MBTA resolves discrimination allegations

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has resolved allegations that it violated laws protecting disabled people when it contracted with ride-hailing companies to provide transportation for people who use wheelchairs, federal prosecutors said.

Prosecutors in a statement Tuesday said when the MBTA started a pilot program in 2016 that used ride-hailing companies to supplement its door-to-door paratransit service for disabled riders, known as The Ride, those companies did not have enough vehicles to provide service to passengers who used wheelchairs.

As a result, wheelchair-accessible vehicles were either unavailable or passengers had to endure excessive wait times, which prosecutors alleged was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The MBTA denied discrimination.

The U.S. attorney's office has closed its investigation because the MBTA has made several changes, including providing subsidies that have incentivized ride-hailing companies to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles available for hire.

“Innovation is not an excuse for avoiding accessibility. Rather, it is an opportunity to enhance accessibility. That is what the MBTA has now done here. The first iteration of the MBTA’s program left out rights for those who use wheelchairs,” U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement.

The MBTA has also agreed to monitor wait times for riders needing wheelchair-accessible vehicles and to report the data to the federal authorities for 18 months.

“The MBTA continues its work to identify and develop creative solutions to improve the services available under its paratransit program, The Ride,” the agency said in a statement. “The MBTA’s groundbreaking work with transportation network companies increased the transportation options available to the paratransit community.”


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