Rider Focus Group

The Remote Parking Rider Focus Group met for the first time on Wednesday, July 29th.  William Copling, Executive Director of the BJCTA, provided an overview of the bus fleet for the entire city and provided information on bus and driver operations. 

He discussed the challenges inherited from the former operation team as prior operations did not maintain equipment within schedule guidelines.  He also outlined the organization's plan to refurbish 40 buses, to begin in three months, with a federal grant that was recently awarded.  In addition, the BJCTA has received federal stimulus monies to purchase 17 new buses.  He has assured us that the remote route will receive all new equipment.  The new bus purchase plan will take approximately twelve months to complete. 

In addition, he did report that equipment changes were made in early July after meeting with UAB Parking management regarding concerns that were reported.  They also conducted a driver meeting to discuss expectations and issues specific to the route.

Our focus group participants outlined their concerns and provided examples of issues they face as regular users of the service.  Issues were broken down into the following categories:

Frequency/Timing
- The five-minute buses are not showing up, with no mechanical failures reported
- The 20-minute buses are not showing up, with no mechanical failures reported
- Express is not keeping its schedule

Drivers

- The drivers are observed meeting in groups of three and taking breaks when they should be on route
- Drivers are not following the alternate route during backups on University Boulevard as provided in the standard operating procedure
- Not all drivers are kneeling or fully kneeling buses as requested
- Drivers are moving the buses before all passengers are seated, including pregnant passengers
- Some drivers are rude, but others are pleasant and work well with passengers
- Drivers need to use better judgement on who to wait for when employees rushing after bus
- Drivers need to use better judgement on stops when tailing another bus that is making the stop, but no one is at the stop to pick up; stopping anyway - usually happens when there is a traffic backup

Condition of Buses
- The bus interiors are dirty at times, and seat backs are not secured on all rows

Communications and Stops
- Customers without cell phones are challenged when trying to get help from Remote 2
- The Express has trouble with embark/debark due to illegally parked cars at stop
- What is the best way to report an issue?  It is not clear
- Vendor trucks are routinely blocking area by Children's Hospital loading dock

Based on the issues discussed, the department and BJCTA identified the following action items:

BJCTA
- Supervisor follow-up on the congregation of buses that appear to be taking breaks
- Holding drivers responsible for their equipment and customer service through disciplinary action
- Regular driver meetings to discuss procedures and judgement calls
- Supervisors to circulate between the two remotes to ensure no stranded passengers during peak times
- Continued monitoring of route to ensure headway times are kept on schedule

Parking Department
- Communicate to employees the need to get bus number when reporting an issue
- Develop web form to report issues, or compliments (already done - see menu to left)
- Send "blast emails" to remote parkers to convey information on what to expect from service
- Work with city to improve Express stop in front of Spain Tower
- Work with UAB Police to allow use of Remote 2 help phones to contact Campus Ride for help
- Work with City on vendor trucks blocking routes

Thank you to the focus group members who volunteered to attend the meeting.  This group will meet again in late October.  If you are interested in participating in the focus group, or have any questions on the information presented, please contact Karen Moody at 205-934-3513.