ADA Transportation Series

Paratransit Service -- Draft

Please be advised that this document has not been reviewed for legal sufficiency by the U.S. Department of Transportation or the U.S. Department of Justice.

Questions and Answers

his document is part of a series devoted to increasing the understanding and awareness of the transportation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The U.S. Department of Transportation is responsible for the enforcement of ADA transportation requirements. This information is intended solely as informal guidance. It is neither a determination of legal rights and/or responsibilities under the ADA, nor is it binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA.

The requirements of 49 CFR Part 37 address the acquisition of accessible vehicles by public and private entities, requirements for complementary paratransit service by public entities operating a fixed route system and provision of nondiscriminatory accessible transportation service. Accessibility specifications for transportation vehicles are addressed in 49 CFR Part 38. Answers to the questions in this series are quoted directly from the transportation rules, with subsection locations shown in parenthesis.

Subpart F of the ADA Transportation Regulations states that public entities operating a fixed route system (that is, consistent routes traveled on a regular schedule) shall provide paratransit or other special services to individuals with disabilities that is comparable to the level of service provided to individuals without disabilities who use the fixed route system. This document addresses some of the most common questions about Paratransit Service.

Service Area

1. What specific geographical areas is a paratransit entity required to serve?

Complementary paratransit service must be provided to origins and destinations within corridors that have a width of 3/4 of a mile on each side of each fixed route. At the end of each route, the entity must also serve an area that looks like a semicircular "cap" and has a 3/4 mile radius from the end point of the route. (§37.131)

2. What about the small gaps that sometimes exist between these corridors?

Because it would not make sense to avoid providing service to such small isolated areas, the rule requires paratransit service there as well. (§37.131)

3. What is a paratransit "core area"?

The core service area is the area in which corridors with a width of 3/4 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. (§37.131)

4. What about service outside the core service area, such as isolated routes that extend into the suburbs?

As bus routes follow radial arteries into the suburbs outside the core area, there are increasingly wide areas between the corridors which are not small areas completely surrounded by corridors. Service to these areas is not required. However, the paratransit entity may extend the width of one or more of these corridors from 3/4 of a mile to a maximum of 1 1/2 miles on each side of a route if it wishes to do so. In these cases, the expanded corridor could be counted by the entity in connection with a request for an undue financial burden. (§37.131)

5. What about service for paratransit-eligible individuals who live outside the service areas?

The rule does not say that an eligible user must live within a corridor in order to be eligible for paratransit. 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. (§37.127)

Scheduling Paratransit Trips

6. How much advance notice can be required for scheduling a trip?

Next day scheduling is required at minimum. This means, for example, that any caller reaching the reservation service at any time on one day could reserve service for any time during the next service day. A rule requiring 24-hour notice is not allowed, as it would require a person to call by noon on one day in order to receive service by noon the next day.(§37.131)

7. When must the reservation service be open for scheduling paratransit trips?

An entity must make its reservation service available during the hours its administrative offices are open. If those offices are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., those are the hours during which the reservations service must be open, even if the entity's transit service operates from 6 a.m. to midnight.(§37.131)

8. What if someone wishes to schedule a trip when the administrative offices are closed?

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 must be open during the same hours that the administrative offices would usually be open, such as from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It should also be noted that a reservation service on any day does not have to be provided directly by a real person. An answering machine or other technology can suffice. (§37.131)

9. How far in advance can a paratransit trip be scheduled?

Paratransit entities must permit reservations to be made up to 14 days in advance of the desired trip date. (§37.131)

10. What are the rules for negotiating pick up times when a reservation is requested?

The paratransit entity may negotiate pickup times with an individual, but can not require an eligible individual to schedule a trip to begin more than one hour before or after the individual's desired departure time. (§37.131)

11. What is "real time" scheduling?

Real time scheduling is scheduling trips on a timely, when-needed basis. Although it is not required, a number of transit entities who have used real time scheduling believe that it is more efficient on a per-trip basis and reduces cancellations and no-shows significantly. (§37.131)

Trip Fares

12. How are fares calculated for a paratransit trip?

The fare for a trip charged to an ADA paratransit-eligible user of the complementary paratransit service may be up to twice the fare that would be charged to an individual paying full fare, without regard to discounts, for a trip of similar length, at a similar time of day, on the entity's fixed route system. Note that the fare charged may also be less than twice the regular fare. (§37.131)

13. May this calculation include transfer or premium charges?

Yes. Transfer and premium charges applicable to a trip of similar length, at a similar time of day, on the fixed route system may be included in calculating the paratransit trip fare. (§37.131)

14. Does the fare change if paratransit services are provided via a subcontractor?

No. 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. (§37.131)

15. What are the fares for companions?

Companions are charged the same fare as the eligible individual they are accompanying. (§37.131)

16. What are the fares for personal care attendants?

Personal care attendants ride free. (§37.131)

17. Are there exceptions to the "twice the regular fare" pricing structure?

Yes. One exception to the fare requirement is allowed for social service agency (or other organization-sponsored) trips. This exception, which allows the transit provider to negotiate a price with the agency that may be more than twice the relevant fixed route fare, applies to agency trips. Agency trips are defined as those which are guaranteed to the agency for its use. For example, if an agency wants 12 slots for a trip to the mall on Saturday for clients with disabilities, and:

then the paratransit entity may negotiate any price it can with the agency for the trips. Note: This does not apply to a situation where an agency employee, as a service, calls and makes an individual reservation for a client, where the client will be paying for the transportation. (§37.131)

Hours and Days of Service

18. When is paratransit service required to be provided?

The complementary paratransit service shall be available during the same hours and days as the entity's fixed route service is available. This means 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. (§37.131)

19. Are there times when the service area may be limited, such as during late evening hours?

The rules recognize that the shape of the service area can change. Late at night, for example, it is common for buses to stop running on certain routes. Those routes, and their paratransit corridors, do not need to be served with paratransit during the hours when the fixed route system is not running on them. (§37.131)

20. Is the same level of service required at all times?

No. Service during low-demand times need not be by the same paratransit mode as during higher usage periods. For example, if an entity uses its own paratransit vans during high demand periods, it could use a private contractor or user-side subsidy provider during low demand periods. (§37.131)

Specific Requirements on Service Capacity

21. How many trips may a person schedule in a given time period?

There are no limits. For example, it would be illegal to limit a paratransit-eligible person to a quota of 30 trips per month. (§37.131)

22. Is it permissible to maintain waiting lists?

No. It is illegal for a paratransit entity to make eligible persons wait for paratransit service until one of the people being served moves away or no longer uses the service. (§37.131) (See Question #29)

23. Are there restrictions as to the purpose of the trip?

There can be no restrictions or priorities based on a trip’s purpose in a comparable complementary paratransit system. There is a simple and straightforward requirement: 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. (§37.131)

Unacceptable Patterns or Practices in Paratransit Operations

24. What does "pattern or practice" mean?

A pattern or practice involves regular or repeated actions, not accidental, singular, or isolated incidents. A missed trip, late arrival, or trip denial now and then does not trigger this provision. Operational problems attributable to causes beyond the control of the entity (such as weather or traffic conditions affecting all traffic that could not be anticipated) is not a basis for determining whether a pattern or practice exists.

On the other hand, if the entity regularly does not maintain its vehicles, 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. (§37.131)

25. What types of paratransit operations are unacceptable?

Any operational pattern or practice that significantly limits the availability of service to paratransit-eligible persons is not allowed. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Subscription Service

26. What is "subscription service"?

Subscription service is when a paratransit-eligible person arranges a standing appointment for a ride, such as an 8:00 a.m. Monday through Friday departure for work and subsequent 5:00 p.m. return trip. (§37.133)

27. Are subscription services allowed?

Yes. The rules do not prohibit the use of subscription service by public entities as part of a complementary paratransit system, subject to several limitations. (§37.133) (See Question #28.)

28. What are the limits to providing subscription service?

At any given time of day, subscription service may not absorb more than 50 percent of available capacity on the total system. For example, if the entity can provide 400 trips at 8:00 a.m., no more than 200 of these can be subscription trips. The one exception to this rule would occur in a situation in which there is excess capacity of regular paratransit services available.

Using the above example, if an entity could show a pattern of there being only 150 non-subscription trips requested at 8:00 a.m., they could begin to provide 250 subscription trips at that time. Subsequently, if non-subscription demand increased later on, the 50 extra subscription trips may have to be returned to the regular paratransit services category. (§37.133)

29. What are the rules regarding waiting lists and prioritizing trips for subscription service?

The rules permit two specific restrictions that may be imposed on a subscription service that can not be imposed in regular paratransit service. First, there may be a waiting list or other capacity constraints for provision of subscription service. Secondly, an entity may set priorities based on trip purpose. For example, subscription service during peak work trip times could be limited to work trips. It must be emphasized that these limitations apply only to subscription service. It is acceptable for an entity to put a person on a waiting list for access to subscription service at 8:00 a.m. for work trips; the same person could not be wait-listed for access to paratransit service in general. (§37.133) (See Question #22.)

Other Sources of Information

Regional ADA Technical Assistance Centers: Toll-Free 1-800-949-4232

Federal Transit Administration ADA Toll-Free Technical Assistance Line: 1-888-446-4511 (Voice) or 1-800-877-8339 (TTY);