Accessible Services

THE RIDE Paratransit Program

What is THE RIDE?

THE RIDE paratransit service provides door-to door, shared-ride transportation to eligible people who cannot use fixed-route transit (bus, subway, trolley) all or some of the time because of a physical, cognitive or mental disability.

THE RIDE is operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, paratransit functions as a 'safety net' for people whose disabilities prevent them from using public transit. It is not intended to be a comprehensive system of transportation that meets all the needs of persons with disabilities, and it is distinct from medical or human services transportation. You will travel with other customers going in the same general direction.

Accessible vehicles are used to serve persons with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs and scooters. THE RIDE operates 365 days a year generally from 5 AM - 1 AM in sixty (60) cities and towns. For RIDE trips with origin and destination within 3/4 mile of fixed-route service that operates outside of these hours, or in other municipalities within 3/4 miles of MBTA bus service, extended RIDE service is available.

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Eligibility

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. Call THE RIDE Eligibility Center at 617-337-2727 for an appointment. Office hours are Monday - Friday, 8AM - 5PM, or evenings by request.

In-person interviews allow applicants to more clearly explain their disability and how it affects their ability to use fixed route buses, subways, and trains. The eligibility process is not a medical determination of a disability; it is a determination about the range of transportation options available to you.

Please bring the following items to the interview (if applicable):

  • Your phone number (home, cell, work, emergency)
  • Your street and mailing addresses
  • Your health care provider contact information (name, phone, fax)
  • Mobility devices that are used, including power and manual wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, etc.
  • Optional:
    • List of current medications
    • Statement from health care provider regarding disability
    • Visual Acuity or Field of Vision statement from a vision care provider, if vision is impaired 
    • Diagnosis statement from mental health care provider, if applicant has a psychiatric condition  

Free transportation to and from the interview for applicants and up to one other person will be arranged by the THE RIDE Eligibility Center. Visitor parking is also available.

THE RIDE Eligibility Center is located at:

570 Rutherford Avenue - First Floor
Boston (Charlestown), MA 02129

Applicants will receive written notification of the eligibility determination within 21 days of completing the application process; if you haven't received written notification within 21 days of your interview, please call THE RIDE Eligibility Center. If you disagree with the decision, you have a right to appeal.

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Eligibility for out of area visitors

Visitors to the Boston area who wish to use THE RIDE should call THE RIDE Eligibility Center at 617-337-2727. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows you to travel as a visitor for 21 days in a 12-month period. Please provide a copy of your ADA Paratransit Certificate of Eligibility from your home transit agency, along with your contact information while in the area.

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Fares

Effective January 6, 2014, the local one-way ADA fare for each registered passenger or guest is $3 when booking 1-14 days in advance.

One-way fares for premium non-ADA trips are $5 per registered passenger or guest. This applies when the trip origin and/or destination is greater than 3/4 miles from MBTA bus or subway service and outside of the core areas, or for same-day trip requests or changes, except for trip time negotiation. Reservationists will confirm the fare when you schedule a trip.

A Personal Care Assistant (PCA) accompanying a registered user is not charged a fare. One other person may travel as a guest. Additional guests are allowed if space is available. PCAs and guests must travel to and from the same destination at the same time as the registered user.

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Adding funds to your RIDE account

You must have funds in your RIDE account to schedule a trip. Several options are available:

  1. Online: Allow two (2) business days for posting.
  2. Phone: Call us at 888-844-0355 (voice, Relay) from 7 AM - 8 PM Monday through Friday and 9 AM - 5 PM. Saturday and Sunday, including holidays. We accept MasterCard, Visa, Discover or American Express credit cards and debit cards supported by MasterCard or Visa. Funds post to your account within one (1) hour.
  3. Mail: Send a check or money order. Make checks or money orders payable to "MBTA - THE RIDE Fares" and note your RIDE ID# in the memo portion of your check or money order. Allow five (5) business days for posting. Our address is:
  4. MBTA - THE RIDE Fares
    10 Park Plaza - Rm. 5000
    Boston, MA 02116
  5. In- Person: Visit the CharlieCard Store at Downtown Crossing Station anytime Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5:30 PM. The accessible entrance is at 32 Summer Street via the 101 Arch Street building in Boston. Cash, checks, money orders and major credit/debit cards are accepted. Funds post to your account within one (1) hour.

Please retain your cashed check as your receipt or confirmation number from your phone/internet transaction for your records. You can determine your account balance via your RIDE contractor's website, your RIDE reservationist, or by calling the MBTA's Office for Transportation Access. THE RIDE fare is debited from your account as you board the vehicle. You are not charged for a trip you don't take.

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Scheduling RIDE trips

NOTE: Due to the reservation option of booking trips 1-14 days in advance the Service Areas noted below are in effect for trips 7/1/14 and beyond. If you are booking trips to be taken prior to 7/1/14 confirm with your contractor that they currently serve the community you wish to travel to/from.

RIDE service is operated by three contractors under contract to the MBTA. The Core Area is served by all three contractors and includes Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville. A customer can book a round trip from any area into the core area without a transfer. A customer booking a trip from the core area to a location outside of core area must call that area’s provider. However, if a customer books a trip within the core area, the customer may call any of the service providers. To schedule trips, please call the appropriate contractor directly. Customers with unconditional eligibility may be able to make reservations online; ask your contractor for details.

Reservations Hours: 8:30 AM - 5 PM, 7 days per week, including holidays. Trips may be booked from one to fourteen days in advance.

North Area: Greater Lynn Senior Services - GLSS
888-319-7433 (voice, toll-free) or 800-621-0420 (TTY, toll-free)

Serving: Beverly Danvers    Marblehead  Reading Stoneham Wilmington
  Boston Everett    Melrose   Revere   Swampscott   Winthrop
  Brookline Lynn   Middleton  Salem   Topsfield     
Cambridge   Lynnfield Nahant   Saugus   Wakefield    
  Chelsea Malden Peabody Somerville   Wenham  

GLSS also serves trips to/from the “border communities” of Burlington, Medford, Winchester and Woburn as long as one end of the trip is located within one of the non-core area communities listed above.

West Area: Veterans Transporation Services - VTS
877-765-7433
(voice, toll-free) or 888-553-8294 (TTY, toll-free)

Serving: Arlington Boston   Cambridge Lincoln    Somerville Weston  
  Bedford Brookline Concord Medford Waltham Winchester
  Belmont Burlington Lexington   Newton Watertown Woburn

The West Area also includes small portions of Billerica that are within ¾ miles of MBTA bus service.

VTS also serves trips to/from the “border communities” of Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Melrose, Needham, Reading, Stoneham, Wilmington, and Wellesley as long as one end of the trip is located within one of the non-core area communities listed above.

South Area: National Express - NE
888-920-7433 (voice, toll-free) or 888-607-7577 (TTY, toll-free) 

Serving: Boston Canton Hingham Milton Randolph Wellesley
  Braintree Cohasset   Holbrook   Needham Sharon Westwood
  Brookline Dedham Hull   Norwood Somerville Weymouth
Cambridge Dover Medfield   Quincy   Walpole  

The South Area also includes small portions of Abington, Avon, Brockton and Stoughton that are within ¾ miles of MBTA bus service during operating hours.

NE also serves trips to/from the “border communities” of Newton and Weston as long as one end of the trip is located within one of the non-core area communities listed above.

THERIDEbus

Trips to appointments should be scheduled by arrival time. This is to ensure that you are scheduled to arrive before your appointment. Return trips are scheduled by departure time to ensure that we allow for you to conclude your appointment. Requested arrival and return times must be at least one hour apart.

Please notify the contractor if you will be traveling with a PCA, guest(s), child or service animal. Infants and small children must ride in a federally approved child passenger restraint until they are at least 5 years old and weigh more than 40 pounds. Children weighing more than 40 pounds but less than 8 years old or less than 4'9" tall must ride in a booster seat. School transportation of minors (Grades K-12) is not provided.

You may review or change trips one to fourteen days in advance of your trip, up until 5 PM of the day before service. After 5PM, trips for the following day are scheduled and customers are called to confirm their pickup times. If you do not receive a call by 9PM, call your contractor to be sure the trip has been scheduled.

A same day request, or requests for next-day trips after 5 PM, can be placed through the contractor's dispatcher. These requests cannot be guaranteed, but it may be possible to provide the service at a premium non-ADA fare rate.

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Trip Negotiations

If, during callbacks the night before a trip, you receive a promised pick-up/drop-off time that does not work for you, you may negotiate trip times with your RIDE contractor. Please call your contractor as soon as possible. Some changes are not considered negotiations and will incur a premium non-ADA fare rate. These include, but aren't limited to, changes requested less than one hour before a trip, rescheduling a missed trip, rescheduling at least 30 minutes earlier or later than the callback time received, changes to pick-up or drop-off locations, or same day requests. Some requests may not be accommodated.

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Transfers

Trips spanning multiple service areas may require a transfer trip, except for certain trips to border communities. The contractor serving your city or town can arrange transfers for trips to other MBTA service areas. You will remain on your vehicle until the actual transfer to the other vehicle takes place and then continue on your trip.

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Travel times

THE RIDE travel time should be comparable to fixed route travel times, including the time necessary to travel to the bus stop, wait for the bus, ride time, transfers, and travel from the final stop to the ultimate destination. Travel times may increase due to inclement weather, traffic, or diverting to pick up another customer who missed a return pick-up.

Cancelling trips and No-Show/Late Cancellation Policy

Please cancel trips as early as possible so that THE RIDE can schedule efficiently and improve service for all RIDE customers. Use contractor web sites or call your contractor directly.

Customers will be considered as “no-show/late cancel” (NSLC) if they do not appear within 5 minutes after the scheduled pick-up time or do not cancel with at least one hour’s notice to contractor. No-show/late cancellations are considered a pattern or practice when a customer reserves 7 or more trips within any month and no-shows or late cancels 20 percent or more of those scheduled trips, or if there are more than 7 no-shows or late cancellations in a month. A pattern or practice of no-show or late cancellation trips is a policy violation and will result in written notification and possible suspension.

No shows or late cancellations for reasons beyond a customer’s control such as reported to your contractor, or trips which are missed due to operator error, shall not be a basis for determining that a pattern or practice exists resulting in a violation.

The following actions shall apply to violations that occur within the same 12 month rolling period:

1st Violation Written Warning
2nd Violation 1 Week Period
3rd Violation 2 Week Period
4th or Subsequent Violations 8 Week Period

 

Information on how to appeal the suspension, either written or in-person, will be included in notification to customers. Appeals must be postmarked within 14 calendar days of the date on which the notice of suspension was issued.

No suspension will take place if a customer has filed an appeal in accordance with the instructions and deadlines noted in the policy and the Appeals Board has not determined the outcome of the appeal. The decision of the Appeals Board is final.

Prior to sending suspension letters, the MBTA will review all NSLCs to ensure that the process was followed properly and an accurate count is represented. Any NSLC that is found to be in error will be removed.

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On the day of your trip

Be ready to travel 5 minutes before your scheduled pick-up and be prepared to wait up to 15 minutes after that time. The driver will go to the door for you and then must wait for you for 5 minutes from the time of the scheduled pick-up. If you are not at the pick-up location, the driver will obtain clearance from the dispatcher to leave after waiting 5 minutes. Please do not leave your pick-up location to call before the end of the 15 minute waiting period. All vehicles have a color-coded stripe to assist in locating a particular contractor; blue stripe-GLSS, green stripe-NE and red stripe-VTS.

  • If THE RIDE does not arrive by the end of the 15-minute period, please call contractor to assist you in locating the vehicle or estimate its time of arrival (ETA). Your ride is not considered late until 31 minutes past your schedules pick-up time.
  • To cancel or to change a trip location or time, call your contractor. Changes, other than trip time negotiation, will trigger the premium non-ADA fare.
  • If you are delayed at an appointment, call your contractor and ask to be put on "will-call" status. When you are ready, call to arrange a new pick-up time for you. This will trigger the premium non-ADA fare.

There are many changes to schedules due to traffic problems, customer delays, and weather. Dispatchers monitor and adjust vehicles to try to keep schedules running on time. Dispatchers interact with customers, drivers, and MBTA RIDE staff to troubleshoot problems. If you require assistance, please call your contractor as soon as possible. You will not be left stranded.

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Subscription service

Subscription service is for RIDE customers who make a reservation to and from the same locations for three or more days per week. Call your contractor to request that these trips be automatically scheduled, which eliminates the need to call individually for each trip. Subscription service is subject to availability. This service is not provided on holidays; therefore you are responsible for reserving your trips on those days.

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More travel options for RIDE customers

Registered RIDE users are eligible to use paratransit services in other areas in and out of Massachusetts. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) federal regulations allow for travel as a visitor in other areas for 21 days in a 12-month period. The Office for Transportation Access, OTA can provide proof of your MBTA ADA Paratransit Eligibility upon request. Provide this to the visiting agency in order to use their program. If travel will exceed 21 days to a particular area, you may need to apply for certification through that agency.

For services in other Regional Transit Authorities within Massachusetts please call 617-973-7000(voice), 617-973-7306(TTY) or visit MassDOT Regional Transit. Availability, hours of service, fares and policies vary within each Regional Transit Authority (RTA). For information on possible MBTA/RTA transfers, contact OTA.

In response to Governor Patrick’s Executive Order 530, Regional Coordinating Councils (RCC) are forming in Massachusetts. The Councils provide a forum for open discussion, unmet needs assessment, decision making about regional transportation priorities and new services designed to provide more transportation options for people with disabilities, the elderly, and low income individuals. If you would like more information about an RCC in your region and to join the stakeholder discussion, please check out contact information for your RCC.

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Keep your profile current

Please contact us with changes to your information, such as:

  • Change in mobility status, such as using a walker to using a wheelchair, or acquisition of a service animal.
  • Change of phone number, address, email, emergency contact, legal name change.
  • Family members are urged to call us if a customer is deceased so we may inactivate the customer profile and arrange for any refunds from their RIDE fare account. Legal documentation may be requested in some cases.

Email: theride@mbta.com
800-533-6282 (in-state toll-free)
617-222-5123 (voice)
617-222-5415 (TTY)

Or write to:
MBTA - OTA, THE RIDE
Ten Park Plaza - 5750
Boston, MA 02116

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Driver assistance

  • All drivers have received sensitivity and safety training.
  • Drivers will ask you to state your name at pick-up to ensure they are picking up the correct customer.
  • For wheelchair or scooter users, the driver will offer the optional use of an MBTA-supplied body belt immediately upon greeting you.
  •  Driver will assist customers door-to-door to and from the vehicle, but is not allowed beyond the main door or lobby area of buildings.
  •  THERIDEBusLibraryDriver will assist individuals in manual wheelchairs over one curb and/or step, but may not carry an individual or their mobility devices.
  • A driver will collapse and securely store in the RIDE vehicle's trunk or cargo area, an ambulatory customer's manual wheelchair, walker or cane.  
  • Even when accompanied by a PCA, the driver will assist with boarding and disembarking the vehicle.
  • The driver will also fasten and unfasten seatbelts as part of the vehicle's wheelchair/scooter securement system.
  • If you or your guest has packages, the driver will assist with a manageable number of shopping bags to the door of your destination.  Limit heavy or bulky items. Assistance with up to three pieces of luggage per person, not to exceed 40 lbs. each, will be provided for you and your PCA. Keep in mind that this is a shared-ride service and space is limited.

 

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Appropriate behavior on THE RIDE

  • For everyone’s safety and comfort, show respect to your fellow passengers, drivers and the vehicles you use. Inappropriate or illegal behavior will not be tolerated and subject to consequence up to service suspension and/or police investigation.
  • All passengers, including ambulatory or wheelchair/scooter users, must wear a seatbelt.
  • Do not stand while the vehicle is in motion.   
  • Smoking is not allowed, including electronic cigarettes.
  • Animals (i.e. comfort animals or pets which may cause allergic reactions to others) are not allowed, with the exception of Service Animals. Service Animals will only be transported at the feet of their owners and are not allowed on a seat.
  • Consumption of food and/or beverages is prohibited, unless required for dietary and/or medical purposes and client has advised the driver.
  • No tipping or other gratuities are allowed.
  • Personal audio devices may only be used with headphones.
  • Customers may ask that the AM/FM radios installed on RIDE vehicles be turned off, on, or volume adjusted, as they prefer. 
  • Please note that personal hygiene and the use of perfumes can be objectionable to others or cause allergic reactions.
  • For the safety of all our customers, drivers are prohibited from using personal cell phones or any other personal electronic devices while providing RIDE service. When you are using your personal mobile device respect others around your and avoid shouting, etc.

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Other tips

  • Tell your driver as soon as possible if you would like to use the lift if you have difficulty stepping up into the vehicle.
  • For your safety carry a cell phone that has been programmed with phone number for your RIDE contractors and family or friends.
  • Remember THE RIDE is public transportation, not a private service, and the MBTA may change policies and still be ADA-compliant. Familiarize yourself with what the ADA requires and what it doesn't. If you are not sure, contact www.fta.dot.gov/ada or 1-888-446-4511(voice), 1-800-877-8339(TTY).
  • If at any time, you are approached by someone who you are unsure is a RIDE driver, you may ask them to confirm your RIDE ID # or destination.

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Compliments/complaints

The Office for Transportation Access welcomes your feedback. All complaints will be investigated and responded to within 10 calendar days. Complaint information is shared with the Access Advisory Committee to the MBTA, unless otherwise requested when you file your complaint. Contact us:

Email: theride@mbta.com
800-533-6282 (in-state toll-free)
617-222-5123 (voice)
617-222-5415 (TTY)

Or write to:
MBTA - OTA, THE RIDE
Ten Park Plaza - 5750
Boston, MA 02116

The MBTA will not tolerate any retaliation or intimidation to a customer for filing a complaint or concern of any nature. If you feel you have been subjected to these actions, we urge you to contact OTA or the Access Advisory Committee to the MBTA immediately.

Access Advisory Committee to the MBTA (AACT)

The Access Advisory Committee to the MBTA is a consumer body composed of persons with disabilities, RIDE customers, advocates and representatives of disability advocacy groups and agencies who advise and make recommendations to the MBTA regarding accessible transportation. AACT members and other interested persons meet publicly each month. For more information or meeting schedules, call 617-973-7507(voice), 617-973-7089(TTY) or email aact@ctps.org.

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Contact us

General inquiries, or for fare or RIDE account questions: Contact the MBTA Office for Transportation Access.
Email: theride@mbta.com
800-533-6282 (in-state toll-free)
617-222-5123 (voice)
617-222-5415 (TTY)

Eligibility: Call THE RIDE Eligibility Center at 617-337-2727(voice, Relay).

Trip scheduling/dispatch: Call contractors at or click on appropriate contractor name: 

Emergency: Call MBTA Police at 617-222-1212(voice), 617-222-1200(TTY).

For information on accessible services including the MBTA's Fixed Route T Access Guide, application and information on Reduced Fare passes, Elevator/Escalator updates, visit Accessible Services or call 800-392-6100 (toll-free) or 617-222-3200(voice, Relay)

For information on signing up for 'System Orientation Training' or to learn more about accessible fixed route buses and trains, call 617-222-5237(voice, Relay) or email sysorientationtrain@mbta.com.

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Ride Map FY15-19 v2

Related Documents

Download THE RIDE Guide PDF version WORD version
THE RIDE Eligibility Center Brochure PDF version WORD version
No Show Policy - Policy and Appeal Form PDF version WORD version

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