The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) resolved allegations it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by providing a subsidy for users of The Ride paratransit service to supplement their paratransit rides with ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, even though these companies did not have the capacity to provide service to passengers who used wheelchairs, according to a release form the U.S. Department of Justice.
During its investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office found that because wheelchair accessible vehicles were either unavailable or the wait times were excessive, wheelchair users could not benefit from the MBTA program in the same way as other users of The Ride.
“Innovation is not an excuse for avoiding accessibility. Rather, it is an opportunity to enhance accessibility. That is what the MBTA has now done here,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “The first iteration of the MBTA’s program left out rights for those who use wheelchairs. We commend the MBTA on its efforts to rectify this problem and its success in implementing a program that has resulted in more wheelchair accessible vehicles on the road. This solution helps and includes everyone — not only users of The Ride.”
In resolving the investigation, the MBTA has implemented a policy that incentivizes ride sharing companies to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles available for hire, which has resulted in more wheelchair-accessible vehicles in service and available for both The Ride program and the public at large. The MBTA has also agreed to monitor wait times for riders needing wheelchair-accessible vehicles and to report that data to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for a period of 18 months. The agency must also notify the U.S. Attorney’s Office of any material changes to its policy.
“The MBTA continues to seek creative solutions to improve the services available under its paratransit program, the RIDE,” MBTA officials told METRO. “The MBTA's groundbreaking work with transportation network companies increased the transportation options available to the paratransit community. In developing this program, the MBTA is proud to have increased access to wheelchair accessible vehicles for paratransit passengers using transportation network companies.”