Case Study: Examples of Mobility on Demand Policies and Public-Private Partnerships to Meet the Needs of Persons with Disabilities

  • Author: Shared-Use Mobility Center & National Center for Mobility Management

SUMC & NCMM Logos

This case study offers examples of policies and pilot programs that take into consideration the transportation needs of persons with disabilities.  The examples are organized by Policies and Service Coordination & Trip Planning Programs.  The examples were identified and compiled for a poster session at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 99th Annual Meeting.  Each example gives an overview of how it works, unique partnership qualities, and additional information.

The Issue & Potential

Recent technological advances have driven an unprecedented expansion of the menu of transportation services available to users, especially through the integrated set of tools and services together known as Mobility on Demand (MOD).

New mobility services have emerged in the last ten years that leverage advancements in mobile technology and digital platforms to connect riders with mobility services across diverse transportation modes. These advancements in new transportation services and innovative technologies have the potential to ensure access to diverse transportation options for all. A vast number of the new services utilize essential concepts of shared-use mobility, which is characterized by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as “transportation services that are shared among customers, including transit agencies; taxis and limos; bike sharing; car sharing (round-trip, one-way, and personal vehicle sharing); ridesharing (car-pooling, van-pooling); ridesourcing; scooter sharing; shuttle services; neighborhood jitneys; and commercial delivery vehicles providing flexible goods movement.”

Accessibility of shared-use mobility systems is an essential consideration to provide enhanced mobility for people with disabilities. Shared-use modes are appealing for this group for several reasons. First, shared-use mobility services promote independence by reducing the need to rely on friends, family, or caregivers to provide transportation in fulfillment of everyday activities. Second, these services are on-demand and flexible, reducing the need to book trips far in advance, and can be routed to efficiently serve customers. Third, the costs of shared-use mobility services may be cheaper to people with disabilities than other transportation options. Fourth, shared-use mobility can fill gaps in fixed-route transit and paratransit service. Together, these aspects of shared-use mobility offer significant quality of life benefits for people with disabilities to access everyday destinations, such as employment, medical appointments, education, and recreational activities.

Growth of Shared Mobility

Examples of shared-use mobility can be found throughout the United States from urban centers to small towns and even rural areas. The symbols on the map below help to illustrate the widespread availability of shared mobility across the United States.  The symbols on the map are coded by shape and color to represent different modes of shared mobility, including carshare, bikeshare, electric scooters, ridesourcing, ridepooling and microtransit. At the time of this writing, of the top 50 metropolitan areas in terms of population, all of them have a form of ridesourcing, 47 have a form of carshare, 41 have a form of bikeshare, and 31 have electric-scooters.

Map of Shared Mobility across the U.S.

North American Shared Mobility Landscape, 2019

The rise of shared-use mobility services across the country corresponds with growth of partnerships between shared-use mobility providers and public transportation agencies. However, some of these partnerships raise concerns regarding equitable access to services for people with disabilities. Additionally, descriptions of these partnerships do not consistently include reference to how the service impacts riders with disabilities. With an increasing number of public & private providers entering this space, policies and programs are needed to ensure that people with disabilities also have access to equitable shared-use mobility service with a high standard of quality. In response to this growing need, the former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx published a “Dear colleague” FTA guidance in December 2016, advising transit agencies that they are obliged to “ensure equity and access as you partner with TNCs.” The guidance clarified that ADA regulations apply regardless of federal funding and apply to public and private transportation providers. What’s more, demand-responsive service needs to be deemed “equivalent” to services provided to other individuals in the areas of:

  1. Response time
  2. Fares
  3. Geographic area of service
  4. Hours and days of service
  5. Availability of information and reservations capability
  6. Any constraints on capacity or service availability
  7. Restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose

To take advantage of these new transportation options public transit agencies are increasingly turning to public-private partnerships (P3s) with shared mobility operators to help provide mobility options for everyone.  This factsheet offers examples of state and local shared mobility policies and P3 pilot programs that consider the needs of seniors and persons with disabilities.  It is important to note, while some of these examples may not meet the needs of every person with a disability, the cases discussed offer a base of knowledge to continue building equitable and accessible on-demand transportation solutions.  Equally important, involving users with varied transportation needs in the planning and development of either a policy or program is important to assuring its success.

Policies

The policies reviewed in this factsheet primarily address Transportation Network Companies (TNCs).  TNCs began operating across cities in the U.S. and were quickly adopted as a transportation mode and their use skyrocketed.  Given this rapid growth cities and states were often caught off-guard as the regulatory policies were not designed with this new shared technology in mind.  Recent policies and public-private partnerships have helped to close this gap and we are now seeing evidence that TNCs could be one of many transportation modes available to help meet the needs of individuals with disabilities.  Following are state and local examples that have both regulated and enabled TNCs to provide accessible transportation solutions.

Arizona – Expansion of TNCs as Non-Emergency Transportation (NEMT) Option for Medicaid Recipients

Uber & Lyft sticker on car with skyscrapers reflected on windshield

Uber and Lyft stickers on driver’s windshield

How it works:  The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) announced a policy change effective May 1, 2019 that allows TNCs to register as NEMT medical transportation providers. Medicaid recipients in Arizona can use their benefits to pay for Lyft rides to and from medical appointments. AHCCCS stated that adding TNCs as NEMT providers “can add flexibility to the health care delivery system and increase transportation options for Medicaid members.” The policy establishes TNCs as a new AHCCCS provider category. However, these rides are only servicing people on Medicaid who do not require personal assistance during medically necessary transportation. This still leaves traditional NEMT providers to serve Medicaid members who have specialized needs and are not ambulatory. Lyft was the first rideshare company to receive approval to register as a non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) provider in June 2019.

Unique partnership qualities: One of the first of its kind, this state policy enables rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft the opportunity to provide on-demand service to Medicaid members that do not require personal assistance.  This state level policy provides additional service to 1.7 million people and could potentially save millions of dollars.

 Additional information:

California – TNC Access for All Act

California Public Utilities Commission Logo

How it works:  This bill requires TNCs to provide access for people with disabilities, including wheelchair users who need a WAV. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is charged with developing TNC regulations that address issues relating to accessibility for persons with disabilities who use TNCs, with input from relevant stakeholders including “California cities and counties, disability rights organizations, persons with disabilities, transportation and transit agencies, social service transportation providers, paratransit coordinating councils, and TNCs.” This act also requires the CPUC to assess a fee on TNC rides to fund accessible transportation services for persons with disabilities, establishes criteria for exempting TNCs that meet accessibility standards from the fee, and creates criteria for using the fee revenues to provide on-demand accessible transportation services. Upon passage of the bill on September 22, 2018, CPUC began to conduct workshops with relevant stakeholders to determine the adequate WAV demand and supply, fee pricing, and geographic areas for fee collection and distribution.  According to ruling 19-02-012, TNCs are required to collect a ten cent ($0.10) fee on each TNC trip in California starting July 1st, 2019. Monies are collected based on the number of TNC trips within each county and are deposited in an “Access Fund.” These funds would be distributed on a competitive basis to access providers that establish on-demand transportation programs to meet the transportation needs of people with disabilities in each county.  The act requires CPUC to report to the Legislature by January 1, 2024 on compliance with the act and on the effectiveness of on-demand mobility programs sponsored by the Access Fund. The act repeals these provisions on January 1, 2026.

Unique partnership qualities:  CPUC has engaged a diverse group of stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, to guide TNC regulations across the state.  CPUC also established an Access Fund to meet the mobility needs of persons with disabilities. 

 Additional Information:

Illinois – Chicago WAV Requirement and Accessibility Fund

photo of an elderly woman in a wheelchair

City of Chicago Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Screen capture of Taxicab Excellence Awardee 2016 video.

How it works:  The City’s Vehicle Accessibility Fund, which is supported by fees paid by the taxi and TNC industries at ten cents ($0.10) per every trip performed by a non-accessible vehicle. Transportation network provider (TNP) Accessibility Requirements state that the TNP digital platform connecting drivers and passengers must be accessible to customers who are blind, visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing; plus, the TNP must implement plans to enhance service to customers with disabilities. The Fund has allowed the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) to offer incentives to increase the number of WAV vehicles in Chicago’s streets. In 2012, the city began offering a $15,000-$20,000 incentive to convert a vehicle to a WAV taxicab or purchase a factory-built WAV taxicab. In 2016, the city of Chicago created new incentives, including an exemption of fees charged to WAV medallion holders for dispatch service, a $10,000 “early bird” incentive to medallion owners that purchased WAV taxicabs in 2016, and up to $5,000 in an annual grant for WAV taxicab owners for vehicle maintenance.

Unique partnership qualities: The Vehicle Accessibility Fund has been used to increase the numbers of WAVs through purchase and maintenance subsidies.  Since the policy was enacted, the number of WAV taxicabs operating in Chicago has increased from 91 to 436, more than quadrupling the city’s fleet.

Additional Information:

 Chicago Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. TNP License Fact Sheet.

Massachusetts – MBTA The RIDE and MassDOT Pilot Program to Increase WAVs

MBTA The Ride WAV

Credit: MBTA The Ride

How it works:  The MBTA in Boston, Massachusetts launched the well-documented on-demand paratransit pilot program in September 2016. The overarching goals for the pilot were to reduce the cost of providing ADA paratransit by shifting trips to lower cost TNC services, while increasing the mobility of its customers. Both Uber and Lyft have worked with the MBTA and/or third-party vendors to provide trip request, service, and payment options that are ADA compliant. The most recent development is the joint effort between MassDOT and MBTA that directly subsidizes TNC operators to increase the number of WAVs in service. The pilot will reimburse participating TNCs with a fixed, $24 per-hour subsidy for each hour that a WAV is available on TNC platforms. The goal of this pilot is to quadruple the WAV supply hours. The per-trip fee assessed through Massachusetts’ 2016 Act, “Regulating Transportation Network Companies” will be used to reimburse participating TNCs in exchange for providing on-demand WAVs within The RIDE service area. This is an example of state policy being used to improve access to shared-use mobility for people with disabilities. New information will be provided on a monthly basis to allow the MBTA to monitor the program and make programmatic changes as necessary.

Unique partnership qualities: MBTA The RIDE is an example of both a pilot and how policies can be leveraged to increase accessibility from within the pilot through $2.4 million subsidy to increase WAVs.   The RIDE was one of the first public transit and TNC public-private partnerships created to address the mobility needs of persons with disabilities.

Additional Information:

Washington – King County Wheelchair Accessible Services Fund

 How it works:  This county-level policy enacted in 2016 stipulates that a TNC will pay a ten cent ($0.10) wheelchair accessibility fee surcharge for all rides originating in Unincorporated King County, or any municipality that contracts with the county for the county to license taxicabs, for-hire vehicles, or TNCs that operate in the municipality. The fee surcharge shall be used to offset the operational costs incurred by the owners and operators of wheelchair accessible taxis, wheelchair accessible for-hire vehicle or wheelchair accessible transportation network company endorsed vehicle services including, but not limited to, the costs associated with purchasing and retrofitting an accessible vehicle, fuel and maintenance costs and the time involved in providing wheelchair accessible trips. Funds are disbursed in three categories: Dispatched Wheelchair Passenger Trip Reimbursement, Wheelchair Accessible Service Vehicle Maintenance/Acquisition, and the Wheelchair Accessible Service Training Fund. The policy is in line with fund collection and disbursement administered by the City of Seattle Regulatory Compliance and Consumer Protection Division, which ensures streamlined and simplified compliance for taxicab or TNC drivers across Seattle and King County.

Unique partnership qualities:  Seattle established a Wheelchair Accessible Services fund in 2015, followed by King County the following year.  King County’s fund is featured above, but both collect $0.10 per TNC trip and are designed to offset the costs of providing wheelchair accessible vehicles.  Open for comment through December 30, 2019, Seattle and King County have established a joint WAS fund that will supersede their respective ordinances.

 Additional Information:

Service Coordination & Trip Planning Programs

The policies discussed above are only effective when programs are designed around them to more fully meet the mobility needs of all of its users.  Following are examples of mobility on-demand public-private partnerships that have planned for and provide mobility options to persons with disabilities.

California – Mobility On-Demand Every Day, Big Blue Bus (BBB), Santa Monica

How it Works: In July 2018, BBB, Santa Monica’s bus operator, alongside the non-profit social services organization WISE and Healthy Aging, replaced its previous dial-a-ride (DAR) program by rebranding to Mobility on Demand Everyday (MODE). Trips within the city of Santa Monica are made by shared, on-demand DAR service via Lyft. The purpose of MODE is to improve the customer experience, provide same-day mobility options for DAR customers, and reduce the cost of DAR service for BBB. All trips cost $0.50, and customers may travel with up to three companions at an additional cost of $.50 each, or one personal car attendant for $0.25. Customers must be age 60 or older, or age 18 or older with a disability; registered through MODE; and certified by WISE and Healthy Aging. Wheelchair and door-through-door customers can reserve a BBB-operated vehicle by phone for same day pickup.

Unique partnership qualities:  BBB was able to address ADA concerns by providing service through the transit agency itself by allowing customers to request a wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV). The program is being funded by the budget of BBB and is a permanent service offering.

Additional Information:

Connecticut – Norwalk Wheels2U Microtransit

image of wheels2u app

Credit: Norwalk Transit District

How it works: Wheels2U started as a six-month pilot project in September 2018 using off-peak Norwalk Transit District (NTD) paratransit vehicles to increase mobility options within its downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. The agency   decided to use demand-responsive microtransit service that can be operated more efficiently and at a lower cost than fixed-route service. Normally the vehicles are part of the transit district’s paratransit fleet, but the program uses vehicle otherwise sit idle during the evening. By using its own fleet of WAVs the transit agency has been able to remove some of the most common barriers to entering into a public-private partnership, those being insurance, accessibility and driver training. Further accessibility measures will be implemented when the service becomes permanent, offering additional ways to schedule a ride, including SMS text notifications and a dispatch/call center. The project included funding from the FTA and the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT). The Norwalk Transit District also partnered for local funding support and promotional services with local mall developer Brookfield Properties, the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, and other local businesses and restaurants. In early 2019, the transit district issued an RFP to make the service permanent and in June, 2019 they announced their partnership with Via to continue the service on a permanent basis starting September 2019.

Unique partnership qualities:  The service is able to take advantage of off duty ADA paratransit vehicles to provide the on-demand transportation in Downtown Norwalk and its adjacent neighborhoods.  In this public-private partnership, the private partner provides the on-demand and routing technology and the transit agency is responsible for the vehicles and drivers.  This P3 type of arrangement has helped to address some of the most common barriers often associated with a public private partnership, such as insurance, driver training and accessibility.

Additional Information:

Kansas/Missouri – RideKC Freedom On-Demand Program

RideKC Freedom On-Demand Service Area

How it works:  Launched on March 1st, 2017, this new pilot expands travel options for riders with disabilities in the bi-state area. Through the RideKC Freedom smartphone app, or by calling the regional call center, eligible users can book a traditional or ADA-accessible taxi. Most importantly, Freedom On-Demand allows users to book a cab ride without advance reservation. The service complements traditional ADA paratransit service, RideKC Freedom. This project leveraged their existing taxi contract for both ambulatory and WAV service to provide on-demand transportation. About 100,000 trips have been completed on RideKC Freedom On-Demand since the project launched in May 2017. It now provides 8,000 trips each month. A surcharge for non-disabled riders is used to help fund the system. The on-demand pilot falls under the KCATA innovative programs budget, which is self-funded and supported in part by revenue collected through the RideKC freedom app.

Unique partnership qualities:  RideKC Freedom has leveraged its existing taxi partnership to provide a universal on-demand transportation solution to increase the mobility for all users.  When the program is utilized by persons without a disability a small fee is collected that goes back into the program operations.  The program has expanded its service area since its launch and now provides 8,000 trips per month.

Additional Information:

Minnesota – GoDakota County Lyft Partnership

GoDakota Rideshare 101 Presentation Cover Slide

How it works:  Dakota County is located southeast of the Twin Cities, and while it is the third largest county in Minnesota, it maintains a land use mix of ⅓ urban, ⅓ suburban and ⅓ rural. In March 2019, Dakota County partnered with Lyft to offer flexible, on-demand rides to individuals with disabilities who receive home and community-based services in the county.  These rides supplement existing transportation options and are aimed at making it easier for individuals with disabilities to access jobs and travel independently.  The partnership is supported in part by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Riders of the service do not pay for their trips out of pocket as the service is covered through Medicaid.  As a result, the County tells Lyft the amount that should be uploaded to each user’s account and those funds are then applied to the trip.  Response to the new program has been positive, with 75% of the users indicating that they are extremely satisfied with the service, as opposed to 60% of the users indicating that they were dissatisfied with the transportation options before the Lyft pilot. In addition to being more satisfied with the transportation options; 63% indicated that they were able to work more hours or days in a week, 69% indicated that they no longer had to rely on a friend or family member to drive them, 88% felt that their transportation was more reliable and 3% of the respondents were able to find a new job.

Unique partnership qualities:  The program is unique in that it uses Medicaid to support Lyft trips for persons with disabilities to access jobs and travel independently. Access to these types of services for persons with disabilities are often difficult to obtain because they fall outside of the more readily available Non-Emergency Medical Trip—but are no less important toward creating personal independence.  GoDakota has been well received by its users a with over 75% indicating that they were extremely satisfied with the service.

Additional Information:

Pennsylvania – Rabbittransit Paratransit for Seniors and People with Disabilities

How it Works: To complement Rabbittransit’s existing paratransit service across a 10-county area in Central Pennsylvania, the transit agency partnered with Lyft and Uber for additional options to deliver ADA paratransit.  Rabbittransit makes use of Pennsylvania’s Shared Ride Program funds, which allows senior citizens or an approved third-party sponsor to pay 15 percent of the fare, and the Lottery Fund pays the remaining 85 percent on local shared-ride transportation service. Rabbittransit books a TNC trip on behalf of its customers if the ride is determined to be cost effective and the customer is ambulatory. The program has been operating since May 2017 until the present. This option frees up capacity during peak hours for users who are not ambulatory, who still require traditional paratransit vehicles to get to their destination.

Unique partnership qualities:  The service area spans 10 counties in Central Pennsylvania and the partnership with Lyft and Uber offers additional options to ADA paratransit.

Additional Information:

Washington – Seattle Bikeshare Permit Program

Photo of visually impaired man walking on the sidewalk with bikeshare bike improperly parked

Informational video highlighting the importance of parking bikeshare bikes correctly for persons with disabilities. Seattle Department of Transportation Bikeshare Permit Program and Rooted in Rights.

How it works:  By establishing a permanent regulatory framework for bikesharing, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is seeking to harness the accessibility and reach of dockless bike companies. The new permitting process makes bikesharing available to people with disabilities, with $50,000 in permit fees redirected to create a program for an adaptive bikeshare partnership. Adaptive bicycles, which can include three-wheeled bikes, hand-pedaled cycles, recumbent cycles and others, can help fill an accessibility gap for riders with disabilities. Companies that deploy adaptive cycles will be allowed a “fleet-size bonus” of two additional bikes for each approved adaptive cycle deployed in the city up to 1,000 additional bicycles.   The Seattle bikeshare permit also has measures to assure bikeshare bikes are parked properly and not obstructing the pedestrian right-of-way.  SDOT partnered with Rooted in Rights, a non-profit organization that protects the rights of people with disabilities, to produce an informational video highlighting the importance of parking bikeshare bikes correctly.

Unique partnership qualities:  The SDOT bikeshare permit program outlines a number of measures to assure correct usage, parking, and accessibility.  The bikeshare program continues to grow and the permit offers a way to outline the operational conditions to form a strong Public-Private Partnership.

Additional Information:

Vermont – Go! Vermont Trip Planner

Trip Planner tool displayed on tablet in front of VT Moover bus

Source: VTrans; tablet displaying trip planning tool in front of VT Moover Bus

How it works: In partnership with Trillium and Cambridge Systematics, the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) has developed an online open-source trip planning application, which – by using GTFS-flex data – provides state-wide results that include more flexible transportation services such as dial-a-ride, hail-a-ride, and deviated fixed-routes. With this platform, users – particularly, non-traditional rural transit system users – gain a more complete picture of all their mobility options when planning a trip. The online platform was developed as a pilot project within the FTA MOD Sandbox program, and several other transit agencies have already taken steps to replicate the initiative’s resulting technologies. The Go! Vermont Trip Planner was established to serve both urban and rural areas across the state.  Oftentimes, these areas, and in particular rural communities, do not have access to extensive fixed route services that traditional trip planners are developed to show. This new trip planner is also designed for people who have mobility challenges, as paratransit services that do not appear with Google Maps are available. By including services like dial-a-ride and wheelchair accessible vehicles into the results, the trip planner offers individuals with mobility challenges greater transportation options.  Importantly, groups like the Vermont Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living were engaged in the rollout of the trip planner to ensure that their community members were made aware of the services. Feedback from many of these groups and their members has been extremely positive.

Unique partnership qualities:  The program offers an example of a statewide transportation planning tool that takes into consideration services for persons with a disability while crossing local political boundaries.  This is particularly important in Vermont given the rural and small town areas and the need to travel from one jurisdictional boundary to another.  The program is also based on open-source planning tools so that other locations can adapt it to their specific community needs.

 Additional Information:

Virginia – CARE On-Demand, Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC)

How it works:  GRTC provided another mobility option for its ADA paratransit customers by partnering with two “reservation network companies” as a pilot in August 2017. The program is being run in GRTC’s service area, including the City of Richmond, Henrico County, and parts of Chesterfield County. UZURV is a TNC that provides all drivers with ADA and sensitivity training, and offers door-to-door service when needed by riders. Roundtrip is a web-based reservation service that has agreements with transportation providers in its network to serve the requested trips, including over 15 with accessible vehicles. Same day service for ADA paratransit riders is offered if booking is made at least two hours in advance. Personal care assistants ride and companions (space permitting) can also ride without charge. The program is being funded with a combination of state and local funds.

Unique partnership qualities:  GRTC offers a same day on-demand service for persons with disabilities.  Through the reservation system, riders are matched to a vehicle to meet their mobility needs, whether that is a TNC or a WAV.  The one-stop shop creates efficiencies and a higher quality level of experience for its users.

 Additional Information:

Conclusion

This policy and program scan of shared use mobility has raised important issues regarding the advancement of these strategies for individuals with disabilities.

First, individuals with disabilities must be at the table in the planning, design, operations, and evaluation of these services. Second, the policy and program scan found that coordination of policy across different levels of government is beneficial to ensuring that shared-use mobility is an option for people with disabilities.

When developing policies or programs it is important to recognize that one size does not fit all and the unique characteristics of the neighborhood where these mobility services will occur must also be considered. Without this local understanding of the mobility needs, travel patterns and external factors, such as the topography or incidence of particular disability groups, a policy or program will likely not meet its intended goals.  Involving the community in this process can produce valuable information and also help to build necessary community support.

New technologies have enabled mobility on demand. While these different mobility options are now available in the palm of your hand, they are often spread across different apps and payment systems and can sometimes be confusing to access. Early work from transit agencies has helped to bridge this gap through integrated trip planning and payment integration tools.

Finally, although this scan did not capture information about empirical outcomes related to inclusiveness of service, we were able to identify policy and programmatic characteristics that have the potential to facilitate inclusiveness. For instance, in those policies and practices that had the input of individuals with disabilities at multiple steps, it could be anticipated that the considerations for riders with disabilities would be embedded in the design and operations of the program. Similarly, when there was explicit language and reference to accessibility and equity in policy statements or program descriptions, a heightened level of inclusiveness could also be anticipated. The examples in this case study offer a beginning step toward understanding shared-use mobility partnerships and policies and how they can increase mobility options for persons with disabilities.

This research is based on the joint efforts between the Shared-Use Mobility Center and the National Center for Mobility Management.

The National Center for Mobility Management is a program of the Federal Transit Administration administered by Easterseals Inc., CTAA, and APTA.

Content in this document is disseminated in the interest of information exchange. Neither SUMC nor NCMM assumes liability for its contents or use.