ADA Paratransit FAQ

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The regional eligibility process may vary slightly by operator, so you should call your local transit agency (dial 511 for a free transfer) to find out more information. In general, the process includes the following steps:
  1. Call your transit agency to request the application form.
  2. Read and completely fill out the form, which requires authorization to contact your doctor or medical professional.
  3. Submit the information to your transit agency at the address provided.
  4. After reviewing your application, agency staff may:
    • Contact you on the phone to discuss how your disability prevents you from using public transportation
    • Ask you to send additional information
    • Contact a health professional to get more information
    • Invite you for an in-person evaluation of your ability to ride public transportation.
  5. An in-person evaluation could involve a discussion with a trained professional of the reasons why you cannot use public transportation. Or, you might be asked to try out a number of actions that would be needed when using a bus or train. You may bring somebody with you to the evaluation and you may also bring additional documentation, but these are not required.
  6. Within 21 days after your completed application form has been received or you have completed the in-person evaluation, the transit agency will send you a letter regarding your eligibility status. If you do not receive this letter within 21 days, you will be given temporary eligibility allowing you to use paratransit until the agency makes a final determination.
  7. If your eligibility application for ADA paratransit service is approved, you will receive a brochure with more information about paratransit, including information about reserving a ride.
All printed eligibility materials are available in Braille, audiotape cassette, large print and/or electronic format. TTY numbers are available through each transit agency, and other assistance to deaf or hearing-impaired persons will be provided upon request.

ADA paratransit service is a "safety net" for people who, due to their disability, are unable to ride regular buses and trains some or all of the time. ADA paratransit is a parallel service to fixed-route transportation services (buses and trains). This means paratransit services operate in the same area, on the same days and during the same hours as the public transit operates.

Paratransit service may be provided on small buses, vans, taxis, or in sedans. It is generally a shared ride service that must be reserved at least one day in advance. The service picks you up at your door or at the curb and takes you to your destination. The vehicle may make several stops on the way to your destination to pick up or drop off other passengers. The pick up time you are assigned may vary by up to one hour from the time you requested. Paratransit drivers do not enter people's homes or their destination locations. Riders who need extra assistance beyond what the driver provides may bring an assistant or "attendant" with them at no additional charge.

Before using paratransit, a person must be determined eligible because his or her disability prevents use of regular buses or trains some or all of the time.

To use ADA paratransit, riders must first qualify for this parallel service. Disabled persons who are unable to use regular buses and trains some or all of the time may apply for eligibility by calling the local transit agency in their area and asking for an application. Dial 511 for a free transfer to your transit agency or paratransit agency. In the Bay Area, most of the transit agencies use the same ADA paratransit application form and follow a common certification process. If you are found eligible by one transit operator, you will be able to use any ADA paratransit program throughout the Bay Area.

The Bay Area's regional ADA paratransit certification process is based on federal regulations that identify three categories for determining paratransit eligibility.

According to the law you may be eligible for paratransit if:

  • Your disability prevents you from boarding, riding, or getting off a bus or train, without the help of someone else.
  • The service you need is not accessible. (Since most transportation systems are accessible in the Bay Area, this category seldom applies.)
  • Your disability prevents you from getting to or from a bus or train stop.

Not necessarily. The test for eligibility is based purely on your inability to use regular buses or trains. Your ability to use public transit may be limited by a physical, cognitive, visual or psychiatric disability. Difficulty using public transportation, or being diagnosed as having a disability, are not automatic grounds for paratransit eligibility. Similarly, eligibility is not based on your age, your inability to speak English, or inconvenient bus service. The only test for eligibility is based on your inability to use the regular public transit services offered by Bay Area transit operators.

The transit agency may find you to be fully eligible, conditionally eligible, temporarily eligible, or ineligible to use paratransit.

  • Fully eligible riders may take paratransit trips at any time the service is available.
  • Conditionally eligible riders may take paratransit for some trips, but may be required to take fixed route transit for other trips.
  • Temporarily eligible riders are given eligibility for the period of time their disability is expected to prevent them from using regular public transportation.
  • If you are denied eligibility this means that the agency has determined that you are able to take public transportation, and you may not use paratransit service. If you disagree with the agency's decision, you may appeal. Instructions on how to appeal are included on the application form.

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