Manitoba

Confusion, errors plagued new Transit Plus booking system

A new software system designed to improve rider experience on Winnipeg Transit Plus had the opposite effect, a new report by the city says.

Online system RouteMatch had a bumpy start but wait times, complaints now decreasing, city says

A host of issues made the launch of the new online booking system at Winnipeg Transit Plus, RouteMatch, a difficult one, the city says. (CBC)

A new software system designed to improve rider experience on Winnipeg Transit Plus, the public transit for people with disabilities, had the opposite effect, a new report by the city says.

"Transit Plus services were impacted as a result of a variety of issues," writes Josie Fernandes, manager of client services with Winnipeg Transit, in the Thursday public works committee report.

After RouteMatch, an online booking system, launched in January, the service saw an increase in pick-up and drop-off location errors, missing instructions for drivers and confusion about fares, she wrote.

Drivers had difficulty using the new software, said Fernandes. 

"It's telling us what we already know," Allen Mankewich, a spokesperson for the Independent Living Resource Centre, said Tuesday. 

People with disabilities frequently complained to his office about a jump in one-way trips after RouteMatch was launched, Mankewich said. 

"When you have new software generally you would train your [staff] before you roll it out but it seems like, you know, they're just learning as they go," he said.

Along with a lack of driver training, a host of problems collided at the same time the new online booking system was introduced this past winter, Fernandes said. 

Winnipeg Transit lost five experienced employees at its dispatch centre, there were delays entering ride requests because employees were using both the new and old booking system, there were vehicle shortages and two city-wide power outages affected the city's network, Ferndandes said.

City staff as well as Transit Plus drivers have since undergone training and "gained proficiency with the new software," Fernandes said.

Hold times are now an average of two and a half minutes, down from more than 13 minutes in February and Transit Plus has reduced the number of rides it's unable to fulfil, Fernandes said.

"Complaints have been reduced from a high of 421 reported complaints in February 2019 to a low of 185 in July 2019," she wrote. (The paratransit service routinely sees lower use in the summer months, compared to winter, when it is difficult for some riders to get around on snow and ice without assistance.)

Fernandes​​​​​​'s report also includes an update on Winnipeg Transit Plus responses to 19 Ombudsman recommendations released to the public in January.

So far the city said it's met five of the recommendations, including requiring all drivers to wear high-visibility vests and updating driver manuals with the city's policy on sexual harassment.

The city plans to address several of the remaining recommendations later this winter when it publishes a comprehensive Transit Plus user guide, Fernandes's report said.

Mankewich believes Winnipeg Transit Plus needs a significant boost in its budget to reduce complaints and make it comparable to the fixed-route system, Winnipeg Transit. 

"I think more attention is being drawn to the issue but if nothing meaningful comes out of that then it doesn't really help," he said.

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa and Winnipeg. Previously, she worked as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.