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Smarter batch autoscheduling with ParaPlan

13 May

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We released a new feature in ParaPlan Desktop that makes it easier to selectively automatically assign trips to routes. This means that if there is a route that is reserved for performing callbacks or just for long runs, you can prevent trips from being automatically scheduled to that route.

To prevent a route from being eligible for autoschedule, simply minimize the route and it will become hidden from the main view and will not have any trips autoscheduled to it.

Single-trip autoscheduling will continue to show all routes that could be used even if they are minimized.

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.

 

ParaPlan Desktop improvements to autoschedule

24 March

We added several new features to ParaPlan Desktop this week that make auto-scheduling a large batch of trips more powerful, more accurate and more flexible.

Set MPH for different road types

Based on the length of the trip, we are able to make certain assertions about what types of roads the driver is on between their origin and destination and apply smarter time calculations.

We have five new settings that give our clients a high level of control over their travel time estimations.

-MPH on minor city roads. The default is 17 MPH.
-MPH on major city roads. The default is 30 MPH.
-MPH on highways and limited access roads. The default is 55 MPH.
-Average distance spent on minor city roads. The default is .3 miles, or about four blocks.
-Average distance spent on major city roads. The default is 2 miles. 

Mphs

For example, a typical trip in an urban environment that is ten miles in length is going to start at the client’s house. It will be about four blocks on minor neighborhood roads before reaching a major city street. Once the driver is out of the neighborhood, it will take about two miles to get to the closest limited access highway or interstate. The driver will spend 5.4 miles on the speedier road type before getting off on an exit, driving two miles on a major city road and then another 4 blocks on minor streets to take the client to their destination. 

Different agencies have different geographic footprints, and having the ability to fine-tune all these settings means an agency can expect extremely accurate time estimations. For example, because smaller towns lack major roads, a mostly rural agency will set minor road distance to a larger value and set major city roads to a smaller value. A client in a city with well laid out limited access roads like Minneapolis might set the major road distance to .75 or 1 since the driver will be able to spend the majority of a trip on a highway.

Fine-tuned time windows

ParaPlan uses the concept of Time Windows to help our auto-schedule algorithm determine if a trip can be performed on a route. For example, if Betty has a 10:00 AM appointment and it takes her 5 minutes to get off the bus (dwell time), the latest we can drop Betty off is 9:55 AM. To extend that example, if it is a 30 minute trip, then the latest we can pick her up is 9:20 AM (5 min boarding, 30 min travel, 5 min alighting) for the 10:00 AM appointment. It is obviously not very efficient to pick up Betty and drop her off exactly on time, so we have different variables like Riding Constant and Deviation Time to allow a rider to be on the bus a little bit longer in order to accomplish ride sharing. These variables then create the Time Windows. 

So back to our 10:00 AM appointment. To extend this example a little further, let’s say we have a 15 minute Deviation Time. We can deviate from the scheduled Pick Up or Drop Off time by that 15 minutes. A client can be picked up a little early so the vehicle can do other work with the client on the bus. So our Pick Up Time Windows would be 9:05 AM – 9:20 AM and the Drop Off Time Windows would be 9:40 AM – 9:55 AM. This gives the bus more flexibility to perform other PU or DO stops as they have a window to hit rather than an exact time.

These variables help, but they don’t allow for late drop offs or prevent too-early pick ups, which are common requests. So we added four new variables to help give further control over Time Windows.

-Amount can be late for Pick Up requests and still be considered on time.
-Amount can be early for Pick Up requests.
-Amount can be late for Drop Off requests (Appointments) and still be considered on time.
-Amount can be early for Drop Off requests (Appointments).

If we were to take Betty’s appointment and apply a 5 minute “Can be late for DO” and a 15 minute “Can be early for DO”.  Her Drop Off Time Windows would be 9:40 AM – 10:00 AM. The astute reader will point out that a 10:00 AM drop off isn’t 5 minutes late at all and we would be getting her there right on time. They would be mostly correct, except that it takes Betty 5 minutes to get off the bus, so if we get to the front door at 10:00 AM, it still takes her 5 minutes to get off the bus and into the facility, which would make her Drop Off time 10:05 AM.

Another example would be Ann’s pick-up request of 3:00 PM. We will also assume she has a 5 minute dwell time. If we have a 60 minute PU early time and 15 minute PU late time, the bus could arrive at any time between 1:55 PM and 3:10 PM and still be considered valid.

Max riding time

Extending Time Windows to allow for maximum ride sharing is great, but it is equally important to control the amount of time a specific client can be on a bus. We have a new setting that allows users to set the maximum minutes that a client will be on a bus. Obviously, we can’t apply time changes to trips that are actually longer than the maximum ride time, so if we encounter a riding time greater than allowed by an agency, we will leave it unscheduled and require a dispatcher to manually assign that ride to a bus.

 

ParaPlan Desktop update v4.1.621.11131

21 June

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It is bug fix Friday here at EnGraph Software. We pushed out an update earlier in the week that had some blazing fast improvements to how Scheduling Canvas worked. There were a few oversights on our end and this release will help address those.

Building a new date would cause certain trips to become flagged for sending to MDTs. Drivers were getting wrong trips and too many trips. This has been resolved.

If somebody else cancelled or no-showed a trip, it was showing up in the Unscheduled bin on your computer instead of in the Cancellation bin. This is now going to the correct bin.

If you added a fill-in trip, not all the information that was just entered was being displayed in the Scheduling Canvas. The data was actually there and now it shows up as expected.

If you accidentally clicked “add fill-in”, but closed it before making any changes, you’d expect that trip to go away as it had always done in the past. Well, it wasn’t. It was hanging around and cluttering up your screen and making a few people thinking they had gone crazy. It will now go away and you can have your clean Scheduling Canvas and your sanity back.

As always, the update will install automatically.

 

Update for ParaPlan REST

17 June

ParaPlan REST is our web interface to the database for ParaPlan Mobile for iOS. We made quite a few internal improvements that makes the code much easier to maintain and much easier to add features.

We’ve changed how the devices talk to the server. Now when a device logs on, it will be handed a url that it will before its calls against. This will allow us to quickly change endpoints if need be and will also allow us to remove a database call that each request incurred when the request was searching for the correct database. This will speed up each call and gets rid of the cross-pollination issue we were seeing when the server was overloaded.

We are also pushing out updates to other products today:

ParaPlan Mobile is getting signature capture.

ParaPlan Desktop got a faster Scheduling Canvas and support for viewing signatures captured by our iOS app.

ParaPlan Server allows trips to be changed when in progress on Mentor Rangers and smarter Zonar connections.

ParaPlan Server update

17 June

ParaPlan Server is our behind-the-scenes workhorse that does all the data translation and communication with our various partners. Today we pushed out an update with a few small changes.

You can now change any part of a trip and it will update on your Mentor Ranger MDT. It used to be that we would dismiss any changes if the client was already on the bus. We’ve seen some situations where the trip needs to be changed and now we fully support that.

Occasionally, our Zonar worker would lose its connection to the server. We made it smarter about reconnecting and added more logging so we can see exactly what causes the disconnect in the first place.

We are also pushing out updates to other products today:

ParaPlan Mobile is getting signature capture.

ParaPlan Desktop got a faster Scheduling Canvas and support for viewing signatures captured by our iOS app.

ParaPlan REST had a bunch of code rewritten that is going to allow for huge speed improvements in the future.

ParaPlan Desktop v4.1.617.11125

17 June

Today we released an update to our desktop software. The highlights of this version include support for viewing signatures captured in ParaPlan Mobile for iOS and dramatic speed improvements in Scheduling Canvas.

We found some bottlenecks and bugs in Scheduling Canvas. We sped up how it refreshes in the background and made it much smarter about only refreshing data that actually changed.

Right-clicking on a trip and clicking “View Trip Stream” will provide a detailed chain of custody for a trip, including the client signature from ParaPlan Mobile for iOS.

We made some changes to Billing to better handle past due balance calculations.

We made some client-requested manifest and report changes.

We fixed some grammatical issues (“1 trips” – how embarrassing).

We are also pushing out updates to other products today:

ParaPlan Mobile is getting signature capture.

ParaPlan Server allows trips to be changed when in progress on Mentor Rangers and smarter Zonar connections.

ParaPlan REST had a bunch of code rewritten that is going to allow for huge speed improvements in the future.

ParaPlan Mobile for iOS version 1.2

14 June

ParaPlan Mobile for iOS has been updated to version 1.2. The highlights of this version are Signature Capture and smarter confirmations. We are holding this for release until Monday, June 17th to allow time for driver training.

Signature Capture

Many of our clients are funded by programs that require drivers to collect signatures from a passenger at the end of the trip. This can be a tedious process that required office staff to scan or fax these signatures to the funding source. Now the signatures are collected directly on the driver’s iPhone or iPad and are instantly available to the office staff where they can compile a report and electronically deliver the signatures. This saves time, saves paper and is another win in the battle against printers.

Arrive and Perform events

Version 1.1 only had a single event when performing a pick up or a drop off of a client. It is useful to know how long a driver had to wait from when they got to the pick up location and when they were able to get the client fully loaded on the vehicle. This helps tell a more complete story about the life cycle of a trip and also helps the office staff know which client might need a longer Dwell Time in ParaPlan. With that in mind, the life cycle of a trip from a driver’s perspective looks like this:

  • Driver arrives at pick up location. Driver swipes the stop on the iPad and clicks “I’ve arrived at pick up”. This sends an event back to the office that contains GPS point, odometer reading and timestamp. On the iPad, the trip turns blue.
  • The client is on the bus and ready to go. Driver swipes on the stop and clicks “Client is on board”. This sends another event and the stop turns grey.
  • Driver arrives at drop off location. Driver swipes on the drop off stop and clicks “I’ve arrived at drop off”. This sends another event to the office and the stop turns blue.
  • The passenger will signed on the iPad. The signature (along with an event) will be sent back to the office. The passenger will automatically be marked as dropped off and a drop off event will be sent to the office. The stop will turn grey.
  • If the passenger signature is not required, the driver will swipe on the stop and click “Client has been dropped off”.

Smarter Confirmations

Each time a driver performs an action, it provides an audio and visual confirmation. We found that requiring the driver to push “OK” on every confirmation message added too much friction to the experience. We changed it so the first 10 confirmations will display a visual dialog that will require the driver to push “OK” to dismiss it. After that, the status bar will change colors momentarily and display a confirmation. When a user has to push “OK” all the time, they get in the habit of dismissing all dialogs without reading them. They can miss important information because they get too many alerts. This will help prevent this from happening to our users.

Extended permissions

There is now a “Can call client” permission that prevents drivers from being able to directly call a client’s phone number. Also, the “View other vehicles” restriction applies to other driver’s manifests and other driver’s GPS locations.

Other improvements

We also added smarter background GPS mode and geofencing.

The badge icon is now smarter and will always display the number of stops a driver has yet to perform in a day.

Turn-by-turn directions have been added to the long press menu from the manifest screen. Press and hold on a stop to view the long press menu.

We hope you enjoy using version 1.2! 

Here are the changes from version 1.1.

We are also pushing out updates to other products today:

ParaPlan Desktop got a faster Scheduling Canvas and support for viewing signatures captured by our iOS app.

ParaPlan Server allows trips to be changed when in progress on Mentor Rangers and smarter Zonar connections.

ParaPlan REST had a bunch of code rewritten that is going to allow for huge speed improvements in the future.