When available, mass transit is valuable. When it comes to busses, they can be both liberating and frustrating for those who depend on them. Within public transportation, there are generally two categories of busses; fixed routes and paratransit are both available to people with disabilities.
Fixed routes are typically faster than paratransit, more predictable and do not need much planning ahead. The downside to fixed-route is that there are only two wheelchair spots; once those two spots are filled, no other wheelchair user can get on. These spots are often filled with strollers too.
Another downfall is some scooters and wheelchairs are too big for the allotted space, preventing the people who use this mobility device from riding. Many wheelchair users have also had the experience of not being allowed on the bus. This does not mean that they cannot physically get on the bus or that the bus was too full, the bus driver simply did not allow the wheelchair user on board. This is not legal but still continues to happen.
Lifts can also be broken. This can prevent a wheelchair user from riding and sometimes keeps the person on board for longer than expected if the lift breaks during their ride.
Be aware that wheelchair users have also experienced not being secured properly while on fixed-routes. rivers should be trained on how to lock down a wheelchair or scooter but this does not always occur. Be ready to be your own advocate and do not allow a bus diver to secure your chair in a manner in which you are not comfortable.
On fixed routes, some transportation systems only charge half the ride fare for attendants or wave their fare completely. This information may be available on each transportation’s website; if it is not available, try calling the bus station to ensure you have the correct amount of money for you and your attendants to ride.
Where there is a public transportation system, there is paratransit. Paratransit is meant to complement mass transportation and access every location that mass transportation accesses. Paratransit busses are to stay within ¾ miles of the fixed-route lines. It is important to know that, paratransit can vary from location to location but generally follows similar rules.
One main variation is that Paratransit can be curb-to-curb or can be door-to-door. Either way, the service is origin-to-destination, but door-to-door is the more courteous of the two. Curb-to-curb does not guarantee that the bus driver will accompany the rider to the door of their destination but could leave them on the curb.
Some paratransit transportation systems will incorporate other components of the transit system to accommodate riders by providing lessons to teach people how to safely navigate the entire transit system. Check out your city’s transportation system to see if this is offered if this is of interest to you.
When it comes to similarities, a general rule of thumb is that a rider must apply and provide documentation from their doctor before being able to ride paratransit. Once accepted, a paratransit rider will be assigned an ID number. This ID number can be used to schedule a ride with any paratransit system in the United States.
Every paratransit system requires the rider to schedule in advance, no spontaneous, day of trips. The time for scheduling a ride in advance can range greatly; some paratransit systems ask that riders book two days in advance while others only require a rider to book by 5 PM the day before.
Once a rider has a trip scheduled, there is a pick-up window of time in which the rider must be ready. Be ready to go in that window. This window can range from 20 minutes to two hours depending on the paratransit system. A rider also must not be late to their pick-up location. The rider will not only miss their ride but will be charged for that missed ride.
Only one person can accompany the rider, one attendant or one child. The rider is also limited to a certain number of bags, typically two.
Fares can also range but can never exceed twice the price of the fixed-route bus fare in which the paratransit system is complementing.
Paratransit is an accessible source of transportation but accessible does not always mean convenient. Paratransit, as accessible as it is, still has many barriers of its own. Know the barriers that are out there as to not be as surprised and advocate for them to be changed.