from the Federal Transportation Administration’s State of Good Repair program, the Samsung Galaxy tablets are picked up by drivers each morning along with the vehicle keys. After logging in, they are able to access their manifest (passenger pick up and drop off list) for the day. Using scheduling software from RouteMatch, the drivers can easily signal their arrival at a specific location as well as when the client is on or off the bus.  The AVLs allow the dispatchers to know where the vehicles are at all times, making it easier to add on a previously unscheduled trip for a client who may be near a vehicle location.

All of this information, including the vehicle’s current location and previous routes, is available to the Via dispatchers in real time. And while the technology is not new (large transit systems and public safety organizations have used it for many years), it’s a vast improvement over paper manifests and a two-way radio system for Via.

Lenna Kottke, executive director of Via, said the mobile technology sets the stage for the optimal management of Via’s most important resources – it’s drivers and vehicles.

“Our goal is to provide quality transportation for Via’s clients in the most effective and efficient way so they can live as independently as possible,” Kottke said. “We fully expect that new and developing technology will continue to enhance our ability to achieve our nonprofit mission.”

Last year, Via provided 126,142 one-way trips to 2,247 individuals on its door-through-door accessible paratransit service. Almost 25 percent of the trips were for medical and therapy purposes. While providing the service, Via drivers logged around 600,000 miles averaging nearly 500 one-way trips per day (Monday-Friday).

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