In six counties of west-central Minnesota, residents don’t need bus schedules or route maps to get around by public transit. They just call the Rainbow Rider dispatcher to schedule a pickup. It’s a common dial-a-ride system for rural transit, but one that’s become more efficient and economical thanks to recently introduced software called RouteMatch.
Every day Rainbow Rider transit vans ply different routes with their daily average of 634 passengers. But constant change doesn’t boggle the drivers because “they are very pleased to see their routes and destinations on the tablets which are equipped in each of our 31 buses,” transit services director Harold Jennissen told November’s in-transit, the newsletter of the Minnesota Public Transit Association. “We have plans for the future that will allow riders to schedule rides directly using their phones and tablets as well.”
RouteMatch, based in Atlanta, claims more than 600 clients worldwide, including not just public transit agencies but private businesses and university and shuttle systems. Since its founding in 2000, its dynamic scheduling and dispatching systems are claimed to have saved users millions of dollars by optimizing routes, increasing riders per revenue mile and reducing administrative costs, fuel consumption, customer complaints, no-shows, idling and driver overtime.
In Rainbow Rider’s vast service area of Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens, Todd and Traverse counties — nearly 4,000 square miles of woods, lakes, farms and prairie inhabited by barely 91,000 people, thousands fewer than the population of Rochester, Minn., alone — state-of-the-art routing software is a must for riders, drivers and taxpayers who support the system. Any Minnesota rural transit system that isn’t using RouteMatch or equivalent software ought to look into it post haste.