Changes are coming that could help people with disabilities get around town easier.
The city is investing in new software to increase efficiency at Sarnia Transit’s Care-A-Van and make the service quicker and more reliable, officials say.
The software will automate the scheduling of pick-ups and drop-offs currently handled by a dispatcher.
“It’s a tremendous workload on the person that does it, because they do all the scheduling manually right now,” said deputy transportation manager Lee Patterson.
“It’s not always the most efficient way to do it.”
The move could improve service for people with physical or cognitive disabilities by calculating the location of the Care-A-Van vehicle and route in a fraction of the time.
A former frequent Care-A-Van user told The Journal she has given up on the service because it’s unreliable for rides that aren’t already part of an established schedule.
“I need to be there when I need to be there,” she said.
“It’s not a service conducive to that.”
Patterson acknowledged the current scheduling process has shortcomings.
“There were times that if you called and asked for a 10 o’clock pick-up, I just didn’t have a 10 o’clock pick-up available for you right now,” he said.
Patterson added automating the dispatch won’t guarantee every rider will always get the time they want, but it should help immensely.
Users will continue to call the dispatch office at 519-336-3789 to book times and destinations as usual.
Sarnia Transit is also exploring the possibility of a web-browser interface for users that would give live notifications on the status of their ride. Phone or text-message notifications are another possibility in the future, Patterson added.
Sarnia Transit serves more than one million passengers each year with its standard and Care-A-Van buses.
The new software, which costs $106,000, is similar to that already used by Lambton Elderly Outreach.
Sault St. Marie, who recently added the software to its transit system, has reported 5,000 additional trips per year for people with disabilities with no extra staffing or equipment.