MBTA Will Now Let Mobility Impaired Riders Take Uber and Lyft

It's a 'first-of-its-kind' pilot.

In a partnership that officials said was likely the first of its kind, the MBTA announced today that, as part of a new pilot program, mobility impaired riders will be able to choose to take a subsidized Uber or Lyft as an alternative to the T-operated paratransit service, The Ride.

Gov. Charlie Baker and his staff made the announcement in a news conference at the Perkins School for the Blind. Which was streamed live on Periscope.

“The reliability of our transportation system depends on the MBTA’s ability to improve its core infrastructure and provide efficient, innovative transit options that meet the needs of the system’s one million daily riders,” Baker said in a prepared statement. “This initiative represents the MBTA’s efforts to increase accessibility in a more cost-effective and efficient way that also delivers more convenient service for its paratransit customers.”

What to do about The Ride, a fleet of vehicles for use by disabled riders, has been among projects undertaken by the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, which Baker convened last summer. The service, the T says, is costly (the state pays an average of $31 per ride) and can be inconvenient (users typically have to book their rides 24 hours in advance). Uber and Lyft cars, meanwhile, can be hailed on-demand, and will cost the T less than half as much, at a maximum of $13 each way, officials said. Commuters who use the pilot program will be responsible for the first $2 for the trip, and will have to pay the remainder on trips that cost more than $15.

Uber has wheelchair-accessible vehicles in its fleet via its UberACCESS program. Lyft will provide accessible vehicles by partnering with a firm that provides accessible vehicles, according to a press release.

An earlier test-run of a public-private collaboration, which let Ride customers use subsidized taxis, had been underway since the start of 2016.

“Independent, reliable transportation is critical for people with disabilities to get to work, school or other community activities on time,” Dave Power, President and CEO of Perkins School for the Blind, said in a written statement. “Paratransit riders can now access the same on-demand services enjoyed by people without disabilities—bringing us another step closer to inclusive public transportation.”