Did Wheel Trans Botch A New System Implementation?

Recently, I received an email from a reader reporting a major problem in the implementation by Wheel Trans of a new booking system.  Here is the relevant part of the note:

On August 6th, Wheel-Trans took down its online booking system to install a “New and Improved’ reservation system. Two days later the new page was up and running — sort of. Wheel-Trans had cleansed half of our list of “preregistered addresses” and, in so doing, had forced us back upon the hugely overloaded and barely functional phone reservation system.

The consequences were devastating. Bus operators, contract minivan owners, taxi drivers, reservationists and customer service agents, and the customers, all felt the effects; customers arriving late to appointments or not able to book rides or make cancellations, drivers attempting to meet an impossible schedule while driving to cancelled or abandoned calls, and agents and reservationists facing a never-ending flood of calls from frustrated, desperate, and, in some cases, irate customers. Like a locomotive shunting cars, each missed or late call rippled down the whole system; drivers run further and further behind in their schedule, customers wait longer and longer for their ride which, increasingly, as the day wears on. are abandoned or never arrive at all. And the traffic on the phone system grows and grows.

Even those not directly involved with the system— customers’ employers, physicians and therapists, hospitals and labs, friends and families—are all dealing with missed or late appointments.

Everyone I’ve talked with over the past few weeks, customers, Wheel-Trans drivers and phone staff, and health care professionals has a story to tell. And not one has a happy ending. Although everyone has different tale to tell, they all want a return to the old setup. But no one knows how to make this happen.

This has all the earmarks of a botched IT project although the exact reason has not come out yet.  In my own IT experience, this could be a question of bad specifications, of the official client not understanding how their own system works, or a badly executed data/functional migration that wasn’t properly tested before the system went live.

I am not a Wheel Trans user, although I have heard enough horror stories about the service it provides.  It’s a vital service for users, and yet the TTC and City are entertaining a cutback to the amount of service or the eligibility of riders, not further enhancements as part of the 2012 budget.

This article is intended as a repository for comments about that service, and in particular about the effects of the recent changes to the trip booking system.