MassDOT, MBTA Announcing Pilot and Partnerships to Support More Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicles

Apr 9, 2019

MassDOT and the MBTA are announcing a one-year pilot program that will begin today, Monday, April 1, 2019, that provides financial incentives to transportation network companies (TNCs) in an effort to increase availability of wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs). During the pilot program, Uber and Lyft will receive a subsidy on a per-hour basis for every hour that wheelchair-accessible vehicles are available for use.

“This pilot is an innovative way to expand the availability of accessible vehicles through the use of existing technology,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “As we continue to hone our focus on the people we serve, we hope to strengthen our understanding of how we can better meet the needs of our customers.”

“This new initiative seeks to drive an increase in the availability of wheelchair-accessible vehicles for riders,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “I want to thank Lyft and Uber for their participation in this effort, and I’m excited that the MBTA is playing a critical role in expanding access to mobility for our riders and the general public.”

“We’re proud to partner with MassDOT to improve mobility for people with disabilities as part of our efforts to make accessibility a core part of Uber’s mission,” said Uber Head of Rides in New England Koosie Boggs. “Today’s announcement is an important step, but we know there’s more work to do, and we’ll continue to partner with cities and states to improve access for people with disabilities.”

“Lyft is excited to work with MassDOT and the MBTA to improve transportation accessibility in Massachusetts,” said Lyft’s New England General Manager Tyler George. “Our existing paratransit partnership has already helped so many residents enjoy the convenience and freedom of on-demand ride sharing. With this new program, MassDOT and Lyft continue working together to ensure riders have affordable and reliable ways to get around.”

Established in October 2016, the MBTA’s paratransit pilot with Uber and Lyft offers on-demand rideshare services to RIDE customers. The new initiative being announced today was developed in response to feedback provided to the MBTA during the existing pilot that wheelchair-accessible vehicles are not widely owned by rideshare drivers due to high costs.

Beginning on April 1, the one-year WAV subsidy pilot will provide a fixed per-hour subsidy for each hour that an Uber or Lyft WAV is available on TNC platforms. The per-trip fee assessed through the 2016 Act Regulating Transportation Network Companies will be used to reimburse participating TNCs in exchange for providing on-demand WAVs within The RIDE service area. It has been estimated that this subsidy will cover approximately 50 percent of actual WAV supply cost with TNCs contributing the remainder. While the one-year pilot will launch within the RIDE service area, MassDOT and the MBTA will explore similar pilot options for regions outside the service area if this pilot is deemed successful.

TNCs will be reimbursed on a weekly basis by the MBTA according to the number of “WAV Supply Hours,” which is a measure of the availability of wheelchair-accessible vehicles for use by customers. The expected annual cost of this one-year pilot is approximately $2.4 million; the goal if this pilot is to quadruple the WAV supply hours.

MassDOT and the MBTA will be collaborating with the participating TNCs in educating the public about the increased supply of accessible vehicles through targeted marketing and community engagement. During the one-year pilot, success will primarily be measured based on WAV reliability, average fulfilled trip estimated time of arrival (ETAs), completed WAV trips per month, and WAV Supply Hours. New information will be provided on a monthly basis to allow the MBTA to monitor the program and make programmatic changes as necessary.

For more information and for customers interested in applying, please visit the MBTA’s paratransit rideshare pilot service with Uber and Lyft online.