In this first webinar of the 2022 series, discover the power of Partnerships for Progress, featuring Quinte Transit and their partner transit agencies.
Join Quinte Transit and their partners, Bellville Transit and Bancroft Transit, on their journey to streamline overlapping transit services, improve operational efficiency, and increase customer satisfaction.
On February 16th, Paul Comfort, transit industry influencer, and TripSpark SVP, will host an entertaining & interactive discussion with the leaders and key members of Quinte Transit, Belleville Transit, Bancroft Transit, and TripSpark's Customer Care Team. Together they'll share valuable insights on the power behind their partnerships to help manage COVID- related changes, and remaining operationally- efficient, with expanding service areas. They'll also share some amazing results, including increasing their number of loops by 30%, to meet the growing needs of their communities.
I’m Paul Comfort the host of transit unplugged; the world’s top public transit podcast heard in 100 countries. I just got back from Dubai where I was for the last week at the UITP middle east north Africa conference speaking and recording our podcasts. Also, we’ve now developed a tv show turned the podcast into a video tv show called transit unplugged. If you want to check it out, we’ve already dropped two episodes. The first one was from Las Vegas RTA, and the second one was in Nashville. The idea behind it is interviewing top CEOs from around the world. We’re visiting their cities filming kind of like an Anthony Bourdain style travel show but focused not just on food and chefs, but a little bit of food, but also transit and transit leaders and mobility and all the fun that goes on there. That’s a once-a-month program. I’m also senior Vice President Chief Customer also with TripSpark, and our sister companies Trapeze and Vontas. My role is largely connecting with our customers and sharing best practices. We’ve got a great best practice to talk about today on this webinar that I’m excited to share with you next slide
This is our first webinar of the year in the 2022 TripSpark transit quarterly webinar series and today’s theme is Partnerships for Progress joining us for the next hour are our guests from Quinte Transit Belleville Transit, Bancroft Transit, and our own TripSpark transits Gardner Cole, who recently trimmed up his beard from customer care that seemed to be the hot topic. The purpose of our webinar today is to have a little fun but also to share with our customers and those in the industry Quincy’s transit story, and all about their operational challenges. Along with how Shelly Ackers Quinte’s executive director formed important partnerships with the bordering transit agency’s colleagues who are on the call with us today. Paul Buck of Belleville Transit, Gwen Coisha of Bancroft Transit all in great efforts to streamline their overlapping transit services, improve operational efficiency and cut unnecessary costs. I can tell you from my background starting in small and mid-sized transit agencies regionalization is the way to go.
This is an exciting discussion today to talk about this, so I want to talk about some of our guests as I mentioned. Shelly Ackers is the executive director of Quinte Transit. Shelly has over 20 years administrative experience both with the profit for-profit corporations and non-profit organizations. Shelly was in her role as administrator with Quinte access from 2006 to 2018 and was recently appointed executive director. Congratulations! She’s been instrumental in the growth of Quinte access, working with staff, the board of directors and municipal staff and other community partners to increase ridership on the specialized service. The implementation of the service in Prince Edward County public transit in Trenton ward of Quincy west. The transit connections from Frankfurt and Brighton to Trenton with her passion to see transit available to all residents in the Quinte region by working collectively with neighbors and neighboring municipalities and community transportation providers. Shelly and her team secured the contract to implement the new county transit and integrated flex routing and most recently along with a rebranding of Quinte access to Quinte transit. Their new name 21 2021 saw a start of fixed route connecting Trenton to the Belleville bus terminal and loyalist college representing the beginning of a fully integrated regional transit network connecting four municipalities. Welcome Shelley! Glad to be here and Shelly asked me if I was going to sing to start off with, I think we’re both going to save our duet till the end. Is that right? Yes! We’ll sing a little Frank Sinatra at the end.
Then I also like to welcome my namesake Paul Buck, who is Belleville’s transit manager of operations. Paul is a supporter of regional transit opportunities that are developed with a cooperative effort of neighboring agencies and municipalities. With more than 20 years’ experience in transit operations in both the municipal and private sector, Paul knows the importance of strong cooperation. He’s worked on many transit projects including the bus rapid transit launches mobile fare payment new facility startup and CAD AVL launches.
Thanks for joining us today, Paul.
Thank you it’s great to be here!
And with us is Gwen Coish. Gwen is director of operations with Bancroft transit. Gwen assumed the role of director of operations for Bancroft community transit. BCT in 2009 so all our speakers today have lots of experience, decades of experience in the industry in addition to our vast experience and association management and transportation advocacy. Gwen has a business background in the financial sector including sales budget forecasting and market research at BCT. She’s responsible for all aspects in operations management. It’s a big responsibility recently under her leadership with the direction of a connected board of directors and in conjunction with several municipal partners. BCT successfully applied for and received a local community transportation grant this provincial funding has enabled BCT to offer five day week service connecting several neighboring communities it’s effectively set the stage for the exploration of regional transit which has opened the door to partnering with centers such as Belleville and quinte Gwen and her team remain committed to the development of safe modern interconnected transportation network that will support a strong economy and enhance the quality of life for everyone in Hastings county. Welcome Gwen!
And finally on the panel, we have TripSpark transit’s own Gardner-Cole. Gardner is the client care team lead for our Novus and pass products. Gardner started the trapeze in 2013 before he made the move to TripSpark one year later. Since moving to TripSpark Gardner has held several positions, he’s been a customer care analyst, a deployment specialist, a senior resolution consultant, and now in his role as team lead. He works closely with clients to resolve issues, perform upgrades, and keep client systems running. Prior to working to Trapeze and TripSpark, Gardner was an I.T coordinator and jack of all trades for Oats transit in Missouri. Well, I’m very familiar with them they cover a massive part of the state how many counties do they cover? Do you know Gardner? It was 87 of 115 if I remember correctly. I might be off by one or two but it’s in the mid-80s if I remember right. I mean that’s amazing, so you did I.T. for their whole group?
Yeah, the seven regional offices that they had tying it back. It’s a home office and all that heavy lifting to say the least. That’s a lot! It had a power plug I managed it, wow [while] supporting the technology and infrastructure needs. They’re a non-profit agency but they provide transit services as you said like 84 counties in Missouri.
Great to have you with us Gardner!
Hey thanks for having me guys glad to be here.
Tell us a little bit about what’s behind you on the screen there. You’ve got some a cool Lego set that Paul likes too. He wants to come over and set it up.
Yeah, I’ve got I think that’s I’m drawing a blank. Of course, you know put on the hot seats. Voltron yeah that’s it! Yeah, all my Lego city lock sets. It’s awesome you know, it’s funny that Legos came up today in our pre-meeting in the green room. I did another webinar a couple hours ago and the guest there also said that her favorite pastime was to do adult Lego. You know not have her kids do it but just for her to do. So, it’s kind of funny. It’s a great kind of therapy. My wife likes doing puzzles I think Lego is kind of similar to [like] that.
That’s a good way to put it. Therapy is a good way to put it. So, for the next while, we’re going to be doing a bit of a round table interactive discussion with our guest and then we’re going to post some of your questions to them near the end of the webinar. As Dave said if you have questions go ahead and type them right into the Q&A chat function there at the bottom of the screen. Dave will make sure we get those questions to them and answer today on the show. Please feel free to type in a question anytime throughout our discussion so let’s get started. I’m going to kind of do a little introduction of the service and then we’ll hear from our guests.
Operating since 1990 so been in service for quite a while, over 30 years Quinte transit is a non-profit organization providing public and specialized transit services within rural southern Ontario. Quinte has two distinct services: fixed route and on-demand transit. For on-demand, they offer three tiers door-to-door, door-to-hub, and hub-to-hub. Their fixed route transit system runs through the main arteries of Trenton and is available to anyone including offering specialized transportation services for persons with disabilities and seniors in the city of Quincy west. The municipality of Brighton, Quinte transit has recently undergone a modern rebranding changing their name from Quinte access transportation to the more inclusive Quinte trans. They also have a new colorful logo. They’ve done a website refreshing. All looks great! Quinte is actively moving their agency toward increasing their operational efficiency and meeting the growing needs of the community and a big part of this progress comes with the formation of important partnerships with Paul Buck and Gwen Coish. We’d like to share with our customers and potential customers the Quinte transit story with a focus on Partnerships for Progress and how they’re moving their agency and their industry forward being the theme of today’s discussion. The solid three-way partnership you have formed is very inspirational to many of our listeners today who may be considering sharing their own technology and best practices with bordering agencies to improve their own operations. We can all learn a lot from this great alliance so I’d like to ask you a few general questions that anyone can answer or chime in on so are you guys ready on the panel? Let’s go, here we go.
So, I guess, first off Shelley I want to throw it to you and Paul and Gwen jump in anytime. How did this whole partnership begin? Tell us about that.
Yeah, when her and I have met many [many] years ago and we started dealing through the social service industries so we’ve always kind of connected about some of the issues that we have with rural transportation. As we cover a large rural area, I think we’re over like 2,000 square kilometers and very low-density population. Gwen probably has more than that on her end, so we’ve always been kind of going back and forth about how do we deal with these issues of distances, and not having a lot of population. Then with Belleville transit, originally it started the partnership with them, they had another provider that was doing their specialized service for them. And we got together with them because they were looking for a platform to be able to handle their bookings and do their rides and do the tracking. So, we had partnered with them through the CT module in Novus. We were working on a specialized service together through that program and it was great for us because we do a lot of trips into Belleville, which is kind of our major hub in our area.
We went to a lot of the same places, so we went to Loyola’s college, we went to the hospital, we went to different places that most of us go to. So, it was nice because we didn’t have to re-enter all the information. So, we can share pooled resources within the program itself so that’s kind of how we started with Belleville. Then it just kind of gradually opened to our population which you know coming from Prince Edward County from Brighton, and then from Queenie west. How do others access Belleville? There was no public transportation so if you didn’t qualify for our door-to-door service, you were friend’s neighbors, you know standing on the side of the road. Or you were using taxis which can be quite costly so that always came up as an issue. How do we get people to Belleville and back and forth for work and for school? Our only secondary, post-secondary education is loyalist college, which is in Belleville. So, again a great need to try and get people moving. So, that’s kind of where Paul and I started talking about how can we make something like this work?
The first part of the puzzle was obviously getting the fixed route connection between Trenton and Belleville because it’s about a 25-kilometer one-way trip without a lot of residential areas. So, it’s a [pretty] large distance where we need to be able to get people on the bus at the beginning so we can get them off at the end. And that’s where we started talking about what resources could we share on that and so we came up with a route. We put it in where we can utilize the Belleville bus terminal Paul has set us up with an inter-city bus stop. So, we can do transfers and loyalist college, we were able to use that as a transfer spot so once we had those in place. Now it came how do we get people to these routes because again we still have this large population. So, that’s where we’ve been looking at the on-demand part. We have a [pretty] robust specialized service that we’ve had for 30 years but how do we expand that now to other people so that they can then use it - to get to these other connections so that that’s kind of how it all started. That’ll be the next phase that we’re moving into but I’m not sure Paul or Gwen want to add anything to the partnerships that we have on from their end.
Sure, absolutely. I came to Belleville transit just over four years ago and we’re almost right from the start, we recognized that we needed to find a way to move people around the Quinte area easier Belleville. Being the hub of the community, we have the regional hospital, we have the college, we have a [number] of large manufacturers - Procter and Gamble has a factory here that’s growing. We have the Kellogg’s we have three magna auto parts manufacturers and others. Loyalist college was seeing student growth year over year over year and the people that were coming into the community were coming in faster than we could arrange for housing or, any rental properties or rental locations. I think at one point we were down in the single digits for vacancies and rental locations so people were having trouble finding somewhere to live and be able to move around the community. If we could get outside of the Belleville city limits, it was going to open [up] opportunities for a lot more people and the only way that that was going to happen easily was with the cooperation of Shelly and Gwen and myself. Loyalist college has been a huge supporter of helping us out and getting us together and providing anything we need from their perspective. If they could help just to make this easier for everybody and it was just a natural collaboration that fit. It was just the perfect timing
On our front, being a rural transit provider and as Shelly mentioned non-profit, we’ve been around since 2001. We assumed public transit in 2017 so obviously our non-profit specialized transit is running well. It is the biggest part of what we do. However, it’s slowly becoming, it was not slowly, it’s exploding in regards to the rural transportation needs in getting out of our community to the bigger city centers. One of our issues was connecting our residents with dialysis in Kingston so that’s one of the issues that we deal with. That’s 188 kilometers from our location to the hospital. How do we make it affordable for someone that’s got to be there three times a week? So, that was making those connections with Belleville and with quinte were key because picking up people along the way means the cost to our residents here will be reduced. So again, all aspects of working together with some type of a regional system in place is obviously the goal.
We like Shelly mentioned too with vast area that we’re serving upwards of 3,000 square kilometers. That’s huge for an organization like ours. We’re up to the challenge but we know for sure that we can’t do it alone. Something like this being able to connect our organizations together so that we can see where our vehicles are at, or we can work together. So, Shelley’s got a client that needs to get from Quinte to Kingston, we can meet up in Belleville and get them on their way. That’s one of our big issues so that’s one that I’ll usually always mention but there are several we’ve got - trips for all kinds of clients not just dialysis cancer care. Those are our needs here; our public transit is [fairly] simplistic. It’s a flex service. It’s on demand. We’ve been doing on demand forever so it’s really nothing new for us as well.
I know Shelley has also done that as well so being able to connect and being able to be part of something bigger that is our goal so yeah. And BCT’s on board 100 110.
That’s great so by forming the alliances, you’ve been talking about the problems, you’ve been working to resolve and what you continue to work on. I know your agencies as you said have a massive service area to cover and you all want to make best uses of your resources.
Paul, you want to tell us a little bit more about Belleville? I know you have the biggest hub with Loyalist college being the main transfer point. I also understand you’ve helped plenty by sharing your on-demand transit services.
We absolutely have anything that we could do to make the agency’s work works seamlessly together we’re more than willing to share it. We have a shared fair infrastructure now to make it as easy as we possibly can for our customers. To go from one service to the other without that worry of, do they have the next fair, how are they going to make the transfers. It’s all about that ease of customer service. Being a rural area public transit isn’t always the first thought of many of our passengers so as they get used to the transit service and as they move to the transit service, we had to make sure that they had a great experience and continue to come back and ride more and more. So, any equipment that we have that we’d like to share and it’s so much easier that if there’s something going on between Belleville and Quinte west. We have a service, a seamless service, with software that we can speak to each other. We don’t have to worry about picking up that phone, calling each other, and trying to get the data from my system to Shelly system or vice versa. With systems that don’t connect or don’t speak to each other, it makes it a lot harder. By having the same software between the two organizations it makes everything significantly better. And with Belleville, we have the buses on a regular schedule and a regular service. We’re there to help with as much as we can. It’s [actually] Gwen and Shelly to do most of the heavy lifting for the regional transit side of things. I just make sure that we have the seats available, and the bus is running that we can meet up with the schedule that works to get people moving around the city. Of the three agencies I’d probably take on the least amount of work but very glad to be able to be there. We make them look good right
We make you look good Paul! No, I don’t
You do! You absolutely do. But I do have to say one of the key pieces with working with Belleville is that for our area they do have a [fairly] robust transit system in town, so it makes it easier for us to do those connections. We were able to put those times in where we can get people to those hubs, where they only have maybe a couple of minutes at the most that they have to wait, and their connection is there. That was [really] important to us because we’re dealing with a large population that transit is very foreign to them. Many of them have never been on a public transit bus so trying to work transfers in and then tell them how to use that - it gets to be a little intimidating a little daunting for some people. So, we wanted to make sure that we made it as safe and easy, and that was great because tying in with Belleville, they have frequent service. It made it a lot easier for us to try and make those transitions. Paul is the star! We hook our chain to the star with what we’ve done.
That’s good Gwen. I know a big challenge for Bancroft has been those long commute times and long travel times to the Belleville hub. Do you want to tell us a little about how you were able to improve this for your riders and drivers?
Well, we’re still working on that a little bit. But it certainly has helped that we’ve been welcomed in Belleville and Quinte. Often times in our field, we think of other transit providers [or sometimes] as competitors. And the open arms from both Shelly and Paul welcoming us into the community has enabled us to have clients. Some clients that can’t be serviced by public transit but to also connect some clients that we think can be served by public transit. [Off of] our roster and back on to the public transit roster so that’s has decreased the load on us, and hopefully has increased the load on Quinte and Belleville because that’s what we want. We want the public transit to be increased so being welcomed has opened the doors for us to be able to come into the community and service. Those clients that can’t be serviced necessarily all the time by public transit in runs like dialysis where there really is no money or funding for that. So, taking that load off the shoulders of Paul and Shelly, and adding it to ours in our specialty. That’s relieved a lot of the pressure and still more to come. There’s still [a] long ways to go but we’re for sure seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and are [really] grateful for that
And just to jump in [really] quickly before we move on, we do have a question that might be good to get out of the way sooner than later. The question is are all of you using spark as your scheduling software?
So right [now] Paul at Belleville for his specialized service, and for our specialized service in Quinte - we are using the TripSpark Novus platform.
Right and then specifically the Novus DT platform which we’ll be going over a little bit later. The coordinated transit but okay great thank you! All three of you, feel free to speak to this one, could you tell us a little bit about your ridership growth in your communities and your regional approach to transportation? How to increase the number of vehicles available etc.?
So, I’m sure that we all know our ridership has dropped over the past two years with the pandemic, but we are starting to see a [fairly] quick uptake of people coming back onto services. A lot of programs, a lot of things that have been kind of put-on hold, and I imagine, we’ll start to see some of these social aspects coming back. A lot of our folks that have been now sheltered and have not been able to get out that that’ll be one area where they start to pick up. But because we were fortunate that we were able to get some funding provincially and federally, and through municipally as well, that we were able to get some of the assets that we needed, such as the buses. And that to start these fixed route connections because I think for us that was key to make sure that we had those in place to start trying to move people. So, that’s where we’ve seen most of the growth - in our vehicles and that to date has been so that we can accommodate those extra trips and be ready to handle those calls. So, hopefully with the on demand, when we start looking at where we’re going to go with that. But we’ve been very fortunate because we have been using TripSpark for [a number of] years now that we have a [really] great pool of data available to us. We had a lot of information of where our ridership was coming from, where they were going, the locations we use a lot of pass faring polygons in the system which really lets us pinpoint what, where people are getting on and where they’re going to. We can track that flow so we can start now to identify the areas where we think that the on-demand service[s] is probably going to be best received. We can start with those pockets and hopefully build out from there so that’s kind of where we are. Like I said, we’re hoping ridership just starts to come back up as things do start to open and hopefully life gets back to a little normal say here soon.
Yeah, absolutely everything ahead, we were seeing, pre-covid 2019, year-to-year, year-over-year ridership growth. And in 2019 with a population of what we thought was about 50,000 people, we were carrying just over 1.3 million riders a year in Belleville. So, planning for that to continue once we get back to normal, which is happening [really] quickly. We’ve already gone ahead and ordered and had delivery of five new conventional transit buses. Two of which would be expansion and three will be replacement. But we also doubled the size of our paratransit door-to-door fleet with the order of three more paratransit buses. It [they] should be delivered in the next few months. Hopefully before the wave of customers start hitting us hard at the door. We [actually] just got our census information back from the government, and since 2016 the city of Belleville has seen an 8.6 increase in population. So, we know the people are coming and we know the ridership is going to be there. So, by utilizing our software that we have, it gives us the information that we need to go to our councils and say, ‘hey this is the growth we’re seeing, this is the demand we’re seeing’. It helps us to pre-plan for vehicles staffing and routing to be there when people need us.
Yeah, in our instance, we’ve got two new paratransit buses ordered that should be hopefully [get] to us again early this year. Our specialized routes have increased because of the five day a week service. The specialized transit has increased and kind of again, paving the way for regional transit being able to bring them to Bancroft, which we call the hub. And then going from there to the other, the outlying communities being able to go from one end of our catchment area to the other is huge. So, we’ve increased our specialized transit vehicles as well.
That’s great! We’ve also had the ability [I guess] to review the data collected in the TripSpark software to identify travel patterns on special services and implement fixed route service on the main corridors to facilitate the connections between the main urban hubs, and the four municipalities by using past fair polygons in our service areas. So, that you can capture the ridership data and see where people are located, where they need to go so you can assign the proper resources.
That’s great! Now on that note, let’s dig into Quinte’s partnership with TripSpark and with Belleville transit and Bancroft transit. Let’s make this a little interactive so anyone can jump in at any time. I know Quinte has had a long-standing partnership with TripSpark since back to June 2015. Although their first ticket according to Gardner was back in 2011 before they officially became a TripSpark partner. Gardner maybe you can elaborate a little bit on this. Tell us your first experience with Shelly and her team at Quinte.
Yeah, so me coming from more of a past world at where I began at Oats and what I did there [like] - what I supported there and what I supported in customer care on the Trapeze side coming over to or moving into the TripSpark space and working with Shelly and her team. I was [pretty] green in terms of my Novus experience. She was quite literally my first upgrade of the Novus platform so that was good to work with her. And she was very patient with me, helped me through what they did, helped frame everything but during that little educational piece, it helped me tie things together with what I did at Oats where I came from in Missouri or where I come from really. And the service that they provide, it was very similar the rural transportation here in Missouri. Unless you live in a big city, St. Louis, or Kansas City, you don’t really have any other option and those sorts of services I could relate to and felt really a duty - a dedication - to keep them going. I hope that makes sense but all the people that depend on them to get to where they need to go every single day. I felt a duty to keep that up and running as much as possible and I think over the years, I’ve been here since 2013 I don’t see myself going anywhere, same with Shelly. I think we’ve done a pretty good job. Shall we keep it going? So yeah. They’ve worked with me, I’ve worked with them, and we’ve kept it going, and keep them on the road.
Yes, I remember my first dealing with Gardner as well and when he first called me up and he said, “can I speak to somebody in your department?” and I started to laugh, and he said “oh” and I said “me”.
Exactly right yeah! it’s just, you and I holding each other’s hand down the road here and that’s what we’ve done. It’s been a partnership over the years, and we’ve seen each other through the times to say the least.
Speaking about that, I heard about a time when Shelly called you up Gardner in a bit of a panic telling you the Quinte servers had just died and she needed your help right away. You told her not to worry but you’d still have to ask her a few questions to get the solution and in so doing, you learned she still had access to the database which was great news because it might be able to tap into the hosted environment and get service back on track for them. I mean tell us a little about that.
I was able to leverage my experiences being in the deployment specialist you know early in the days of TripSpark to go to the right people that I needed to go to at the time and say “hey I can do the installs of everything [pretty] quickly. Do we have the space to put them in?”. And in that time, we were able to work out the pricing and the agreements that Shelley needed to look at and really say yeah okay to this, but we had the data. I could build the brain around the data wherever it needed to be. We were fortunate enough to really spin up a team effort on our side - on the TripSpark side - and get them into the environment sooner than later and get the wheels back on the road. It was I don’t want to say a herculean effort, but everybody came together to make sure it happened. She made sure to get me a database where we needed it. I was able to prove to her hey this will work; can you connect your vehicle working and everything. And once we had that proof, there in the pudding, we were able to run with it [pretty] quick. From my end with dealing with that experience, the one the key thing that still sticks out in my mind, other than the fact of our system went down for almost a week and we were horrified of what we were going to do without it, was the fact that through the whole process I didn’t have to go back and say okay where are we? What’s happening? Is this going to be up and running?
As soon as something little even happened, Gardner was right there. “Okay here’s where we are, here’s what we’re doing. Here’s we’re on track”. It was great that I didn’t have to think about that end of it and that I could concentrate on going back to manually. Having to look at how to do schedules and how to get a hold of people. I think working through that process was [really] good and the team was just fantastic. I couldn’t say enough about them during that process.
I think we lost Paul, but I’ll jump in here and I can say when we brought the mobility servicing house from our contractor, we were looking at having to get new software to schedule our service. And we started speaking with Shelly to learn about her service because we know that she had a great experience. We went ahead and installed the same service in our vehicles, and it’s literally been bulletproof since we put it in. We’ve had no issues at all other than that the occasional user issue that you experience when you launch a brand-new service in the middle of Covid 19 pandemic. You try to get caught up but we’ve had no issues with it at all. It’s been fantastic. It’s been great to work with that.
Awesome and so we knew we might lose Paul at some point, and it looks like that his time is now. I don’t think he had a power outage per se but he was having some issues there and so I’ll jump in until he’s able to get back online with us here. First of all, if anyone has anything else to add to that story feel free to jump in now or forever hold your peace. Okay great! So now I want to switch over to testing on technology for a few minutes. I know that tech has played a major role in your partnerships with Paul and Gwen’s agencies. Shelly and I understand over the years with scripts for Quinte has become well in French in the TripSpark ecosystem. [Having] The slide I’m about to show you now, a little bit of everything Novus, Streets, MyRide rangers notifications team. Name it basically everything you’ve got name. A few I also understand you’re looking at implementing TripSpark new micro transit app rides on demand soon. So Shelly, Paul and Gwen speaking about technology, let’s talk about sharing technology. How it helps agencies, especially with nova CT in particular? For those who if it’s not already clear nova CT is our demand response platform for coordinated transportation so just lending some insight there. I’d love to turn it over to you Shelly and see if Paul is back.
Yeah, it’ll back me up on what I say. For me it’s I think it’s been [really] great because like I said we can set up certain platforms in the program that are shared between the agencies. We don’t have to duplicate a lot of the things so when it comes to setting up your common locations and looking at some of the data, that we have the ability to kind of work back and forth. Like I said, share some of that. The other thing that I have found that’s kind of been beneficial is because we can work together, we have each other as sounding boards as well. We can kind look at different things. So, if I had to like I can go on and if I could see where Paul’s vehicles were.
So one of the things we’ve been talking about we’re not quite there yet is you know if we have specialized service but is there a way to connect those rides as well? We don’t all have our vehicles coming in at the hospital -four vehicles all pulling up to the front door. So there some way that we can coordinate so that we can then go back and do other trips as well?
I think with having that connection in the program, it’s going to make it much easier for us to kind of keep track of where we are and what that could kind of look like. We share so many riders and even clients whether that the riders are going to the locations that they’re going to. By having the same software between the three agencies and tying it in like Shelly said, it’s going to make it a lot easier for us on our own resources. If they bring somebody into the area of Belleville and we can pick them up and accommodate the other in the city that gives them the opportunity to get back to their locations and apply services for additional customers. And let us look after it there and then when it’s time to go back, we can re-coordinate and make that link to get everybody back home as efficiently as possible. It’s just going to free up our vehicles for our jobs and Shelly’s and Gwen’s vehicles, so they can look after their customers in their locations. And they don’t have to spend an extended period of time driving people around Belleville.
My look on the software since we’ve started using it for our service has been fantastic. It is a great piece of software for their dispatchers to use. hey can jump in and pick it up and learn it quickly and be effective with it. The information that the customer can get from the program when we book the ride or they cancel the ride and they make a change in the system, they’re notified.
That’s fantastic for them. We don’t have to spend a lot of time on the phone confirming or reconfirming pickups and calls, and for the drivers having that ranger unit in the vehicle where it’s touch and go. They’re not dealing with paper, they’re not on the radio whatever you call letting us know what’s going on, what’s happening. It just makes us far more efficient and I’m really looking forward to some new stuff in the near future hopefully.
For sure yeah! We’ve been talking about the customer portal being one of the add-on options that we’re looking for the Novus. So that the clients that [are able to] can put their own bookings in, which will help alleviate some of the pressure on some of our scheduling. With just taking those calls and for us here we’ve been looking at the rides on demand app so that we can start looking at those areas where we may have find that we get ridership from on-demand transit so that we can start offering it to people. They can book their own rides and it’ll tell them when they can book, what they’re available for and then where it’s going to go. We do that now, but we have to manually do that ourselves, so we have to kind of figure out in our heads all those little steps and then how it is going to work. We’re really looking to this rides on demand to help us facilitate that so that it’ll be part of the program. And then the other part we’re excited about too - we have streets which is our fixed route software so getting that connected into our Novus. So that when our schedulers are looking at trips, that hopefully it will pull in information of our current bus stops, and that we can be putting that out as options to people. It just really is going to open up to people that are riding the bus that they can really plan and use transit to whatever ability and whatever suits them. They’re not just always at whatever we’ve got available for them. They will have different options, hopefully that they can look at. So, that we’re really excited about - trying to get some of that new software up and running and get using, looking at it from the from the clients or the customer’s perspective.
If we’re all working together and they look at this program and they see while there’s valve, there’s Quinte, there’s Bancroft all together. It also creates that connectivity not just within our own organizations but from the client’s perspective to transportation. So being able to connect all of these service providers together, when they see that message is invaluable to us as we try to increase our ridership stats. And all of those other things for them, to see that we are also a united front is an important message to send to all of the people- that ride on our service.
Thanks everybody! Paul, I see you’re back with us now.
Is that your phone you’re on right now?
Yeah, I switched over to the phone. It’s having some trouble so anyway can you hear me okay?
I can hear you okay. Now if you’d like to jump back in, we’re at the part where we’re just about to ask Gardner if he has anything to add from a technical perspective.
Gardner do you have anything you’d like to add from a technical perspective?
No aside from I have an upgrade in progress with Shelly to get the transit on demand. The transit info she needs in the app there so we’re working through that as a team.
So great well, let’s then look at the future. We’ve looked at what you’ve done in the past, we’ve talked about how you’re working together presently today, now let’s take a quick look at where we’re going. What’s the future look like for you guys? If there’s anything you’d like to add before we get there. So Shelly, Paul, Gwen what’s going now? What’s next for you Gwen? Let’s start with you. We’re reaching for the stars regional transit.
We want to connect our riders to the world and our world right now is Belleville, Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto. All of those so that’s our big ultimate goal.
Excellent! How about you Shelly?
Yeah, I think right now our next big step[s] is just trying to get the word out to people. That’s always the hardest. It’s how do we reach everybody, and we just want to make sure that we’re getting it out to as many people as possible. So, they know that this is out there, and it is for everybody to use. So, just really trying to get as many people on those buses and getting people to work and getting back to their regular lives. We’ve heard so many kind[s] of down stories through the pandemic of people that have lost jobs or have been sick, and it’d be just nice to have that refresh. People know that they have something there that can help them, so this isn’t going to be another barrier in their way. It’s just pretty exciting to me!
Absolutely Paul! Absolutely definitely rebuild after the pandemic - get back up to where we were and even larger - continue to work on our business relationship with our partners and expands into some new partnerships. We live in an area that there are a number of small locations and smaller townships, and smaller communities that that we could definitely help and via help too. So, let’s just keep growing by the time we’re done. We want to take over all the eastern townships our own little [...]
How are you going to help him do that Gardner?
Well, it’s like Paul said - keep with the partnerships. Yeah, I’ll be here for them any questions, anything they need really, they can reach out. Shelly knows that any anytime day or night, she can reach out and she’ll probably get an answer. Or “hey I got this. I’ll get back to you whenever I’m in the office if it’s after hours.” But just keeping hand in hand with them, nobody knows everything, but everybody knows something and we’re here to help. That’s what we were talking about today is the partnership.
That happens exactly right! Dave, [do] you want to take us away with any questions?
Yeah, absolutely. So, this was a kind of a long question. Steve, did say that he’s happy to chat offline if necessary? But he says, how does your demand respond and fixed route system work together? For instance, we have a fixed route service that runs at the same time as our on-demand service. We would like to co-mingle with one vendor. The on-demand operation has rules - for instance faculty and staff only. But the current vendor I have, a group that I have to manually build with restrictions for the service therefore not offered to everyone on our campus, and then lastly the on demand can the on demand have parameters.
We can answer as much of that as possible now and if not, we can take that offline and answer that.
Some of it I can touch on at least like the larger question with co-mingling the fixed route and the demand. We’ll probably need to take that offline. There’s a discovery that needs to occur, there just so the answer is given correctly. But the on-demand, can it have parameters? Yes, that we have, the brain and Novus where you can configure quite literally everything in terms of what you’re needing it to do. But can it have different service hours? 3am to 7am then 8am to 5pm? Yes definitely! I know this out of the box allows you to do multiple service types like that.
All right! And Steve, we will connect with you after, and we can get you some more detailed responses after the webinar.
Next up, we have a question here from Lisa. Lisa, sorry can you collect all the information on a rider that is needed by funders for riders that use demand response?
Yeah, so for what we require or what we need - we can get all the information out of the system, so we do have information that we need to provide defenders. They’re looking for where do people go when they use the service. For accounts pass fairing polygons let us know exactly where they’re moving, and where they’re going. And then we also have once a year we have government reporting statistics for government funding that we have to report on. And they get quite specific on certain things that they need to know too. And all the information we capture within Novus that we need to report on, and if it’s not there, somewhere in the mix, the information’s there and that’s when I reach out to my very good friend and they say, “hey I need a report that’s going to tell me this” and they usually help. They usually jump in and are quite willing to help out and get us what we need. So, all the information’s there and it can usually always be extrapolated from the program. We’ve got a fairly large database in terms of the tables, and in the fields and the information we gather for that purpose. We can write queries against it if the report somehow isn’t in one of the system standard reports, which we have a bunch, but we can write a query against what you need. It might take us a few hours to wrap our head around things and really write it up. Right but yeah, we can get it done for you.
Awesome! And then the next question is from Alex, is Novus DT entirely cloud-based?
I think I could answer that one. Shelly happens to be in our hosted environment. It is cloud-based; however, Novus is able to be installed on-prem as we say in your building - in your server farm. Whatever, as long as it matches our service or our hardware requirements, and that it can be done on-prem or cloud-based depending on what you need.
Yes, quite versatile actually. I like to brag that you can be on vacation in Rome, I like Rome. I like the idea of going there, it seems nice poolside or beachside whatever you’re into, you can log in to Novus, check it out, and see what’s going on, see what your drivers are doing, why you’re doing that when you’re on vacation in Rome. I can’t answer that, but it is able to do that.
You know, yeah workaholics but yeah. Novus can be accessed quite literally anywhere in the world. It’s pretty awesome!
That is awesome, and they would tell you that with the pandemic, because many of us had to work from home as it was part of our mandate, that those that could did. So, we didn’t miss a beat. Some people just took their systems with them with the big screens, and we were right on Novus. We had our phone set up, we could get on to see our streets, we knew where all our vehicles were. So, setting up a virtual office was just a matter of just plugging your stuff in and off you go. It was just like being in the office so that that was huge for us being able to do that.
I had a harder time getting phone service to our getting our phone set up for our staff. That we didn’t know.
Yeah, that’s what we like to hear. All right that’s it for questions. Oh, sorry nope, someone is the last minute one here. Yes, I can. I already read the question. Yes, it can. Oh okay. What was the question? Can Novus track the vehicle position when scheduling in a live day service?
Yes, your vehicle is ping assuming you have like a driver mate device or ranger device, what have you, that’s speaking back to base. It’s going to ping back its position on the world. It’s Latin lawn Novus takes that in stores, in the database. the little internal process runs and it blips it up on the map for you to see in real time. I mean within 30 seconds to a minute but yeah, it’s right there for you.
Great, sorry I just kind of jumped in front there. That’s right! All right, I think that is it but last time I said that a question came through, so I am watching it carefully. I think with that we’re pretty much good Paul.
Very good, yeah excellent! Well, I really appreciate you all sharing your story today. It’s been inspiring to see how agencies coordinate, how you’re able to use a partner like TripSpark to help you, kind of tie it all together as someone asked earlier. Everybody has software that can speak to each other so that’s how you’re really able to share resources I think it’s wonderful. So Shelly, Paul, and Gardner, thanks for being our guest today. And those who are on the call, I want to let you know that we’ll be sending a link to the recording of today’s webinar over the next few days. You can hear it again and get the details. And of course, TripSpark stands ready to assist you if you want to get more information about the software that was discussed today. Feel free to reach out and we’ll be happy to have someone give you a demo if you would like one. Thanks again everyone for being with us. Enjoy the rest of your day and the week and stay safe out there!
Have a great afternoon everyone!
When do you start the song? When does that happen?
And now the end of the year, do I think it’s a certain future? Follow me on LinkedIn. If you don’t find Paul Comfort on LinkedIn, I put stuff up every day about it - about public transportation, got a children’s book that went to number one on amazon called Public Transportation From The Tom Thumb Railroad To Hyperloop And Beyond if you want to share it with your kids. I really think that’s the next step for us.I wanted to find a book that my grandkids could see what their Giggy (that’s what they call me) did for a living for 30 years. I did all this with CEO Baltimore’s transit system, and all that stuff. And there wasn’t any books out there about public transportation so cheers park actually helped me with that book and we’ve distributed it at a number of conferences. We’ve given it away as gifts and stuff like that but anyway, kind of a wrap up segment here. That’s the people that are on this call talking. I think everyone could see are passionate about what we do. We believe in the power of mobility, to improve people’s lives so they can access all life’s opportunities, and really during the pandemic more than ever we needed it. And now hopefully coming out of it where people can begin to go back to their offices and get back out to restaurants. Canada - things are starting to open up now a little bit more. So public transportation and these agencies coordinating their efforts together using the technology tools from TripSpark to make it happen are really making the are about making people’s lives and improving their lives on a regular basis. So, thank you for being with us today everyone again. Take care and stay safe out there. We’ll see you next time!