Research Archive

Appendix A: Discussion Group Summaries

Mobility Services for All Americans
Discussion Group Summary #1 & #2
Advocate Organizations
March 15, 2005 1:00-3:00pm (in person)
April 11, 2005 (teleconference call)

Attendance

This discussion group was held "in person" in Washington, DC, and was attended by representatives of seven advocacy organizations (roster available). A second teleconference call was held on April 11, 2005, for those who could not attend the in-person session.

Discussion

Discussion centered around feedback on the research conducted to date by the SAIC team, the components necessary for an "ideal" accessible and coordinated transportation system, the opportunities such a system would provide the organizations and their constituents, the barriers that need to be overcome in order for an accessible, coordinated system to be successful. The following summarizes the themes that emerged from each point of discussion.

Research Findings
  • Lack of "customer service" attitude/approach is an accessibility barrier.
    • The "human factor" of whether a driver or operator is helpful is one of the most significant helps or barriers.
  • Language/annunciation of the driver matters.
  • Multiple technologies are needed.
    • Systems (technology) need regular updating and maintenance.
    • Timing of technology matters (e.g., wait times).
  • Consumers need to feel empowered.
    • Training is needed in the use of technologies.
    • To complain if necessary and/or to address problems.
    • Assistance in doing so may be needed.
  • Services need objective measures of accountability (not self report by providers).
  • Training in use of technologies is important (for system operators and consumers alike).
  • Information needs to be consistently available and accessible about the system and how to use it.
    • Alternatives to internet need to be available. Many low income, rural consumers and those with disabilities lack access to computer/internet.
    • Information needs to be simplified to the "basics."
"Ideal System" Components
  • The ideal system is "anytime, anywhere, any day without restriction, question or car."
  • Training for the "human factor" (customer service) regularly occurs.
  • Public awareness of the system is high
    • There is a strategic plan in place that addresses accessibility and the stigma of using "public" transportation.
  • The system and its equipment are updated and maintained regularly, and there is a reliable back-up in place.
  • A board of consumers and visionary thinkers is in place to first plan, then implement the system and to keep it "ideal."
  • The system is accessible and has multiple methods of ensuring accessibility, including:
    • Location.
    • Sidewalks.
    • Signals.
    • Signage.
    • Lengths of time for people with disabilities (v. cars).
    • Accessible vehicles.
  • The system has integrated funding/resources, payment options and modes
  • Multiple modes are accesses via one point. There is an "individual transportation plan" in place for daily users to assist with coordinating modes.
    • One point of entry provides access to multiple modes.
    • Flexibility is in place (e.g. door-to-door or curb-to-curb).
  • A system is in place for uniform security for personal security and system security. This includes:
    • Lighting.
    • Equipment maintenance.
    • Continuity.
    • Public safety.
    • Tracking needs without revealing personal information.
    • Assistance is available for special health care needs, if needed.
    • A "Smart Card" is used so that the payer is blurred.
  • Jurisdictional boundaries are blurred so that there is continuity of mode and payment.
Barriers
  • There is not enough funding for all of the "competing forces" and too many related regulations/red-tape. Funding that is available is uncoordinated and inefficient.
  • Entrenched attitudes of Federal, State and local bureaucrats and providers prevent innovative and creative solutions. To coordinate all must do something different, including consumers (who are also entrenched in current system). Strong leadership is needed to make a new system a priority.
  • There is an interest group for everything, perpetuating the existing system/funding and making change difficult.
Opportunities
  • Increased employment and opportunities to work.
  • Increased ability to complete or attain higher levels of education.
  • Decreased isolation.
  • Increased participation in community life and activities.
  • Increased choice and opportunity.
  • Improved access to healthcare.
  • Increase in inclusion of people with disabilities.
  • Increase in independence and self-sufficiency.
  • Increased integration of people with disabilities in the community.
  • Increased access to housing.
  • Increased "livability" of communities (evidenced by indicators such as air quality, green spaces, and pedestrian friendly).
  • Services for people with disabilities are better utilized and available.

Themes and Priorities

The highest priority of the members of this discussion group was the use of an oversight board that would plan an accessible and coordinated system, keep the vision and keep it "ideal". The group felt such an oversight board was necessary to ensuring the availability of their next two priorities: training for the "human factor" (customer service orientation) and accessibility via multiple methods (as described above).

Repeated throughout the discussion was:

  • The need for thoughtful planning of the system.
  • The fact that presence/absence of the "human factor" with respect to technology is a prime indicator of accessibility.
  • The need for training and adequate maintenance of equipment and technology.
  • Consistency of information and technology.
  • The entrenchment of current users, operators, funders and advocates.
  • The importance of integrating multiple systems.

Mobility Services for All Americans
Discussion Group Summary #3
Community Transportation/Non-Profit Agencies
April 6, 2005 9:00-11:00am

Attendance

This discussion group was held via teleconference and was attended by representatives of six agencies (roster available).

Discussion

Discussion centered around feedback on the research conducted to date by the SAIC team, the components necessary for an "ideal" accessible and coordinated transportation system, the benefits such a system would provide the agencies, the barriers that need to be overcome in order for an accessible, coordinated system to be successful, and technical assistance necessary in order to effectively implement such a system. The following summarizes the themes that emerged from each point of discussion.

Research Findings
  • Research and findings are comprehensive and helpful.
  • Technology can be an important tool to assist with accessibility issues:
    • Websites (although must be compatible with voice-activated software and "bobbi" approved)
    • GIS could inventory pathways to major stops
    • Transfer coordination/time-transfers
  • Technology can assist with service expansion.
  • Use of technology needs to be encouraged or rewarded, perhaps with incentives.
  • Technology will not work without the "human factor"
    • Staff, volunteers or peer helpers to assist with using technology
  • Technology cannot assist with certain key elements where the "human factor" is needed, such as:
    • Travel training
    • Overcoming the "fear factor" of using public transportation
  • Technology is the key to finally implementing a coordinated approach.
  • Cannot ignore institutional, agency and human barriers.
"Ideal System" Components
  • Transportation is an extension of daily life.
    • WiFi is available on vehicles
  • Technology is available so that people know how to find and access services.
    • Kiosks through the community
    • GIS is used to assess whether fixed routes can be used
    • Mobile data for time transfers
    • Internet accessible
    • Computerized scheduling and routing to do picks, runs, and cuts
    • A data base provides a virtual trip center for travel modes
  • A menu of services is available.
  • "Human" assistance is available throughout the system and at all access points.
  • Technology is affordable and accessible to agencies.
    • Agencies have the capacity to use technology
  • Technology is in working order and well matched to the application/setting.
  • The system is "virtual" among myriad organizations and agencies. Technology is the link that creates the system from the parts.
    • Seamless link of providers
    • Agencies share resources (space, technology, information)
  • Smart-card technology is used for payment so that payer is invisible.
  • Leadership is in place to create a national transportation system that is linked via ITS technology.
    • Connectivity
    • Telecommuting options
    • Use of funding as incentives
    • Coordination
Barriers
  • Lack of resources
    • Funding
    • Technology
    • Services
    • Expertise/capacity to use technology
  • Lack of communication infrastructure to support ITS (particularly in rural areas)
  • Existing funding structures
    • Segmented by "client" groups
    • Red tape and regulations
  • Politics and legal barriers (e.g.13-C; 533-B)
    • Policy makers don't understand investment in technology & coordination now yields long-term benefit
  • Lack of coordination at State and Federal levels (it is still "lip service")
    • Organizational structures & cultures
Benefits/Opportunities
  • More choice and easier/friendlier access to services.
  • Sources are available to find out about rides.
    • Increase in rider ship and rides.
    • General public and transportation disadvantaged
  • Improved quality of life.
    • Better sense of community
    • Transportation disadvantaged are "mainstreamed"
  • Better record keeping.
  • Less waste of resources.
  • Timely and efficient services.
  • Increase in reliability of services.
  • System is less fragmented and more accessible.
  • Resources are saved that can be reinvested for further efficiencies.
Technical Assistance Needs
  • Networking opportunities with other agencies and systems.
  • A technology "expert" to assist matching IT to needs, system and agency.
  • Circuit riders for on-call, immediate IT assistance
  • Leadership from the top.
  • More focus on innovations & incentives to use them.
  • National peer-to-peer clearinghouse

Themes and Priorities

The highest priorities of the members of this discussion group were specific technologies (AVL, scheduling, routing, smart-card), "human factor" to make technology work for the consumer, and the leadership necessary for a universal system.

Repeated throughout the discussion was:

  • The "human factor" will make the difference as to whether technology will work for the customer.
  • The need for strong leadership from the top that will make coordination and technology tools a priority, as well as incentives, resources and pilot projects that will demonstrate that leadership.
  • The partnership of coordination + technology has the potential to take us further than ever before.
  • The culture (and associated regulations) of current agency, Federal and State bureaucracies must change in order for a coordinated system to work.
  • The need for a national vision (and corresponding leadership) that will make use of public transportation an extension of our life style.

Mobility Services for All Americans
Discussion Group Summary #4
Public Transit Agencies
April 12, 2005 1:00-3:00pm

Attendance

This discussion group was held via teleconference and was attended by thirteen representatives of ten agencies (roster available).

Discussion

Discussion centered around feedback on the research conducted to date by the SAIC team, the components necessary for an "ideal" accessible and coordinated transportation system, the benefits such a system would provide the agencies, the barriers that need to be overcome in order for an accessible, coordinated system to be successful, and technical assistance necessary in order to effectively implement such a system. The following summarizes the themes that emerged from each point of discussion.

Research Findings
  • Research and findings are comprehensive and helpful.
  • Technology can be an important tool to assist with accessibility issues:
    • Websites (although must be compatible with voice-activated software and "bobbi" approved).
    • GIS could inventory pathways to major stops.
    • Transfer coordination/time-transfers.
  • Technology can assist with service expansion.
  • Use of technology needs to be encouraged or rewarded with incentives.
  • Technology will not work without the "human factor."
    • Staff, volunteers or peer helpers to assist with using technology.
  • Technology cannot assist with certain key elements where the "human factor" is needed, such as:
    • Travel training.
    • Overcoming the "fear factor" of using public transportation.
  • Technology is the key to finally implementing a coordinated approach.
  • Cannot ignore institutional, agency and human barriers.
"Ideal System" Components
  • Transportation is an extension of daily life.
    • WiFi is available on vehicles.
  • Technology is available so that people know how to find and access services.
    • Kiosks through the community.
    • GIS is used to assess whether fixed routes can be used.
    • Mobile data for time transfers.
    • Internet accessible.
    • Computerized scheduling and routing to do picks, runs, and cuts.
    • A data base provides a virtual trip center for travel modes.
  • A menu of services is available.
  • "Human" assistance is available throughout the system and at all access points.
  • Technology is affordable and accessible to agencies.
    • Agencies have the capacity to use technology.
  • Technology is in working order and well matched to the application/setting.
  • The system is "virtual" among myriad organizations and agencies. Technology is the link that creates the system from the parts.
    • Seamless link of providers
    • Agencies share resources (space, technology, information).
  • Smart-card technology is used for payment so that payer is invisible.
  • Leadership is in place to create a national transportation system that is linked via ITS technology.
    • Connectivity.
    • Telecommuting options.
    • Use of funding as incentives.
    • Coordination.
Barriers
  • Lack of resources.
    • Funding.
    • Technology.
    • Services.
    • Expertise/capacity to use technology.
  • Lack of communication infrastructure to support ITS (particularly in rural areas).
  • Existing funding structures.
    • Segmented by "client" groups.
    • Red tape and regulations.
  • Politics and legal barriers (e.g.13-C; 533-B).
    • Policy makers don't understand investment in technology & coordination now yields long-term benefit.
  • Lack of coordination at State and Federal levels (it is still "lip service").
    • Organizational structures & cultures.
Benefits/Opportunities
  • More choice and easier/friendlier access to services.
  • Sources are available to find out about rides.
    • Increase in rider ship and rides.
    • General public and transportation disadvantaged.
  • Improved quality of life.
    • Better sense of community.
    • Transportation disadvantaged are "mainstreamed."
  • Better record keeping.
  • Less waste of resources.
  • Timely and efficient services.
  • Increase in reliability of services.
  • System is less fragmented and more accessible.
  • Resources are saved that can be reinvested for further efficiencies.
Technical Assistance Needs
  • Networking opportunities with other agencies and systems.
  • A technology "expert" to assist matching IT to needs, system and agency.
  • Circuit riders for on-call, immediate IT assistance.
  • Leadership from the top.
  • More focus on innovations & incentives to use them.
  • National peer-to-peer clearinghouse.

Themes and Priorities

The highest priorities of the members of this discussion group were specific technologies (AVL, scheduling, routing, smart-card), "human factor" to make technology work for the consumer, and the leadership necessary for a universal system.

Repeated throughout the discussion was:

  • The "human factor" will make the difference as to whether technology will work for the customer.
  • The need for strong leadership from the top that will make coordination and technology tools a priority, as well as incentives, resources and pilot projects that will demonstrate that leadership.
  • The partnership of coordination + technology has the potential to take us further than ever before.
  • The culture (and associated regulations) of current agency, Federal and State bureaucracies must change in order for a coordinated system to work.
  • The need for a national vision (and corresponding leadership) that will make use of public transportation an extension of our life style.

Mobility Services for All Americans
Discussion Group Summary
Public Administrators #5
April 12, 2005 3:30-5:30pm

Attendance

This discussion group was held via teleconference and was attended by fifteen administrators of eight agencies (roster available).

Discussion

Discussion centered around feedback on the research conducted to date by the SAIC team, the components necessary for an "ideal" accessible and coordinated transportation system, the benefits such a system would provide the agencies, the barriers that need to be overcome in order for an accessible, coordinated system to be successful, and technical assistance necessary in order to effectively implement such a system. The following summarizes the themes that emerged from each point of discussion.

Research Findings
  • Language is a primary access barrier in many communities.
  • Lack of phone and technology access is also a barrier.
  • Many people with disabilities, low-income individuals and others are befuddled by the internet and other technologies. Their use may be a barrier to these populations.
  • The lack of cross-area planning (e.g. rural, urban, suburban) is a barrier.
  • There is a disconnect between the cost of IT and matching its applicability.
  • There is inconsistency between the notions of a universal system and applicability at many State and local levels.
  • There is a conflict between the cost of technology and affordability of rides.
  • Technology could be most useful in the following ways:
    • Smart card for payment.
    • Centralized phone lines and access.
    • To standardize services throughout a State.
    • Providing an up-to-date list of comprehensive services.
"Ideal System" Components
  • There is a working trip/travel planner system that provides customers with information to make good choices.
  • Human beings are available to help interpret information and technology.
    • This "human factor" thinks outside the box and is solution oriented.
  • The system is housed at an entity that is empowered (with authority and resources) to generate sustainable support.
  • It is quick, responsive and hassle free for the rider.
  • Decision-makers are educated about the long-term costs and return on investment of a coordinated system.
    • They are willing to invest in technology as a result.
  • Technology is used to pull the pieces of transportation together into a system:
    • Information is aggregated and coordinated so that citizens in every community can access information in an easy way to find affordable options and to "book" a trip.
    • Smart cards are used as single payment.
    • Rural and small urban communities tag on to the technology infrastructure of larger communities and/or the State.
    • Other types of infrastructure are leveraged for technology improvements.
  • Citizens understand value and provide resources for transportation system because it means that all people can get to what they need to participate fully in community life.
Barriers
  • There is a lack of funding for technology and to coordinate services.
  • Current coordination efforts have resulted in a winner and a loser (resources, vehicles, etc.).
  • Transit software is not currently intuitive.
    • There is a wide variety of complexity in what people are trying to buy with software and other IT applications.
    • Interaction of software systems will not allow communication.
  • There is not political support or buy-in for a system or its infrastructure needs.
  • Lack of a common vision of the opportunities and goals of a system that people at all levels can buy into.
  • There is inertia in the status quo, especially:
    • Turf and territory.
    • Middle management.
    • System vs. customer focus/orientation.
    • Regulations and red-tape.
Benefits/Opportunities
  • More resources will be available for travel.
  • There will be increased community engagement and participation.
  • Public transportation would be seen as absolutely necessary; a part of the community glue and security of community life.
  • Economy will improve as community participation increases.
  • Every citizen can get where they need to go, across jurisdictions.
  • Access will improve.
Technical Assistance Needs
  • Pilot-test IT applications as an incentive to create win-win situations.
  • Continue the dialog started by this discussion group. Expand it to:
    • Cabinet level (State)
    • Operational level
    • Administrative level
  • Coordinate, share and make flexible program rules and funding regulations.
  • Standardize technology, especially software.
    • Mandate, if necessary, use of particular system and equipment.
  • Develop leadership and political and policy-maker levels.
  • Provide "best practices" IT information.
  • Provide technical training in IT for small providers.
    • Training should be perpetual.
    • Training should be can-do and positive.
    • Include train-the-trainers.
  • Use multiple communication tools to facilitate a cultural shift to change the system.
  • Fund or provide a State-by-State help desk.
  • Provide organizations, such as NGA (National Governors Association) with information about the benefits of coordination and the successful application of technology.
  • Provide outreach/marketing to move the vision forward.
  • Provide opportunities for peer-to-peer assistance (such as this discussion) to share ideas and information.

Themes and Priorities

The highest priority of this discussion group was the need for information sharing between organizations and jurisdictions. This concept ranged from peer-to-peer opportunities for the public administrators to cross jurisdictional planning and service provision.

Repeated throughout the discussion were also the themes of:

  • Flexible, demand-responsive transportation.
  • The political will necessary to implement a system.
  • Simplification of priorities.
  • Standardization of rules, funding.
  • Standardization of components and equipment of the system (such as software).

Mobility Services for All Americans
Discussion Group Summary #6
Private Industry
May 12, 2005 1:00-2:00pm

Attendance

This discussion group was held via teleconference and was attended by nine representatives of six software companies. A roster is available.

Discussion

Discussion centered around defining a replicable, scalable TMCC and identifying what elements would need to be included. The discussion also centered on how to make it an open system, which would allow for multiple vendors to participate and how vendors – and transportation providers – might work together on such an endeavor. The group also suggested ways in which USDOT might support this effort. Finally, the group suggested other software vendors that work with health and human service agencies that should be contacted during the course of this work. The following summarizes the themes that emerged from each point of discussion.

Replicable, Scalable TMCC
  • For an open system, there would need to be an memorandum of understanding for operators and vendors.
  • Components would include: (further work is needed to separate into categories of user/provider):
    • Customer service component.
    • Paratransit scheduling & dispatching.
    • Multimodal trip planning module.
    • Intercity bus (as well as local/regional services) included.
    • AVL – for tracking and "where's my ride?" calls.
    • PDA compatible.
    • IVR.
    • MDCs for communication and data entry.
    • Graphical User Interface (GUI).
    • Maintenance tracking for preventive maintenance and other inventory applications.
  • Concerns about rural issues.
    • Scalable model might not translate from urban to rural setting.
    • Rural concerns include intercity bus, interstate travel, and technology issues related to communications in remote areas.
    • Also a concern about whether customers in rural areas would have access to or need the same technologies as urban areas.
  • There could be different coordination centers for different needs.
    • Concerned that the project implies that all things must be consolidated to be coordinated.
    • For example, some areas may need multiple physical locations for information centers and a virtual coordination center to tie it all together.
    • Use technology as a way to seamlessly link programs; not require programs to consolidate services and programs.
  • The easy part is having a central control center for data storage.
    • The concern is who manages the data and who is responsible for data integrity.
  • Concern that there may be a disconnect between the needs of customers/passengers and the needs of funders.
    • Customers may want a one-stop center for information.
    • It might not be the right way to go (consolidation concern).
    • People should solve issues for customers and funders separately instead of trying to solve them at the same time (i.e., get the data issues sorted out and then create the system that addresses customer concerns).
Other Partners to Include
  • Human services extends beyond transportation component – there are lots of other regulations, rules, etc. that agencies providing service have to address – should be somewhat transparent to the customer – basic need is customer information system; the rest is background.
  • What is needed is an integrated solution – that includes DHHS-based agencies.
    • At least 35%-40% of funding for transportation services is from HHS-related agencies.
  • Need to include major billing companies that handle Medicaid and other large health and human services funding as they also have reporting requirements that have to be built into a coordinated system if that level of coordination is desired – several examples of companies that handle Medicaid benefits include:
    • ACS – based in Dallas, TX.
    • EDS – based in Plano, TX.
    • First Health – based in Downer's Grove, IL.
    • Other managed care providers
What is Needed for Vendors to Work Together?
  • Integrate at the data level – rather than the product level.
  • Develop standards for coordination first – basic data requirements.
  • Standards are needed for base level then the vendors can develop their own products over time, but the basic Application Program Interface (API) needs to be consistent.
  • Data issues are many: who maintains, who updates etc.
  • Consider developing a standards committee for API.
    • Provide incentives.
  • The first need is to develop functional data requirements, which would then lead to technical specifications.
Role of USDOT
  • This could be an expensive undertaking – need funds.
  • Can it be done through TCRP?
  • Keep in mind that some small/rural areas still don't have computers.
    • May need to help them purchase computers (funding/specs).
    • Get buy-in from State DOTs.
  • "Think globally, act locally."
    • Start with a list of all the "toys" and then refine the project to what is needed (essential) and then what else would be nice to have.
  • USDOT could help reduce "turfism."
  • Target State-level HHS agencies.
    • They often need the most information/education.
  • Need to include performance measures for systems embarking on coordination.
    • What productivity is reasonable?
    • What cost per trip is expected?
    • Reward systems that do well

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