Transportation for people with disabilities can sometimes get complicated. In this three-part series, we will share some important things that will help you become more comfortable and a transportation pro. Our second post focuses on making the most of paratransit services.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires public transit agencies providing fixed-route services to offer “complementary paratransit” service to people with disabilities who cannot use the fixed-route bus or rail service because of a disability if 100 percent of their vehicles are not fully accessible. Some communities with accessible fleets will still provide a paratransit service.
As a door-to-door program, paratransit services pick up riders at the desired address and drop them off at their final destination. All trip routes must be within the fixed-route service area, which is typically a ¾ mile radius surrounding the fixed-route delivery service area.
Depending on the paratransit service, rides must be scheduled between 24 hours and two weeks in advance. The ADA allows providers to negotiate trip times with the customer, but no more than an hour before or an hour after the requested time.
Who is paratransit for?
Some disabilities or limitations may prevent individuals from getting to their transit stop or station. For example:
A person who is ambulatory but has difficulty walking
A person who uses a wheelchair is unable to get to her stop because no sidewalks or curb cuts exist, or snow blocks the route.
A person who is blind, has a cognitive disability, or uses a wheelchair is unable to navigate complex intersections with heavy traffic.
The ADA uses three categories to determine paratransit eligibility.
Someone who, because of their disability, cannot independently board, ride or disembark from an accessible fixed-route bus.
Someone who cannot use the fixed-route system because that system is not fully accessible. Either the vehicles on the route that the person wants to use are not accessible, the stop is not accessible, or the person’s mobility device cannot fit on the lift of the fixed-route vehicle.
Someone because of their disability when combined with environmental factors, such as heat or cold, cannot always use a fixed-route bus system.
Paratransit eligibility can be both trip-specific and may be either permanent or temporary.
Applying for services
Usually, riders apply for services through the fixed-route company. A local community’s Department of Aging or a city’s Health and Family Services division may also oversee paratransit services.
Most paratransit services require an application. Medical documentation may be required to provide specific information about the individual’s disability and limitations. Individuals may also need to complete an interview/functional evaluation as part of the eligibility determination.
Individuals will typically be notified of their eligibility within 21 days of their application. Anyone denied services can appeal the decision. Service provider grievance procedures may vary depending on the transit agency or the paratransit service provider.
Fares will vary between the different programs.
Omaha residents interested in paratransit services will need to download and complete a Metro Transit application. You can call (402) 341-0800 for assistance with this application. In other cities, such as Papillion, contact Special Transportation Services at (402) 680-3970 and La Vista/Ralston Special Services Bus at (402) 657-3550.