Ensuring equitable transportation for the disadvantaged: Paratransit usage by persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - paratransit, ridership - disadvantage, ridership - demand, policy - equity, policy - disability, planning - methods


COVID-19 pandemic, Transportation equity, People with disabilities, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Paratransit, Hurdle model


Paratransit services developed under the Americans with Disabilities Act are a critical transportation means for persons with disabilities to meet their basic needs, but the COVID-19 pandemic posed an unprecedented challenge to service providers. To safeguard transportation equity, this study used complete records of service trips and riders obtained from the Access Transportation Program in the Seattle region for an empirical analysis aimed at answering two research questions. First, how did the ridership and trip purposes of paratransit change after the outbreak of COVID-19? Second, what factors explained the users’ changing levels of service usage in response to the pandemic? Statistical methods, including a Hurdle model, were employed as the analytical tools. The results show that paratransit ridership dramatically decreased during 2020 with the most substantial reductions of working and non-essential personal trips, and that most of the remaining trips were for medical purposes. The results also indicate that riders’ service usage during the pandemic was associated with their sociodemographic characteristics, disability conditions, and pre-pandemic travel demand. When controlling for other factors, riders who lived in neighborhoods with lower income and lower access to personal vehicles were more dependent on the service. Based on the empirical findings, we recommend that when developing plans for future disruptive events, public transit agencies should promptly implement safety measures, identify and prioritize neighborhoods that are most in need of mobility services, and actively pursue collaboration with other organizations for innovative service delivery options.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


Transportation Research Part A Home Page: