Managing Seat Availability for Get-a-Ride Service Means “Capping” for Capacity

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Every bus in the TAPS Public Transit fleet has a certain number of seats —its capacity. The number of riders a bus can handle controls the number of reservations that can be accepted. When all seats are assigned on a particular bus, for a particular trip, the bus is “at capacity.”

“Capping” a bus just means that it is full according to its seating chart and how many passengers have already reserved a seat.

For longtime Get-a-Ride customers —the shared-ride, on-demand, curb-to-curb, service has mostly been very flexible. Not being able to get a ride on the day and at the time requested has been rare. But things change.

The TAPS fleet is mostly 15-passenger buses, with 2 additional places for wheelchairs. These vehicles represent 80-percent of the fleet.
The TAPS fleet is mostly 15-passenger buses, with 2 additional places for wheelchairs. These vehicles represent 80-percent of the fleet.

Over the past two years, TAPS has grown to well over 300,000 trips per year. That is a huge increase in ridership, and the fleet is struggling under the pressure of increasing demand.

Add to demand the problems that come with an aging fleet and summer heat, and the number of available seats goes down. That means buses “at capacity” on almost every trip, in every county, of the TAPS service area.

What it takes to manage seat availability

The most complex job for the Get-a-Ride management team is matching customer reservations to available seats. The entire process is very fluid and requires both computerized scheduling, and a lot of hands-on work.

Matt Hunt, regional general manager at TAPS Public Transit, oversees a team of well-trained, experienced managers who keep track of seat availability and match that to customer ride requests. It’s a process that changes by the minute as both vehicle availability and customer need go up and down.

“Our team put a lot of time and energy in matching up ride requests to equipment,” said Hunt. “If a bus goes down unexpectedly, all of the passengers previously assigned to that unit now have to be reassigned to other bus, if there is one.”

Demand on the system and a shortage of vehicles leads to reserved trips having to be cancelled with very little notice.

New rider rules aim to relieve pressure on system

Some new rules implemented this summer are part of an effort to allow TAPS trip planners more time to assess availability, and to make necessary changes.

The lead time to make a reservation for the Get-a-Ride service is now two business days. A 3:00 pm cut-off time for contacting the call center is another tactic to keep traffic flowing and allow for better planning.

Earlier reservations the new normal

Matt Hunt says he does not foresee a time in the near future when getting a seat with just a couple days notice will be sufficient.

“Just since this spring we are seeing buses filling up much farther in advance. Calling as early as two weeks in advance isn’t a bad idea,” said Hunt.

If you have a medical appointment, contact the TAPS Get-a-Ride call center at (800) 256-0911 as soon as you know the date and time, no matter how far in the future it is scheduled.