Easter Seals Project ACTION: FAQ - What is the appropriate length of time spent on a paratransit ride?
According to USDOT regulations, capacity constraints may include an inordinate number of excessively long trips. The local standard should define what makes a trip excessively long and should also provide for an allowance of long trips. This determination should be made in consultation with the local ADA advisory committee.
The FTA has advised that consideration be made to the comparable trip time of a fixed route (at the same time of day) including a set standard to allow for walking time to/from the stop. It would seem reasonable for transit systems to have a goal of always scheduling trips to be performed in a reasonable (not excessive) amount of time. In-service problems and circumstances beyond the system’s control may develop and cause a trip to be long, but policies and practices in operations that would lead to an excessively long ride should be avoided.
Policies and practices that might lead to excessively long trips might include:
Too many pick-ups and drop-offs scheduled into group runs; and/or
Inadequate backup capacity to handle same-day service problems, resulting in trips added to already tightly scheduled runs throughout the day.
Excessively long trips may be defined in one of the following ways:
Trips that are longer than a set amount of time (e.g., trips longer than 60 or 90 minutes); or
Trips that are considerably longer than comparable fixed-route trips (e.g., trips that are more than twice as long as fixed-route trips from and to the same origins and destinations at the same time of day).
In some cases, systems that use set amounts of time also have different thresholds based on trip length. For example, the standard might be no more than 60 minutes for trips less than 10 miles and no more than 90 minutes for trips more than 10 miles in length.
Each of these approaches has its benefits and flaws. Standards based on set times are easiest to use but may be inappropriate for the full range of trips in the system. An hour may still be too long for a trip that is only 1 to 2 miles in length. In addition, even 90 minutes may not allow enough time for trips that are cross-region, which might take two or more hours by fixed route.
Standards that are based on general comparisons to fixed-route travel times (150 or 200 percent of fixed-route time) may not be appropriate for very short or very long trips. For example, if a trip takes 180 minutes by fixed route, would it be appropriate to allow for a paratransit ride that is 270 or 360 minutes (4.5 to 6 hours)? Probably not.
In recent ADA compliance assessments, FTA has made direct comparisons between paratransit travel times and comparable fixed-route travel times, including an allowance for the extra time it may take traveling to/from a stop or station and waiting for the bus or train. So, for example, defining a paratransit trip as excessively long if it is more than the fixed-route travel time for a comparable trip plus 40 minutes might be more appropriate. The extra 40 minutes might be a reasonable surrogate for the extra time to walk to the bus stop, wait for the bus and walk to the destination, depending on the distances involved.
Considering all of the above, a possible travel time standard might be (see below):
XYZ Transit Agency Sample Travel Time Standard
The goal of XYZ Transit Agency is to provide all trips in a reasonable amount of time when compared to fixed-route service. A trip will be considered to be excessively long if it takes more than 40 minutes longer than a fixed-route trip from the same origin to the same destination at the same time of day. XYZ Transit Agency’s goal is to perform all trips in a reasonable and comparable time. A minimum of 98 percent of all trips will be performed within this standard, with no patterns of excessively long rides due to operating practices within the control of the system. All trips will be scheduled to be performed within this time standard. Adequate backup services will be maintained to ensure that there is no regular pattern of extra trips being added to already full runs, causing other trips to be excessively long.
This standard is an example only and will vary from system to system. These standards should be set with input from the local disability community and ADA advisory committee.
** This information is excerpted from the ESPA publication Innovative Practices in Paratransit Services **
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