Transportation network companies as cost reduction strategies for paratransit
Paratransit service is an auxiliary type of public transportation provided for people with disabilities and older adults. Federal ADA regulations require all transit agencies receiving federal funding to provide paratransit service, but the per trip cost to transit operators is extremely expensive. Many transit agencies are looking for ways to reduce costs without limiting services. For many agencies, this results in providing the minimum services as required by ADA regulations. However, Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) has taken a different approach to cost reduction by entering into one of the first partnerships with transportation network companies. In September 2016, MBTA’s paratransit service, The Ride, began a partnership with both Uber and Lyft as a cost reduction strategy for paratransit provision. Since the beginning of the partnership, MBTA has been able to reduce costs of providing paratransit while maintaining the same level of service. This report will examine the benefits and limitations of such partnerships between transit agencies and transportation network companies, using MBTA’s The Ride partnership as an example for potentially successful partnerships throughout the United States.