The Truth About Switching NEMT Software Providers

By May 6, 2019

As new technologies emerge and massive demographic shifts hit the American transit system at the same time, change is certainly in the air for providers. To keep up with an evolving market, it’s time for all paratransit providers to consider upgrading the software they use to dispatch and manage their vehicle fleets.

Why Should My Company Consider Switching Providers?

Regional transit associations, paratransit, and NEMT providers are facing a growing set of challenges. Antiquated dispatch and operational systems are putting these organizations at a serious disadvantage as they cope with a market that is quickly evolving alongside historic demographic shifts.

Demand is Rising for NEMT

The so-called “Baby Boomer” population is aging quickly; within a decade, senior citizens will be on the verge of outnumbering children for the first time in American history. Senior citizens represent a large market share for NEMT and other paratransit services, meaning that these providers need to be planning now for this tremendous demographic shift.

NEMT and Paratransit Costs are Rising

Although increasing demand would seem to lower per-ride prices for NEMT providers, this has generally not been the case to date. Currently, the average ADA-accessible ride is topping $45/passenger, and providers are facing pressure to lower these numbers to stay in operation. As fuel prices increase and transit agencies and providers look to upgrade their fleet to new technologies, these costs will also need to be taken into consideration.

Growing Market Complexity is Another Challenge

Alongside greater demand for riders and increasing costs, NEMT and paratransit providers are also facing competition from private rideshare companies, and have been at the center of a variety of complex public-private initiatives funded by startup companies. Companies using older, less efficient dispatch software may find themselves at a significant disadvantage when it comes to winning or renewing contracts or funding.  

How Can Paratransit Dispatch Software Solve These Problems?

As the market for paratransit systems continue to grow, providers may find problems with their existing software growing too. A crucial part of solving the problem of increased demand along with rising costs is to streamline and modernize the ride dispatch system being used.

How Should My Organization Know When it’s Time to Switch Dispatch Software?

Even in 2019, some NEMT providers are still entering core data manually. This is not only a huge drain on worker time and productivity; manual entry also introduces a greater risk of inaccurate data due to human error. If your organization is still relying on paper records, it’s certainly time to consider an upgrade.   

If your transit agency is about to start or expand paratransit services, it’s important to take stock of what dispatch system the agency is already using to make sure it can accommodate larger and/or more complex programs. If scaling up looks like it’s going to be difficult, it may also be time to consider switching software providers.

Finally, if a transit provider is doing an overhaul of its vehicle fleet, software upgrades are a natural progression—especially to prepare for the future as technology continues to change at a rapid pace. For example, 5g internet speeds are expected to become widespread in the next few years—is your agency ready to take advantage of increased wireless bandwidth to increase available features and maximize efficiency?

OK, My Transit Agency Agrees it’s Time to Switch. What Should We be Looking for?

Once a transit organization has decided that the time has come to upgrade its dispatch system, the next step is choosing the right software provider. There are several existing software companies that claim to solve the industry’s most pressing problems (increased demand and costs) while helping paratransit agencies maximize efficiency.

Good dispatch software should obviously be built to reduce the cost-per-ride of transit agencies. A high-quality software product will also be designed to help save money on the amount of time being spent on tracking services and reconciling accounts. Thus, when it comes to dispatch software, NEMT and paratransit providers should be looking for several core capabilities.

To begin with, it’s important to note if the dispatch product your agency is considering features relational/integrated databases. When designed correctly, software with these capabilities will allow transit organizations to monitor routes, clients, and pickup/drop-off locations seamlessly and from a centralized dashboard.  

Another important aspect of quality paratransit dispatch software is the ability to harness real-time information from minibusses as they navigate their routes and perform client pickup/drop-offs. Leading-edge companies like TripMaster have actually developed dedicated mobile applications so that the activity of transit operators will be fed into a centralized database in real-time.

Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that switching providers or implementing a complete systems upgrade is a complex undertaking. Thus, a good paratransit dispatch product should feature extensive training and support from the software provider so agencies can get the most out of the product. Good support is ultimately what will make the complexity of the software switch worthwhile.

Unfortunately, some software companies treat this crucial element of the process as an afterthought, so asking about onboarding and continuing customer support should be high up on your agency’s list of questions for any potential software provider.

In summary, a good NEMT software provider should:

  • Provide flexible and easy integration with multiple data sources for both rural and urban routes
  • Feature the capacity to utilize existing cutting-edge technology; for example, a mobile application for vehicle drivers
  • Ensure that core data no longer needs to be manually entered so the transit agency never has to deal with paper manifests again
  • Include the capability to have integrated reporting and billing/invoice services
  • Provide extensive initial training and ongoing dedicated support

Many NEMT dispatch software products provide some of these features, but TripMaster is the only company that covers all of these areas. Elegantly designed software that features extensive functionality paired with truly dedicated technical support will save transit providers time, money, and headaches later on. This makes TripMaster an ideal choice for transit agencies and organizations, no matter the provider size or area of operation.

How Does the Transition to TripMaster Work?

After the right dispatch software has been chosen, the real work begins. As previously stated, a huge barrier to changing software systems for many transit companies is the perceived complexity of the project. If your agency chooses to use TripMaster, one of the first things that will be presented is an extensive project planning timeline based from years of experience across transit agencies of all sizes.

How Does Onboarding Work?  

After TripMaster has done a product demonstration with the transit agency, a CTS trainer will come to the offices of the customer, evaluate the current systems in use, and spend several days doing dynamic, hands-on training to ensure that agencies are getting the most out of the product’s extensive set of features. The CTS trainer will even run the old and new systems side-by-side to ensure all data migration and reporting are accurate.

What Does the Timeline for Switching Providers Look Like?

It’s crucial that the dispatch software being used has a structured implementation timeline run by an experienced project manager. This helps contain costs, stay on schedule, and make the transition easier for everyone. If your transit agency switches to TripMaster, training, data migration, and troubleshooting are all built into the timeline.  

How Long Does Implementation Take?

Different software products will all have different timelines. After extensive experience in the field, TripMaster has developed a structured implementation plan that typically takes just one month from start to finish. This implementation schedule takes into account that a myriad of software systems are currently being used by transit agencies, and plans specifically for providing maximum technical support during the transition to keep everything on time.

What Happens After My Agency Has Switched NEMT Providers?

After the change, agencies will immediately see the benefits of switching to better dispatch software—increased route efficiency, less time spent on record keeping, and easier data reporting. An additional benefit to upgrading your paratransit dispatch system to dynamic software is that your organization will gain more flexibility to use technology that is still being developed but is expected to be in use in the next 5 years.  

Finally, a reputable and experienced software provider like TripMaster will also include ongoing, personalized support as needed; this feature stands out in an industry that will often provide support during onboarding but may not be responsive to questions that come up later.