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Paratransit services for people with disabilities in the Seattle region during the COVID-19 pandemic: Lessons for recovery planning.

  • Ashour, Lamis Abu1
  • Dannenberg, Andrew L2
  • Shen, Qing3
  • Fang, Xun3
  • Wang, Yiyuan1
  • 1 Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Urban Design and Planning, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98195, USA.
  • 2 Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, Department of Urban Design and Planning, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98195, USA.
  • 3 Department of Urban Design and Planning, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98195, USA.
Published Article
Journal of transport & health
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.jth.2021.101115
PMID: 34518799


Along with all public transit services, paratransit services for people with disabilities experienced substantially reduced demand and an increased need to provide equitable services while protecting their clients and staff's safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Paratransit services provide a lifeline for their clients' essential mobility needs, including access to medical appointments and grocery stores. In the absence of pre-existing pandemic response plans, examining transit agencies' responses to provide paratransit services during the pandemic can help inform planning for post-pandemic recovery and future disruptive events. In September 2020, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 decision-makers, planners, and drivers working for the primary transit agency in the Seattle region - King County Metro - and its paratransit contractors. Interview questions were designed to identify current services, policy gaps, and critical challenges for recovery planning and post-pandemic paratransit services. Interview transcripts were analyzed using NVivo software to obtain essential themes. The interviewees provided insights about (1) paratransit service changes in response to the pandemic, (2) anticipated impacts of a returning demand on paratransit service efficiency, equity, and quality during the recovery period, and (3) innovative approaches for maintaining post-pandemic equitable paratransit services while balancing safety measures with available resources. Study findings suggest that paratransit service providers should consider (1) developing guidelines for future disruptive events, (2) examining alternative methods for food delivery to clients, (3) planning scenarios for delivering equitable services in the post-pandemic recovery period, and (4) increasing resilience possibly by establishing partnerships with transportation network companies. © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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