Apart from the major metropolitan areas, mass transit isn’t quite the reality that many people envision. Regular bus routes, subway or metro train lines, even taxis aren’t in place for people who live outside of a large city. Even on-demand apps that rely on per-gig drivers like Uber and Lyft aren’t available everywhere, which leaves a lot of people without access to public transit. Sadly, perhaps no one is harder hit by that reality than disabled people.
Even in some of the smallest cities, there are accessible buses that disabled and elderly citizens can call on, but their routes are not scheduled, or even convenient. As it stands, in many cities, the individual has to pre-arrange for transportation on an as-needed basis, which is a serious inconvenience for the passenger and a significant, overwhelming expense for the city who funds it.
Added to the inconvenience and expense is the fact that the old system was often done by hand, meaning a staff of call center employees literally scheduled necessary transportation in an appointment book with a pencil. The information had to be passed on to the bus driver, who had to adjust his planned route daily in order to accommodate the needs of the passengers. As these passengers are typically relying on this method to get them to doctor’s appointments, physical therapy appointments, and even the grocery store to buy food, the risk of missing a scheduled pickup is unthinkable.
One city is now streamlining the process for handicapped accessible on-call transportation with new software that is already projected to save the city a lot of money. While the software itself is for the call center to input pickups and expected to cost around $20,000, it’s apparently a drop in the bucket when compared to the cost of handicap-accessible buses zipping around the city in unplanned routes to accommodate the needs of the eligible passengers. Over time, a user-based smartphone app could provide even more convenience and savings.