March/April 2023 - 26

B
Have We
Outgrown
Paratransit?
Let go of the concept of perfecting paratransit and
revamp services that are inclusive and account for the
expectations and needs of the disability community.
BY CHR I S TI AN KENT, CONTR I BUTOR
efore the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) in 1990, access to public transit for people with disabilities
was extremely limited, mainly because of indifferent and erroneous
assumptions about the numbers, needs, capabilities and aspirations
of people with disabilities. Today, access to transit is vastly improved,
and industry statistics reflect this accordingly.
Since 2000, local bus fleets nationwide have moved from 81 percent
to 100 percent accessible, and millions of customers with disabilities are
making use of fixed-route transit who could not have done so before.
The original intent of requiring complementary paratransit service
was to bridge that gap, extending the equivalent of fixed-route transit
to people with disabilities who could not make use of an otherwise
inaccessible system, yet the demand for paratransit service has grown
exponentially since its inception, despite North America achieving a
mostly accessible fixed-route transit network.
The question is, do we need more paratransit or is it time for something
else?
Among the ADA's many strengths is it was developed with significant
input from the disability community, and it requires ongoing engagement
with the community for any changes being contemplated that
could affect them. However, count (and few you will find) the number
of people with disabilities who are involved in decisions regarding the
deployment of service or its evolution into other offerings that might
better meet the needs of the target constituency.
In the past 33 years, we have often attempted to " perfect " paratransit
without asking if there was something better or if the disability community's
expectations had changed. There are many reasons for this:
* The regulations themselves have been clarified but not changed.
* We have been motivated to apply sophisticated technology not
previously available to resolve long-standing paratransit problems.
* Our tendency to plan services for people with and without disabilities
separately.
While the first two reasons are understandable, the third is harder
to defend, except perhaps to attribute it to the law of inertia.
By operating paratransit service in its current form, we are preserving
a 1990s artifact that offers only a half-portion of what is available
today, such as only " next day service " instead of the " just-in-time "
26 Mass Transit | MARCH/APRIL 2023
Pickup is CapMetro's
on-demand public transit
service that is supported by
an app developed by Via.
Via
service being enjoyed by customers
of transportation network companies,
shared rides that are typically
not commingled with riders of other
(mainstream) services, as well as
trip time negotiation.
Efforts to perfect this version
of service also fall short - now we
have technology that more precisely
informs the customer of how late
the ride will be. That applies updated
algorithms to the same population
of trips to be scheduled, still
with a " next day " orientation, and
that only offers service where fixedroute
transit exists, even as agencies
begin to replace fixed-route service
with on-demand.
Customers with disabilities
overwhelmingly desire equity and
inclusion. They want to go about
their lives in a manner similar to
those around them. To achieve this,

March/April 2023

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March/April 2023

Editor’s Notebook
People & Places
Why Zero-Emissions Fleet Transformation Starts at the Top
A Look at U.S. Bus Fleets
Have We Outgrown Paratransit?
Santa Cruz Metro Bounces Back from COVID-19 Pandemic
Ready for Rail: A Look at 2023’s Big Projects
Products
March/April 2023 - 1
March/April 2023 - 2
March/April 2023 - 3
March/April 2023 - 4
March/April 2023 - 5
March/April 2023 - Editor’s Notebook
March/April 2023 - 7
March/April 2023 - People & Places
March/April 2023 - 9
March/April 2023 - 10
March/April 2023 - 11
March/April 2023 - 12
March/April 2023 - 13
March/April 2023 - 14
March/April 2023 - 15
March/April 2023 - Why Zero-Emissions Fleet Transformation Starts at the Top
March/April 2023 - 17
March/April 2023 - 18
March/April 2023 - 19
March/April 2023 - A Look at U.S. Bus Fleets
March/April 2023 - 21
March/April 2023 - 22
March/April 2023 - 23
March/April 2023 - 24
March/April 2023 - 25
March/April 2023 - Have We Outgrown Paratransit?
March/April 2023 - 27
March/April 2023 - 28
March/April 2023 - 29
March/April 2023 - Santa Cruz Metro Bounces Back from COVID-19 Pandemic
March/April 2023 - 31
March/April 2023 - 32
March/April 2023 - 33
March/April 2023 - 34
March/April 2023 - 35
March/April 2023 - Ready for Rail: A Look at 2023’s Big Projects
March/April 2023 - 37
March/April 2023 - 38
March/April 2023 - 39
March/April 2023 - Products
March/April 2023 - 41
March/April 2023 - 42
March/April 2023 - 43
March/April 2023 - 44
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