The MBTA has partnered with ride-share services Uber and Lyft to provide state-subsidized transport for disabled passengers, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday.
The initiative is the first of its kind according to Uber, and serves as an alternative to the MBTA’s RIDE paratransit program. The RIDE program is a private car service that has to be booked 24 hours in advance, compared to Uber and Lyft’s on-demand service.
Registered RIDE users can request an Uber or Lyft through the respective apps, and pay the first $2. The MBTA will fund the next $13, and the passenger will pay the cost of the rest of the trip. If a ride costs $18, then the passenger pays $5.
According to MBTA acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve, this collaboration is convenient, as many RIDE passengers are familiar with Uber and Lyft.
“There are a whole lot of current RIDE customers who are already using Uber and Lyft, in many cases, for those shorter hops to access the fixed route system,” Shortsleeve said.
An MBTA analysis says the ride-share pilot program will cost less for riders and could save the agency as much as $10 million annually.
In addition to wheelchair accessible vehicles through UberACCESS, Uber will provide smartphones so that those who don’t have them can access the app. Lyft will provide wheelchair accessible vehicles through a partnership with a local Americans with Disabilities Act/Non-Emergency Medical Transportation firm, and the MBTA will offer Lyft drivers an additional $12 for every trip completed using an accessible rental. Lyft will also establish a call-in system, in addition to its app, to request rides.
The rideshare pilot will run for a year, from October 2016 to September 2017. During the pilot year, its design, operations, and overall effectiveness will be evaluated.
“The spirit of this is going to be test and learn, test and learn," Shortsleeve said during an MBTA briefing Monday. "We’re going to watch it very closely as we have with the taxi pilot.”