Leveraging Mobility on Demand to Improve Access for All: Policies and Public-Private Partnerships

  • Author: Jerom Theunissen
  • Date: February 13, 2020

In partnership with the Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC), NCMM recently published a field scan that explored the intersection of mobility-on-demand and accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Informed by five policies and over 20 programs at the state and local level, the report identifies innovative approaches that improve accessibility for individuals who previously have been left behind in the wake of mobility-on-demand.

Importance of Highlighting the importance of bikeshare parking for accessibility
Informational video highlighting the importance of parking bikeshare bikes correctly for persons with disabilities. Image credit: Seattle Department of Transportation Bikeshare Permit Program and Rooted in Rights

 

The rise of shared-use mobility services across the country has been accompanied by the growth of partnerships between shared-use mobility providers, such as TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) and public transportation agencies. However, some of these partnerships have raised concerns regarding equitable access to services for people with disabilities. With an increasing number of public & private providers entering this space, policies and programs are needed to ensure that people with disabilities also have access to equitable shared-use mobility service with high quality standards.

Furthering Equity throughout Mobility on Demand Partnerships

In response to this growing need, the former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx published a “Dear colleague” FTA guidance in December 2016, advising transit agencies that they are obliged to “ensure equity and access as you partner with TNCs.” The guidance clarified that ADA regulations apply regardless of federal funding and apply to public and private transportation providers. What’s more, demand-responsive service needs to be deemed “equivalent” to services provided to other individuals in the areas of:

  1. Response time
  2. Fares
  3. Geographic area of service
  4. Hours and days of service
  5. Availability of information and reservations capability
  6. Any constraints on capacity or service availability
  7. Restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose

In this study, Examples of Mobility on Demand Policies and Public-Private Partnerships to Increase Accessibility, NCMM & SUMC gathered case studies of policies and programs that sought to enable equivalent service provision for customers with disabilities. While varied in their approach, policies in this factsheet only addressed transportation network companies (TNCs). These policies used the following strategies:

  • Assessing a small fee on each non-accessible trip ($0.10), deposited into an Accessibility Fund for purchasing and maintaining wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) or directly funding paratransit services. (California TNC Access for All Act, Chicago Accessibility Fund)
  • Ensuring compliance with accessibility requirements such as accessible apps for customers who are blind, visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing (Chicago WAV Requirements)
  • Providing a subsidy that reimburses TNCs for each hour that wheelchair-accessible vehicles are available on TNC platforms in a service area. (MBTA The RIDE & Massachusetts DOT Pilot Program to increase WAVs)
  • Allowing TNCs to be booked as a NEMT option for medical appointments under Medicaid programs. (Arizona Expansion of TNCs as NEMT Option)

Programs were even more varied in their approach. Some public providers turned to public-private partnerships (P3s) with shared mobility operators to help provide more mobility options for individuals with disabilities (GoDakota County Lyft Partnership, Rabbittransit Paratransit). Other agencies adapted their existing resources and partnerships to provide on-demand mobility for their customers (RideKC Freedom On-Demand, Norwalk Wheels2U). In addition, providers even sought to make micromobility (Oakland’s Adaptive Scooter Pilot) and active modes (Seattle Bikeshare Permit Program) accessible. 

Flint’s Rides to Wellness program includes wheelchair accessible minivans. Image credit: Flint MTA

Moving Forward

It is important to note, while some of these examples may not meet the needs of every person with a disability, the cases discussed offer a base of knowledge to continue building equitable and accessible on-demand transportation solutions. To advance accessibility of mobility on demand services, stakeholders must:

  1. Ensure individuals with disabilities are at the table. Diverse mobility needs across types of disabilities can be accounted for if target users are included in the planning, design, operations, and evaluation of these services.
  2. Coordinate policy across different levels of government. Develop guidelines at multiple levels (Federal and state) regarding the standards and characteristics of policies and programs that could facilitate inclusive mobility services. What’s more, ensure policies support local practice.
  3. Simplify the trip planning and payment process. While these different mobility options are now available in the palm of your hand, they are often spread across different apps and payment systems and can sometimes be confusing to access. Early work from transit agencies has helped to bridge this gap through integrated trip planning and payment integration tools.
  4. Establish and measure outcomes. Identify performance metrics at both the policy and program levels to measure the efficacy of inclusion – especially outcomes and impacts for riders with disabilities.
  5. Recognize that one size does not fit all. Tailor approaches to local mobility needs, travel patterns and external factors such as topography or incidence of disability groups. Leverage the expertise of mobility management networks in states and regions as a way to generate ideas, build programs, and assess inclusiveness.

To learn more about shared mobility and mobility on demand public-private partnerships, attend the annual Shared Mobility Summit on March 17-19th in Chicago, IL.

We’d love to hear from you!

Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Kirby Wilhelm (wilhelm@ctaa.org).