The rise of shared-use mobility services across the country has been accompanied by the growth of partnerships between shared-use mobility providers, such as TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) and public transportation agencies. However, some of these partnerships have raised concerns regarding equitable access to services for people 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 high quality standards.
Furthering Equity throughout Mobility on Demand Partnerships
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:
- Response time
- Geographic area of service
- Hours and days of service
- Availability of information and reservations capability
- Any constraints on capacity or service availability
- Restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose
In this study, Examples of Mobility on Demand Policies and Public-Private Partnerships to Increase Accessibility, NCMM & SUMC gathered case studies of policies and programs that sought to enable equivalent service provision for customers with disabilities. While varied in their approach, policies in this factsheet only addressed transportation network companies (TNCs). These policies used the following strategies:
- Assessing a small fee on each non-accessible trip ($0.10), deposited into an Accessibility Fund for purchasing and maintaining wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) or directly funding paratransit services. (California TNC Access for All Act, Chicago Accessibility Fund)
- Ensuring compliance with accessibility requirements such as accessible apps for customers who are blind, visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing (Chicago WAV Requirements)
- Providing a subsidy that reimburses TNCs for each hour that wheelchair-accessible vehicles are available on TNC platforms in a service area. (MBTA The RIDE & Massachusetts DOT Pilot Program to increase WAVs)
- Allowing TNCs to be booked as a NEMT option for medical appointments under Medicaid programs. (Arizona Expansion of TNCs as NEMT Option)
Programs were even more varied in their approach. Some public providers turned to public-private partnerships (P3s) with shared mobility operators to help provide more mobility options for individuals with disabilities (GoDakota County Lyft Partnership, Rabbittransit Paratransit). Other agencies adapted their existing resources and partnerships to provide on-demand mobility for their customers (RideKC Freedom On-Demand, Norwalk Wheels2U). In addition, providers even sought to make micromobility (Oakland’s Adaptive Scooter Pilot) and active modes (Seattle Bikeshare Permit Program) accessible.