Massachusetts Transportation Services for the Elderly and Those with Disabilities

Massachusetts helps the elderly and those with disabilities use public transportation; provides lift-enabled car services; and disability placards for parking privileges.

Massachusetts provides a range of services supporting travel for those who have difficulty driving or accessing public transportation. These are offered through the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), the Human Service Transportation Office (HST), and the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).

Additionally, there are volunteer driver programs across the state that assist the elderly and those with disabilities with their transportation needs.

Accessibility Services from the MBTA

Anyone that needs help while riding an MBTA bus, trolley, subway, or commuter rail can request assistance from drivers, train staff, or station attendants. Trips can be planned in advance by calling the MBTA at (617) 222-3200 – or TTY at (617) 222-5146 – and letting them know your accessibility needs as well as the start and end points of your trip..

Some Red Line, Orange Line, and Blue Line stations have elevators, escalators, and ramps that make navigating a station easier, as well as bridge plates that span the gap between a station platform and a subway car floor to facilitate boarding the subway.

Some Green Line stations feature elevators, escalators, and ramps that make navigating a station easier, as well as mobile lifts, high-level, and mini-high platforms to facilitate boarding the subway. Green line cars also feature the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA) button, which can be used to alert the driver of any needed assistance.

All MBTA buses are equipped with the following accessibility features:

  • The capability to kneel or lower for customer convenience;
  • A ramp or lift;
  • Two secure areas for wheeled mobility devices;
  • Automated stop announcements which provide the route number, destination, and stop locations; and,
  • Priority seating areas for seniors and customers with disabilities.

Service animals are always welcome on the MBTA. 

Disability Placards

Massachusetts residents who struggle to walk more than 200 feet, require walking assistance, or are impaired by lung, cardiac, or arthritic conditions that severely impact mobility may qualify for a disability placard.

Disability placard applications can be returned to any full-service RMV branch office; the second page must be completed by a Massachusetts licensed physician, chiropractor, or nurse practitioner.

Seniors Driving Safely

Massachusetts residents who suspect their medical condition or age is interfering with their ability to drive safely are obligated to self-report these impairments to the RMV. Those who aren’t sure can participate in a driving evaluation program – offered by hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and occupational therapists – for an assessment. Additionally, the RMV offers free, one-hour safe driving workshops for seniors across the state.

Effective September 30, 2010, operators 75 years old and older can only renew a driver's license at an RMV branch or AAA office. The operator must either pass a vision test or present a completed Vision Screening Certificate.

Free or Low-Cost Transportation Options

THE RIDE is a door-to door, shared transportation service available to those who can’t regularly use public transportation due to physical, cognitive, or mental disabilities. It is available in 60 towns and cities throughout the state, and charges a one-way fare for each registered passenger and guest, but not for a Personal Care Assistant. THE RIDE operates year-round from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.; trips must be scheduled in advance.

New or recertifying applicants to THE RIDE must apply for or renew their eligibility by appearing in-person for an interview with a Mobility Coordinator.

Visitors to the Boston area who wish to use THE RIDE must contact THE RIDE Eligibility Center at (617) 337-2727 to schedule an interview. You will be required to provide a copy of your ADA Paratransit Certificate of Eligibility from your home transit agency along with your contact information while in the area.

The Human Service Transportation (HST) office provides information on transportation options for seniors and people with disabilities so they can access doctor’s appointments, jobs, and social services.