MassDOT and the MBTA have launched a pilot program with ride-share companies Uber and Lyft to save costs and deliver customers of the MBTA’s “THE RIDE” options for on-demand service through their smartphones.

The On-Demand Paratransit Pilot Program will allow the MBTA to learn and understand the opportunities and challenges of incorporating on-demand paratransit options into public transit, and follows a program launched in January with multiple Boston-area taxi providers to subsidize trips for RIDE users via cab. Customers unable to use a smartphone or without access to one can book rides by using a phone-in option from Lyft or obtain a smart phone from Uber on a limited basis.

The pilot is part of the MBTA’s efforts to deliver more efficient and cost-effective service. Current RIDE service comes at a variable cost of $31 to the MBTA, a $3.15 set fare for customers and a minimum of one day advance notice required. Ride-share pilot participants will have on-demand service available via their smartphone app or the phone-in option and pay the first $2.00 of the trip. The MBTA will pick up the next $13.00 of the trip, with the customer picking up any remaining trip costs.

As part of the pilot, Lyft will partner with a local Americans with Disabilities Act/non-emergency medical transportation firm to provide wheelchair accessible rental vehicles to Lyft drivers. To incentivize the supply of wheelchair accessible vehicles on the road, the MBTA will offer an additional $12 per completed trip to those Lyft drivers using an accessible rental. Uber currently has wheelchair accessible vehicles through its UberACCESS program that will be available for the MBTA pilot.

Driver-partners will undergo third-party safety screenings and vehicle and criminal background record checks, and will receive educational materials on providing service for RIDE customers with accessibility needs. Uber and Lyft will also offer sessions to train driver-partners to better serve pilot customers.

Interested RIDE customers are encouraged to participate by visiting the MBTA’s website for more information and signing up with both Uber and Lyft to maximize participation. RIDE-eligible users approved for the pilot will receive app access to request on-demand services.

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