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Growing transit in Kansas

15 August

2017KSconf

It was fun driving out here to Garden City for the Kansas Transit Conference in my rental car that had Apple CarPlay (well the sprawling plains were cool too). The visual console gui to iMessage, Apple Music and most importantly Podcasts was very cool and easy to use. I also stopped real quick in downtown Jetmore to snap a pic of this cool building mural that blended into the actual Kansas sky.

The Kansas conference (http://kstransit.org) has been great this year with lots of interaction with all the agencies. Got to see our friends – Kandace from Sedgwick County and Anne from the Flint Hills Area Transportation Agency. The theme of the conference this year was ‘Growing Transit in Kansas’ and we got to hear great presentations from Donna Smith (ProjectAction), Kristen Joyner (SWTA), and Jennifer Montgomery (Assistant Kansas Attorney General).

Looking forward to Salina next year and smelling some of those Cozy Inn burgers!

ParaPlan sure has changed

04 February

On this #TBT, we’re highlighting our ParaPlan Appointment Screen from 1999!

1999 ParaPlan Appointment Screen

1999 ParaPlan Appointment Screen

That was then and this is now…

2016 ParaPlan Appointment Window

2016 ParaPlan Appointment Window

Geo-fence scheduling with ParaPlan

09 June

Routeann

 

Geo-fencing is a powerful tool in scheduling trips. ParaPlan uses geo-fences called zones to label specific geographic areas. Recently, we talked about how to create zones from GPX files and how to create zones from a city name. Today, we are going to talk about how zones can be used during autoschedule to keep vehicles working in a specific region of the service area.

As a recap, zones restrict routes to only perform trips that start and stop in that zone. A route labeled North that is set up around downtown and northern suburbs would not be eligible to perform a trip for Mrs. Jones on the south side of the city. Eligible means that ParaPlan will not auto schedule Mrs. Jones to a route in the North zone. It also means that the reservation for Mrs. Jones will not include North routes on the quick trip assignment. Only routes that contain south side zones OR no zone at all will be in the route drop down list on the reservation screen. This is a new feature in ParaPlan and will greatly reduce scheduling errors during the reservation intake phase.

We typically see three different types of trips, geographically speaking. Service-based trips, needs-based trips and out of town trips.

Service

Servicebased

Service-based trips would cover trips to the grocery store, bank, or the drugstore. These trips are short in distance and short in duration. Usually they occur within the bounds of a single city. Quite frequently, it makes the most the sense for the driver to wait for the client to finish their business, then take them back home. When setting up a zone to perform service-based trips, a good design would encompass the residential and commercial areas of a city or suburban area.

Needs

Need based

Needs-based trips typically transport a client to a specialized facility. This could be a daycare or dialysis center. Generally, these places are centrally located and serve individuals from a large region. To set up zones to service these trips, include several known residential areas and the central downtown district.

Out of town

Out of town trips can have zones if the situation calls for it. If there are frequent trips to a facility over 50 miles away then creating a zone that encompasses both areas would make sense. Otherwise, just don’t assign a zone to a route. This will make the route eligible to perform any trip.

Smarter scheduling

By knowing the kinds of trips being performed, users can set up a medley of service-based and needs-based routes to efficiently schedule a large batch of trips. This will keep vehicles working in a very specific region. It is much better for drivers to stay in familiar areas. If they are comfortable driving the bus and appear relaxed, the passengers will also feel more comfortable. We understand how important this is for special needs transportation.

New Invoicing features for ParaPlan Desktop

01 May

 

Amazon WorkSpaces

We have added two new features to our billing and invoicing system that make it more powerful than ever. 

Export to Excel

Data portability is so important. Information moves faster than ever these days. Removing manual data entry means that you can work more quickly and with fewer mistakes. ParaPlan already supports automatic importing of trips from popular trip brokerage providers like LogistiCare, Southeastrans, MTM and others. We also support exporting to Excel for all of our custom queries and many of our 100+ custom reports. This means that you can print a nicely formatted report that displays your ridership statistics or you can export a data-only file to feed into other systems.

We extended this Excel functionality to Invoices today. This is very exciting as it allows our clients to create raw Excel files that can be uploaded into 3rd party systems for quicker and more accurate payments.

Automation gets us giddy. Now our clients can perform the following workflow for trips from acceptance to payment without entering a single piece of data!

-Dispatcher Claire downloads new batch trip import file from brokerage.

-Claire imports trips into ParaPlan. Not a single name, address nor time has to be typed.

-Claire uses ParaPlan Autoschedule to determine the best routes for the new imported trips.

-Driver Joe gets an alert on his iPad that he has new trips to perform and starts his route.

-As Joe performs his trips, he swipes on his iPad to mark that he picked up and dropped off his clients. ParaPlan Mobile automatically keeps track of his odometer and the times that he performed the trips. Now Joe doesn’t have to write anything down, so he can focus on getting to his stops safely and on time. If a client isn’t there, he can No-Show them directly from his iPad.

-At the end of the day, Claire opens up ParaPlan Invoicing. She can select all the trips that were done today (and the No-Shows if she desires) and generate an Excel file of the actual times, odometers and any other information the brokerage may request for payments. We can even capture a client signature for Claire.

-The Excel file is uploaded to the broker for quick and easy payments.

Multiple Invoice Templates

Previously, users had to go through the hassle of changing the default system Invoice template if they wanted to generate differently formatted invoices. Now it is as simple as selecting the template you’d like to use before clicking the print button. Of course, your default template is pre-selected, so no extra clicks are needed to perform normal invoicing. 

Find out more

Today, we made our software easier and removed manual steps in our client’s workflow. If you would like to learn more about how EnGraph can simplify your Paratransit or NEMT operation, contact us or call Kyle at 913-735-6651.

 

Improvements to create Invoice workflow

22 January

ParaPlan has a fully functional billing system. We can create invoices either for a client or for a single funding source with multiple clients. We also handle payments, pre-payments, over-payments and under-payments. Today our interface for creating invoices got a little bit easier to use.

InvoiceScreen

 

#1 – Window starts at the top

This window grows vertically as invoices get populated. We watched our users move the window to the top of the screen time and time again to see all the information on the screen. Now, the window starts at the top of the user’s display.

#2 – Smarter billable trips finder

The panel now displays the client name or program name for this invoice. The expander is also auto-expanded after the client or program is selected.

#3 – Sortable headers

The labels are now clickable and will sort the list accordingly. Click once to sort ascending. Click again to sort in descending order. The label turns bold when it is being sorted. Green means sorting ascending. Red means the list is being sorted in descending order.

These changes are currently going through internal testing. It will be released in the next update.

Display Program Billed amount in ParaPlan iOS

07 January

ParaPlan for iOS has a trip detail screen that shows extra information about a trip when the driver clicks a stop on their eManifest. A key piece of information is how much the rider needs to pay to get on the bus. Sometimes, the driver needs to know how much the program will be billed for this trip. Now that is possible.

In ParaPlan Desktop, click All Elements, then Admin to load system preferences. Check the box labeled “Display Program Billed and Co-Pay on eManifest.”

IOSProgramBilled 3

 

Now, when the drivers look at the detail screen, the will see the amount the rider needs to pay to get on the bus, and in parentheses, the amount that the program will be billed.

IPhoneProgramBilled

How to add a user for ParaPlan for iOS

14 October

ParaPlan Mobile for iOS is our complimentary mobile app for iPhones and iPads. Drivers log onto the mobile device and their trips are automatically downloaded. As they perform their trips, the timestamps and odometers are automatically uploaded to dispatch computers running ParaPlan Desktop.

Now with 3rd party access, funding source stakeholders and clients can view GPS locations of the vehicles performing their trips on their personal iPhones or iPads.

Here is how ParaPlan users are granted iOS permission.

  1. In ParaPlan, click All Elements > Users > New User.
  2. Fill out the name and username, then grant ParaPlan desktop permissions.
     Screen Shot 2013 10 14 at 8 31 42 AM
  3. Create password
    1. Leave existing password blank
    2. Enter new password twice
    3. Click Change password
      Screen Shot 2013 10 14 at 8 33 41 AM 
       
  4. Click Apply Changes (ParaPlan username should now be populated in title bar and Save button should be disabled)
     Screen Shot 2013 10 14 at 8 34 21 AM
  5. Expand Convert for iOS
    • To Add driver:
      1. Click Collect GPS if GPS data should be collected.
      2. Click Can view GPS tab if they can see other driver’s location.
      3. Enter REST endpoint provided by EnGraph.
      4. Select Driver name from drop down list.
      5. Click Can Schedule Trips if they can change a trips assigned route (including trips assigned to other drivers).
      6. Click Can Call clients if they can have easy access to directly contacting clients.
      7. Click Create Global account.
         Screen Shot 2013 10 14 at 8 40 46 AM
    • To add 3rd party program administrator
      1. Click Collect GPS if GPS data should be collected (usually not).
      2. Click Can view GPS tab if they can see driver’s locations (only for the programs they are allowed to see).
      3. Enter REST endpoint provided by EnGraph.
      4. Check all the programs they can see trip and GPS details for.
      5. Check can request trips if they can directly request a trip (coming soon).
      6. Check can view Client details if they can also see additional information about a client including their future trips (only for the programs they are allowed to see).
      7. Click Create Global Account.
         Screen Shot 2013 10 14 at 9 05 16 AM
    • To add 3rd party Client access
      1. Check Collect GPS if GPS data should be collected (usually not).
      2. Check Can view GPS tab if they can see the vehicle that is coming to perform their trip.
      3. Select the client’s name from the drop down list.
      4. Check Can request trips if they can directly request a trip (coming soon).
      5. Click Create Global Account.
         Screen Shot 2013 10 14 at 9 09 29 AM

Signature capture in ParaPlan Mobile for iOS

23 May

Many of our clients have contracts that require drivers to capture a signature when the ride has been completed. Logisticare is one example of a broker that collects rider signatures. We have added this functionality to ParaPlan Mobile for iOS and drivers will be able to electronically collect signatures directly on their iPhones or iPads. The signature will be uploaded and be immediately available inside of ParaPlan Desktop. Here is a screenshot of the signature collection on the iPad.

Signature collection on iPad

Version 1.1 of ParaPlan now available in the App Store

22 May

Download on the App Store Badge US UK 135x40

 

 

 

ParaPlan Mobile for iOS is the best complimentary driver paratransit or NEMT (Non-Emergency Medical Transportation) app for iPhone or iPad. It seamlessly connects to the ParaPlan database to allow drivers to see their digital manifest. Changes made in the field are reflected on the dispatchers screen in a matter of seconds. 

We recently updated the version to 1.1. Here are the new features available.

Demo mode – Test the app and see exactly how well it will fit in your operation.

iPad love – All screens take advantage of bigger iPad screen. Also many smaller screens are displayed as popovers or form sheets.

Reminders – Get notified 30 minutes before a stop to make sure you leave on time. Or schedule a notification to make sure you remember to mark the stop as performed. Or both. Schedule multiple notifications up to 24 hours in advance of a stop. Any stop that has a reminder gets a neat little badge on the manifest screen.

Navigation – Click Get Directions on any place to launch Maps to get turn-by-turn directions. Choose in settings which mapping provider to use.

Badge icons – Your front screen will show how many stops are left on your manifest.

Swipe to perform – Swiping left or right on a stop will reveal the most likely action for that stop. Either Arrive, Perform or Undo (we all make mistakes).

Geofencing – This saves your battery life if you haven’t moved in a while.

Sounds – Click sounds, confirmation sounds, notification sounds. All the audio feedback you desire. Unless that’s not your sort of thing, then you can turn them all off.

Confirmation alerts – Those can now be turned off as well.

Pull to refresh – All screens have the standard Apple pull to refresh tear drop.

Lots of other polishing, tinkering and bug fixing. Our developers and testers worked really hard on this update. We really hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

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How updates work in ParaPlan

09 May

Launching application with ClickOnce

 

We use a technology called ClickOnce to keep all of our clients up-to-date on the latest version of ParaPlan Desktop. ClickOnce enables our software to install over the internet and perform background updates over the internet. ParaPlan automatically checks for updates and install them in the background while the user continues to perform their tasks in ParaPlan. The next time the user starts using ParaPlan, they will be using the newer version. We have the ability to let the user know they need to update in the case of a major update that impacts the database. Most cases, the user doesn’t even know the update has been applied. We find this provides a level of continuity with the software experience that users appreciate.

We also don’t check for updates until AFTER they have started working. We feel that people open our software to get stuff done and the last thing they want to concern themselves with is downloading and installing a new update when they have work to do!

Manually initiate an update

Sidebar about

 

A user can always check the About screen to see the current version of the software and the date the software was released. Launching this screen will also perform a manual check for updates. If an update was found, it will display that to the user and let them know when they need to restart.

Lifecycle of an update

We develop our Windows software using Microsoft Visual Studio. We use a product called Team Foundation Server (TFS) to manage all of our builds. Here is the entire lifecycle of an update.

  1. A new feature is added to ParaPlan in Visual Studio.
  2. The feature is checked into our internal testing queue.
  3. Manual and automatic tests (unit tests) are performed.
  4. If all the tests pass, the feature is checked into the release branch of TFS.
  5. TFS compiles the new feature into ParaPlan and runs another set of automatic tests.
  6. If those tests pass, TFS builds a .application with the new feature and places it on software.engraph.com.
  7. On each client’s computer, ParaPlan will check software.engraph.com for a new version of the .application file every four hours.
  8. If a new version is found, ParaPlan will download the new feature and install it while the user is still working in ParaPlan.
  9. If the new feature is very important, ParaPlan will alert the user and instruct them to restart ParaPlan.
  10. If it was not a crucial update, the user will continue to work in the old version. The next time they restart, they will have the new version.

From a development standpoint, the process is completely automated outside of the manual testing process. This allows us to push out frequent updates and support a large number of clients.

From a user’s standpoint, their experience is contiguous as they receive new updates. We can push out frequent updates without the user having their workflow interrupted.