Nearly every bus system nationwide accommodates wheelchair users. All but two percent have wheelchair lifts, seatbelts, and tie-downs. Consequently, getting around with limited mobility has become simpler. Nevertheless, buses may not go where and when you need them, especially on a tight schedule. Besides regular bus routes and schedules, you have several options.
Before you decide which public transport options fit your needs, ask yourself the following questions:
- How frequently do I travel?
- How often do I encounter a packed bus?
- Do drivers receive adequate mobility assistance training?
- How long do I wait for pickup?
- Does wait time cause health and safety issues?
- How often do I have trouble finding accessible parking?
- What options minimize these issues?
What Benefits and Drawbacks Does Public Transportation Offer?
Nearly every municipal transportation system includes a door-to-door option for people with limited mobility. However, like ambulette services, door-to-door bus service requires advance notice of up to a week and guarantees your pickup or arrival time, but never both. Arranging multiple daily or weekly trips requires significant coordination and patience. On the other hand, if you only make a few trips per month, a few hours of downtime between trips might be tolerable.
Using the regular bus schedules and drivers requires less planning. Out of 100 buses, 98 accommodate wheelchairs. However, if your driver has not had adequate training on wheelchair lifts and tie-downs, you might have to wait while they figure it out. If they cannot, you'll find yourself waiting at the bus stop for a driver who knows how the lift operates.
What About Ride Share Services?
As of February 2020, Uber offers the UberWAV and Uber Assist programs. UberWAV connects users who have non-foldable wheelchairs with drivers who have lifts and ramps. Furthermore, Uber pledges 15-minute wait times and equivalent fares without ultimately guaranteeing an accessible ride. On the other hand, Lyft's Access Mode merely allows users to request an accessible van in areas with available service. Otherwise, Lyft will text information about local accessible transportation to the user without connecting the various parties.
Do I Need to Customize My Vehicle Instead?
Before you retrofit or custom-design a van, consider your daily and weekly destinations. Parking in the crosshatched area between the accessible spaces is one of the seventh most common violations. Consider a rear-loading van rather than a side-loading one. As a less expensive option, rear lifts require less loading width, making it possible to park anywhere.
Despite the added expense, retrofitting an existing vehicle or having a limited mobility van custom-built provides significant advantages: reaching destinations on time, controlling your schedule, fewer worries about buses already being at capacity, and experiencing minor wheelchair damage make the idea a sound investment.