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RideSheet: Rural Transportation Benefits from New Coordination Technology

Wide open highway with mountains in distance

Kevin Chambers, Full Path

RideSheet is a new open-source ride scheduling software application designed for the unique needs of small, demand-responsive transportation providers. By incorporating a new transactional data specification, known as the TDS, it enables two or more providers in a community to interoperate more efficiently, improving service for their clients.

Throughout the United States, many human service agencies include transportation among the services they offer, recognizing that their clients, including non-driving older adults and people of all ages living with disabilities, need reliable ways to get to medical appointments, grocery stores and more. Quite often, these agencies offer “demand-responsive” transportation, which means that riders call in advance to schedule door-to-door service. To the extent possible, trips are coordinated so that riders who are headed in the same direction will ride together. Often, program managers find that the available ride-scheduling software is too complicated and expensive, so they end up improvising with inefficient and ineffective low-tech systems. Moreover, they recognize the potential benefit of integrating their services with those of other transportation providers in the community, but lack the technology to do so. 

Aware of such transportation barriers and challenges, AARP in 2020 provided funding for the consulting firm Full Path Transit Technology to develop and test a proof-of-concept of the “transactional data specification” for demand-responsive transportation (TDS). AARP’s research had identified the TDS, an open-source data format, as a potential solution that makes interoperation between providers easier, reduces complexity, lowers the cost of the process, and improves service to travelers.

The software product that Full Path developed was deployed in rural Lake County, Oregon, where two nonprofit transportation providers, Inner Court Family Center (ICFC) and Lake County Senior Center Association (LCSCA), had tried, but failed, to coordinate their transportation operations using an off-the-shelf software product. Faced with an aging population, and with a significant new state-level funding source to support expanded transit services, these nonprofit transportation providers recognized that their pen and paper, whiteboards, and ad-hoc spreadsheets did not put the county in a strong position to manage the growth in demand and services. They agreed to try again, using RideSheet and the TDS.

RideSheet is the name of the open-source software tool, created by Full Path in collaboration with staff from Lake County, ICFC, and LCSCA. It is a simple, low-cost, cloud-based tool that demonstrates that demand-responsive transportation trip data can be shared via Google Sheets (available to any agency with a computer and an internet connection) without the need for email, fax, or phone calls between providers or manual re-entering trip information. The agencies using it report that it has helped them increase professionalism, security, efficiency, communication, and the ability to adjust to last-minute changes or requests; they also report it has reduced administrative burden, errors, and confusion. This pilot project holds great potential for the scheduling requirements of other rural communities with small transit providers. Currently, Full Path is continuing the work of making RideSheet a ready-to-use tool for use elsewhere.
 

Suggested citation: Chambers, Kevin and Lara Bjork. RideSheet: Rural Transportation Benefits from New Coordination Technology. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute, March 25, 2021. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00131.001