Leveraging FACT

Published 9/11/19

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Executive Summary

Facilitating Access to Coordinated Transportation (FACT) provides transportation options for seniors, people with disabilities, and San Diegans that need help getting around the region. FACT is a cost-effective specialized transportation provider that fills transportation gaps through their dial-a-ride service, RideFACT.

RideFACT provides transportation for people who do not qualify for ADA paratransit or other transportation programs. In addition to RideFACT, FACT maintains a database of current transportation providers Countywide, refers individuals to other transportation providers if they are eligible for existing programs, and provides transportation services for public agencies through contracted services.

This report analyzes data from thousands of trips in FY 2018 provided by FACT as well as input from an advisory committee formed by Circulate San Diego, to determine FACT’s regional impact.

FACT’s customer base self-identify as people with disabilities, almost equally split between low income and not low income people, and mostly 60 years old or older. Most trips provided by RideFACT are for medical purposes, at a combined 60 percent of all documented trips. Social trips are the second most common purpose and provide an important lifeline for seniors and people with disabilities. RideFACT is able to provide trips to San Diegans at well below the national average cost per trip. Based on reported data for RideFACT service for FY 2018, FACT’s average purchase cost per passenger trip was $23.48. This is well below the cost of the average trip per rider nationally, which averages $37.69 for the type of transportation RideFACT provides. Locally, FACT’s innovative brokerage model has resulted in cost savings for jurisdictions that hire FACT to provide contracted services; it has also created win-win partnerships with the local private transportation industry.

Freedom of movement is vital to maintain a high quality of life for seniors and people with disabilities. No other service in San Diego provides seamless transportation across the County at a reasonable cost for people who do not qualify for other options.

  • As a CTSA, FACT maintains and shares information about transportation providers and programs Countywide.
  • FACT refers people in need of transportation to existing programs that may fit their
  • If no such fit exists, FACT provides subsidized rides through its RideFACT program using its unique brokerage
  • FACT leverages its brokerage to support partner agencies in providing competitively priced trips through contracted

By providing more rides with limited funding through the brokerage, as well as promoting consistent prices and policies across jurisdictions, local jurisdictions, hospitals, and even the private sector could benefit from cost- effectively serving the growing senior population and people with disabilities.

Introduction

Facilitating Access to Coordinated Transportation (FACT) fills a gap in transportation services to those without transportation options. FACT is the San Diego Association of Government’s (SANDAG) designated Consolidated Transportation Service Agency (CTSA), which is tasked with expanding the availability and use of specialized transportation services in San Diego County.[1] FACT operates a dial-a-ride service Countywide known as RideFACT, maintains a website database of transportation services, provides referrals to connect individuals to transportation options, and contracts with various agencies and businesses to provide on demand transportation for their agency clients.[2]

In San Diego County, 88.9 percent of commuters in Transportation Priority Areas (TPA)[3] drive alone or carpool to work.[4] For people outside of TPAs, undoubtedly that number is even higher. However, for older adults or people with disabilities, driving themselves or taking fixed-route transit to any destination is not always an option. FACT provides transportation for individuals who cannot drive, live far away from existing transit, or who do not have family or friends who can drive them to appointments or to visit friends or family.

ADA paratransit eligibility criteria is limited compared to typical definitions of disability. Many San Diegans do not qualify for the curb-to-curb ADA Paratransit service provided by transit agencies. To be eligible to utilize ADA paratransit service, a person must live within a three- quarter mile radius of a bus route and demonstrate that they are functionally unable to use the fixed-route transit without assistance. Having a disability alone or being  a senior does not make a person eligible for paratransit service.[5] RideFACT staff routinely refer callers to ADA paratransit when appropriate; when ADA paratransit or other services are not appropriate, FACT will assist with RideFACT transportation when feasible.

Circulate San Diego analyzed data provided by FACT to measure its impact on the region. FACT provided data for fiscal year 2018 for all RideFACT trips requested by riders, both trip requests that were completed and requests that were not able to be fulfilled. This data included pick up and drop off locations, trip purpose, date and time, and other relevant data that illustrates the scope of FACT’s impact. Circulate reviewed the transportation services available in the region and analyzed the rides completed through RideFACT.

FACT is one of the most cost-effective specialized transportation providers in San Diego County. RideFACT provides a unique transportation service utilizing a brokerage system that maximizes its impact to provide thousands of trips for people in need every year and is a model for the region.

RideFACT

Brokerage Model

To support its dial-a-ride service, FACT operates a brokerage to purchase and offer rides at a lower cost than would otherwise be possible. To be able to provide low cost rides and efficiently utilize grant funding, FACT negotiates bulk orders of trips from multiple taxicab and other transportation providers. FACT and each taxicab company agree to a discounted rate in exchange for agreeing to purchase a high volume of trips from each vendor, benefiting the taxicab industry as it struggles with competition from rideshare companies.[6] These taxicab companies are then a part of the RideFACT brokerage, providing the companies with guaranteed business for the contract period. Several of the taxicab companies have received wheelchair accessible vans on loan from FACT that can be used by RideFACT customers and people who hire the taxicab companies outside of the RideFACT brokerage model.

For each trip request, the RideFACT brokerage uses software to identify the transportation provider with the lowest rates that serve the trip’s origin and destination as well as any special needs required by the person requesting the ride, such as a wheelchair accessible vehicle. It then confirms the trip with the lowest cost vendor that meets all the requirements. This brokerage model is unique in San Diego County and nationally.

The RideFACT brokerage results in lower costs, maximizing how many subsidized rides FACT can provide for its customers. Contracted services with other agencies can also take advantage of the brokerage model through partnering with FACT to deliver dial-a-ride services, further helping to drive down costs and maximize efficiencies.

Serving Seniors and People with Disabilities

FACT is the only transportation service provider that offers accessible rides with vehicles that have wheelchair lifts to anyone in need Countywide. There are no geographic limitations for RideFACT trips within the County, including with their accessible vehicles, and no transfers required to complete any trip. RideFACT trips span San Diego County, both inside and outside of paratransit service areas.

San Diego’s two transit agencies are under a mandate to serve a subset of people with disabilities in their jurisdictions that meet the strict eligibility criteria, but that leaves many people with disabilities ineligible. Though most communities with a high density of people with disabilities are located within the three-quarter mile radius paratransit service boundary, many individuals do not qualify for the strict paratransit criteria. In addition, people with disabilities outside of the three-quarter mile radius paratransit service boundary cannot receive ADA paratransit service.[7]

There is no federal requirement for transportation agencies to provide door-to-door transportation services to seniors if they do not qualify for paratransit services. Though some local jurisdictions do provide these services, it is not due to a legal mandate. Ultimately, some older adults and people with disabilities have existing limited access to curb-to-curb specialized transportation depending on if their jurisdiction provides it, while others have no other options except for services such as RideFACT.

SANDAG’s 2018 Coordinated Plan details communities with densities of seniors and people with disabilities that are outside of a half-mile radius of transit. RideFACT transportation providers service the areas identified in the Coordinated Plan with population densities of seniors and people with disabilities as a result of the brokerage model.

According to the  Coordinated  Plan,  13.1  percent  of the San Diego region’s population is 65 or older, approximately 430,501 people. By 2050, that population is expected to grow as a percentage of the population as a whole. People 65 and older are expected to make up 19.7 percent of the total population by 2050, or 801,339 people. The population of seniors ages 85 and older is expected to more than double from 1.9 percent of the population to 4.2 percent.[8]

For the growing population of people with disabilities or seniors who do not qualify for ADA paratransit services, RideFACT is able to provide them with a lifeline to medical appointments or the ability to access quality of life services. As San Diego’s senior population grows, the need for specialized transportation options will grow as well for those who cannot drive and still need the ability to leave their home. Unfortunately, funding for specialized transportation has not increased as the demand for transportation services increases.

Expanding FACT’s cost effective brokerage model, in combination with creating new revenue streams or expanding existing ones, would enable more trips to be provided in San Diego County.

The following maps show RideFACT trips that occur inside and outside serviceable paratransit areas. Since many seniors and people with disabilities do not qualify for paratransit service, RideFACT trips take place both inside and outside those areas. The data is split into two maps to improve readability.

The maps of North County and Central, South, and East County RideFACT origin and destination trips illustrate that its services are being utilized by people both inside and outside of the paratransit service boundaries throughout San Diego County, including communities identified as having substantial populations of seniors and people with disabilities in SANDAG’s Coordinated Plan. RideFACT provides door-to-door services that meet the needs of the communities identified in the Coordinated Plan for routine trips such as grocery shopping or transportation to medical appointments.

RideFACT Trips

In addition to analyzing the transportation providers in FACT’s database, which is used to refer clients who may qualify for other transportation services, Circulate also analyzed RideFACT trips and contracted services.

In one year, FACT facilitated over 37,000 rides for its riders, between RideFACT and contracted services.

Most trips provided by RideFACT are for medical purposes, at a combined 55 percent of all documented trips. Social trips are the second most common purpose and provide an important lifeline for seniors and people with disabilities who cannot drive themselves.

FACT’s dispatchers ask a series of questions to new riders who call in to request a ride. These questions are answered over the phone and are all self-reported; no verification of the caller’s answers is requested by FACT. The responses illustrate the demographics of those who are in need of additional transportation options.

The responses received in FY 2018 show that FACT’s customers are:

  • Primarily English speakers;
  • Mostly self-identified as people with disabilities but also mostly ambulatory, and not registered to use paratransit services;
  • Almost equally split between low income and not low income people;
  • Mostly not veterans; and
  • Mostly 60 years old or older.

Below is a series of charts illustrating the demographics of FACT’s new customers in FY 2018.

When a person who is 60 or older or has a disability calls FACT to request a ride, its Mobility Coordinator staff attempt to determine if the caller is eligible for an existing transportation program, including paratransit services provided by MTS and NCTD. If the caller appears to be eligible, FACT staff will refer the caller to the appropriate agency. If the caller does not meet the requirements to qualify for another program or agency, they qualify for RideFACT. Most referrals are for programs operated for specific jurisdictions, which provide rides for residents of those jurisdictions who meet certain criteria.

FACT was unable to provide about four percent of RideFACT trip requests in FY 2018. The reason for not providing a ride is not specified when it is recorded, but other information about the person requesting the ride and their requested trip are recorded.

In FY 2018, 79 percent of new callers self-reported as ambulatory. 53 percent of riders whose ride requests were rejected self-reported as ambulatory. This means that a disproportionate number of non-ambulatory riders are not able to take a RideFACT trip in comparison to their ambulatory counterparts. This suggests that mobility can be a barrier for FACT customers to receive rides.

This disparity results from a lack of capacity to provide wheelchair trips. Only 66 transportation providers out of 159 offer transportation for wheelchairs. This deficiency  in an accessible fleet available to FACT indicates a need  to increase the number of providers and vehicles who can accommodate non-ambulatory riders. An increase in service capacity would require larger public contributions in order to make providing these trips feasible, resulting in fewer ride requests being turned down.

FACT staff and providers report that a common reason for rejecting rides is the requested trip’s distance. Trip distance plays a role in multiple ways. In some instances, a person requests a short ride but is located a long distance from any possible transportation provider. Providers are compensated based on the distance of the trip with a passenger, and not the cumulative driving to pick up the passenger. FACT can find it difficult to find a provider willing to make a long trip for a short ride with a passenger. Conversely, some providers will reject a long trip with a passenger if it takes them far away from a subsequent ride. Many providers prefer to drive shorter trips in the same area so that headways in between trips are short.[9]

The above table illustrates all of the unfulfilled trips in ranges of miles. The table shows that the shortest and longest trips are rejected more frequently than mid-range trip distances between 21 and 30 miles.

Lastly, Circulate identified the most frequent pick up and drop off locations for trips that FACT was unable to provide. Circulate determined the type of location based on Google Maps and input from FACT staff and advisory committee members.

Cost Per Trip

The National Transit Database provides figures for average cost per trip for each type of transit mode nationally. RideFACT is a demand response service. Cost per unlinked passenger trip, which measures the cost of the average trip per rider, averaged $37.69 in 2017 for demand response trips. Their costs includes vehicle operations and maintenance, and general administration.[10]

RideFACT is able to provide trips to San Diegans at well below the national average. Based on similar statistical data for the RideFACT service for FY 2018-19, FACT reported the average cost per passenger trip as $23.48.[11] This reflects the relatively low purchase cost of the trip that FACT procures from transportation providers through their brokerage. FACT owns 24 vehicles that are shared with its taxicab vendors, which helps with mitigating trip costs.

This study did not analyze in-depth the additional corresponding administrative cost per trip for FACT.

However, the general administration cost per trip was a small fraction of the fully loaded trip cost. The limited comparison indicates that with more vehicles, there is potential for significant savings to the San Diego region as the FACT service model grows in scale.

FACT also shares vehicles with partner agencies when feasible via an application process. The City of Vista’s Out & About Program is an example of a transportation provider that now has access to FACT’s vehicles. Veronica Giancola with the City of Vista’s Out & About Program stated that:

As a recipient of a wheelchair-accessible van, Out & About Vista has created transportation opportunities for residents in hard to access areas of rural Vista. Access to reliable transportation affords our seniors peace of mind, a sense of freedom, companionship and independence.

FACT competes for grants that make FACT’s administration and call center possible, such as SANDAG’s TransNet and FTA Section 5310 program funds.

Database of Transportation Providers in the Region

As a CTSA, FACT maintains a database of on-demand transportation providers across the region, separate from their brokerage system. Each transportation provider operates independently from FACT and services certain sub-regions or specific populations. Out of 159 transportation providers Countywide in the database, nearly half only provide services for their own clients, for example through a religious charity or senior center. Many of these agencies focus on specific populations who need transportation to and from services or healthcare centers.

The below table shows how many of the region’s transportation providers in FACT’s database provide each type of service. Most providers offer multiple services, so an individual transportation provider may be represented in multiple columns. While data was not available for all providers in the database, certain providers offer specific important services for their riders. For example, only 26 providers will wait with their passengers, or 16 percent of providers, and only 19 can offer same day rides for passengers, or 12 percent.

A list of the region’s transportation service providers maintained by FACT is available in Appendix A.

Contracted Services

FACT’s brokerage model assists local jurisdictions in providing cost-effective specialized transportation for their residents in addition to FACT’s own dial-a-ride service. Jurisdictions with their own dial-a-ride service can contract through private sector companies to provide rides or contract with FACT, a non-profit.

FACT provides contracted services for the City of Oceanside, City of San Marcos, County of San Diego HHSA, Tri-City Medical Center, and several other entities. As a result of the collaboration, Oceanside’s Senior Van Service has seen expenses for their service cut by 35 percent since they contracted with FACT, and Tri-City’s program has seen its transportation costs go down by 30 percent with FACT.[12] These examples of cost savings demonstrate the potential for FACT contracted services to maximize the impact of local specialized transportation services.FACT’s brokerage model assists local jurisdictions in providing cost-effective specialized transportation for their residents in addition to FACT’s own dial-a-ride service. Jurisdictions with their own dial-a-ride service can contract through private sector companies to provide rides or contract with FACT, a non-profit.

In addition to the cost savings FACT’s brokerage model provides, FACT’s contracted transportation services receive high customer service ratings. The City of Oceanside has conducted annual surveys of their dial-a-ride service through FACT. Between 2014 and 2017, FACT’s contracted service has received positive reviews. Questions asking about the ride reservation process, timeliness, driver courtesy, vehicle cleanliness, and overall ride satisfaction received consistently over 90 percent “excellent” or “good” responses combined and less than 10 percent “fair” or “poor” responses combined on average from 2014 to 2017.[13]

Increasing the contracted services that leverage the FACT brokerage benefits the people who need transportation options and the grant funders of local specialized transportation programs.

FACT Advisory Panel

Circulate convened an advisory panel on November 28, 2018, composed of FACT Board members and members of the Council on Access and Mobility. Circulate invited 10 stakeholders to attend the meeting and five attended, representing the County Emergency Services, Access to Independence, St. Paul’s Senior Services, FACT’s Board of Directors, and AAA Transport. In addition FACT staff members Meagan Schmidt and Arun Prem also attended the meeting.

During the meeting, advisory panel members reviewed the research findings detailed in this report to ground-truth the data with their experiences serving RideFACT customers. The panel had a discussion about the common characteristics of RideFACT rides, top destinations, and reasons for using the RideFACT service. They also discussed the barriers that exist for some customers and why some trip requests are not fulfilled. The advisory panel provided guidance that informed sections in this report specifically relating to reasons why providers are unable to provide certain trips, knowledge about the types of people who use RideFACT, and input on common trip destinations.

Conclusion

RideFACT provided over 28,000 service trips in FY 2018. The majority of RideFACT trips are for medical purposes, which is crucial for health and wellness. FACT is able to fulfill the vast majority of trips requested at cost-effective rates for people who do not have access to other transportation choices. While some requested trips begin or end near transit, many do not and many riders are unable to take transit or paratransit due to its strict eligibility criteria.

FACT fills gaps in transportation options for San Diegans in need of specialized transportation services. As a Consolidated Transportation Services Agency, FACT maintains and shares information about transportation providers and programs Countywide. It refers people in need of transportation to existing programs that may  fit their needs. If no such fit exists, RideFACT provides subsidized rides operated by transportation providers that contract their services with FACT through its unique brokerage model. More so, FACT leverages its brokerage to support partner agencies in providing competitively priced trips through contracted services.

In addition to the many trips provided to seniors and people with disabilities, FACT’s brokerage and contracted services provide meaningful benefits to local jurisdictions. RideFACT is not a duplication of existing services Countywide, it is unique in that it is the only specialized transportation service that serves the entire County and provides seamless Countywide mobility at a low cost for its customers and for its funders.

As the San Diego County population grows and ages, FACT’s services and brokerage should be considered a model for specialized transportation services. More cities as well as hospitals and private businesses that serve seniors and people with disabilities could use FACT’s brokerage to provide local dial-a-ride services cost-effectively. To increase trips for people in need at current funding levels, regional funders can leverage FACT’s brokerage to deliver services that are seamless, receive positive customer satisfaction results, and provide consistent prices and policies.

Acknowledgments

Maya Rosas, Author

Director of Policy, Circulate San Diego

Maya Rosas serves as Circulate San Diego’s Director of Policy, where she leads Circulate’s efforts on Vision Zero and other campaigns for safe streets. She has been working in active transportation advocacy, land use planning, and development in both the non-profit and private sectors in San Diego since 2012. She previously worked at Circulate as the Policy Assistant where she played an instrumental role in advocating for the adoption of Vision Zero in the City of  San Diego and also advocated for smart growth projects through the Circulate Mobility Certification. Maya most recently worked as a land use consultant for Atlantis Group, where she helped see development projects through all phases of the entitlement process. She has co-authored Circulate San Diego reports on Vision Zero and democratizing Community Planning Groups.

Special Thanks

Colin Parent provided substantial review and edits and Oscar Medina, Jana Schwartz, and Dane Thompson created the maps and graphics and designed this report. FACT staff provided substantial input, data, and photographs used in the report.

Circulate also wishes to recognize the advisory committee members that provided valuable feedback on this report. They include:

  • Arun Prem, FACT
  • Vivian Radam, Access to Independence
  • Dave Roberts, FACT Boardmember Greg Rush, AAA Transport
  • Ellen Schmeding, St. Paul’s Senior Services Meagan Schmidt, FACT
  • Daniel Vasquez, County of San Diego Emergency Services

Thank you to our partner FACT, who commissioned this report, and to a grant made possible by SANDAG.


Endnotes

[1] Consolidated Transportation Service Agency, SANDAG, available at https://www.sandag.org/index.asp?projectid=256&fuseaction=projects.detail.

[2] FACT Services, FACT, available at http://www.factsd.org/fact-services/.

[3] Locations in the City of San Diego within one-half mile of a rail station stop or a high-quality transit corridor.

[4] New Climate for Transportation, Circulate San Diego, (September 23, 2015) Appendix A, available at http://www.circulatesd.org/new climate for_transportation.

[5] ADA Certification, North County Transit District, available at http://www.gonctd.com/accessibility-ada-certification/.

[6] Doree Lewak, “Ride-sharing Apps Are Driving NYC Cabbies Into Financial Ruin,” New York Post, March 24, 2018, available at https://nypost. com/2018/03/24/ride-sharing-apps-are-driving-nyc-cabbies-into-financial-ruin/.

[7] SANDAG, 2018 Coordinated Plan, available at https://www.sandag.org/uploads/publicationid/publicationid_4516_24259.pdf.

[8] Id.

[9] An Advisory Committee meeting provided insight from FACT staff and transportation providers.

[10] National Transit Database, 2017 National Transit Summary and Trends (page 8), available at https://wtransit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/ntd/130636/2017-national-transit-summaries-and-trends.pdf.

[11] Data available upon request. This average cost per trip is fully loaded, including transportation provider cost and general administration.

[12] Internal data from FACT.

[13] FACT Shuttle Survey Results (2014-2017), available upon request by email.

 


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