37.121  Requirement for comparable complementary paratransit service.

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, each public entity operating a fixed route system shall provide paratransit or other special service to individuals with disabilities that is comparable to the level of service provided to individuals without disabilities who use the fixed route system.

(b) To be deemed comparable to fixed route service, a complementary paratransit system shall meet the requirements of 37.123 - 37.133 of this Subpart.  The requirement to comply with 37.131 may be modified in accordance with the provisions of this Subpart relating to undue financial burden.

(c) Requirements for complementary paratransit do not apply to commuter bus, commuter rail, or intercity rail systems.
This section sets forth the basic requirement that all public entities who operate a fixed route system have to provide paratransit service that is both comparable and complementary to the fixed route service.  By "complementary," we mean service that acts as a "safety net" for individuals with disabilities who cannot use the fixed route system.  By "comparable," we mean service that meets the service criteria of this Subpart.

This requirement applies to light and rapid rail systems as well as to bus systems, even when rail and bus systems share all or part of the same service area.  Commuter bus, commuter rail and intercity rail systems do not have to provide paratransit, however.  The remaining provisions of Subpart F set forth the details of the eligibility requirements for paratransit, the service criteria that paratransit systems must meet, the planning process involved, and the procedures for applying for waivers based on undue financial burden.

Paratransit may be provided by a variety of modes.  Publicly operated dial-a-ride vans, service contracted out to a private paratransit provider, user-side subsidy programs, or any combination of these and other approaches is acceptable.  Entities who feel it necessary to apply for an undue financial burden waiver should be aware that that one of the factors UMTA will examine in evaluating waiver requests is efficiencies the provider could realize in its paratransit service.  Therefore, it is important for entities in this situation to use the most economical and efficient methods of providing paratransit they can devise.

It is also important for them to establish and consistently implement strong controls against fraud, waste and abuse in the paratransit system.  Fraud, waste and abuse can drain significant resources from a system and control of there problems is an important "efficiency" for any paratransit system.  It will be difficult for the Department to grant an undue financial burden waiver to entities which do not have a good means of determining if fraud, waste and abuse are problems and adequate methods of combating these problems, where they are found to exist.