The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has forged a rare partnership with service companies Uber and Lyft in order to subsidize rides for customers with disabilities. The pact marks a growing relationship between public transit agencies and ride-for-hire organizations.
The move is a significant approach towards improving the much-maligned service for disabled MBTA customers. Under federal law, major public transit groups are required to provide door-to-door van service for disabled clients. In this case, the partnership has lowered the expenses of service company Ride from a high $102 million during the last fiscal year.
Disability rights advocates have scrutinized ride-for-hire firms in the past for the limited access to disabled customers. Over the past year, Uber has responded by partnering with taxi companies to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
According to Chairman of the Access Advisory Committee to the MBTA James White, although improvements have been done, drivers also need more training in order to know how to help customers with wheelchairs.
MBTA's Acting Manager Brian Shortsleeve says that customers will get reduced fares and will have a much shorter wait time.
Under the new program, those who qualify for the door-to-door service will be paying $2 for an Uber or Lyft ride and the agency will pay up to $13 to subsidize the rest of those trips.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack and board member Lisa Calise have joined Governor Charlie Baker in announcing the partnership at the Perkins School for the Blind.
In a press launch, the governor has said that the reliability of the transportation system will depend on the MBTA's capacity to enhance core infrastructure and present environment friendly, progressive transit choices that meet the wants of the system's a million day-to-day riders.
In line with the development, service ride firms continue to expand across the nation. In fact, North Shore Community College in Danvers has begun offering subsidized Uber rides to students travelling between public transit stops and the campus.
Ride users have tested a similar program earlier this year. Under the new plan, people can use Uber and Lyft apps to request on-demand rides. Lyft will also provide a call center for those who don't have smartphones.