Skip to main content


Project Dates
05/01/2012 - 04/30/2013
Principal Investigators
Project Status

Many communities in the US and around the world—whether urban, rural, or suburban—are interested in providing effective paratransit services that are also reasonably good performers from the viewpoint of environmental sustainability. Herein, paratransit will be understood in the general sense of flexible passenger transportation that does not follow fixed routes or schedules, and often serves the transportation needs of the handicapped or elderly. Typically, paratransit systems exist because laws and regulations require the services to be provided, and because governments are able to provide the needed subsidies. Public or private operators who deliver paratransit services often do so via fleets of vans or mini-buses. Paratransit ranges widely in terms of the flexibility of the provided services, which can range from relatively inflexible transportation along a more or less defined route, to fully “demand responsive” service that offers door-to-door transportation, on-demand. Given the governmental subsidies needed to support paratransit, policymakers are increasingly considering ways to operate paratransit systems more effectively. Likewise, they are increasingly interested in the environmental sustainability of paratransit.

New York City Context.

In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority – New York City Transit (“NYC Transit”) provides paratransit services by administering Access-A-Ride (AAR), which offers three types of services: shared-ride, door-to-door, or feeder service. Feeder service refers to a trip in which AAR transports the customer for the first leg of the trip, from the starting point to a fixed-route bus/subway stop. The AAR service area encompasses the five boroughs as well as a ¾ mile corridor beyond fixed-route service across the NYC borderline into nearby areas of Nassau and Westchester counties. Services are provided by private carriers who contract with NYC Transit and use lift-equipped vans, or sedans. In addition, service is also provided by private taxis, livery and black car services. Attention has been given to the potential financial benefits of such integration, and some have estimated that cost-per-trip can be reduced more than 50% by using yellow cabs instead of the more costly AAR vans.

Objective of Proposed Study.

study will focus on paratransit services provided by NYC Transit, and in particular on the integration of taxis (and livery and black car services) into the mix of service-providing vehicles. The overall focus will be on how such taxi integration affects the environmental sustainability of paratransit systems. A working hypothesis is that there are types and degrees of taxi integration that will provide the same levels of paratransit service, for approximately the same cost, but with a measurably smaller ecological footprint. The project aims to provide a foundation for a follow-up externally-funded study (or studies) that could expand the scope of the analysis in various directions.