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What is Paratransit?

In North America paratransit is known as a special transportation services for people with disabilities. It is known as a supplement to fixed-route bus and rail systems by public transit agencies. Private transportation companies often provide paratransit service in cities and metropolitan areas under contract to local public transportation agencies. Veolia TransportFirst Transit and MV Transportation are among the largest private contractors of paratransit services in the United States and Canada. Under the ADA, complementary paratransit service is required for passengers who are 1) Unable to navigate the public bus system, 2) unable to get to a point from which they could access the public bus system, or 3) have a temporary need for these services because of injury or some type of limited duration cause of disability.

Paratransit systems vary on flexibility when providing services provide their customers. At their simplest they may consist of a taxi or small bus that will run along a defined route and then stop to pick up or discharge passengers upon request. And then there is fully demand responsive transport, which is the most flexible paratransit system. It offers on-demand call-up door-to-door service from any origin to any destination in a service area. In addition to public transit agencies, paratransit services are operated by community groups or non-profit organizations, and for-profit private companies or operators.

Typically minibuses are used to provide paratransit service, but taxis are also important providers. Most paratransit vehicles are equipped with wheelchair lifts or ramps to facilitate access. The complicated nature of providing paratransit service in accordance with ADA guidelines led to the development of sophisticated software for the industry. Trapeze Software, RoutMatchand Stratagen Systemsall provide technology solutions. Intelligent transportation systems technologies, primarily GPS and cell phones, and scheduling, dispatching and call reservation software are now in use increasingly in North America and Europe. Interactive voice response systems and web-based initiatives are expected in the future and will be huge technological advancements in the world of paratransit services.