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News : North Township Dial-a-Ride Takes Leap Forward
North Township, IN, Sept 3, 2014 -- People calling to schedule a trip on North Township's dial-a-ride bus service now have their calls answered 24 hours a day by live operators thanks to a new contract between the township and Prompt Ambulance.
"We have basically gone from 1960s technology to 2014 technology overnight," said North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan on Tuesday morning at the Prompt Ambulance call center in Highland.
The township's public-private partnership with Prompt Ambulance is part of a wider effort to make public transit more efficient and prove its worth as the region heads toward big decisions on that front, Mrvan said.
Prompt Ambulance has been handling phone calls for the North Township dial-a-ride for more than a week and is still making improvements, including an automated call-back for confirmation of all scheduled rides, said Prompt Ambulance CEO Gary Miller.
The Prompt Ambulance call center was established five years ago and employs 45 people total. Two employees will be dedicated to taking the calls for North Township dial-a-ride with any overflow calls going to other employees trained to take them.
North Township dial-a-ride currently gets about 7,000 calls per month for rides and that number is expected to increase with the improved call-center service, Mrvan said.
It more than doubled its bus fleet to eight buses and has two more on order, Mrvan said. Ridership surged to 36,000 riders last year from 12,000 in 2012.
North Township dial-a-ride buses run from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Overflow provider Triple-A can provide return trips for dial-a-ride customers up until 5 p.m.
Previously, most calls for rides were received by an answering machine with township employees getting to them later in the day in order to call riders back and actually schedule a ride, Mrvan said. That led to numerous problems, including sending drivers out to pick up people who has called the answering machine to cancel their ride.
The township trustee said he's hopeful North Township dial-a-ride can demonstrate that local public transit can be run efficiently and serve the needs of the public. The current federal grant for the service runs out in 2015 and Mrvan anticipates there will be a drive to re-establish local funding for regional public transit before then.
"Our whole goal is to get people mobile who don't have transportation," Mrvan said. "It's good for the economy and it's good for our community."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, September 3, 2014