Customer-Focused Vehicle Design Process

The San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) is committed to good vehicle design as an integral part of achieving the goal of quality service to customers. Good vehicle design can help provide quality service to people with disabilities who rely on paratransit service. As part of the vehicle design process, the Bus Maintenance Contracts Administrator meets with a number of groups to discuss the current vehicles and ways to improve them. In addition to meeting with internal SamTrans staff (including Maintenance, Operations and Planning), he meets with contractor’s staff, vehicle operators, and members of the senior and disabled community. Balancing the (sometimes conflicting) needs of these groups is challenging, but the process has been quite successful. SamTrans has met with the disabled community on vehicle design issues for many years. The community has gained a greater understanding of the factors related to vehicle design, which reduces complaints about the vehicles and improves the relationship between SamTrans and its advocacy groups. SamTrans has gained a greater understanding of customer needs. SamTrans is able to work with the vehicle manufacturer to develop ways to meet these needs and to provide information for future development. These meetings have led to the addition of specific features that help the disabled community. Manufacturers value the production experience toward future orders incorporating the expanded features. What really makes a difference is the attitude of the different user groups. They appreciate being involved and take the issues seriously. SamTrans clearly explains that there are budgetary and physical limitations. Participants do not make absurd requests. These discussions are marked by honesty and sincerity about the obstacles facing persons with disabilities, and genuine dedication to doing the best job possible. It has not always been like this. Advocates complained bitterly about not being consulted during the design process until SamTrans embarked on the new program several years ago. SamTrans staff recognized that we in operations tend to think we know what’s best for the customer and often feel constrained by the procurement process, especially when ordering vehicles from a limited-options State bid list. Customers believe that no one can be more knowledgeable about vehicle design than they, and tended to dismiss the genuine concern of the Contracts Administrator to improve vehicle design, with little appreciation for procurement constraints. The paper will include examples of the types of vehicle design enhancements that were recommended and produced through this process. The paper will also describe typical differences between the disabled customer and the Contracts Administrator and how they were reconciled. Guidelines for managing the process constructively will be presented.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: Figures;
  • Pagination: 5p
  • Monograph Title: 2005 Bus & Paratransit Conference

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01001945
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 1931594163
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 11 2005 12:59PM