The federal Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that paratransit be available within three fourths of a mile of a fixed-route transit line, offer the same hours as fixed-route transit, and require fares no more than twice the fixed-route transit fare.
The 1990 passing of this law was considered a huge win for the disabled community. However, as reported in Governing, no one is happy with paratransit–neither the cities who pay the expensive bills nor the people using it who point to the inconvenience of having to request a ride days in advance, the geographic limitations of the system, and the often late arrivals.
A few cities are coming up with alternative systems. Pittsburgh, for example, determines eligibility on a trip-by-trip basis:
Some applicants are classified as eligible for the service only when traveling to a place without accessible bus stops. Or only in adverse weather conditions. A blind person or someone with a cogitative impairment might be eligible for trips to unfamiliar places, but not for trips they make routinely and are capable of navigating.
King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, is testing a system in which a trainer rides with a person in need for a few days so the person can become a regular bus rider:
While advocates for the disabled are cautious about efforts to push people into fixed-route transit–fearing that transit agencies will try to overdo it to save money–almost everyone agrees that it can be liberating for a disabled person to learn to navigate the regular transportation system.