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NREL Transportation Project to Reduce Fuel Usage

For more information contact:
Sarah Holmes Barba, 303-275-3023
email: Sarah Barba

Golden, Colo., Mar. 23, 2001 - The Jefferson County Seniors Resource Center (SRC) Paratransit Service has become an important part of Eulalia Gaillard's life since her stroke in 1996. She calls on SRC to drive her to cardiologist, neurologist and chiropractor appointments each week.

"It's wonderful," Gaillard says. "I'd give this program 150 plus in regards to service."

SRC is able to provide paratransit services to Gaillard and others like her with help from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Transit-on-Demand (TOD) Project. TOD has the potential to reduce how far the SRC vehicles travel by demonstrating how advanced communications technologies and geographic information systems can work together. And reducing the number of miles SRC vans go, reduces emissions by reducing how much fuel they use.

"Even with only a few hours notice, I'm able to call SRC and know that a van will be at my home to pick me up and take me to any of my appointments," Gaillard said.

TOD overcomes the shortcomings of buses and taxis by using state-of-the-art technology in scheduling, routing, communications and global positioning systems (GPS) to arrange pick-ups and drop-offs from the desired locations at the desired times.

Innovative GPS and communication software was developed by NREL researchers to display a vehicle's location automatically and transmit a map of the its location over the Internet.

After developing the communication software, NREL and DOE sought a fleet of vehicles appropriate for the development of other TOD concepts. The SRC Paratransit Service, which assists 73,000 seniors, disabled customers and Medicaid recipients, offered its fleet as to test the concept. SRC's fleet serves 12 standard routes each day with a total of 175 trips, while its dispatch service brokers an additional 100 trips to other vehicle fleets.

The project implemented advanced scheduling and routing software at SRC in the fall of 200. Initial results show that workers can handle a higher volume of calls and the vehicles' schedules are tighter. "This demonstration shows the TOD concept can improve transportation system efficiency by using advanced vehicle location and communication technology to track and direct vehicle fleet movements," said the Energy Department's Ernie Oakes. "Managing more vehicles as on-demand fleets could increase transportation efficiency while maintaining a high level of customer service."

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