Demand Response Service Requirements

Chapter 7 of the FTA ADA Circular discusses the U.S. DOT regulations that apply to demand response service. The requirements for demand response services are summarized this section of the toolkit.   

This section of the ADA Toolkit is organized in the following subsections:

The information presented in this section is based on the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) regulations:  49 CFR Part 37- Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities (ADA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Circular 4710.1 - Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Guidance.

Click here to download a sample ADA policy template for a rural transit system that operates demand response service


What is Demand Response Service?

According to U.S. DOT ADA regulations, demand responsive services are defined as any services transporting individuals which is not a fixed route service [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].  In this toolkit, the expression “demand response service” is used to refer to what U.S. DOT regulations refer for as a “demand responsive system.”  As described in Section 7.1 of the FTA ADA Circular, demand responsive services encompass a wide variety of service types, including traditional dial-a-ride service, taxi subsidy service, vanpool service, and route deviation service.  In the context of the U.S. DOT ADA regulations, demand responsive service does not include paratransit, which is discussed elsewhere in the FTA ADA Circular.

Note that the definition of demand response in FTA’s National Transit Database (NTD) is different from the definition of a demand responsive service in the ADA regulations. The NTD defines demand response transit as:

A transit mode comprised of passenger cars, vans or small buses operating in response to calls from passengers or their agents to the transit operator, who then dispatches a vehicle to pick up the passengers and transport them to their destinations. A demand response (DR) operation is characterized by the following:

  1. The vehicles do not operate over a fixed route or on a fixed schedule except, perhaps, on a temporary basis to satisfy a special need, and
  2. Typically, the vehicle may be dispatched to pick up several passengers at different pick-up points before taking them to their respective destinations and may even be interrupted en route to these destinations to pick up other passengers. The following types of operations fall under the above definitions provided they are not on a scheduled fixed route basis:
  • Many origins - many destinations
  • Many origins - one destination
  • One origin - many destinations
  • One origin - one destination


General Requirements

Before reviewing the requirements specific to demand response service, readers are advised to review the general requirements for ALL service types that are summarized in the General Requirements section of this toolkit.  


Demand Response Specific Requirements

Vehicles Used in Demand Response Service

All vehicles acquired for use in providing demand response service must be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including wheelchair users see 49 CFR Part 38. Inaccessible vehicles may only be acquired for demand-responsive service if the service, when viewed in its entirety, provides equivalent service to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs, according to specific regulatory standards.

Equivalent Service Standards

If inaccessible vehicles are acquired for demand-responsive service, the service provided to individuals with disabilities must be equivalent to the service provided to other individuals with respect to the following service characteristics [Section 37.77(c)]:

  • Response time
  • Fares
  • Geographic service area
  • Hours and days of service
  • Restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose
  • Availability of information and reservation capability
  • Any constraints on capacity or service availability

The transit agency must demonstrate equivalency according to these criteria prior to any acquisition of inaccessible vehciles.  While the standard FTA certifications and assurances contain an equivalent service certification form, transit agencies must be able to provide proof of service equivalency upon request (such as during a triennial review or other compliance review conducted by FTA or the State DOT).

Contracting Service from Taxi Providers and Transportation Network Companies

Some transit agencies contract for some or all of their demand response services with taxi providers, transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Lyft and Uber, or other private operators. If an agency relies on external transportation providers to provide any portion of their demand response services, the agency needs to ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided with an equal level of access based on the seven service characteristics (equivalent service standards) listed in Section 37.77(c) and referenced above. For more information, see the frequently asked questions on shared mobility published on the FTA website. This could be achieved by requiring the contracted private provider to provide equivalent accessible service (e.g., requiring a taxi provider to operate an adequate number of accessible vans as part of the contract), by the transit agency providing its own accessible service, or contracting with another entity.


Section Sources

Updated June 2, 2020