Public transportation allows for freedom to access goods and services and to participate in work, school, and other opportunities. Where public transportation is lacking or inadequate, many people with disabilities find it difficult to shop, go to medical appointments, visit friends and family, and hold jobs.
The quality and accessibility of public transportation varies widely across Colorado. Large cities including Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and the Denver metropolitan area have public transportation systems that reach major destinations and run throughout the day and evening, weekdays and weekends. In these areas, people with disabilities generally have fairly equal access to public transit. (Title II of the ADA requires state and local services, including bus and light rail systems, to provide wheelchair lifts or ramps and other access features.)
In Colorado’s resort communities, the transportation available to riders with disabilities is usually very good. Fixed route buses are accessible to most riders and Para transit service can be accessed through a relatively quick application process. In terms of the hours of operation and the extent of the coverage area, the public transportation in resort communities is usually far superior to that in larger metropolitan onhealthy.net areas.
In rural areas other than resort towns, however, public transportation is either extremely limited in scope, for instance running only Monday through Friday during daytime hours, or non-existent altogether. In some communities, the only transportation options for people who are disabled and/or elderly are those provided by nonprofit organizations. Trips may only be available by appointment or pre-scheduled route, and fees can range from free to $15 per trip.
In parts of Colorado where public transportation systems already exist, people with disabilities generally have equal access to buses and light rail, and those who are unable to use the fixed-route system can apply for door-to-door Para transit services. In underserved rural communities, lack of transportation hampers mobility and participation for many people with disabilities. Improving this situation will require creative solutions and collaboration.
Colorado communities and policymakers should consider the following approaches:
- Create a voucher system to reimburse travel costs for community volunteers who assist persons with disabilities with their transportation needs.
- Expand transportation benefits under Colorado’s home and community-based services (HCBS) Medicaid waivers.
- Convene working groups in underserved communities, bringing together transit users with disabilities, advocates, policymakers, and other stakeholders to identify locally-appropriate transportation solutions, and to find the resources needed to implement them.