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Shared-ride program improves performance

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

After a bumpy road, the Westmoreland County Transit Authority's reconfigured shared-ride program for senior citizens is running more smoothly, officials said this week.

Telephone delays that have frustrated thousands of participants seeking the subsidized taxi rides are slowly being reduced, and customer service has improved, according to Larry Morris, authority executive director.

“The phone-line problems have been resolved, and the call wait times have been improved. They're getting better,” Morris said.

The transit authority this month took over scheduling and oversight of the shared-ride program, in which seniors can receive reduced-fare transportation.

Seniors previously scheduled their rides directly with taxi companies, but starting in July the system is being coordinated through the transit authority offices.

A new computer software system was put in place to log the calls.

Initially, outside phone lines were insufficient to handle the deluge of calls. Morris said that problem was corrected, but the volume of business the share-ride ride program generated overwhelmed the authority staff.

Staffers who fielded calls spent longer times on the telephone than first thought in order to gather information about passengers and their destinations.

As a result, some callers have had trouble reaching authority staff to schedule rides.

The authority is scheduling about 1,200 shared rides every day.

“We're just asking for everyone's patience. We are doing everything we can to reduce the amount of time it takes to reach us,” Morris said.

The authority has added staff to answer calls. Eight operators will man the phones on Monday, the busiest day of the week for the program.

Morris said passengers can schedule rides 24 hours in advance. Passengers seeking rides later in the week may have more luck attempting to reach the authority on days other than Monday, he said.

The authority staff is on duty to schedule rides from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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