What to Expect When You Request an Access-A-Ride Trip
Since November 2010, Access-A-Ride (AAR) has gradually enforced AAR trip restrictions
that affect conditionally eligible customers. Some customers who called AAR to reserve a trip learned
that a fixed-route New York City Transit bus makes the entire trip, which means these customers will not
receive AAR service for that specific trip. AAR reservationists informed other customers that their requested
trips now involve using both AAR and a bus.
This article will help you understand AAR service changes that result from the enforcement
of conditional eligibility trip restrictions and how these changes may affect your AAR trips.
If you’re affected, you’ll discover that you’re still eligible for some AAR trips. And you’ll learn what to do
if your disability has gotten worse and you can no longer ride the bus or subway for any of your trips.
Read the following overview about changes that bring us closer to the intent of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Overcoming Transportation Barriers
Until 1990, when the ADA became law, many Americans with disabilities faced insurmountable
transportation barriers that prevented them from using public transit. The ADA required local transit agencies
to develop an advanced reservation transportation system (paratransit) as a safety net for customers
with disabilities who are unable to use an accessible public transit system for some or all of their trips
due to physical or environmental barriers. These barriers include: extreme heat or cold weather; snow
and/or ice; lack of curb-cuts; the distance between the trip’s starting point and the bus stop; steep terrain;
major intersections that are unsafe for many people with disabilities to cross; unfamiliarity with a route
for those with visual or cognitive disabilities, or other difficulties negotiating architectural barriers.
The ADA always intended customers with disabilities to use buses and subways when they are able
to do so. AAR began enforcing this intent when we obtained technology that determined if a customer
could make part or all of a specific trip using a bus or subway. Some customers receive AAR for most
or all of their trips, but others receive AAR only for specific trips now that conditional eligibility
is being enforced.
Transportation Barriers Vary:
Person-to-Person, Day-to-Day, and Trip-to-Trip
A person whose disability causes him/her to face a barrier on a particular day in relation
to a specific trip is entitled to AAR for at least part of that trip. Some examples follow:
If your assessment indicates that cold weather is a barrier that prevents you from using the bus,
you’re entitled to use AAR on any day when the temperature falls below 39 degrees.
If we’ve determined that extreme heat is a transportation barrier for you, you’re entitled to use AAR
on days when the temperature is 90 degrees or higher.
If your assessment shows that you cannot walk more than three-to-four blocks and the bus stop is a greater distance from your home, AAR will take you to the bus stop (feeder service). Then you can ride the bus to your destination. At this time, with the exception of subscription trips, we only require you to use feeder service one way. If we have determined your eligibility to be stairs-restricted, you are entitled to AAR for the portion of your trip that would require the use of an inaccessible subway station.
If a customer requests an AAR trip and our system determines that: 1) he/she faces no transportation barriers, or 2) traveling to and from the bus stop to the customer’s destination does not exceed the individual’s travel limitation (e.g., cannot walk more than 3-4 blocks), then the customer will not be eligible for AAR for that particular trip on that day. The reservationist will inform him/her how to make the trip by bus.
Customers Who Believe They Have Wrongfully Been Denied AAR Service Should Appeal Their Eligibility Status or Reapply for AAR Service:
If you receive a letter from AAR that states you are not eligible for AAR service, or that you are conditionally eligible, you have a right to appeal AAR’s decision within 60 days of the date of the letter. (Appeal Instructions come with the notification letter.) If more than 60 days elapse, you must reapply for AAR. In both cases, you will need to provide additional documentation (usually medical) that functionally describes how your disabling condition prevents you from getting to or using the bus or subway
If you have questions about conditional eligibility, please call Eligibility (click here for AAR Telephone Directory), or click here to read the Guide to Access-A-Ride Service for basic information.
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Understanding Your AAR ID Card
Please look at your AAR ID card as you read this article, so that you can see the card’s features as we describe them.
The front of the card has your photo, and:
Your ID Number
You need your ID number to make a reservation, request trip information, or request eligibility information, etc.
This is the date when your AAR service stops. If you do not receive a recertification packet six weeks before this date, please call Eligibility to maintain uninterrupted service. Click here for the Access-A-Ride Telephone Directory.
Personal Care Attendant (PCA)
The word “YES” appears next to “Personal Care Attendant” if you are approved to travel with a PCA. Your PCA travels free of charge with you on AAR and on NYC Transit and MTA Bus Company buses (local and express) as well as the subway at all times.
If you have conditional eligibility, your card lists specific conditions that apply to you and determine your eligibility for certain AAR trips. Conditions are explained in material sent with your card. Click here for What to Expect When You Request an AAR Trip.
The back of your ID card has:
Important AAR phone numbers.
Your Access-A-Ride ID card is an important tool. Show it to the driver prior to boarding an AAR vehicle to ensure you are on the correct vehicle.
AAR Customers Pay Reduced Fare When Traveling on
NYC Transit and MTA Bus Company Buses and the Subway
If you are able to travel on public transit for some of your trips, you can save money. Display your AAR ID card to a bus operator when you board, and you’ll pay a reduced fare. The easiest way to pay reduced fare in the subway is to apply for and use a Reduced Fare MetroCard, or a Reduced Fare AutoGate MetroCard if you are unable to use the turnstile. Click on the links above or call 511 for information..
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Free Travel Training Available
Caption: An AAR customer learns to use the bus.
MTA NYC Transit is fully committed to the use of buses and subways by New Yorkers with disabilities. With some training, many AAR customers who have mobility or cognitive impairments may be able to ride the bus or subway to work, school, health and recreation facilities, and the many cultural institutions for which New York is famous.
Transit currently sponsors travel training for qualified paratransit AAR customers. Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State (CPofNYS) is conducting the training under contract with NYC Transit. Trainees master the following skills:
• Planning a trip: use of schedules, signs, telephone, information services, and landmarks.
• Remembering and following directions.
• Traveling safely at all times.
• Identifying the correct bus stop, bus, subway station, or subway.
• Coping with service disruptions, delays, and emergencies.
• Correctly using mobility aids, such as crutches, walkers, wheelchairs,
• Requesting information/help from appropriate sources.
A training candidate should be motivated and medically stable, and should use the bus/subway often enough to maintain newly learned travel skills.
Training is well under way. There is limited space, so don’t wait to apply! Call 212-947-5770, extension 627, and leave a message. A member of CPofNYS’ travel training staff will contact you.
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Revised No-Show/Late Cancellation and Subscription Service Policies
Effective November 1, 2011, customers reserving seven or more trips within a month who no-show and/or late cancel 30 percent of them may be suspended. Missed trips are considered excessive when a customer reserves seven or more trips within any month and no-shows and/or late cancels 30 percent or more of them. At no time can a customer’s missed trips exceed seven trips within one month. For example: 1) If a customer reserves seven trips within a month and no-shows two trips and late cancels one trip, that individual may be suspended because three trips represents over 30 percent of the individual’s trips or, 2) If a customer reserves seven trips and no-shows or late cancels all seven trips within the month, that individual may be suspended. A first suspension is for two months. Additional suspensions within the same rolling 12-month period will result in longer periods of suspension – up to three years.
Subscription Service customers, please note: NYC Transit may suspend any subscription canceled 30 percent or more in two consecutive months. At no time can a customer’s missed trips exceed seven trips within one month. For example: 1) If a Subscription Service customer takes twenty trips a month and cancels six trips (30 percent) in each of two consecutive months, the individual may be removed from Subscription Service or, 2) If a Subscription Service customer cancels seven subscription trips in a month, the individual may be removed from Subscription Service. This will be considered a consistent pattern of cancellations of any part of a subscription. The decision to suspend is final. Suspended Subscription Service customers must submit another request for Subscription Service but the request will only be considered four months after the suspension date. Customers whose subscription service is suspended due to excessive cancellations still have the right to request advanced reservation trips.
You can read, download or print these policies by clicking here. Or, call the Eligibility Determination Unit (EDU), 877-377-2017. Press 1 for English, then press 1 for EDU.
Keep Your Records Up-To-Date – Inform Eligibility if your disability has gotten worse or if you change medical equipment, start using a cell phone, change your telephone number, or move to a new address (click here for the AAR Telephone Directory ). Otherwise, you might miss important correspondence and calls. For example, you may miss your assessment appointment because your recertification packet was mailed to your old address; or, you may miss a call advising you that your vehicle is about to leave without you because you haven’t given AAR your new cell or phone number.
New! Automated Pickup Alert Calls Coming – Soon, AAR will be initiating a new Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. IVR will enable an automated call to be sent to your telephone as long as you have an answering machine or voicemail, cell phone, or e-mail, alerting you that your vehicle is 15 minutes away and to proceed to your pickup location. Please contact Eligibility and ask staff to add your cell number to Manifest Notes in your permanent record.
Late Pickups – Paratransit is a shared-ride service that requires flexibility in its scheduling. In order to accommodate the thousands of trips provided daily, AAR has a 30-minute waiting period. It begins at your scheduled pickup time and ends 30 minutes later. For example, if you have a 9 a.m. pickup, your AAR vehicle is on time if it arrives by 9:30 a.m. but is late if it arrives at 9:35 a.m.
Exact Fare, Please! AAR Drivers Do Not Provide Change – AAR drivers collect exact fare prior to the vehicle’s departure, and may collect it before a customer boards. Drivers are not required to transport individuals who do not pay the fare.
No Trip Priorities or Assigned Seating on AAR, Except for Wheelchair/Scooter Users – AAR considers a trip to Macy’s the same as a trip to Mt. Sinai Hospital, just as it would be on a fixed-route bus. In addition, you are not guaranteed a front seat in the van or sedan.
AAR vans have five passenger seats for customers, guests, and PCAs who are able to walk, and two wheelchair/scooter spaces. A customer who uses a wheelchair or scooter and wants to transfer to a passenger seat must ask the driver if a seat will remain vacant during his/her trip. If a seat will remain vacant, the customer may transfer to it.
Increased Use of Taxis/Car Service – More AAR customers now travel by taxi/car service. In order to make these services available to additional customers, those individuals who have taken 75 percent of their trips via taxi/car service, will be placed on AAR vehicles for a period of approximately one-and-a-half months.
Taxi Reimbursement – Customers should anticipate receiving reimbursement checks 30 days after the date their reimbursement request is submitted. We are working diligently to reduce the waiting period to three weeks. You can avoid additional delays by mailing reimbursement requests directly to: AAR Taxi Reimbursements, MTA NYC Transit, Paratransit Division, 130 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.
Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) Must Be Able to Assist Customers
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PCAs travel free-of-charge because they are supposed to assist customers with whom they travel. We strongly suggest that customers authorized to travel with a PCA always do so. The customer’s AAR ID card will note “YES” next to “Personal Care Attendant.” Remember: AAR does not have staff to monitor or supervise its customers. An AAR vehicle is just like a city bus, except that it transports its customers door-to-door. If you think it’s unsafe to let your family member or the individual you assist travel alone on a fixed-route bus, don’t let him/her travel alone on AAR.
When you travel with your PCA, the driver will assist you onto the vehicle, secure your wheelchair/scooter and secure your seatbelt/shoulder harness or seatbelt if you if you are sitting in a passenger seat. Your PCA must travel to and from the same destination, be able to carry two packages weighing no more than 40 lbs. to and from the vehicle, assist you up or down the curb or one step, and assist you to and from the vehicle.
Planning Your AAR Trip
• Keep your AAR ID card handy. When you request a trip, the reservationist will ask for your AAR ID number.
• You will be asked if you are traveling alone. Tell the reservationist if you will be traveling with a PCA and/or guest to ensure that seats are reserved for you and those traveling with you.
• You will be asked if you are traveling with medical equipment. Inform the reservationist if you will be traveling with medical equipment, including a cane, wheelchair/scooter, oxygen, etc. In addition, tell the reservationist if you are traveling with a service animal.
• Keep in mind that some addresses have similar names. Make sure to tell the reservationist if your pickup or drop-off address is a Street, Avenue, Terrace, Drive, Place, Lane or Walk. If the building where you’re being picked up or dropped off has more than one entrance, be sure to tell the reservationist the specific entrance where you will be waiting.
• Plan to arrive at your destination a little early. If you have a doctor’s appointment at 10:30 a.m., tell the reservationist that you must arrive at the doctor’s office “no later than 10:15 a.m.” That way, you are more likely to arrive on time, even if your driver encounters unexpected traffic or a detour.
• Find out in advance how long you will be at your destination, so that you can tell the reservationist your return pickup time. If you know from previous experiences that your medical appointment always “runs late,” plan your return trip accordingly.
• Make sure your cell phone is fully charged and working so that if necessary, AAR can contact you at your pickup location when you’re away from home.
• Remember, severe weather or unusually heavy traffic during the holiday season can delay your vehicle’s arrival and lengthen your travel time, so allow yourself extra travel time.
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On the Day of Your Trip
With our busy schedules, it’s always a good idea to double check travel plans. On the day of your trip, call Transit Control (click here for AAR Telephone Directory) to confirm your trip’s pickup time, pickup and drop-off addresses and the carrier transporting you. Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, then press 5 to be connected to a customer information agent (CIA). Although your vehicle number may not be available, confirming travel details helps you be prepared for your vehicle’s arrival.
You may call Transit Control before, during, and after the 30-minute waiting period (this period begins at your scheduled pickup time and ends 30 minutes later) to inquire about your vehicle’s location and estimated time of arrival (ETA). A CIA may also be able to pinpoint your AAR vehicle’s location if it’s equipped with an Automatic Vehicle Location Monitoring system (AVLM). Currently, 97 percent of AAR vehicles are equipped with AVLM.
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Holidays When Subscription Service is Automatically Cancelled
If you are traveling on these holidays, you must call to reserve a trip.
New Year's Eve Day; New Year's Day; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Presidents' Day; Good Friday; Memorial Day; Independence Day; Labor Day; Columbus Day; Veterans Day; Thanksgiving Day; Day after Thanksgiving; Christmas Eve Day; Christmas Day.
A Transit Control Superintendent uses an AVLM (right monitor) and ADEPT Dispatch (left monitor) to pinpoint the location of an AAR vehicle on its route
Kimberly Patrick, First Transit Training Supervisor, teaches a class of new employees how to use ADEPT – the software program that schedules reservations and monitors trips. Training is an ongoing process for all staff.
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In Extreme Weather: Staying Home May be Your Safest Option
When the weather forecast predicts snow, ice, torrential rain, high winds or a hurricane, keep in mind that AAR may pick you up, but may be unable to transport you back home.
In addition, if there are high winds, AAR vehicles may be banned from bridges. Vehicles may skid on ice or stall on flooded highways. Blizzard conditions often cause AAR vehicles to become stuck in the snow unable to reach their passengers or with their passengers stuck on board. Immediate rescue is not always possible.
Drivers may not be able to assist you over mounds of snow or across ice, keep you upright in high winds or protect you from falling debris. Your power chair, scooter, wheelchair, walker, cane, or guide dog may prove useless in snowdrifts.
If your trip is not medically necessary or otherwise urgent, ask yourself,
“Am I prepared to stay away from home for most of the day?” “Is the trip worth the risk of being injured?” If the answer to either of these questions is “No,” please don’t travel.
Is Your Organization Interested in a Presentation About AAR Service?
If your organization has 15 or more people who want to learn more about AAR service, please call 718-393-4147 or 718-393-4130 to arrange a presentation.
How to Get More Information About AAR
Use our web page to access Guide to Access-A-Ride Service as well as AAR policies and archived newsletters. However, to access other information about accessible travel and other paratransit services at www.mta.info, click on Accessibility and choose from the menu, or click on the Paratransit link and choose a different paratransit service in the MTA area.
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NYC Transit Customer Services
To request AAR publications, to offer suggestions, make commendations, submit comments about On The Move, or register AAR complaints, please dial 511. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, use your preferred relay service provider or the free 711 service relay to reach 511. You can write to us at Paratransit Division, 130 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 or contact us online at www.mta.info by clicking on FAQs/Contact Us.
• How to Apply or Recertify for Access-A-Ride Paratransit Service
• Guide to Access-A-Ride Service (newly revised)
• Drivers and Customers Can Make Everyone’s Ride Better
• On The Move (Customers who are blind or visually impaired may call 718-393-4133 for On The Move in Braille or on cassette)
• Subway Map for Customers with Disabilities
Access-A-Ride Telephone Directory
Call 877-337-2017 toll-free from area codes 212, 718, 347, 516, 631, 646, 914, and 845. From other area codes, dial 718-393-4999. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, use your preferred relay service provider or the free 711 service relay. You will know you are connected to Access-A-Ride's (AAR) telephone system when you hear: “Thank you for calling AAR. Please listen to the following important message. If you do not wish to listen to the message, please press 1.” Then you will hear, “You have reached AAR.” Conversations with AAR personnel are recorded and may be monitored. After selecting 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, choose from the menu below:
For eligibility, appeals, certification or application questions, please press 1.
To request a trip, please press 2.
To change a trip, please press 3.
To cancel a future trip, please press 4.
For same day trip information, please press 5.
For subscription service, please press 6.
To repeat this announcement, please press 0.
Hold for assistance if you do not have a touch-tone phone.
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