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Community transportation terminology

Definitions of commonly used words and phrases related to community transportation.

Many transportation services are available across Massachusetts.

  • Community transportation refers to all transportation resources in a community that are available to help meet community mobility needs. These include both public and private services, such as shuttles for seniors, vans that churches or community organizations own and operate, and other services.
  • Human service transportation is transportation for clients of a specific human or social service agency. Rides are usually limited to a specific trip purpose.

Transportation options differ in how they run their routes.

  • Fixed route services are transit services where vehicles run on regular, scheduled routes with fixed stops. For example, a city bus that always travels the same route is part of the fixed route system.
  • Paratransit service includes any means of shared ride transportation other than fixed route mass transit services. However, when people use this term, they are most often referring to demand-response service.
  • Demand-response service (also called “dial-a-ride”) is the type of transportation service where individual passengers can request transportation from a specific location (their origin) to another specific location (their destination) at a certain time. Vehicles providing demand-response service do not follow a fixed route. Instead, they travel throughout the community transporting passengers according to riders’ specific requests. Advance reservation of 24 to 48 hours is usually required for demand-response services, although some providers may accept same day or real-time requests.
  • ADA complementary paratransit is one particular type of paratransit service. It is a form of public transportation service required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for people who cannot use the fixed route system due to a disability. Passengers are picked up at their place of origin and delivered to their destination, as long as the origin and destination are within a specified service area.

Demand-response services differ in the levels of assistance that drivers offer to passengers.

  • In curb to curb service, the passenger is picked up at the curb by their location of origin and dropped off at the curb by their destination. The driver may help passengers with boarding and exiting but does not provide assistance in getting from the door of a building to the curb or vice versa.
  • In door to door service, the driver assists the passenger between the vehicle and the door of the origin and/or destination.
  • In door through door service, the driver provides assistance to the passenger beyond the entrance to the origin or destination. For example, if a passenger is traveling from a doctor’s appointment back home, the driver could help the passenger exit the doctor’s office and/or enter their home at the end of the trip.

Sometimes people arrange their own shared transportation.

  • A carpool is a group of people who travel together in one person’s car. For example, a group of coworkers could organize a carpool to get to work, or neighbors could carpool together to the beach for a summer outing.
  • A vanpool is a group of people who commute to work together in a van that can hold 7 to 15 adults. Vanpools may be arranged by employers, government agencies, or other organizations.

Individuals can also hire their own service.

  • Charter service is transportation for a group of people who have paid a set fee to reserve a vehicle for a length of time in order to travel together for a common purpose. For example, a church group might charter a bus to transport members to a special event.
  • A livery vehicle is a limousine, shuttle, or other vehicle-for-hire that carries up to 15 people (including the driver) and is available only for pre-arranged trips. Unlike a taxi, a livery vehicle may not be hailed from the street.
  • A taxi is a vehicle licensed by a city or town to carry paying customers who do not have to pre-arrange the service.
  • Transportation Network Companies  (TNCs) are technology-oriented services that allow riders to use a smartphone to summon a real-time ride. TNCs use technology to pair passengers with drivers, who may be using their own vehicles to provide the ride.

Some organizations offer services to help riders find and use transportation.

  • A mobility manager is knowledgeable about and able to tap into a variety of transportation services in order to arrange the best possible ways to move an individual from one place to another.
  • Travel instruction is the professional activity of teaching individuals with disabilities, seniors, and others how to use fixed-route public transportation independently and safely to access their environment and community. Travel instruction includes a range of different activities: transit orientation, familiarization, and travel training.
    • Transit orientation offers an introduction to a transportation system. The person leading the orientation will share information about trip planning, schedules, maps, fare systems, mobility devices, and/or benefits and services. The orientation may be conducted in a group or one-on-one.
    • Familiarization is a session that teaches people who have used public transit about a new route or mode of transportation. It may be conducted in a group or one-on-one.
    • Travel training is an intensive, one-on-one process to help someone gain the knowledge and skills he or she needs to make trips independently. Travel training is individualized to meet each student’s unique needs. For example, a travel trainer may ride the bus with a student regularly until the student has the skills and confidence to do the trip independently.

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