OLR Research Report

January 15, 2004




By: Kristina Sadlak, Legislative Fellow

You asked what transportation funding and services are available for the disabled in Connecticut and other New England states.


All states must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA requires entities receiving public funding for fixed-route bus transit to offer equivalent paratransit services to ADA-eligible people within the public transit service area during the service hours of the fixed route operation for destinations within mile of fixed-route services (49 C.F.R. 37.131).

Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts provide state-subsidized paratransit services, which can be used for a variety of purposes. In Connecticut and Massachusetts, the services are funded by appropriations from the state and towns. In Rhode Island, where the program is state-regulated, the program is funded by a portion of the state's gas tax. Federal and state capital grants are available in all three states to buy accessible vehicles.

Most towns or transit districts within these states either provide or have access to additional curb-to-curb dial-a-ride services. These services are usually provided and funded by the town, a local senior center, or a local private nonprofit organization. Dial-a-ride service providers may restrict the services they provide. For example, some may provide services only for medical appointments.


Public Transportation

Local buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts or ramps and a kneeling feature that allows them to lower the first step. Metro-North and Shore Line East commuter rail stations and trains are fully accessible and station personnel will assist with boarding and exiting the train.

ADA Paratransit Services

Paratransit services are provided by 13 local transit districts and funded by the state. With exceptions, the districts operate complementary ADA-compliant paratransit services. The Estuary Transit District provides a tri-town flexible route, demand response service three days each week for their member towns, medical outpatient service, and a Shoreline Shuttle that will deviate off route upon request. Northeastern Connecticut Transit District and Northwestern Connecticut Transit District also operate flexible route services on their regular bus routes. These services satisfy ADA complementary service requirements.

Dial-A-Ride Services

Town Services. Some municipalities fully or partially fund their own dial-a-ride services for medical and non-medical purposes, through town-sponsored social services for the disabled or senior centers. More information on which specific towns offer their own dial-A-ride service is available at

State Services. The Department of Social Services provides non-emergency medical transportation to doctor appointments throughout the state for people on Medicaid who have no other means of transportation. All transit districts, except Estuary Transit District, Northeastern Connecticut Transit District, and Southeast Area Transit District, offer state-sponsored dial-a-ride services.

Other Services. Senior centers in many towns provide dial-a-ride services for the elderly and disabled for medical and non-medical purposes. Local nonprofit organizations provide dial-a-ride services to local disabled residents. These organizations include the American Red Cross, Excellent Way Ministries, Deer Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Southeast Community Center of the Blind, and Voluntary Services for the Blind of Fairfield County. Some organizations restrict the use of the dial-a-ride service to members.

State-subsidized rideshare companies have fully accessible vehicles for transporting disabled people to work. These companies include MetroPool, Inc., The Rideshare Company, Rideworks, and 2Plus, Inc.

Each dial-a-ride service provider administers and oversees its individual program. It sets its own limitations on the service it provides (i.e. medical, shopping, social, personal); the days and times of operation; and the service area. More information on dial-a-ride services provided in individual towns is available at


Connecticut funds its ADA paratransit services through the Handicapped Access Program. It appropriated $9,845,711 to the program for FY 2004 and $10,261,310 for FY 2005. Federal Sections 5307 and 5311 provide funding that can help buy or replace ADA paratransit vehicles, but the money is not specifically for transportation for the disabled and elderly.

Connecticut appropriates $2.5 million each year to dial-a-ride services operated by transit districts. By law, the Department of Transportation must make state matching grants within General Fund appropriations to those municipalities requesting funds for elderly and disabled dial-a-ride programs. The municipality must match 50% of the state funds (CGS 13b-38bb). But the legislature never appropriated funds for the program (OLR Report 2002-R-0872).

The Federal Section 5310 Capital Program of the Federal Transit Administration provides capital grants to nonprofit and public agencies for specialized transportation vehicles and equipment for the elderly and disabled. Connecticut receives approximately $1 million per year to help

towns and nonprofit organizations buy or replace vans for dial-a-ride services. Federal Older Americans Act Title IIIb money, funneled through the Department of Social Services, makes grants to the five Area Agencies on Aging to fund transportation services to both the elderly and disabled (OLR Report 2002-R-0880).

The dial-a-ride services provided by senior centers are funded by several sources, including towns, donations, and state and federal transportation funds and capital grants.


Public Transportation

Local buses are equipped with a wheelchair lift and a kneeling feature, and ferries are handicapped accessible.

ADA Paratransit Services

Paratransit services are regulated and provided statewide by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) pursuant to ADA requirements. RIPTA operates a “flex service,” which is available in only a few areas of the state. Its purpose is to take disabled riders to places within their own community that the buses do not normally reach for work or other purposes. Service is available by reservation or at designated bus stops during regular bus route operation hours. RIPTA also provides modified curb-to-curb ADA paratransit services along existing bus routes.

Dial-A-Ride Services

State Services. Rhode Island operates a statewide dial-a-ride type service, called RIde, for the elderly and disabled through the Department of Elderly Affairs. RIde provides door-to-door transportation for doctor's appointments, therapy, adult day care, medical tests and other medical treatment. Reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance.

If no RIde or paratransit services are appropriate or available, the Department of Human Services will help arrange non-emergency transportation for medical purposes, covered by the Medical Assistance Program.

Other Services. Dial-a-ride services are also provided by local nonprofit organizations, senior centers, and municipalities for medical and non-medical purposes. Providers include Friends in Service to Humanity (FISH), the ARC Blackstone Valley Chapter (transportation to members only), the Department of Public Works of Burrillville, and the Central Falls YMCA. More information on dial-a-ride services provided in individual towns (in addition to RIde) is available on the Rhode Island Cancer Council, Inc. website at Private organizations determine their own operating hours, prices, and acceptable reasons for service.


One cent per gallon of the total gas tax of approximately 30 cents per gallon goes toward providing paratransit and dial-a-ride transportation services to the elderly and disabled through the Transportation Improvement Program of the Department of Elderly Affairs. This amounts to approximately $4.7 million per year.

Rhode Island also benefits from Federal Section 5310 capital grants for Dial-A-Ride vans for non-profit organizations and public agencies. For FY 2002-03, the state received $500,000 in capital grants through Section 5310. Also, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development granted $800,000 in December 2003 to Rhode Island agencies, part of which is to help provide transportation for the disabled.


Public Transportation

Massachusetts has 16 regional transit authorities under the Massachusetts Association of Regional Transit Authorities. Some of these, depending on the type of fixed-route bus service provided, have wheelchair accessible buses. For example, Massachusetts' largest transit authority, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, has specific fixed bus routes, and all the buses on these routes are wheelchair accessible. But for other “call a lift” bus routes, passengers must call ahead to request a wheelchair accessible bus. Most commuter and subway “T” stations are wheelchair accessible.

ADA Paratransit Services

All 16 transit districts provide ADA complementary paratransit service for eligible people. The transit authorities contract with both public and private companies to provide service for medical and non-medical purposes. ADA eligible individuals must apply and obtain a Transportation Access Program pass, which is valid for all ADA transportation throughout Massachusetts.

Dial-A-Ride Services

Town Services. All transit authorities provide or have access to dial-a-ride service for medical and non-medical purposes. Some, such as the Franklin Regional Transit Authority, also provide transportation for ADA eligible people specifically for work and job training programs through the Transportation Options Project.

Some towns provide dial-a-ride services through municipalities, local senior centers, private companies, and nonprofit organizations. Most towns will help arrange these services for disabled people. Towns contract with both public and private providers.

Transit Districts that provide their own dial-a-ride service include Brockton Area Transit Authority, Cape Ann Transportation Authority, Lowell Regional Transit Authority, Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority.

Other Services. In most transit authorities, dial-a-ride service is provided through private companies, nonprofit organizations, and local senior centers.

Some private providers include Hulmes Transportation (Pioneer Valley Transit Authority), Massachusetts Elderbus (Worcester Regional Transit Authority), Easy Ride of Cape Cod, Well Run Transportation, Van Go and We Go (all in Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority).

Disabled people may also arrange dial-a-ride service through local senior centers and Councils on Aging. Dial-a-ride service providers determine their own price for service, operating hours, and restrictions on the purposes for service.


Funding for paratransit services and town-sponsored dial-a-ride service is provided through the state's Regional Transit Authorities Contract Assistance, part of which goes toward transportation services for the elderly and disabled. For all transportation costs (disabled and regular service), the state pays 50-75% of the net cost of service provided by each transit authority (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 161b, 23). For FY 2004, the total funding appropriated by the state under this program is $47,782,640. Additionally, the Mobility Assistance Program provides capital assistance to public agencies for vehicles and related equipment for transportation for the elderly and disabled.

The Transportation Options Project is funded through the U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration and various private donors such as colleges, corporations, and non-profit organizations.

Massachusetts receives approximately $2.6 million per year in Federal Elderly and Handicapped Transportation Capital Grants for both public agencies and private organizations. Of this amount, $1,760,000 is in the form of Federal Section 5310 Capital Program grants for buying specialized transportation vehicles and related equipment.