The bus may arrive to transport a customer up to 10 minutes before or 10 minutes after the scheduled pickup time. This time period is known as the “pickup window” and is essential for the transit system to operate efficiently. The pickup window allows dispatchers to process ride requests at different times and helps drivers account for uncontrollable variables such as traffic problems and poor road conditions. Therefore, customers are required to be ready to board the bus 10 minutes before the scheduled pickup time. Unfortunately, the buses are unable to wait for people. Due to the nature of Dial-A-Ride service, waiting for customers to board generally causes delays for other customers who have scheduled rides. Therefore, it is important to be ready to board when the bus arrives within the pickup window.
Scheduling and Cancellations
Advanced notice is not required to schedule rides, meaning that customers may call dispatch to request immediate transportation. However, rides are provided subject to the availability of resources, and the buses are shared by everyone wanting to ride at the same time. With high demand and limited resources, the chances of scheduling favorable times are often, but not always, improved by calling as far in advance as possible to facilitate coordination. Calling at least one day in advance is recommended.
Customers may schedule CASUAL RIDES (i.e. sporadic or occasional rides) with a dispatcher up to one week in advance. However, customers may schedule STANDING ORDERS up to two weeks in advance. Standing orders are consistent rides recurring at exactly the same time on a specific day of the week for at least four consecutive weeks. Ride requests for transportation to or from school may be submitted as early as August 1 of each school year. However, dispatchers do not schedule any standing orders for transportation to or from school more that two weeks prior to the start of transportation.
Rides must be CANCELLED with the dispatchers at least one hour prior to the scheduled pickup time except for early morning ride requests, which must be received before 6:30 a.m. the day of service. Rides that are cancelled and rescheduled for earlier on the same day are also exempt from this requirement. One-hour notice is still required for any rides that are cancelled and rescheduled for later in the day.
A customer will be considered a no-show under the following circumstances:
- When a bus arrives at a scheduled pickup location to transport the customer who does not utilize the appointment he/she made to use the bus.
- When a customer is not present at the specified entryway or ready to board when the bus arrives within the pickup window.
- When the customer does not properly cancel his/her scheduled ride according to policy.
A customer will not be considered a no-show in the event a bus does not arrive within 10 minutes after the scheduled pickup time and the customer calls to cancel the ride. Even if the bus is running late, failure to cancel the ride will result in a no-show. Customers are not required to pay a fare for a no-show, nor will payment eliminate the record of a no-show.
Maximum Ride Time and Appointment Times
The dispatching software allows for a maximum ride time of 90 minutes to accommodate the coordination of rides over a large area. However, customers may be able to schedule “appointment times” that should ensure arrival by a specified time and may reduce the time spent riding on the bus.
Drivers may provide limited passenger assistance to customers for the purpose of providing support and stability. For an ambulatory passenger (i.e. someone who can walk), drivers may only provide assistance by interlocking arms with the passenger in such a manner that the drivers maintain control to prevent slipping or falling. An individual who needs more help, such as someone who is extremely weak or frail, may be required to use a wheelchair or find a caretaker to provide the necessary passenger assistance.
Drivers must be able to keep the bus in sight at all times while providing passenger assistance. For private residences, drivers are not permitted to go beyond the threshold of the outermost door or entryway. For buildings open to the general public, drivers may assist someone through the single or double entrance doors into or out of the lobby area immediately next to the entrance. However, drivers may not roam throughout the lobby or hallways of the building. Therefore, drivers are unable to escort people to and from their rooms inside apartment complexes, nursing homes, and similar facilities.
Drivers may help carry groceries and other small packages to and from the bus. The drivers are limited to assisting with two bags of groceries or packages per passenger, and each bag or package must weigh no more than 15 pounds. Trailblazer is not responsible for any damage to items the drivers may help carry.
Customers should be prepared to ask for assistance either verbally or by waving their arms at the drivers. However, drivers may automatically attempt to provide assistance if they have reason to believe a customer will have difficulty moving to or from the bus. Drivers may not assist customers without first asking and receiving permission to do so, except in cases of emergency.
Drivers are not responsible for clearing pathways. Customers, caretakers, and/or businesses are required to keep pathways clear of snow, ice, obstacles, and other hazards including animals. A driver may not be able to assist or transport the customer if the pathway to and from the bus is not clear or safe for passage.
Trailblazer is not responsible for any injuries sustained by someone moving to or from the bus, whether or not a driver assisted the individual. Please remember that it is the passenger’s responsibility to navigate to or from the bus. Trailblazer may provide limited passenger assistance only as a last resort for individuals who have no one else to help them.
Backing Up, Turning Around, and Accessible Roadways
Drivers must prevent the buses from getting into a position where they need to back up. In the event unforeseen circumstances require a bus to back up to continue providing service, drivers are required to Get Out And Look (GOAL) to identify obstacles and other potential dangers prior to backing. Therefore, drivers are generally unable to turn into driveways, dead-end streets, and other confined areas. Rural locations need well-maintained driveways with enough room for buses to turn around safely. Trailblazer may not be able to transport customers if any roads or driveways are not maintained or designed properly.
A bus may not travel on private, non-commercial property unless authorized in advance by the owner. Drivers may only utilize roads or parking lots that are available to the general public.
Health Status and Medical Emergencies
A passenger’s physical condition must be such that bus transportation will not adversely affect the health or well-being of the passenger or any other passenger. Customers exhibiting signs of excessive pain or suffering will be immediately returned to their pick-up location, dropped off at the nearest care facility, or evaluated on the bus by emergency responders. Individuals with physical conditions that prevent them from effectively riding the bus may be referred to an alternate transportation service.
Trailblazer does not provide transportation for medical emergencies. In the event a customer has a moderate to severe injury or illness (e.g. bleeding, high fever, vomiting), a Trailblazer team member will contact the appropriate emergency response personnel and/or instruct the customer to do the same.
Caretakers and Assistants
There is no minimum age requirement to ride the bus independently (i.e. riding the bus without a caretaker present at all times). However, customers must be able to remain seated in an upright position and be responsible to take care of themselves on the bus without interrupting service or adversely affecting the driver or other passengers. Trailblazer will require a caretaker to accompany any passenger, regardless of age, who is unable to meet these conditions. Furthermore, a passenger may be prohibited from using the bus service if a caretaker is ineffective at controlling any unacceptable behavior.
In the event a customer is capable of riding the bus alone but cannot make responsible decisions regarding his/her personal care or safety, a caretaker must be physically on site and communicate in some manner with the driver when the customer is picked up and dropped off. Trailblazer will not knowingly allow a vulnerable passenger to get off the bus without passing the “baton of responsibility” to a caretaker.
Schoolchildren in first grade or higher may be picked up or dropped off at a designated loading or unloading area at school without the need for a caretaker to be present. The requirement for a caretaker to be present may still apply for any pickup or drop-off locations away from school. Many children at least 12 years old and enrolled in sixth grade or higher can often be picked up or dropped off at locations away from school without a caretaker present. However, older students in higher grades may still require a caretaker when getting picked up or dropped off depending on the circumstances.
In the event a passenger is non-responsive or unable to communicate in any manner, he or she will be required to have an assistant ride along to observe and care for the individual.
Wheelchairs and Scooters
Occupied wheelchairs must be in proper working order with completely functional brakes and the footrests installed. Passengers with customized wheelchairs manufactured without footrests may be exempt from this policy. Wheelchairs used to transfer a passenger to or from a bus seat are not required to have footrests if the customer consents and the driver does not move the wheelchair when occupied.
Wheelchair occupants are required to wear both lap and shoulder belts if they remain in their chairs during transit. Drivers may push or pull the wheelchairs to and away from the buses. However, drivers must push the wheelchairs in a forward direction for distances of more than 15 feet.
A passenger may remain seated on an electric scooter during transit only if the scooter is specifically designed to allow the customer to do so. The scooter must be stable and provide sufficient back support for the customer. In addition, there must be a way for the driver to properly secure the passenger to the floor of the bus using Trailblazer’s lap and shoulder belts.
If a scooter does not meet the requirements to allow a person to ride on it while the bus is moving, the passenger choosing to use the scooter must transfer into a standard bus seat to provide the opportunity for the customer to utilize proper safety restraints. If this is not possible, the individual will be referred to an alternate transportation service.
Drivers must be able to properly secure occupied wheelchairs, scooters, and other mobility devices on the bus facing forward using standard wheelchair securements. Mobility devices that are not compliant with the specifications defined by the Americans with Disability Act may not be permitted on the bus depending on the design of the device and circumstances of the ride.
Trailblazer does not provide wheelchairs, scooters, or other mobility devices for customers to use. Furthermore, Trailblazer does not transport empty wheelchairs or scooters unless the customer has transferred to a seat or an assistant or aide accompanies the empty mobility device. Empty wheelchairs, scooters, and/or similar mobility devices must be secured to the floor of the bus in the same fashion as occupied mobility devices with the exception of the lap and shoulder belts.
Payment and Billing
Passengers must present exact payment to the driver when boarding the bus unless billing arrangements for payment have been made in advance with dispatch. Drivers do not make change. Customers without exact payment may overpay, but credit for future rides will not be provided and refunds are not permitted. However, customers may purchase tokens on the bus and keep any unused tokens for future use.
Customers are asked to pay each time they board the bus and to pay only for the current ride being provided. Pre-payment for future rides on the bus is strongly discouraged. Failure to make payment for rides may result in the denial of service.
Trailblazer will send out invoices for billed rides by the 25th of the month following service, and customers are given 60 days from the invoice date to make payment. If the entire amount due is not paid before the due date, finance charges will start to accrue. Any balance 90 days or more past due may be sent to a collections agency if the customer does not make and adhere to payment arrangements.
Customers are not permitted to consume food or drink on the bus with the exception of bottled water in clear plastic containers. Groceries and food items may be transported in limited quantities provided there are measures taken to prevent spilling on the seats and/or floor.
Trailblazer strictly prohibits smoking, vaping, and the use of tobacco products on all buses and property owned, leased, or managed by the transit system.
Weapons are not permitted on the bus or inside Trailblazer facilities including guns or knives of any sort, including pocketknives. Trailblazer management will review requests made in advance for a passenger to board a bus with a questionable item on a case-by-case basis.
Customers with walkers, packages, bags of groceries, and other loose items must properly secure such items on the bus. Drivers may assist with securing such items, which cannot be stored in the aisle or the elevator area. As such, bicycles and/or other large objects are not permitted on the bus. Elevators may not be used to lift anything but people, wheelchairs, and scooters that can be properly secured on the bus.
Small oxygen tanks designed to be handheld and portable are permitted on the bus. Medium to large oxygen tanks are not permitted on the bus unless they are securely attached to a wheelchair or other mobility device. Oxygen is highly flammable and must be properly secured.
Standing while the bus is in motion is not permitted, and the total number of people on the bus during transit, including the driver, may not exceed the posted bus capacity.
Animals are not permitted on the bus except for service animals recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Creatures that can be transported in spill-proof, airtight containers may be allowed on a case-by-case basis. Other transportation providers may be an option for people needing to transport pets.
Passengers are required to wear seatbelts on the bus, and drivers may offer assistance to help passengers buckle up. According to Minnesota State law, infant car seats are not required on public transit buses. Although Trailblazer does not provide car seats or child restraints, caretakers are invited to bring their own car seats to use. Drivers are not permitted to assist with the installation of car seats or securing children in the car seats. Caretakers are responsible for everything related to the use of a car seat.
Strollers can be utilized on the bus provided 1) the caretaker is responsible for securing the strollers and any occupants at all times and 2) the strollers do not occupy the isle or elevator area. Drivers are not permitted to help secure strollers or any stroller occupants. The use of wagons and carts on the bus is generally discouraged but may be allowed on a case-by-case basis with prior dispatch authorization.
Drivers are not permitted to accept tips. However, customers are welcome to offer employees nonmonetary gifts of nominal value on an occasional basis to show appreciation. Customers insisting on making a monetary donation or wishing to leave a memorial may do so by contributing to the Trailblazer Employee Fund, which is designed for use only by the employees. Although such contributions are greatly appreciated, Trailblazer employees gladly serve without the expectation of a gratuity.
Consequences for Violating Customer Operating Policies
The operating policies outlined in this document have been established to ensure the safe and efficient operation of a highly coordinated public transit system. Trailblazer’s response to any violation of these policies is intended to be more educational in nature rather than punitive. The consequences outlined below allow Trailblazer to better train its customers about how to use the transit system and to increase overall customer satisfaction through the improved operation of the service.
- The first violation of one specific policy will result in a verbal warning.
- The second violation of one specific policy will result in a written warning.
- The third violation of one specific policy within any six-month period MAY result in the suspension of all Trailblazer Transit and SMART-RIDE services for a period of one month.
- Any combination of six violations within a six-month period MAY result in the suspension of all Trailblazer Transit and SMART-RIDE services for a period of one month.
Trailblazer will make all reasonable attempts to get a customer to follow the policies through education and training prior to suspension. Dispatch will issue all verbal and written warnings to the customer (or an appropriate caretaker) regarding the violation of a policy. If a customer violates the same policy after receiving a written warning, a dispatcher will refer the matter to a manager for review. The manager will evaluate the details of each violation prior to making a decision regarding suspension. Customers may file an appeal with the transit system to lift or reduce a suspension.
A passenger may be prohibited from using the bus service at any time without progressive action due to safety concerns that cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of the transit system. A customer who does not follow the legal and appropriate instructions of a driver constitutes a safety concern.