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Getting around is a cinch for most of us who own a personal vehicle or can easily access public transportation systems. But many Americans lack these options for variety of reasons, including age, limited physical ability, constrained income, or—for one reason or another—not having a valid driver’s license. Especially in rural, sparsely populated areas, the choices for those who don’t drive a car are even more limited.
A number of state policies aim to improve transportation mobility for these individuals, which include targeted populations such as older adults, people with disabilities, recipients of state benefits including TANF and Medicaid, or veterans. Transportation choices help vulnerable populations live or stay in a desired community, and also to access jobs, schools, health care, shopping centers and other resources that would improve quality of life. In turn, personal independence and mobility can contribute to a state’s overall economic vitality.
In many settings, paratransit services fill a gap in providing transportation choices.
“Paratransit” means the range of services that fall somewhere between owning a private vehicle and using traditional fixed-route transit. “Fixed-route transit” refers to the public transportation systems—such as buses, light rail and streetcars—with scheduled times and locations for departure and arrival.
Paratransit can include taxis, small buses and vans—often wheelchair-accessible—and is frequently used to respond to specialized needs of individuals who can call ahead to request door-to-door service. These types of transportation services fall into a category known as “demand-response” transit, because it is responding to the requests (or demands) of travelers.
Paratransit is offered by various providers, including large transit agencies, businesses, specialized for-profit and nonprofit transportation entities, and human service organizations.
State legislatures play an important role in protecting the needs of the transportation-disadvantaged to ensure true affordability, accessibility and safety of these transportation options. State legislatures can also work to deal with issues caused by the overwhelming number and variety of paratransit providers, such as inefficient use of public funds, duplicated services in some places and gaps in others. The resources below explain and explore a number of state policy options and strategies to improve transportation choices for the most vulnerable.
Transportation Access and Mobility Resources
Human Services Transportation Coordination
Many federal, state, local and private entities provide or support special transportation services for people who have challenges accessing transportation options due to income, disability or age. The dispersion of numerous specialized programs across agencies, however, can lead to ineffective and inefficient services. Many stakeholders have advocated for improved coordination across agencies and programs as a strategy to combat these problems and make specialized transportation easier to use. Visit this page to access all of NCSL’s resources on transportation coordination.
Updated March 2013