The METropolitan Special Transit (MST) in Billings, Montana operates a paratransit service between the hours of 6:30 AM and 6:00 PM during the weekdays and between 9:00 AM and 5:30 PM on Saturdays. On a typical day, MST provides 250 to 300 rides, approximately half of which are subscription based, meaning the same rides occur at the same time each day. The MST has 15 paratransit vehicles, half of which are out at any particular time, but on busy days, as many as 12 vehicles may be in service depending on ride requests, the time of day, and the geographic location of origins and destinations.
In 2007, the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) of Montana State University-Bozeman published a report evaluating the installation of automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology as well as computer-assisted scheduling and dispatching (CASD) software system at MST. The following cost estimates are based on the data reported in the report.
AVL system Costs
AVL technology uses the global positioning system (GPS) and onboard computer to measure the real-time location of a paratransit vehicle, and relay this location information to a central location such as the dispatching office. Knowing the exact location of each paratransit vehicle, a dispatcher assigns a ride to a customer to the nearest vehicle. For MST’s fleet of 15 vehicles, the AVL technology was estimated to cost $43,500. The AVL technology is a stand-alone system and not required for the installation of the RouteMatch software, which is discussed below.
CASD software system costs
CASD software assists dispatchers to assign demand-responsive transit customers to vehicles. The software may use geographic information system (GIS) to map the customers' source and destination address, as well as vehicle’s location for making recommendations for rider-vehicle assignments. MST paid a total of $83,575 for the CASD software, RouteMatch, including the hardware necessary to operate the software. A software maintenance fee is charged at $11,835 per year. In the source study, a break-even analysis for installation of the RouteMatch software at MST concluded, "Only a relatively minor gain in efficiency is necessary to reach a break-even point for the software. A three-percent reduction in mileage or revenue hours is all that is required for the software to "pay for itself.""
AVL technology for 15 paratransit vehicles costs $43,500. CASD software costs $83,575.