This section contains amendments from May 21, 1996.

37.131  Service criteria for complementary paratransit. 

The following service criteria apply to complementary paratransit required by 37.121 of this part.  

(a) Service Area. -
  1. Bus. -
  2. (i) The entity shall provide complementary paratransit service to origins and destinations within corridors with a width of three-fourths of a mile on each side of each fixed route.  The corridor shall include an area with a three-fourths of a mile radius at the ends of each fixed route.
    (ii) Within the core service area, the entity also shall provide service to small areas not inside any of the corridors but which are surrounded by corridors.
    (iii) Outside the core service area, the entity may designate corridors with widths from three fourths of a mile up to one and one half miles on each side of a fixed route, based on local circumstances.
    (iv) For purposes of this paragraph, the core service area is that area in which corridors with a width of three-fourths of a mile on each side of each fixed route merge together such that, with few and small exceptions, all origins and destinations within the area would be served.
    The basic bus system service area is a corridor with a width of 3/4 of a mile on each side of each fixed route.  At the end of a route, there is a semicircular "cap" on the corridor, consisting of a three-quarter mile radius from the end point of the route to the parallel sides of the corridor.
    Complementary paratransit must provide service to any origin or destination point within a corridor fitting this description around any route in the bus system.  Note that this does not say that an eligible user must live within a corridor in order to be eligible.
    If an individual lives outside the corridor, and can find a way of getting to a pickup point within the corridor, the service must pick him up there.  The same holds true at the destination end of the trip. Another concept involved in this service criterion is the core service area.
    Imagine a bus route map of a typical city.  Color the bus routes and their corridors blue, against the white outline map.  In the densely populated areas of the city, the routes (which, with their corridors attached, cut 1 1/2 mile swaths) merge together into a solid blue mass.  There are few, if any, white spots left uncovered, and they are likely to be very small.  Paratransit would serve all origins and destinations in the solid blue mass.
    But what of the little white spots surrounded by various bus corridors? Because it would not make sense to avoid providing service to such small isolated areas, the rule requires paratransit service there as well.  So color them in too.
    Outside the core area, though, as bus routes follow radial arteries into the suburbs and exurbs (we know real bus route maps are more complicated than this, but we simplify for purposes of illustration), there are increasingly wide white areas between the blue corridors, which may have corridors on either side of them but are not small areas completely surrounded by corridors.  These white spaces are not part of the paratransit service area and the entity does not have to serve origins and destinations there.  However, if, through the planning process, the entity wants to enlarge the width of one or more of the blue corridors from the 3/4 of a mile width, it can do so, to a maximum of 1 1/2 miles on each side of a route.  The cost of service provided within such an expanded corridor can be counted in connection with an undue financial burden waiver request.
  3. Rail -
  4. (i) For rail systems, the service area shall consist of a circle with a radius of 3/4 of a mile around each station.
    (ii) At end stations and other stations in outlying areas, the entity may designate circles with radii of up to 1 1/2 miles as part of its service area, based on local circumstances.
    The definition of the service area for rail systems is somewhat different, though many of the same concepts apply.

    Around each station on the line (whether or not a key station), the entity would draw a circle with a radius of 3/4 mile.  Some circles may touch or overlap.  The series of circles is the rail system's service area.  (We recognize that, in systems where stations are close together, this could result in a service area that approached being a corridor like that of a bus line.) The rail system would provide paratransit service from any point in one circle to any point in any other circle.  The entity would not have to provide service to two points within the same circle, since a trip between two points in the vicinity of the same station is not a trip that typically would be taken by train.  Nor would the entity have to provide service to spaces between the circles.  For example, a train trip would not get close to point x; one would have to take a bus or other mode of transportation to get from station E or F to point x.  A paratransit system comparable to the rail service area would not be required to take someone there either.

    Rail systems typically provide trips that are not made, or cannot be made conveniently, on bus systems.  For example, many rail systems cross jurisdictional boundaries that bus systems often do not.  One can travel from Station A to a relatively distant Station E on a rail system in a single trip, while a bus trip between the same points, if possible at all, may involve a number of indirect routings and transfers, on two bus systems that may not interface especially well.

    Rail operators have an obligation to provide paratransit equivalents of trips between circles to persons who cannot use fixed route rail systems because they cannot navigate the system, because key stations or trains are not yet accessible, or because they cannot access stations from points within the circles because of a specific impairment-related condition.

    For individuals who are eligible in category 2 because they need an accessible key station to use the system, the paratransit obligation extends only to transportation among "circles" centered on designated key stations (since, even when the key station plan is fully implemented, these individuals will be unable to use non-key stations).

    It is not sufficient for a rail operator to refer persons with disabilities to an accessible bus system in the area.  The obligation to provide paratransit for a rail system is independent of the operations of any bus system serving the same area, whether operated by the same entity that operates the rail system or a different entity.  Obviously, it will be advantageous for bus and rail systems to coordinate their paratransit efforts, but a coordinated system would have to ensure coverage of trips comparable to rail trips that could not conveniently be taken on the fixed route bus system.
  5. Jurisdictional Boundaries.  Notwithstanding any other provision of this paragraph, an entity is not required to provide paratransit service in an area outside the boundaries of the jurisdiction(s) in which it operates, if the entity does not have legal authority to operate in that area.  The entity shall take all practicable steps to provide paratransit service to any part of its service area.  
There may be a part of the service area where part of one of the corridors overlaps a political boundary, resulting in a requirement to serve origins and destinations in a neighboring jurisdiction which the entity lacks legal authority to service.  The entity is not required to serve such origins and destinations, even though the area on the other side of the political boundary is within a corridor.  This exception to the service area criterion does not automatically apply whenever there is a political boundary, only when there is a legal bar to the entity providing service on the other side of the boundary.

The rule requires, in this situation, that the entity take all practicable steps to get around the problem so that it can provide service throughout its service area.  The entity should work with the state or local governments involved, via coordination plans, reciprocity agreements, memoranda or understanding or other means to prevent political boundaries from becoming barriers to the travel of individuals with disabilities.
(b) Response Time.  The entity shall schedule and provide paratransit service to any ADA paratransit eligible person at any requested time on a particular day in response to a request for service made the previous day.  Reservations may be taken by reservation agents or by mechanical means.
  1. The entity shall make reservation service available during at least all normal business hours of the entity's administrative offices, as well as during times, comparable to normal business hours, on a day when the entity's offices are not open before a service day.

  2. Under this provision, an entity must make its reservation service available during the hours its administrative offices are open.  It those offices are open 9 to 5, those are the hours during which the reservations service must be open, even if the entity's transit service operated 6 a.m. to midnight.  On days prior to a service day on which the administrative offices are not open at all (e.g., a Sunday prior to a Monday service day), the reservation service would also be open 9 to 5.  Note that the reservation service on any day does not have to be provided directly by a "real person." An answering machine or other technology can suffice.

    Any caller reaching the reservation service during the 9 to 5 period, in this example, could reserve service for any time during the next 6 a.m. to 12 midnight service day.  This is the difference between "next day scheduling" and a system involving a 24-hour prior reservation requirement, in which a caller would have to reserve a trip at 7 a.m. today if he or she wanted to travel at 7 a.m. tomorrow.  The latter approach is not adequate under this rule.

  3. The entity may negotiate pickup times with the individual, but the entity shall not require an ADA paratransit eligible individual to schedule a trip to begin more than one hour before or after the individual's desired departure time.
  4. The entity may use real-time scheduling in providing complementary paratransit service.

  5. The entity may use real time scheduling for all or part of its service.  Like the Moliere character who spoke prose all his life without knowing it, many entities may already be using some real time scheduling (e.g., for return trips which are scheduled on a when-needed basis, as opposed to in advance).  A number of transit providers who have used real time scheduling believe that it is more efficient on a per-trip basis and reduces cancellations and no-shows significantly.  We encourage entities to consider this form of service.

  6. The entity may permit advance reservations to be made up to 14 days in advance of an ADA paratransit eligible individual's desired trips. When an entity proposes to change its reservations system, it shall comply with the public participation requirements equivalent to those of Sec. 37.131(b) and (c).
Sometimes users want to schedule service well in advance, to be sure of traveling when they want to.  The rule tells providers they may permit reservations to be made as much as 14 days in advance.  In addition, though an entity may negotiate with a user to adjust pickup and return trip times to make scheduling more efficient, the entity cannot insist on scheduling a trip more than one hour earlier or later than the individual desires to travel.  Any greater deviation from desired trip time would exceed the bounds of comparability.
(c)  Fares.  The fare for a trip charged to an ADA paratransit eligible user of the complementary paratransit service shall not exceed twice the fare that would be charged to an individual paying full fare (i.e., without regard to discounts) for a trip of similar length, at a similar time of day, on the entity's fixed route system.
  1. In calculating the full fare that would be paid by an individual using the fixed route system, the entity may include transfer and premium charges applicable to a trip of similar length, at a similar time of day, on the fixed route system.

  2. To calculate the proper paratransit fare, the entity would determine the route(s) that an individual would take to get from his or her origin to his or her destination on the fixed route system.  At the time of day the person was traveling, what is the fare for that trip on those routes? Applicable charges like transfer fees or premium service charges may be added to the amount, but discounts (e.g., the half-fare discount for off-peak fixed route travel by elderly and handicapped persons) would not be subtracted.  The transit provider could charge up to twice the resulting amount for the paratransit trip.

    The mode through which paratransit is provided does not change the method of calculation.  For example, if paratransit is provided via user side subsidy taxi service rather than publicly operated dial-a-ride van service, the cost to the user could still be only twice the applicable fixed route fare.  The system operates the same regardless of whether the paratransit trip is being provided in place of a bus or a rail trip the user cannot make on the fixed route system.  Where bus and rail systems are run by the same provider (or where the same bus provider runs parallel local and express buses along the same route), the comparison would be made to the mode on which a typical fixed route user would make the particular trip, based on schedule, length, convenience, avoidance of transfers, etc.

  3. The fares for individuals accompanying ADA paratransit eligible individuals, who are provided service under 37.123 (f) of this part, shall be the same as for the ADA paratransit eligible individuals they are accompanying.

  4. Companions are charged the same fare as the eligible individual they are accompanying.  

  5. A personal care attendant shall not be charged for complementary paratransit service.

  6. Personal care attendants ride free.

  7. The entity may charge a fare higher than otherwise permitted by this paragraph to a social service agency or other organization for agency trips (i.e., trips guaranteed to the organization).
One exception to the fare requirement is made for social service agency (or other organization-sponsored) trips.  This exception, which allows the transit provider to negotiate a price with the agency that is more than twice the relevant fixed route fare, applies to "agency trips," by which we mean trips which are guaranteed to the agency for its use.  That is, if an agency wants 12 slots for a trip to the mall on Saturday for clients with disabilities, the agency makes the reservation for the trips in its name, the agency will be paying for the transportation, and the trips are reserved to the agency, for whichever 12 people the agency designates, the provider may then negotiate any price it can with the agency for the trips.  We distinguish this situation from one in which an agency employee, as a service, calls and makes an individual reservation in the name of a client, where the client will be paying for the transportation
(d) Trip Purpose Restrictions.  The entity shall not impose restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose.
This is a simple and straightforward requirement.  There can be no restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose in a comparable complementary paratransit system.  When a user reserves a trip, the entity will need to know the origin, destination, time of travel, and how many people are traveling.  The entity does not need to know why the person is traveling, and should not even ask.
(e) Hours and Days of Service.  The complementary paratransit service shall be available throughout the same hours and days as the entity's fixed route service.
This criterion says simply that if a person can travel to a given destination using a given fixed route at a given time of day, an ADA paratransit eligible person must be able to travel to that same destination on paratransit at that time of day.  This criterion recognizes that the shape of the service area can change.  Late at night, for example, it is common for certain routes not to be run.  Those routes, and their paratransit corridors, do not need to be served with paratransit when the fixed route system is not running on them.  One couldn't get to destinations in that corridor by fixed route at those times, so paratransit service is not necessary either.

It should be pointed out that service during low-demand times need not be by the same paratransit mode as during higher usage periods.  For example, if a provider uses its own paratransit vans during high demand periods, it could use a private contractor or user-side subsidy provider during low demand periods.  This would presumably be a more efficient way of providing late night service.  A call-forwarding device for communication with the auxiliary carrier during these low demand times would be perfectly acceptable, and could reduce administrative costs.
(f) Capacity Constraints.  The entity shall not limit the availability of complementary paratransit service to ADA paratransit eligible individuals by any of the following:
This provision specifically prohibits two common mechanisms that limit use of a paratransit systems so as to constrain demand on its capacity.  
  1. Restrictions on the number of trips an individual will be provided;
  2. The first mechanism specifically mentioned is a number limit on the trips a passenger can take in a given period of time.It is a kind of rationing in which, for example, if one has taken his quota of 30 trips this month, he cannot take further trips for the rest of the month.
  3. Waiting lists for access to the service; or
  4. The second is a waiting list.  Typically, a waiting list involves a determination by a provider that it can provide service only to a given number of eligible persons.  Other eligible persons are not able to receive service until one of the people being served moves away or otherwise no longer uses the service.  Then the persons on the waiting list can move up.  The process is analogous to the wait that persons in some cities have to endure to be able to buy season tickets to a sold-out slate of professional football games.  
  5. Any operational pattern or practice that significantly limits the availability of service to ADA paratransit eligible persons.
(i) Such patterns or practices include, but are not limited to, the following:
(A) Substantial numbers of significantly untimely pickups for initial or return trips;
(B) Substantial numbers of trip denials or missed trips;
(C) Substantial numbers of trips with excessive trip lengths.
(ii) Operational problems attributable to causes beyond the control of the entity (including, but not limited to, weather or traffic conditions affecting all vehicular traffic that were not anticipated at the time a trip was scheduled) shall not be a basis for determining that such a pattern or practice exists.
In addition, this paragraph prohibits any operational pattern or practice that significantly limits the availability of service to ADA paratransit eligible persons.  As discussed under §37.125 in the context of missed trips by passengers, a "pattern or practice" involves, regular, or repeated actions, not isolated, accidental, or singular incidents.  A missed trip, late arrival, or trip denial now and then does not trigger this provision.

Operational problems outside the control of the entity do not count as part of a pattern or practice under this provision.  For example, if the vehicle has an accident on the way to pick up a passenger, the late arrival would not count as part of a pattern or practice.  If something that could not have been anticipated at the time the trip was scheduled (e.g., a snowstorm, an accident or hazardous materials incident that traps the paratransit vehicle, like all traffic on a certain highway, for hours), the resulting missed trip would not count as part of a pattern or practice.  On the other hand, if the entity regularly does not maintain its vehicles well, such that frequent mechanical breakdowns result in missed trips or late arrivals, a pattern or practice may exist.  This is also true in a situation in which scheduling practices fail to take into account regularly occurring traffic conditions (e.g., rush hour traffic jams), resulting in frequent late arrivals.

The rule mentions three specific examples of operational patterns or practices that would violate this provision.  The first is a pattern or practice of substantial numbers of significantly untimely pickups (either for initial or return trips).  To violate this provision, there must be both a substantial number of late arrivals and the late arrivals in question must be significant in length.  For example, a DOT Inspector General's (IG) report on one city's paratransit system disclosed that around 30 percent of trips were between one and five hours late.  Such a situation would trigger this provision.  On the other hand, only a few instances of trips one to five hours late, or many instances of trips a few minutes late, would not trigger this provision.

The second example is substantial numbers of trip denials or missed trips.  For example, if on a regular basis the reservation phone lines open at 5 a.m. and callers after 7 a.m. are all told that they cannot travel, or the phone lines shut down after 7 a.m.  and a recorded message says to call back the next day, or the phone lines are always so busy that no one can get through, this provision would be triggered.  (Practices of this kind would probably violate the response time criterion as well.) Also, if, on a regular basis, the entity misses a substantial number of trips (e.g., a trip is scheduled, the passenger is waiting, but the vehicle never comes, goes to the wrong address, is extremely late, etc.), it would violate this provision. The third example is substantial numbers of trips with excessive trip lengths.  Since paratransit is a shared ride service, paratransit rides between Point A and Point B will usually take longer, and involve more intermediate stops, than a taxi ride between the same two points.  However, when the number of intermediate stops and the total trip time for a given passenger grows so large as to make use of the system prohibitively inconvenient, then this provision would be triggered.  For example, the IG report referred to above mentioned a situation in which 9 percent of riders had one way trips averaging between two and four hours, with an average of 16 intermediate stops.  Such a situation would probably trigger this provision.

Though these three examples probably cover the most frequently cited problems in paratransit operations that directly or indirectly limit the provision of service that is theoretically available to eligible persons, the list is not exhaustive.  Other patterns or practices could trigger this provision.  For example, the Department has heard about a situation in which an entity's paratransit contractor was paid on a per-trip basis, regardless of the length of the trip.

The contractor therefore had an economic incentive to provide as many trips as possible.  As a result, the contractor accepted short trips and routinely denied longer trips.This would be a pattern or practice contrary to this provision (and contrary to the service area provision as well).
(g) Additional Service.  Public entities may provide complementary paratransit service to ADA paratransit eligible individuals exceeding that provided for in this section.  However, only the cost of service provided for in this section may be considered in a public entity's request for an undue financial burden waiver under 37.151 - 37.155 of this Part.
This provision emphasizes that entities may go beyond the requirements of this section in providing service to ADA paratransit individuals.  For example, no one is precluded from offering service in a larger service area, during greater hours than the fixed route system, or without charge.  However, costs of such additional service do not count with respect to undue financial burden waiver requests.  Where a service criterion itself incorporates a range of actions the entity may take (e.g., providing wide corridors outside the urban core, using real time scheduling), however, costs of providing that optional service may be counted for undue financial burden waiver request purposes.