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Bus booking system fuels concerns

A new computer software program designed to improve scheduling of Red Deer Transit action buses is frustrating many patrons, a public forum heard on Wednesday. More than 50 people packed the Cosmos Rehabilitation Society office to hear more on a new booking system aiming to bring more people on board a bus at one time and by doing so, cut city costs and provide better efficiencies.

A new computer software program designed to improve scheduling of Red Deer Transit action buses is frustrating many patrons, a public forum heard on Wednesday.

More than 50 people packed the Cosmos Rehabilitation Society office to hear more on a new booking system aiming to bring more people on board a bus at one time and by doing so, cut city costs and provide better efficiencies.

“We’ve increased the number of passengers from two to 2.4 an hour,” said Red Deer Transit Department manager Kevin Joll. “That’s about a 16 per cent increase.”

While a couple of people hailed the service for serving those who wouldn’t get out otherwise, about a dozen voiced problems. Clients and various agency representatives said the buses are picking up too late or too early.

One man said drivers have picked up clients while they are still bowling.

Joll said users should expect a 20-minute window — 10 minutes before or after their appointment.

“When I am late, it embarrasses me,” said Linda Victor, who has epilepsy. “I have waited for the bus for one hour and by the time they come, it was too late for me to swim. It seems like they are picking up too many people.”

Diana Thompson, a group home manager, warned city officials to not lose “the human element.”

She cares for one woman with a mental disability who was recently dispatched a cab. The action bus dispatcher will do this sometimes when there is overbooking.

“There was some miscommunication between the action bus and the cab company,” Thompson said. “The cab company just dropped her off at the hospital instead of Loaves and Fishes. Staff had to search for her and it was very scary.”

Fourteen action buses serve a city that has increased needs for this kind of service, said Howard Maki, special transportation operations supervisor.

“As we go on, we hope there will be more improvements,” Maki said. “We have a budget that is 18 months ahead, so we have to do the best we can until we get more buses.”

Maki said the plan for 2012 is to equip action bus drivers with hand-held units so they will learn immediately of scheduling changes.

Residents’ concerns will be brought to the attention of dispatchers and a city information technological employee, he said.

Cosmos program director Stephanie Ball said the meeting gave people the chance to be heard.

“It was also useful for them to hear there are logistics around it and that it can’t be the door-to-door, the minute you want it, kind of service it used to be.”

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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