Expertorial: Paratransit Reimagined—Bridging the Gap between Legacy Systems and Modern Expectations


In the ever-evolving landscape of urban development and societal progress, paratransit stands as a vital cog in ensuring inclusivity and accessibility in transportation. Unfortunately, it appears stuck in a time warp, restrained by legacy systems that have scarcely evolved over the last three decades. The static nature of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, which have not seen significant revisions in the past thirty years, adds another layer of complexity to the situation.

It is clear that we cannot afford to maintain the status quo. Our communities have evolved, nurturing a ridership that rightfully demands more from the services that facilitate their daily lives. There are multiple aspects of paratransit that remain inaccessible to eligible individuals, creating a chasm between the available services and the contemporary needs of the people. This gap in service quality and accessibility is not just an inconvenience but a glaring oversight that demands urgent rectification.

Traditionally, the rider experience within the paratransit sphere has been marred by inefficiencies such as the absence of same-day services or lengthy pickup windows. These shortcomings not only inconvenience riders but also dilute the efficacy and purpose of paratransit.

How then can we reimagine a system that allows for seamless planning and payment through an app, making the journey of scheduling trips a breeze rather than a chore? The answer lies in embracing modern solutions that are easy to integrate, user-friendly, and continuously evolving to mirror the changing preferences and requirements of riders.

Our mission is to modernize the paratransit experience, drawing from the pain points of users and operators alike to develop a solution that harmonizes efficiency with exceptional rider experience. At the core of our mission is the development of an end-to-end paratransit system that encompasses a streamlined process right from a paratransit rider applying for eligibility to accessing the service.

The innovation does not stop there. Imagine a rider booking a same-day or scheduled ride, being kept up-to-date on the status of the ride, and ultimately being routed in the most efficient way to their ­destination. This modern system would offer various self-serve options through web, app, and voice platforms, and grants users full visibility into their trip, thereby fostering a sense of autonomy and convenience that has been absent in the paratransit sector.

But this transformation goes beyond the rider, it also signifies a paradigm shift in how transit operators manage and deliver services. Our platform automates scheduling and dispatch which simplifies operations, making it easier for agencies to provide a service that meets contemporary expectations without sacrificing cost-effectiveness.

To understand how innovation can change a life, let’s zero in on the provision of same-day services, a significant challenge for resource-constrained transit agencies already committed to fulfilling ADA paratransit service mandates. In an attempt to solve this, we developed an open architecture, which we call Open Fleets, to increase the capacity of the service through the effortless ­integration of any bookable fleet, including taxi compa­nies and TNC services like Lyft, Uber or UZURV. By utilizing the potential of various mobility options, Open Fleets allows agencies to significantly broaden supply without incurring high costs, paving the way for a more efficient and resourceful transit service. The outcome is a robust and ­versatile paratransit network that can swiftly adapt to changing rider demands without compromising on efficiency or affordability.

We have already embarked on this journey of innovation with notable success. For instance, at the APTA’s agency of the year, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), five fleets, including Lyft, Uber, UZURV, a local taxi company, and a local wheelchair-accessible vehicle provider, were integrated into the Spare platform to support a life-changing same-day service for the ADA paratransit-eligible residents in Pinellas County. This innovative service stands as a testament to the immense potential of public/private partnerships in solving paratransit needs.

Paratransit is at a crucial juncture. The need for a holistic transformation is palpable, and the opportunity to foster a future where paratransit is synonymous with convenience, efficiency, and inclusivity is within reach. As we continue to innovate and adapt, we look forward to not just meeting but exceeding the evolving expectations of our community. We recognize that the journey ahead is not without challenges but our commitment to redefining paratransit remains steadfast. Together, let us forge a path toward a paratransit system that truly serves its purpose in the modern world.

Kristoffer Vik Hansen, CEO and Co-founder of Spare

At Spare, our mission is to make every ride possible. We empower transit agencies to launch and run ADA paratransit and microtransit services, optimizing operations and enhancing rider experiences.