Transportation

Metro Will Try Out New Service For Paratransit Riders

The transit agency says it wants to help disabled riders access the fixed-route buses.

Outside the Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, a customer service representative helped riders aboard a METROLift bus.

Those riders had just attended a meeting on some upcoming changes to Metro’s paratransit service. Under a pilot program that starts in January, those riders will be able to use METROLift to go to a transit center, where they can then transfer to a fixed-route bus.

When they return to the transit center, they can take METROLift back to their home. Researcher Zachary Elgart with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute helped develop the new service.

“Shared ride or paratransit service is on demand and it goes all over the place,” says Elgart. “By alleviating some of that service and putting it on to the fixed route, you’re using service you’ve already got in the field as opposed to putting additional service in the field.”

But what do riders think of the plan? Southeast Houston resident Sharon Lemon has been using METROLift for about five years. She says the new program will give her a lot more flexibility.

“You get to see more of the city,” adds Lemon. “You get to travel more places. Like I told them, if they could get a bus stop closer to my house with me being with a walker, and I can walk to it, then I have no problem using it.”

Disabled riders pay $1.25 for a one-way trip on a paratransit bus but they can use the fixed-route buses for free. Under the new program, they can also travel for free to the transit centers.

Metro emphasizes that the new program is optional and door-to-door paratransit service isn’t going away.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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