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SUMMARY Resource Guide for Commingling ADA and Non-ADA Paratransit Riders The primary purpose of the Resource Guide is to provide practical planning and operating assistance to fixed route transit agencies that are deciding whether or not to commingle their ADA eligible paratransit riders with "other" paratransit riders and, if so, how to implement the practice. "Commingling" ADA and non-ADA riders is a newly coined term for a practice that has been operating in many communities since transit agencies began operating paratransit services required by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). For this project, "commingling" is defined as "routinely transporting ADA eligible paratransit riders with `other' non-ADA paratransit riders on the same vehicles at the same time." The following are examples of other paratransit riders who might be commingled with ADA paratransit riders: Medicaid beneficiaries Older adults with transportation service funded by Title III of the Older Americans Act or other programs Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program beneficiaries New Freedom program beneficiaries Other individuals with disabilities or older adults who participate in support services programs, for example: Developmentally disabled individuals Rehabilitation services participants Human service agency customers Adult day care program participants Hospital discharges Dialysis patients Children (including Head Start participants) The research found three basic factors that seemed to affect decisions regarding whether or not to commingle: Evolution. For a number of transit systems, paratransit service was historically part of the mix of services that they operated and when the ADA was passed in 1990, the tran- sit system added ADA paratransit into the paratransit mix of services that they already offered. Cost-sharing. Another reason for commingling was the need for public transit and local human service agencies to cooperate, particularly related to managing costs and cost- sharing for paratransit service. Before passage of the ADA, many human service agencies were responsible for their own program participants' transportation. With implementation 1

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2 Resource Guide for Commingling ADA and Non-ADA Paratransit Riders of the ADA, many of these program participants were determined ADA eligible, but rather than just shifting their riders and the associated transportation costs to the public transit authority as some human service agencies have done, these organizations worked together to coordinate service and developed agreements for equitable cost-sharing. In contrast, some transit agencies decided not to commingle or after a time to dis- continue commingling their ADA and non-ADA riders. Factors contributing to a transit agency's decision not to commingle tend to focus on cost allocation or service quality/ control issues. State-level commitment to coordination. In some cases, coordination requirements and incentives at the state level may influence or require commingling of ADA and non- ADA riders. A 2005 report published by the National Conference of State Legislatures found 21 states with specific legislation related to human service transportation coor- dination and another 16 states that require human service coordination but not specif- ically public transportation. Governors have executed executive orders in 9 states, and at least 27 states and the District of Columbia have attempted local coordination initia- tives without a state requirement (Sundeen et al. 2005). Some transit agencies with des- ignated funding set aside for coordinated transportation efforts provide services in a commingled fashion. To better understand the decision-making processes employed by transit agencies when considering commingling ADA and non-ADA riders, the project's research team used an online survey tool to collect relevant information from fixed route transit agen- cies and to identify approaches used by transit agencies to commingle ADA eligible and other paratransit riders on the same vehicles. The survey was supplemented by telephone calls to clarify information, along with a review of system brochures, reports, and other information provided by transit agencies that described the approach taken for provid- ing paratransit services. The survey information was further supplemented by a series of site visits and telephone interviews with 18 transit agencies selected from the survey respondents, along with additional research and the research team's own knowledge of the industry. Findings During the course of this project, four models for commingling ADA and non-ADA paratransit riders were identified, representing the spectrum of commingled approaches. The first three models were the most commonly observed in the project survey; the fourth model may not truly fit the definition of commingled service used for this project, but was identified as a commingling strategy by several transit agencies. The four models include the following: Model #1: Human Service Transportation + ADA Paratransit Pre-ADA human service transportation providers that added ADA paratransit services after passage of the ADA. This model includes programs with roots in human service transportation that have been expanded to include ADA paratransit service. In practice, this model includes two subtypes: non-profit agencies that have become the ADA paratransit service provider for the local transit agency and transit agencies that have incorporated former non-profit transportation programs into their paratransit service structure. That latter practice was more common when ADA paratransit was first introduced and systems were merged. It is less likely to occur now.

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Summary 3 Model #2: ADA + Human Service Transportation ADA paratransit service providers that added human service transportation (HST) service after their ADA paratransit service. This model is the focus of this research project and of the decision-making processes described in the Resource Guide. It includes transit agencies that started as ADA paratransit service providers and later added HST or other para- transit services to their service structure. Model #3: General Public Dial-A-Ride + ADA Paratransit Service Public dial-a-ride services that operate in coordination with ADA paratransit service (or serve "would-be" ADA customers). This example includes a coordinated system of local dial-a-ride service providers that have been expanded to include ADA paratransit in commingled services. Model #4: Two-Tiered ADA Paratransit Service ADA paratransit service providers that offer enhanced demand response services outside the ADA service area. The research found several transit providers that consider their provision of ADA-type paratransit service beyond the required 3/4-mile fixed route corridors to be "commingled" services. Under this model, transit agencies are basically providing ADA paratransit service beyond the minimum service required by the ADA and not truly commingling riders. Although not the focus of this report, this model is what some agencies labeled "commingled" and it was included in the review. Transit agencies considering whether to commingle passengers today would most likely identify with Model #2, which is the intended focus of the Resource Guide. Resource Guide Approach All the background information and research efforts of the project were used to help develop the Resource Guide. The Resource Guide is designed for use by fixed route public transit agencies wishing to explore whether and how to commingle ADA para- transit and non-ADA paratransit riders. The core features of the Resource Guide are two decision-making flow charts: (1) planning and (2) operations. In the ideal application of the Resource Guide, transit agencies would begin with the planning process and then move to the operations process. The planning decision process is organized into four major components that should be undertaken prior to making a decision about whether to commingle ADA and non- ADA riders. A. Define purpose and objectives for commingling riders B. Identify available capacity and funding C. Evaluate service compatibility D. Consider primary service parameters The operations decision process focuses on developing policies, procedures, practices, and performance monitoring strategies to ensure successful commingling of riders. As with the planning decision process, the operations decision process is organized into four major components: A. Establish passenger eligibility requirements B. Develop operating and cost allocation policies and procedures C. Identify reporting requirements and assess technology needs D. Develop marketing, education, and monitoring programs

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4 Resource Guide for Commingling ADA and Non-ADA Paratransit Riders Although it is useful to follow the operations process as described in the flow chart, it is possible to work through individual components, as needed. Conclusions and Recommendations This research revealed numerous lessons learned from transit agencies that have opted to commingle--or not to commingle--their ADA paratransit riders with other non-ADA paratransit riders. Among the most common lessons learned were the following: There is no one "right" answer. First and foremost, it should be remembered that there is no one right answer and a decision not to commingle may be just as valid as a decision to commingle. ADA regulatory requirements must be met. The Americans with Disabilities Act is civil rights legislation. As such, the U.S. DOT regulatory requirements for ADA paratransit service must be met, even if that negatively affects service for other non-ADA riders. ADA paratransit service must be provided for any trip purpose and no trip purpose may be prioritized over another. There may not be a pattern or practice of trip denials for eligible ADA paratransit trips. These requirements--and others--can sometimes conflict with trip requests from non-ADA riders. There's no such thing as a free ride. Be careful about well-intentioned efforts to extend service to non-ADA riders who are not supported by an identified or adequate source of funding. Where commingling is successful, funding for expanded paratransit service is available. Although this point may seem obvious, the case study research found that the sources of funding for non-ADA riders varied for agencies that commingle, but the key was to ensure that adequate and sustainable funding is available to support service for the non- ADA riders. When funding (a) becomes problematic, (b) is cut significantly, or (c) is with- drawn, commingling becomes difficult if not impossible to sustain. State and local conditions matter. The factors that enter into the decision whether or not to commingle ADA and non-ADA riders vary locally and often are dependent on (a) spe- cific state and local regulatory requirements and ordinances; (b) recognition of the com- patibility of rider groups to be served by the commingled program; (c) the availability of adequate funding to sustain the service; (d) an identification of appropriate cost allocation strategies among participating program sponsors; and (e) other specific local resources and conditions that may affect the success of the local effort. Florida is an example of a state with a long-standing history of coordinating and commingling service for persons defined as transportation disadvantaged. In addition to coordinated planning and service provision, the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged provides funds through its Transportation Disadvantaged Trust Fund. Some areas may find commingling to be inherently easier than others. Transit agencies in small urban and rural settings generally seem to have found it easier to commingle services, where there may be a history of coordination given scarce local resources. Similarly, as was the case for Pittsburgh, systems with paratransit programs that predate the ADA seem more likely to be agencies that commingle, adding the ADA service to their existing mix of specialized and human service transportation. Finally, it generally appears that transit agencies without a history of providing paratransit service before adoption of the ADA have tended to shy away from introducing non-ADA paratransit into the ADA paratransit program. Planning is key. Ideally, planning should commence at the beginning as part of a formal process to assess the pros and cons of commingling and to develop strategies for success. Even if a "decision" to commingle was already made as a result of political or regulatory

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Summary 5 processes, it is still important for the transit agency staff to identify key aspects of the service to be provided, to work through any potential obstacles to commingling, to develop contingency plans, and to ensure that adequate resources and adequate funding are available to sustain service. Any potential obstacles should be identified and resolved before implementing service. Be flexible. While planning is important, it is also important to understand that even the best plans cannot account for all contingencies. Assumptions made during planning may not be entirely correct or circumstances may change. Transit agencies should be prepared to be flexible going forward and strive to find solutions that make sense for their area. Determining rider eligibility is critical. An important aspect of a commingled system is to identify individual rider's eligibility for each of the various services offered as part of a commingled system. This effort is important both to ensure that the proper agency is billed for the cost of the trip as well as to ensure that riders are getting the appropriate level of service based on their program eligibility (e.g., ADA paratransit, Medicaid Non-Emergency Medical Transportation, Title III of the Older Americans Act, and others). ADA paratransit service standards are often higher than other program standards. It is generally recognized throughout the transit industry that even the minimum ADA paratransit service criteria often exceed the service standards for other programs such as Medicaid. As a result, the cost of commingled service may in fact increase overall, as it is common for the ADA service standards to be applied to other riders in a commingled system to make operating policies and procedures consistent. Ongoing performance monitoring is a must. Service standards should be set and measured at regular intervals in order to ensure that programmatic requirements are being met, particularly with respect to ADA regulatory compliance. Technology is a useful tool. Recent advances in technology allow transit agencies to better serve their customers in a variety of ways from reserving, scheduling, and dispatching trips, to record-keeping and performance monitoring. Technology and electronic fare media are especially helpful for accounting for trip-making by individual riders and collecting fares that may vary by passenger type. Technology can also assist with real-time and retro- spective performance monitoring to ensure that service standards are being met for on-time performance, ride times, and other important service parameters. Educate board members and other policymakers. Many transit agencies mentioned the importance of educating their boards and other policymakers about the nature of com- mingled services, regulatory requirements, operating practices, funding, and program performance. An educated board can more readily understand and support the transit agency when issues arise, particularly related to funding, programmatic differences, and service provision. Educate transit agency staff. It is important that everyone involved in the commingled program understands how it is organized, how eligibility is determined for various pro- gram sponsors to ensure riders receive the appropriate service and pay the appropriate fare, and how the funding sources are structured to ensure accurate and appropriate billing and financial reporting. Educate riders. An equally important aspect is to educate riders, their families and caregivers, and sponsoring agencies about the services offered by the commingled system and why there may be variations. This is especially important when there are variations in service levels offered (e.g., service area or service hours), fares, and other aspects of day-to-day service delivery. Some agencies have found that marketing and branding the different services help to explain the differences for passengers and the general public. They also found that education efforts cannot be a one-time event, for example, when riders begin using the program, but must be continual and sustained over time. Education materials also need to be provided in various formats including written materials (brochures,

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6 Resource Guide for Commingling ADA and Non-ADA Paratransit Riders newsletters, updates), presentations at meetings and activity fairs, written and audio public service announcements, and other efforts. Manage demand. One issue that eluded a consensus "lesson" was what to do if there is rapid growth in ridership, making it difficult to meet the demand for ADA and non-ADA riders, keeping in mind the requirement to serve all eligible ADA paratransit trips. To address paratransit demand, transit agency managers are well-advised to be proactive, to control elements that can be controlled, and to acknowledge those elements that may be out of the control of the transit agency, such as population growth, demographics of aging, and so on. By being proactive and monitoring service and market trends, growth- related issues may be spotted early and brought to the attention of policymakers and funding agencies before service deteriorates. For example, while transit agencies are required to provide unconstrained ADA paratransit service and not to exhibit a pattern or practice of trip denials, it is understood that from time to time trips may be denied during unexpected peaks in demand. However, having said that, FTA expects and requires that transit agencies plan for future growth through the budgeting process and make funding adjustments to stay compliant with the regulations. An obvious starting point is to be sure that the eligible riders are properly screened for both ADA and non-ADA services, keeping in mind that ADA paratransit service should be viewed as a safety net for passengers who are unable to use fixed route service for some or all of their trips because of the nature of their disability. It is not intended for use by riders who are able to use fixed route, nor is it intended to be a comprehensive system of transportation that meets all the travel needs of persons with disabilities. By practicing proper eligibility determination--particularly from the start--the transit agency can help to curb unnecessary growth. Additionally, it is mutually beneficial to encourage use of fixed route, shuttles, and other flexible routing that will meet rider needs and that will be more cost-effective as measured by cost per trip than paratransit. Allocate costs and invoice properly. It also is important to work with funding agencies on an ongoing basis to ensure that all costs are properly allocated among the funding partners. It is also important to ensure that the funding sources are being properly invoiced for trips they sponsor and that riders who are eligible for multiple programs have trips assigned appropriately for invoicing purposes.