Mobility Management Takes a Page from Amazon's Winning Strategy for Customer Service

Mobility Management Takes a Page from Amazon's Winning Strategy for Customer Service
Mobility Management Takes a
Page from Amazon’s Winning
Strategy for Customer Service

by David J. Cyra, PE
                                        coordinate transportation. Mobility      and expands its services to include
   Amazon continues to defy retail
                                        management takes the principle of        those travel options found in the
trends and not only succeed but grow
                                        the overall customer experience and      community. What does the customer
sales in our challenging economy.
                                        applies that to transportation service   need, and how can I change and
The key to their success is a focus
                                        within our communities, regions and      expand my service offerings to ensure
on the ‘customer experience.’
                                        states.                                  improved mobility no matter what
According to an interview with VP
                                                                                 their circumstance?
of Site Development at Amazon, the
                                          As defined by the Federal
customer experience [is] “infused
                                        Transit Administration, “Mobility          There are three key elements to
throughout all levels of the company.
                                        management is an approach                setting up a mobility management
We also have a usability team with
                                        to service development and               operation: Determining what the
people in the roles you’d expect.
                                        management that focuses on               riding public needs, securing the
But when people ask why it is that
                                        individualized customer markets          funding, and training the people has this focus, the key
                                        and involves establishing a variety of   and utilizing technology to pull the
is that it’s not one person, or one
                                        services tailored to meet the needs of   resources and providers all together.
team, responsible for the overall
                                        those markets.”
customer experience. Everyone in
                                                                                 Sizing up your Riding Public
the company owns it.” (Interview by
                                          While traditional transit centers
Mark Hurst, Good Experience)
                                        plan services based on their fleet         Generally, your customers will fall
                                        of buses and other fixed equipment       into four broad groups: the elderly,
  Mobility management is the
                                        and assets, mobility management          children, low income citizens, and
culmination of many efforts
                                        starts with the customer in mind         persons with disabilities.
over the years to streamline and
22   Community Transportation
Mobility Management Takes a Page from Amazon's Winning Strategy for Customer Service
Mobility management presumes           management expenses for eligible       This data should be collected in a
that whatever mobility is needed,        grant recipients.                      format useable for both management
can be made available. That’s why                                               and budget development purposes.
the first step is to decide what needs     SAFETEA-LU also affords              Accurate, current and complete
must be met; in effect, create a         a new option to use non-DOT            disclosure of the financial results of
marketing plan that looks at the         transportation funding or service      financially-assisted activities must
following:                               contracts to meet matching             be made in accordance with the
                                         requirements. The law defines          financial reporting requirements of
  •   Who is eligible and how are        mobility management as “short-         the designated grant recipient or
      they to be served?                 range planning and management          subrecipient.
  •   What is the market share?          activities and projects for
  •   What needs are proposed to be      improving coordination among           The Human Part of the Mobility
      met?                               public transportation and other        Management Equation
  •   What current services are          transportation providers.”
      available?                                                                  Creating a mobility management
  •   Are there gaps or redundancies        Some of the funding programs that   program requires that a group of
      in service?                        can be used to help build and grow     people have a vested and shared
                                         your mobility management center are    interest in the ‘human side’ of
  With these questions answered,         listed below:                          transportation service. Any group
you can then develop a service plan,                                            can do mobility management:
address gaps or duplication in service   •   5307- FTA Urbanized Area           a traditional fixed route transit
and prioritize services.                     Formula Program                    operator, a group of non-profit
                                         •   5310 – Elderly & Disabled          organizations, regional centers that
  Aside from marketing, these                Program                            focus on human services or even a
‘prompt’ questions help the provider     •   5311 – Non-Urbanized Area          community of citizens. The key is
or regional human service entities           Program                            that a common element is the need
prove out the positive economic and      •   5316 – JARC (Job Access            for improved mobility.
human service impact of a mobility           Reverse Commute)
management center – an important         •   5317 – New Freedom                   There are going to be market
consideration when it comes to           •   20 percent Local match can         and program barriers that must
funding.                                     come from other non-DOT            be addressed head-on. Funding
                                             federal funds                      limitations, geography and lack
   For example, the marketing                                                   of authority to push the program
plan could show how mobility                Pulling together the numbers        through will keep the center from
management could create and/or           needed to qualify for many resources   getting off the ground. And, some
stabilize jobs, assist in increasing     requires the collection of cost and    market barriers, such as lack of
tax revenues, enhance educational        revenue data to identify all the       providers, cultural and language
opportunities, improve the quality of    financial information required to      barriers and regulations, will need
life, enhance access to health care,     support a transportation program.      some more finesse and creativity to
or protect the environment.

  But fundamentally, your mobility
management center should be a
one stop (place), one call (phone
number), and web-based site where
people can get information about
mobility. When the customer
“virtually” visits the center, they
can learn about eligibility, travel
training, schedule and check on a
ride, and have that ride dispatched to
a provider.

Show Me the Money

   Mobility management activities
are eligible to receive funding under
SAFETEA-LU.Mobility management
is an eligible capital expense under
most Federal Transit Administration
(FTA) programs. This means FTA
can fund up to 80 percent of mobility
                                                                                            Community Transportation   23
Mobility Management Takes a Page from Amazon's Winning Strategy for Customer Service
overcome.                                 ITS was the linchpin to mobility. In      accessibility features, and allow
                                          2004, USDOT’s ITS Joint Program           service integration with existing fixed
  When you see how your                   Office launched the MSAA initiative       (flex) route public transportation
mobility program can facilitate           – a program whose aim is to bring         services.
communication with riders,                communities together in providing
providers, and stakeholders,              a single point of access to meet            Software and hardware
matching riders with providers and        mobility needs, to cut through all        components of the ITS allow the
maximizing resources to better meet       the service and funding redundancy,       mobility management center, or the
rider needs, you’re ready to go.          and establish a replicable model that     TMCC in the case of the MSAA
                                          shows how providers and agencies          program, to respond to both fixed
  First, the manager needs to select      can utilize ITS to address the rising     and on-demand trip requests,
the right people and assign and           costs and needs of all riders.            coordinate trips among many
distribute work. Once employees                                                     different providers and communicate
are trained and developed to achieve        After an initial first design phase     directly – via phone, Web or texting
the specific goals of the mobility        with eight sites, three sites - Paducah   – with customers. For operations, an
management center, then there             Area Transit System (PATS) in             ITS allows managers to pull data for
needs to be a defined set of measures     Paducah, Ky; Lower Savannah               analysis, reporting and cost control.
for evaluating performance,               Council of Governments in Aiken,
communication and decision making.        S.C.; and the Camden County                 According to the National
                                          Workforce Investment Board in             Conference of State Legislatures,
Technology Keeps the Parts                Camden County, N.J. - were                mobility management includes
Moving Smoothly                           ultimately selected in early 2009 by      the following policies, and these
                                          US DOT for the next implementation        alone are reason enough to utilize
  With a mobility management              phase to build a Travel Management        automated technology:
center, technology becomes the            Coordination Center (TMCC).
engine ensuring services run on-                                                    •   Provide various options, such
time and can respond to changes             The TMCC would use ITS                      as public transportation,
and on-demand requests from the           to: integrate point of access for             vanpool, ride-share and demand
riding public. This is what Intelligent   travelers, improve fleet scheduling,          responsive services;
Transport Systems (ITS) were              dispatching, routing, streamline          •   Increase travel options and
designed for: moving riders when          reporting, billing and financial              traveler convenience;
and where needed in the most cost-        transaction, simplify fare payment,       •   Use a one–call system to provide
efficient and responsive way.             collection and processing, enhance            information and access to all
                                          traveler information and travel               travel options; and
     The federal government saw that      management flexibility with               •   Use congestion management
24    Community Transportation
Mobility Management Takes a Page from Amazon's Winning Strategy for Customer Service
strategies, coordinating             Transportation.                           October, 2008, the Interagency
        public transportation with                                                     Council on Transportation
        infrastructure and land use            Grants and additional funding           Coordination (ICTC) was formed
        planning.                            broadened the net of what they            with part of its mission being
                                             provide for customers. With the           to develop a state model of
    Paducah Believes in Serving All          recent $1.4 million grant from            coordination.
    Needs of Community                       MSAA, Paducah Transit is using
                                             the funding for the expansion of an         Mobility management was one of
      When you look at Paducah Area          existing call center to cover a larger    the eleven priorities identified in the
    Transit System, you’ll find a provider   geographic area and provide around-       2006 Coordinated Public Transit
    that is committed heart and soul to,     the-clock access to traveler support.     - Human Services Transportation
    as they state, “thinking out of the                                                Plans.
    box.” The only 24x7 operator in             The strengthened call center will
    the state, Paducah Transit offers an     add customer-oriented features,             Through the coordination planning
    eight-county wide dial-a-ride service,   such as a regionally connected            process, in partnership with local
    van pools, and will even deliver UPS     telephone system, Internet-based          areas, the State developed nationally
    and FedEx packages, providing up         trip reservations, automated regional     recognized mobility management
    to 1,600 rides a day. And Paducah        scheduling and system management          programs in 29 regions across the
    Transit has either been a broker or a    features, interactive voice response      state. To implement the vision
    Medicaid transportation provider for     (IVR), connections with Kentucky’s        locally, the State embarked on
    Kentucky’s HSTD (Human Service           511 travel information center, and        working with local areas to hire
    Transportation Delivery) program         customer “where’s my ride” real time      and provide thorough training for
    since 1999, and is also a provider       status information.                       the over 40 mobility managers in
    for the Illinois state Medicaid                                                    the state. Once the training was
    transportation program in three            Through the MSAA grant,                 complete, these new trailblazers were
    southern Illinois counties.              Paducah Transit aims for nothing          ready to hit the ground running with
                                             less than becoming a fully functional     an awareness of resources and best
      Operating under the mobility           mobility manager by utilizing smart       practices and a strong peer network
    management umbrella, Paducah             cards, developing a 211 human             with other mobility managers in the
    Transit automates their customer         service information center, and using     state and across the nation.
    services using RouteMatch’s              onboard vehicle camera systems,
    advanced Geographic Information          kiosks in community locations, and          Wisconsin’s mobility management
    Systems (GIS)-based routing and          disaster recovery capabilities.           projects are funded by WETAP
    scheduling system, an advanced                                                     (Wisconsin Employment
    telephone system, automated vehicle      Wisconsin Establishes Strong              Transportation Assistance Program),
    location, and in vehicle mobile          Peer Network                              FTA New Freedom, FTA Section
    data communications to coordinate                                                  5311 and/or a variety of state
    transportation in their service            In Wisconsin, mobility                  funding programs and combinations
    area. Paducah Transit has also           management began when Governor            of available funding opportunities.
    partnered with three other regional      Doyle charged heads of state              In 2008, only six of 72 counties
    transportation partners to develop       agencies to work toward eliminating       were not yet involved in mobility
    a new regional transportation            administrative barriers that prohibit     management projects. Some of the
    service called the Purchase Area         transportation coordination. In           programs include: car loan programs,

                                                                                                    Community Transportation   25
       The ITS Opportunity                   A successful TMCC provides benefits to:          MSAA Initiative Approach
                                             • Customers with a simplified, one-
ITS presents the opportunity to seamlessly     stop access to unified travel support       Working collaboratively with the
Mobility Management Takes a Page from Amazon's Winning Strategy for Customer Service
new service, voucher and volunteer
driver programs, travel training and
other bus buddy or escort programs,
rideshare, carpool and shuttle

  Whether the trip is for essential
medical care or to enhance their
quality of life, residents can rely on
the Wisconsin mobility management
program to help them get from Point
A to Point B.


   In the public transportation
sector, pressure to embrace change
is mounting despite acceleration
in the expansion of traditional
services and a dramatic resurgence
in transit ridership. Lessons learned
from the broader transportation
sector, whether it is intermodal
freight, airline alliances or package
delivery, along with state of the
art information technologies and
various cooperative agreements
among service providers allow a
strategic focus on the quality of the
customer’s experience.

  Mobility management is
enabling public transit and human
service transport to combine and
concentrate on the ‘customer
experience’ – designing a mobility
program designed to treat the
riding customer as an obsession
by coordinating their needs with
appropriate resources.

David J. Cyra is the Principal of
CYRA ETTC and the FTA Region IX
United We Ride Ambassador.

26   Community Transportation
Mobility Management Takes a Page from Amazon's Winning Strategy for Customer Service Mobility Management Takes a Page from Amazon's Winning Strategy for Customer Service
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