Ethical Issues

Paratransit is scheduled and routed transportation services using vans or buses that serve people who are unable to drive, which often is the elderly or people with disabilities. This can have many ethical issues that come along with it. In some states, you have to be on Medicaid to use paratransit, this can bring up many issues because not everyone with a disability is on Medicaid. In Reno, it isn’t based on income, it is based on eligibility. The issue with that is there are also minor disabilities, such as slow reaction time or moderate visual impairment, and those affected may not be eligible for paratransit, even though it is not safe for them to drive. In these situations, it leaves them much fewer options which is not ethical or fair to the people in these situations.

Another issue regarding ethics is that many who are eligible for transport do not live within the range that the paratransit vehicles cover. This is troubling, because many people who would be willing to take advantage of paratransit are not able to due to the simple fact that they live within the route of a paratransit vehicle. This can be an especially prominent issue in rural areas, where those in need of paratransit may not be able to receive transportation. And if these people are not eligible for paratransit, then how are they expected to travel comfortably and safely to the destinations they need to got to? This is an important question that needs to be addressed. Another big issue involves wait times for a ride from a paratransit vehicle. If a patient needing a ride to the doctor’s office schedules an appointment in advance, then they should, in theory, arrive at the appointment on time. But what if the patient must wait for an extended period of time before they can receive a ride back home? This could lead to serious ethical issues. Regardless of insurance type, disability, or location of residency, everyone who needs paratransit should be eligible to receive it.

Bus Stop Announcement System

Buses that run through a city can benefit everyone.  Not only is the bus system beneficial for those who don’t have car, but also for those who are new to the city, for those who don’t want to deal with parking at a large event, and for those with a disability.  However, all of these people may not know exactly where their stop is.  Someone who is new to the city, or just visiting, won’t always know what the landmarks around their stop are or even what the street names are.  Someone who parked a distance from the event they’re going to may not know exactly where the stop is, and someone with a disability may not need a  trigger to help them orient where they are.

There is a way that all passengers can tell when their stop is coming up soon.  Some buses and train systems announce every stop when approaching and then once they are at the stop.  According to ADA, there are requirements for bus stop announcements.  The ADA says, “on fixed route systems, the entity [bus system] shall announce stops as follows: The entity shall announce at least transfer points with other fixed routes, other major intersections and destination points, and intervals along a route sufficient to permit individuals with visual disabilities to be oriented to their location. Also, the entity shall announce any stop on request of an individual with a disability.”While this is only required if a person with a disability is on the bus, it would help others as well.  Not every person‘s disability is noticeable so there is no way that a bus driver would be able to tell which person on the bus has a disability and which person doesn’t.

While bus drivers want to help their passengers know where they are going, there are a lot of reasons why announcing the stops are troublesome for bus drivers. They could say that it gets too hectic and that they need to focus on the road, they could say that they aren’t trained to do it, or they could say people can already tell where their stop is.  They can also say that the passengers won’t be able to hear what they are saying when the bus is crowded or when they are in a busy section of town.

To help passengers, and allow bus drivers to focus on driving, there are companies that make automated systems.  Clever Devices, a company based out of New York, has a bus stop announcement system that can be installed in buses.  The “Automatic Voice Annunciation (AVA) system automates on-board passenger announcements, which not only keeps your passengers up to date automatically, but also helps create more accessible buses for visually impaired and hearing challenged riders. [There are] automated voice announcements alerting passengers to upcoming stops are [and these announcements are] coordinated with LED signage on board the bus to help all riders travel with more convenience and independence. The system is fully automated so that bus operators are free to concentrate on driving and other tasks requiring their attention.” This system complies with ADA requirements, has volume control, and allows riders to request a stop.  Even if there is someone on the bus that does not have a disability, this system can help them so that they know exactly where they are and when they need to get off.  It is extremely helpful for someone with a disability because it gives them the chance to read and hear where they are and where they will be going next.

Clear Device AVA Key features

  • ADA compliant
  • Automatic voice announcements
  • Automatic stop announcements
  • On-board passenger information
  • Automatic volume control
  • Works with GPS
  • AVA Increases Ridership and Customer Satisfaction

Picture of where the Clever Device system is set up in the bus

This type of system is already integrated into buses and trains in Canada and buses in London.  It is also integrated into the bus system in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Denver, Colorado and the subway system throughout New York.

This system, or any system like this, can make riders’ trip, no matter what their reason for being on the bus, easier.  With the announcement system, the LED sign, and the option to request a stop, every rider has the opportunity to get where they need to be when they need to be there without worrying.

The city of Reno just released electric buses.  While they were developing these buses they could have installed this system to make the ride that much better.  The current buses should install this system in the current buses.  It would make the ride easier for the passengers and less stressful for the driver.


Clever Devices website

ADA Requirements



Rider Demographics and Transportation Difficulties

It is hard to imagine a life where you can’t simply leave whenever you want or go wherever you please, but many people face that challenge every day.  The amount of days people with disabilities leave their home a week is significantly lower than the amount of days the non disabled leave home.

**Please click on graphs to enlarge them**

Graph of the number of days left home during the week by those with disabilities and those without disabilitiesAlong with staying home more than those without disabilities, people with disabilities have a more difficult time getting the transportation they need when they need it.

A graph showing the type of transportation used by those with disabilities and those without disabilities per week. A graph describing the percentage of people with and without disabilities who have difficulties getting transportation each week.

There are hundreds of thousands of Paratransit users in the United States, but the system is still flawed.  The estimated wait time can be longer than they say, and customer send complaints to RTC regarding drivers and their experiences while using Paratransit.

A graph describing Paratransit timer performance. The amount of people registered for paratransit A graph describing the amount of customer complaints received by RTC Access





A program as large as RTC Access and Paratransit should be more user friendly, reliable, and enjoyable.  Because of the procedures adopted by RTC, I believe newer companies will be the next generation of transportation for those with disabilities.

I hope these simple statistics help illustrate how inefficient (and unfair) our current transportation system is for those with disabilities.


** all information is from:

Paratransit Peer Report – January 2011

RTC Access Paratransit Operating Statistics

Bureau of Transportation Statistics: Freedom to Travel

Industry Player’s

None of the following industry players such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have yet expanded to the Reno/Tahoe area , but have become very popular in the Bay Area such as San Francisco and Los Angeles .  As Uber, Lyft and Sidecar do expand individuals may be concerned with the availability of ramp taxies declining. According to the San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Authority this is already occurring. 1/3 of wheelchair accessible cab’s are sitting in idle due to the lack of drivers. In one article Lyft states,”they are working to engage and educate the handicapped community.” California requires that the TNC’s (translational corporations) submit reports on how they will accommodate disabled users. Larry Paradis executive directory of Disability Rights Advocates in Berkley said ,”the plan’s are all quite tentative and don’t address the fundamental challenge. Which is ensuring enough accessible vehicles to make this transportation system at least minimally accessible for people with disabilities.” Five access plans were designed by InstaCab,Lyft, Sidecar, Wingz & Uber stating that they would ensure drivers don’t discriminate against disabled customers and already have or will make their apps and websites accessible to blind users. The TNC has some issues with allowing drivers to determine weather or not an individual is allowed to bring a service animal into the vehicle and that is creating some issues. The companies also say that they will be updating their apps in order for riders to request a wheelchair accessible vehicle.


  • Wheelchair Access: ” Drivers will be able to indicate what ,if any, accessibility needs they can accommodate … We are working to engage and educate the handicapped community in each of our markets.”
  • App/Website Accessibility: ” The app and website already comply in part with the accessibility standards.” Will comply by June 30, 2014
  • Service Animals: Will add and app feature to let users set preferences for “service animal accessible vehicles.”


  • Wheelchair Access: meeting with disabled -rights groups to discuss incentives to attract drivers with accessible vehicles.
  • App/Website Accessibility: “App and mobile websites are accessible to blind users.”
  • Service Animals: ” Currently , most sidecar drivers accept service pets.”


  • Wheelchair Access: ” Will reach out to transportation companies with accessible vehicles about the possibility of partnering.”
  • App/ Website: IOS app has voice over support
  • Service Animals: “No need for a user to indicate ahead of time that he or she is accompanied by a service animal.”

Ridership Demographics

Ridership Demographics for the Reno Paratransit service include locations, cost, journey profile, scheduling window and expected vs. actual pick up times.

passenger being loaded onto an RTC access bus


  • Paratransit operates within the urbanized area of Reno.
  • Areas that are not serviced by RTC fixed route bus system may not have service through the RTC ADA Paratransit Services.
  • RTC ACCESS has designated pick-up locations at large facilities and shopping malls.
  • Please note: a wheelchair, scooter or other mobility device that is larger than 48” long x 30” wide and/or weighs more than 600 pounds when occupied, RTC ACCESS may not be able to transport you in that mobility device.

Journey Profile

RTC ACCESS serves a 250 square mile area that includes the Reno-Sparks area of Washoe County. Within that is an area of approximately 100 square miles known as the ADA service area that is within ¾ mile of the RTC RIDE bus routes (white area on map, on front inside cover).Under the federal ADA paratransit regulations, RTC ACCESS is required to serve all ride requests for trips that begin and end within the ADA service area and are received 1 to 3 days in advance.

In order to comply with this federal requirement, the 250 square mile service area has been divided into ADA and non-ADA zones. Trips in the ADA (white) zone have priority; trips in the non-ADA zone are more difficult to obtain. RTC ACCESS is mostly funded by the Washoe County sales tax.

Scheduling window

Monday-Friday: 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Weekends and Holidays: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Scheduling Tips:

RTC suggests that riders be flexible. (RTC may be able to take riders earlier or later than the time they first request.)

RTC Paratransit asks riders to allow enough time. (The driver will probably pick-up/drop off other passengers.)

Paratransit riders always have to give appointment times.

The ride may be equal to the time the trip would take on a RTC RIDE bus plus 20 minutes. Trips to, from, or within outlying areas may be longer.

• If a rider calls early to schedule and no trip is available, the rider is asked to call again. (Riders may be able to schedule 1 or 2 days prior to their trip since space often becomes available.)

Scheduled pickup window (expected and actual)

  • To be at a destination at a specific time, a rider should schedule their arrival for at least 15 to 30 minutes before their appointment.
  • Traffic, road construction, and bad weather will increase travel time.
  • Riders should book their return trip at the same time they book their trip out.
  • Riders should schedule return trips with extra time for possible delays.
  • Riders should always get trip confirmation number(s).There will be one for each time riders board the vehicle.
  • A van or a Reno-Sparks Cab may pick up paratransit riders.
  • Riders are asked to combine errands in order to take the fewest trips and make the best use of their time and money.
  • Riders are asked to reserve only trips they intend to take as there is a penalty for “no-shows”.

No subscription service on these holidays:

• New Year’s Day

• Martin Luther King Jr. Day

• Presidents’ Day

• Memorial Day

• Independence Day

• Labor Day

• Nevada Day

• Veterans Day

• Thanksgiving Day

• Family Day

• Christmas Day


Paid by ticket only (Effective August 30, 2009):

ADA Base fare: 1 ticket $3.00

ADA will-call fare: 2 tickets $6.00

ADA Companion fare: 1 ticket $3.00

Authorized attendants: free

Ticket book: 10 tickets $30

Children Under Age 6: FREE

The RTC is currently not funding any non-ADA service area rides. All non-ADA service area rides are now being funded by CitiCare, a Reno non-profit organization. CitiCare funded over 10,000 rides in 2013. These rides are purchased by the non-profit (which receives grants) and put into the RTC inventory to provide the non-ADA service area to riders, which the RTC is not mandated to provide.

Feeder Service

Free “feeder service” is available to all RTC ACCESS clients. RTC ACCESS will transport between trip origin or destination and an RTC RIDE bus stop. The cost is $0.50 on RTC RIDE and nothing on RTC ACCESS. Riders must request feeder service rides when they schedule their trips.

  • Attendants are designated personal care assistants (pca) needed by some riders. Only responsible parties may be attendants. Attendants ride RTC ACCESS free when accompanying riders who have “Attendant Authorized” on their RTC ACCESS ID cards.
  • Currently, it is estimated that RTC ACCESS provides 238,000 rides per year at a cost of over $4 million. Yet, there is an unmet demand of approximately 13,000 rides and an annual shortfall of $250,000

Fare Free Zone

RTC does not charge a fare for the RTC SIERRA SPIRIT bus service in downtown Reno. Therefore, under ADA regulations, RTC ACCESS trips that begin and end within 3/4 mile of the RTC SIERRA SPIRIT route are fare free. RTC ACCESS reservations will inform riders whether their trips are fare free at the time the rides are scheduled.

(The information about Fare Free Zone maybe be outdated because the Sierra Spirit is not free anymore. Regular fare for the RTC Sierra Spirit is 25 cents and reduced fare is 10 cents. Their is no up to date information on the RTC Fare Free Zone since the implementation of fare fees on the Sierra Spirit.)


New Technologies in Transportation Causes Concern in Disabled Community

As Uber, Lyft, Sidecar Grow, So Do Concerns of Disabled

Back of a Taxi Van with ADA accessibility sticker as well as "This vehicle authorized to enter bike lanes when necessary" sticker

New means of transportation, such as Uber (a new company that connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services), Lyft, and Sidecar, are becoming more popular in large cities.  These new services make accessing transpiration easier for the majority of the population, and is a promising start for those with disabilities if it is executed properly.

The current dilemma is whether or not these new vehicles will be accessible to those with disabilities, especially individuals needing wheelchairs.  Having a wheelchair accessible vehicle generally costs more for the driver in fuel and maintenance, thus turning drivers away from ADA accessible vans.  These new companies were presented with questions on how they were going to make their vehicles and their company more accessible in general.

Some of these new companies talked about partnering with exiting companies that have the required vehicles, while others described giving drivers financial incentives to purchase and drive wheelchair accessible vehicles.  I believe these companies are on the right track, but I think it will be a long time before they become completely successful in helping transport those with disabilities.

Attending an RTC public meeting

Found out about the meeting early this afternoon. Meeting seems to have drawn a large number of agency and ancillary interests, doesn’t seem to be a large number of consumers here however. I wonder why?

Wide view of meeting room with about 50 peopleApparently, it was meant to be a smaller meeting focused on seniors but seems to have drawn a large crowd

Quick scan and OCR of the agenda that was not as widely circulated. As usual, no accessible version was offered. Text is in all caps, large point size and all bold font, The size is good for those with limited vision but all caps and bolding make it harder for scanning.



TUESDAY. APRIL 15. 2014 2 ~4) p.m.
UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA. RENO Joe Crowley Student Union. Ballroom B


I was only able to attend during the introductions, had to leave the minute business started.


Some basic information on Reno’s paratransit services.

Some basic information on Reno’s paratransit services.

  • RTC provides 25,000 rides a day in Reno.
  • RTC access has been running since 1988
  • RTC access has a 30 minute pickup windows. For example, if you are scheduled to be picked up at 10:00 am, you may be picked up between 9:45 and 10:15.
  • Drivers can only wait 5 minutes.
  • A one way fare is $3.00
  • No subscription serves on these holidays: New Years Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day , Presidents Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day , Nevada Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day , Family Day, Christmas Day.
  • Children under age 6 are free
  • One on one or group training programs to help people with disabilities learn how to use transit.


You have to eligible in order to ride & there are 3 different categories:

  1. Individuals who are unable because of  a physical or mental impairment to board, ride or disembark, independently from any readily accessible vehicle on the regular fixed route system.
  2. Individuals who are unable because of a physical or mental impairment to board, ride or disembark, independently from any readily accessible vehicle on the regular fixed route system, but the accessible route is not available at the time needed on a particular route .
  3. Any individual with a specific impairment- related condition that prevents that person from traveling to a boarding location or from a disembarking location on the system. The impairment must prevent travel to or from a fixed route stop. Distance and weather do NOT provide eligibility and the situations are resolved on a case by case basis.


An inaccessible static map of RTC coverage areas.

Grayscale diagram/map of RTC coverage
So it’s helpful, but in this day and age of online maps why not provide the KLM or a link to a mapping service?

Reinventing paratransit—now!

All Accessible

All Disabilities and Accessabilities


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Education about universal, accessible and inclusive design

Data informed decisions

Nv State Independent Living Council


Startup and Technology News

Consumer Advisory Committee

Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities

Nevada Act Early

“Learn the Signs. Act Early.”

Olmstead Project

Project to consider policy and practices for children placed out of state

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Praxis—thoughtful action

DSG Group - Investment Consulting and Construction Projects