Paratransit Services

PDF Click here for optional PDF format. Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

by Dick Mooney with additional research by Bill Dupes
revised by NLLIC Staff 2008


What Is Paratransit?

Paratransit is a specialized, door-to-door transport service for people with disabilities who are not able to ride fixed-route public transportation. This may be due to an inability to:

  • board, ride or disembark independently from any readily accessible vehicle on the regular fixed-route system
  • access existing accessible fixed-route transportation because that transportation is not available at the needed time on that route
  • get to boarding/alighting locations of regular public transportation.

Paratransit has a specialized meaning in the context of transportation regulations. The term refers to the complementary paratransit service, comparable to public fixed-route systems, which must be provided. Typically, paratransit is provided in a demand-responsive mode (i.e., the person with a disability must make a telephone call to arrange service).

The goal of the paratransit program is to ensure that all Americans have access to transit to meet basic mobility needs. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 recognized that people with disabilities have the same rights as other citizens to access services and facilities that are available to the public, including transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for the enforcement of ADA's transportation requirements.

Eligibility Requirements

Since most true paratransit services are subsidized by federal, state or county governments, or other municipal agencies, users must be able to meet one of the following three eligibility requirements. (Note: Individuals may be eligible for paratransit on the basis of a permanent or temporary disability. The individual must meet one of the three eligibility criteria, whether permanently or for a limited period of time.)

Category 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. Among others, this category includes people with mental or visual impairments who, as a result of their disability, cannot navigate the system. This means that, if an individual needs an attendant to board, ride or disembark from an accessible fixed-route vehicle (including navigating the system), the individual is eligible for paratransit.

Category 2: Also eligible are those people with a physical or mental impairment who could use accessible fixed-route transportation, but the accessible fixed-route transportation is not available at the needed time on a particular route (the accessible vehicle is down for maintenance, the lift cannot be deployed, etc.).

Category 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. In this case, the impairment must prevent travel to or from a fixed-route stop. Significant inconvenience or difficulty does not form a basis for eligibility under this section. Further, barriers not under control of the public entity providing the fixed-route service (such as distance or weather) do not by themselves form a basis for eligibility under this section. These situations are resolved on a case-by-case basis, determined by evaluating the interaction between the impairment-related condition and the barrier in question.


Again, since most true paratransit services are subsidized, the cost to the rider can be very low, as opposed, for example, to the cost of an accessible commercial taxi or limousine service, which provides door-to-door service but does not qualify as a true paratransit service. It should be noted that Medicare does not pay for transportation services except in the case of emergency.

When you contact a paratransit service through one of the methods outlined below, you should specifically request information about such things as cost per trip, advance notice requirements, scheduling of return transportation, etc.

To Find Local Public Transportation and Paratransit Services

Consult your local telephone book. Most telephone books have a special section in the front of the book containing contact information for community service organizations. Look under "Disabled" and "Transportation" for the names of agencies that provide transportation for special needs. If necessary, look under the same headings in the yellow pages. If this proves unsuccessful, contact your local transit authority or municipal bus service operator for referral to the complementary service they are required by the ADA to provide.

Contact the Area Agency on Aging's Eldercare Locator. Call their toll-free number at 800/677-1116. Locator information is available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (ET). For calls made after normal hours of operation, a message recorder is available for the caller to leave a name and a telephone number. These calls will be returned the next business day. The locator staff may provide the phone number of the actual paratransit service or may provide the phone numbers for your local and/or state Area Agency on Aging or "Help Line," which, in turn, can provide the needed paratransit contact information.

Contact the National Transit Hotline. This organization can provide the names of local transit providers who receive federal money to provide transportation to seniors and people with disabilities. Call toll-free at 800/527-8279.

Contact Easter Seals Project ACTION. If you have Internet access, you can go to and access the Accessible Travel Database. Through this site, people with disabilities can easily assess the availability of accessible transportation anywhere in the country. The transportation database allows you to highlight the state and city in which you live or where you plan to visit and view the addresses and telephone numbers of all transportation services available to you there.

Other Sources of Information:

American Public Transit Association (APTA)
1666 K Street NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: 202/496-4800

APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services, and by improving those services to meet national energy, environmental and financial concerns. Over 90 percent of passengers using transit in the U.S. and Canada are carried by APTA members. APTA members include bus, rapid transit and commuter rail systems, and the organizations responsible for planning, designing, constructing, financing and operating transit systems.

Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL)
2001 Pershing Circle, Suite 200
North Little Rock, AR 72114
Phone: 501-753-3400
FAX: 501-753-3406

The Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) is a national network comprised of rural centers for independent living and other organizations/individuals that are concerned with the unique aspects of rural independent living. APRIL is organized for the promotion of independence, and they advocate for the rights and benefits of people with disabilities who are living in rural environments.

Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA)
1341 G Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 800/891-0590
Fax: 202/737-9197

CTAA is a national, professional membership association of organizations and individuals committed to removing barriers to isolation and to improving mobility for all people. CTAA conducts research, provides technical assistance, offers educational programs, and serves as an advocate in order to make coordinated community transportation available, affordable and accessible.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
East Building
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington, DC 20590
Phone: 202/366-4043

The Federal Transit Administration is an activity of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Its mission is to provide leadership, technical assistance, and financial resources for safe, technologically advanced public transportation that enhances all citizens’ mobility and accessibility, improves America's communities and natural environment, and strengthens the national economy.

National Transit Institute (NTI)
120 Albany Street
Tower Two, Suite 250
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-2163
Phone: 732/932-1700
Fax: 732/932-1707

The National Transit Institute’s mission is to provide training, education and clearinghouse services in support of public transportation and quality of life in the United States. It identifies needs, promotes, develops and delivers high-quality programs and materials through cooperative partnerships with industry, government, institutions and associations; and it serves as a catalyst for enhancing skills and performance in public transportation.

National Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP)
American Public Works Association
1401 K Street NW, 11th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 800/527-8279

The Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) is authorized by a federal law that establishes a rural transportation assistance program in nonurbanized areas implemented by grants and contracts for transportation research, technical assistance, training and related support services in nonurbanized areas. The goals of RTAP are to provide training and technical assistance for rural public transportation operators, improve professionalism and safety of rural public transit services, and promote efficiency and effectiveness of rural transit services and support coordination with human service transportation.

Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA)
3200 Tower Oaks Boulevard
Suite 220
Rockville, MD 20852
Phone: 301/984-5700
Fax: 301/984-5703

The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) is a nonprofit trade association for the private passenger transportation industry. TLPA membership includes 1,100 taxicab companies, executive sedan and limousine services, airport shuttle fleets, nonemergency medical transportation companies, and paratransit services. Contact information is available for TLPA members nationwide.

United We Ride

Phone: 800/527-8279,

United We Ride (UWR) is a federal interagency initiative aimed at improving the availability, quality, and efficient delivery of transportation services for older adults, people with disabilities, and individuals with lower incomes. 

Contents of referenced Websites are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Amputee Coalition/NLLIC. The use of trade names is for identification only and does not constitute endorsement by the Amputee Coalition/NLLIC.


Back to Top Last updated: 01/01/2017
Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional!
Valid CSS!
National Limb Loss Information Center, a program of the Amputee Coalition

900 East Hill Ave., Suite 290, Knoxville, TN 37915-2566 | 888-267-5669 (888-AMP-KNOW) |

© Amputee Coalition. Local reproduction for use by Amputee Coalition constituents is permitted as long as this copyright information is included. Organizations or individuals wishing to reprint this article in other publications, including other World Wide Web sites must contact the Amputee Coalition for permission to do so.