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Case Study
How SDMTS Achieved $427k In Annual Savings For Their Paratransit Operations
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System was able to save $427K in the first year post-implementation of a semi-automatic, streamlined eligibility certification process.


Jay Washburn is the Manager of Paratransit and Minibus for the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (SDMTS). He oversees all aspects of the paratransit operation for SDMTS Access, including the eligibility certification process.


Over the last three years, SDMTS has experienced double-digit growth in its paratransit operations. MTS was concerned about the large growth and its impact on the MTS budget. Paratransit services are expensive to operate and require public subsidies many times greater than fixed route services.

To combat these dramatically increasing costs, MTS implemented a rigorous eligibility certification process. MTS’ goal was to ensure that only riders who truly needed the service and are unable to use traditional fixed route bus and trolley were riding its paratransit service.

Previously, the screening process consisted of phone screenings only. The process was not stringent enough and was providing too many people with unconditional certification. An enhanced screening process was required to determine conditional eligibility, such as determining set categories — air quality, temperatures, accessible paths/terrains, and travel distances to bus/trolley stop, to name a few — to determine whether the applicant is eligible for the paratransit service. MTS implemented a 100% in-person screening process and Trapeze CERT software to manage the conditional eligibility program. The ultimate goal was to provide the optimal service to eligible clients while being cost-efficient and complying with FTA regulations.

"Trapeze’s software, specifically the Conditional Eligibility Module, helped us to automate our eligibility certification process and reach our savings goal."

Jay Washburn, Manager of Paratransit and Minibus, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System


Today, the process is more rigorous. A client will call and request a trip, and the trip will be tentatively accepted if the client is already in their system for conditional eligibility. The client’s conditions that make the client eligible for paratransit services are researched and field supervisors then look at the start and end points for the trip to determine if the conditions match with the client’s conditions form.

“Trapeze software prints out the form with all the necessary details and if they match, then the client’s request will be approved. The data is then entered into our computer system so, in the future, if similar routes are requested, they’ll be automatically approved. Each client is unique, so each trip has to be evaluated on an individual basis. However, this does help us create a database, so we don’t need to repeat these evaluations,” said Washburn..


Based on full implementation of the Conditional Eligibility Module, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System has estimated an annual reduction of 13,000 paratransit trips. That is, trips moving from Access to other modes of transportation.

"We have only conducted about half of the Conditional Eligibility certifications," Washburn said. “We’ve already seen an annual savings of $427K. We only see the numbers going upward from here,” Washburn commented.

His next big focus is to ensure proper eligibility determinations are being made in regards to the clients being confirmed or denied in their system. And within the next five years? Continuing to provide the best possible paratransit service that they can to the clients who do qualify.

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