Paratransit services are for:
- People who cannot use fixed route transit systems or navigate them on their own because of physical or cognitive disabilities
- Non-ADA senior citizens 65 years and older who have no other means of travel
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed into law. Its purpose was to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and ensure they are afforded the same opportunities as everyone else.
However, despite the ADA’s passage, many disabled Americans in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C. still face mobility challenges. They are limited in where they can live or go because handicap-friendly accommodations are lacking. In fact, as the image below shows, approximately 12% of Americans with disabilities face
Paratransit is a demand-responsive mode of transportation for disabled and aging people who, because of their disabilities and advanced age, cannot use fixed route public transit services to get from point A to point B. The service is usually provided by public transportation companies to complement their fixed-route bus and rail services, but other paratransit operators include nonprofit organizations, community groups, and for-profit private agencies.
Most paratransit vehicles are wheelchair-accessible or come with ramps or lifts to enable access.
There are different types of paratransit services. The simplest are small buses, vans, or taxis with a roughly defined route that pick up and drop off passengers upon request. On the other end of the spectrum are fully responsive paratransit providers that transport riders from any specific location to another at any given time.
According to recent CDC data, about 10.4% (25.5 million) of noninstitutionalized U.S. adults have vision trouble, while 16.1% (39.5 million) have physical functioning disabilities. Among aging adults aged 65 to 74, 3.4% need help with personal care, a number that goes up to 10.8% for seniors 75 years and older.
In addition, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 24.6 million Americans 18 years and older have travel-limiting disabilities, 3.6 million of whom do not leave their homes because they are either housebound or disabled.
What these numbers represent is loud and clear: Millions of Americans are incapable of using conventional transport systems and need alternate services that take their limited capabilities into consideration to help them get to their destinations, which include doctors’ appointments, workplace, school, social and religious gatherings, places to shop or eat out, and so on.
Without available transport systems for follow-up care, patient outcomes are negatively impacted, while seniors with no means of transportation take lesser trips and risk social isolation, which can result in extreme loneliness, depression, cognitive decline, dementia, and even premature death.
Paratransit services are for:
Depending on which platform or request method the paratransit provider supports, riders can submit their trip requests via:
Providers don't all collect fares the same way. Some collect electronic payments at the time of scheduling, which means riders must have enough funds on their rider accounts prior to requesting a trip. Accounts can be funded through cash, check, debit/credit card, or money order.
Other paratransit operators allow their drivers to accept cash, coupons, or prepaid card payments.
While the process of getting serviced by
With fixed route transport systems, major schedule changes may happen once every quarter or twice a year to meet demand changes. But with paratransit, scheduling it is a lot more complicated.
Even with a prior schedule, routing and dispatching plans change and will have to be adjusted on the fly to accommodate customer demands. Solutions to scheduling problems will have to be figured out on a case-by-case basis. In other words, what works today may not work tomorrow.
Certain individuals need specific types of vehicles to keep them safe and comfortable while in transit. Should a minivan be dispatched that can only carry ambulatory passengers? Or, is it better to dispatch a ramp-equipped minivan that can transport several ambulatory occupants and up to two riders on wheelchairs?
With scheduling volatility, dispatchers may find it difficult to group nearby riders with similar vehicle needs.
Paratransit riders usually come from different locations and are headed to different destinations. Despite this, dispatchers must be able to provide their riders with the right types of vehicles.
For most paratransit operators, vehicle utilization efficiency comes in the form of delivering at least two riders per hour per vehicle. Transporting riders to and from distant suburbs can make this objective difficult to achieve.
With demand-response services, achieving efficiency (and ultimately, profitability) is a never-ending balancing act between providing the best possible experience for riders and maximizing vehicle usage, driver availability, and fuel consumption.
Since this is the case, the need for continuous real-time scheduling with the help of paratransit software cannot be stressed enough.
Not every DRT software is created equal. Therefore, utmost care and attention are required to find the software that fits your paratransit firm’s specific needs.
Keep in mind that your chosen software should, in the long run, become an asset to your company, not a liability. But because finding “the one” can be downright tricky, consider the following two core factors when looking at vendor offerings:
Once done evaluating the features and functionalities of a DRT solution and checking them against your unique software requirements, it’s time to determine whether it’s affordable. To help with that, use the following guide:
For a checklist of the questions to ask a potential provider, download Ecolane’s “Guide to Choosing Your Transit Software Provider” eBook.
The role of paratransit in helping disabled and aging Americans stay mobile cannot be overstated. Without modes of transportation that cater to their specific needs, their ability to keep medical appointments and pretty much live normal lives is significantly affected. With paratransit software to take care of the complexities of scheduling and dispatching, you can focus on keeping your customers safe and happy.