APTA | Passenger Transport
August 16, 2010

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Easter Seals Project ACTION Paratransit Online Dialogue; Reactions and Thoughts from Around the Country on ADA’s 20th Anniversary

Easter Seals Project ACTION commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with an “online dialogue” between July 26 and Aug. 6, seeking comments on issues related to the future of paratransit operations.

For example, as of Aug. 2, the web site had received 20 comments in the category “ADA Complementary Service,” considering the role of both paratransit and fixed route transit operations under ADA from a variety of perspectives.

One commenter, noting how the growth in the aging population will lead to more paratransit customers, suggested establishing “federal grants that would permit colleges to offer certificates in travel instruction for persons with cognitive and physical impairments. Such certificates could include 12 to 15 credit hours of coursework to prepare instructors for this role.”

Picking up on the same demographic trend, another participant stated: “The anticipated growth in the elderly population gives transportation planners and providers opportunity and fear. Many elderly people are driving because that is what they have always done. It is incumbent on us as transportation planners/providers to provide options and communicate that to elderly people.”

The best way to comply with ADA requirements? A mix of modes, according to a poster describing the multi-part rural transportation program—administered by a tribal agency in Northeastern Oregon—that provides rural bus service on eight routes to serve the entire reservation, a number of rural towns and counties, and three cities in Washington State. “This is used by many rural people both on and off the reservation. There is a demand-response component using taxis and a taxi voucher program to support the buses and allow for door-to-door service,” the poster said.

Other correspondents noted the improvements in fixed route public transit in the 20 years since ADA was enacted—and the new challenges that have followed. “ADA complementary paratransit is intended to supplement the fixed route public transportation system—for individuals who can’t get on the bus, to the bus, or independently and safely navigate the community or transit system,” wrote one. “Twenty years later, most of our public buses are accessible—so getting on the bus has become much easier. However, while we have made progress in building accessible sidewalks, we still have work to do to ensure that people with disabilities can get to the bus.”

Another writer agreed: “Accessible fixed route services should be reviewed to make sure routes and stops are truly accessible. Eligibility assessments should include actual in-service fixed route testing and conditional eligibility measures should be applied. The fixed route service operators and their employees must accept, welcome, market, and encourage people with disabilities to patronize the accessible fixed route services.”

Still other posters emphasized the importance of stakeholders from throughout a community participating in any planning effort. “Work with consumers, caregivers, and site coordinators to alter trip times so that people riding in the same area and same direction at about the same time can share rides (group rides!). Sequence social service program times—as do most school systems … Encourage riders to adhere to regular standing order schedules in which the same group of people ride together with the same driver on the same circuit every week or morning as appropriate. Sequence those circuits into routes if they match,” said one respondent.

Sometimes comments are direct and forthright. “We need to work together (advocates, local governments, and transportation providers) to find the best ways to preserve and promote accessible transportation options,” said a poster. “Cutting every service is more costly to local governments in the long run.”

Project ACTION will summarize the results of the dialogue into a report.

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