Photo: Paratransit operator Netta Jackson checks the new dispatching system 

A new dispatching program is improving UTA’s paratransit service. UTA now offers a free call-ahead option that notifies paratransit passengers when their bus is just a few minutes away from their location. 

The program means less time paratransit passengers need to spend waiting outside in hot or cold weather. Paratransit passengers are given a “ready window”, meaning that their bus could come as much as 10 minutes before or 20 minutes after its assigned time. This new program eliminates the guesswork for riders, allowing them to walk outside right as the bus arrives. 

The call-ahead program is designed to accommodate passengers with various communication needs. Paratransit passengers can choose to receive the alerts by phone or email. Soon, passengers can opt in to a text notification service, which will have a small fee to cover texting costs. 

UTA’s call-ahead service is available free-of-charge to any rider who is eligible to use paratransit services. To participate, please call 801-BUS-RIDE or 801-287-7433. Riders should note that the call is automatically triggered when the bus reaches a specific point along its route. Typically this is five minutes before the scheduled arrival time, but that time is dependent on a variety of computer issues and may vary slightly. 

UTA is also improving service to paratransit riders with a new system that provides paratransit dispatchers with real-time data. Dispatchers can now verify bus pick-up and drop-off times, track the progress of vehicles and anticipate early or late arrivals. If a bus is running late, dispatchers can make immediate changes in the schedule to better serve customers. If a passenger cancels a trip or a bus has mechanical issues, the dispatcher can immediately adjust other paratransit trips to account for the change.

The new system has resulted in improved communication between operators and dispatchers, reduced wait time for riders and more positive feedback. Since the implementation of the new system, bus operator concerns have decreased from 10 per day to one or two per day, said UTA Special Services Scheduling Supervisor Angela Haylock. Customer commendations have gone from 80 in 2017 to more than 120 in 2018.

“I think we’re doing a better job as far as educating ourselves,” Haylock said. “We’re better at understanding the service that we’re providing, thanks to the live data.”