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Using Paratransit Services on Vacation
By: Yudit Frei | Apr 3 2019

No matter where you visit, all US cities are required to offer ADA approved transportation that allows all travelers full access to the city. However, as with all aspects of travelling, doing some advanced research into your transportation options will make your vacation smoother and more enjoyable.

Although many cities are improving accessibility to public transport, factors such as the condition of the sidewalks, age of the station, or aging trolley cars, may mean that not all public transportation in a city is accessible. Paratransit services are meant to overcome these issues and ensure everyone can travel to all corners of the city. For example, in New Orleans, the green streetcars on the St. Charles line have not yet been updated to allow wheelchair access. Instead, NORTA provides a paratransit service so that all travelers can reach destinations on the St. Charles line.

Metromover, Miami | Photo: GMVCB, miamiandbeaches.com


Expo Line of Light Rail (Los Angeles)

Most cities run a paratransit service as part of their public transportation. Paratransit services are aimed at people who are functionally unable to travel on public transportation due to a disability or health condition. Details of this service can usually be found on the website devoted to the public transportation of the city, but these services often have their own contact details and phone numbers.

Paratransit services may offer a “fixed-route service” which has wheelchair accessible minivans or buses that run along a predetermined fixed route and collect people along the way. Additionally, many paratransit services offer a “demand-response service”. Passengers must make an advanced reservation, will be picked up from a location of their choice and taken to another fixed location. Demand-response services may be individual or shared. In some cities, you must book at least 24 hours in advance. In others, you can book just an hour before, so please check the service carefully. PACE in Chicago pledges to never leave you stranded!

Paratransit services do not run 24 hours a day and you cannot travel to wherever you want; these services run at the same times and in the same general area as the local public transport authority. Fares differ depending on the city. Some paratransit services are free of charge, others are subsidized. In Las Vegas, passengers can pay with special coupons and care attendants ride free. In addition, a paratransit permit usually offers an additional discount on fares on the entire public transport of the city. This is especially useful in places where some of the public transport is accessible and some of it is not, such as New York City.

Many cities offer a training program for paratransit passengers where they will explain all the details of how to use the service. In addition, the information about using the service is usually available in multiple formats such as braille, large print websites, or audio files. Most paratransit authorities have a TTY/TDD telephone number.

In order to obtain a permit, you must fill in an eligibility form which is usually available to download from the website. Read the website carefully to learn about the eligibility requirements. If you have approval to use paratransit services in your hometown, you are often able to get approval to use the services in the city you are visiting without all the paperwork. Be in touch with your local paratransit service to find out how to do this.

Many cities offer a visitor's registration. You must pre-register to use this service by contacting customer services at the paratransit service or public transport authority of the city you will be visiting. You will be issued a temporary pass that remains valid for the duration of your stay. If you plan on staying anywhere for a long period, please be aware that often temporary passes expire after two weeks.

Here are links to the paratransit services in the twenty most visited cities in the US:

San Diego






Los Angeles


Las Vegas


San Francisco








New York




New Orleans


Washington DC


















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