Paratransit is Separate and Unequal

As I wrote before, paratransit, the transit service offered people with disabilities by local public transit entities, is not something I ever wanted to join. Given the lack of sidewalks in parts of the Portland area, and other reasons, I did finally register. While I have had a few decent rides from paratransit, I realize the service is one that should be avoided at all cost.

My dislike of paratransit has nothing to do with those who work for the service. For the most part, they have been professional. My frustration with paratransit stems from the sad reality that it is another service designed to relieve some of the inaccessibility faced by people with disabilities that provides far worse service than is provided people without disabilities.

The cost of a paratransit ride here is $2.50 a ride. That is the same cost for riding the bus and train. The problem is that paratransit is far less reliable. You have to request your trip the day before. You have a 30-minute window in which you can be met. You can literally spend hours on the paratransit bus taking a trip that could take 20 minutes by car.

Some say people with disabilities are getting a great deal; paratransit picks us up at the door and drops us at the door. If you spent a couple of rides taking hours to go from door-to-door, you would realize the separate and unequal nature of paratransit. Also, you can’t have this discussion without the reminder that paratransit was primarily created because public transit entities didn’t want to spend the money necessary to make actual public transit accessible.

Personally, I much prefer the train and bus to paratransit. Regular public transit is far more reliable and much more understanding of our time. When I have to take paratransit, I am reminded of the issues faced by those who must use it regularly. That’s why I wrote this post.

Paratransit is not a good deal. Paratransit is separate and unequal public transportation. People without disabilities would never be asked to deal with such inadequate service. People with disabilities shouldn’t have to deal with it either.

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