Allowing ADA Paratransit Reservationists to Work from Home
Recent circumstances have challenged the
paratransit industry’s conventional wisdom that reservationists and the staff that
handle customers’ same-day issues (if different) be centralized in order to
facilitate supervisory assistance and quality control monitoring, as well as to
aid in communication with scheduling and dispatching staff.
NJ Transit commissioned a study in 2017
to explore the feasibility of allowing some of their Access Link
reservationists to work from home. The
study was spurred by a growing volume of requests for service and no place to
house the additional reservationists who were needed. During this time, the average hold time soared
to 8 minutes, while some hold times in the afternoon exceeded 16 minutes. The study recommended that NJ Transit allow a
certain number of NJ Transit’s more seasoned reservationists to work from home --
and the real-time monitoring of these reservationists -- was not only feasible
but could solve the problem. NJ Transit
did in fact implement the recommendation on a pilot basis and it was
successful. This was the first time in
our industry that any large ADA paratransit system had attempted allowing its paratransit
reservationists to work from home.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic
and with the success of the NJ Transit pilot, many transit agencies followed
suit, allowing call takers (and other staff) to work from home as a solution to
keeping their non-customer-facing paratransit staff safe. Different technologies and processes for
handling customer requests, real-time interaction with dispatching staff, and
real-time monitoring have been used with varying degrees of success and
challenges. It is also suspected, though unknown at this point (while we are
still in pandemic mode) that many of these transit agencies will continue with at-home
call-taking after the pandemic has subsided as a cost saving strategy. But, by
the time this synthesis effort would begin, we should be able to confirm this
practice through this synthesis effort.
With these developments in mind, and as a
guide for possible post-pandemic changes to service models, the overall purpose
of this synthesis is to synthesize the successes and challenges of transit
agencies that allow paratransit reservationist and other call takers to work
from home. Specific objectives will be
to explore and document
(1) The paratransit call and control center
functions that are being performed by employees working from home.
(2) The different types of technologies and
processes used for these day-to-day functions and staff performance monitoring;
what changes to paratransit software or call center telephone systems were made
to accommodate call-takers working from home and supervisory functions.
(3) The impact of these strategies on cost
reduction, hold time reduction and other benefits.
(4) The related health and safety benefits
or worker compensation issues resulting from working from home as well as
efforts that are implemented to ensure ergonomics of the home work place.
(5) The related union issues such as
negotiating job description changes.
(6) The equipment (computer, phone) and
supplies that are provided by the transit agency vs. the employee, and
reimbursable costs related from working from home (e.g., internet access enhancements).
Determine challenges and successes related to off-site work by paratransit reservationists and other call takers
Task 1: Meet with Panel and Manage
Task 2: Conduct a literature
review/industry scan; summarize relevant information
Task 3: Survey Transit Agencies
Prepare a survey questionnaire based
on objectives and Task 2 findings
Identify a targeted list of transit
agencies that adopted this practice (as identified from Task 2)
Pre-test and conduct the survey, to
included clarification follow-ups
Task 4: Prepare a practice overview which
covers all of the synthesis objectives and which highlights best practices, policies
and supporting technology used
Task 5: Submit case study candidates,
rationales and interview guide to panel
Task 6: Conduct case studies
Task 7: Prepare and Submit First Draft
Task 8: Prepare and Submit Second
Draft Final Report and Final Report
Documented best practices will have an immediate payoff for (1) transit agencies who have adopted this practice but have confronted obstacles or otherwise looking for ways to improve the practice; (2) transit agencies that are looking for ways to reduce call center facility costs, ways to reduce customer hold times and/or are at-capacity.
|Sponsoring Committee:||AP055, Rural, Intercity Bus, and Specialized Transportation
|Research Period:||6 - 12 months|
|RNS Developer:||Will Rodman|
|Source Info:||The initial problem statement was developed as a result of AP055 efforts to consolidate relevant research needs pertinent to rural public transit, intercity bus, and/or paratransit from among 16 different source documents from the last few years. The effort identified 175 different needs statements. This problem statement was one of 10 research needs statements that were identified by the AP055 research subcommittee to be submitted for consideration by the TCRP program for funding as syntheses or full projects. Each of these 10 problem statements was presented, discussed and refined in the course of several video meetings of the subcommittee and by topic-specific mini-teams throughout the Fall of 2020.|
This problem statement was presented at the Full AP055 Committee and its co-sponsored Paratransit Committee in January 2021 at the TRB Annual Meeting and endorsed by both.
|Index Terms:||Paratransit services, Reservation systems, Reservations, Telecommuting, Personnel, Employees, |
Administration and Management
Data and Information Technology