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Harnessing the Power of Generative AI to Transform Paratransit Eligibility

ADA paratransit services embody a commitment to equitable transportation, yet defining and managing eligibility poses complex challenges for transit agencies. To help ensure equitable access to transportation services, AI technology has the capability to streamline the ADA application process through efficient workflows, digitized paperwork, and more.

Terri Ling

In the landscape of civil rights and accessibility, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been a cornerstone, mirroring the importance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It underscores the rights of people with disabilities, extending its reach into employment, public accommodations, and notably, transportation. ADA paratransit services embody a commitment to equitable transportation, yet defining and managing eligibility poses complex challenges for transit agencies. This narrative not only influences the broader disability community but also shapes the operational and financial contours of the transit industry.

The Current State of Paratransit Eligibility

As the world has evolved, the mechanisms for determining eligibility for paratransit services, unfortunately, have not seen parallel advancements. The process remains deeply entrenched in paper-based applications and fax communications, a method that is increasingly at odds with the pace and needs of today's society.

From self-certification to medical verifications and, at times, in-person assessments, the journey to eligibility is fraught with inefficiencies. This cumbersome process is further complicated by the multifaceted roles of agency staff, from intake management to conducting assessments, all while navigating a sea of paperwork, leading to inevitable delays and a less-than-ideal applicant experience.

Introducing Spare Engage: A Paradigm Shift

Spare Engage represents a groundbreaking solution, specifically designed to address the inefficiencies plaguing the paratransit eligibility process. At its core, Spare Engage is about leveraging technology to digitize and automate workflows, thus freeing up valuable time for eligibility staff to focus on their primary mission: making accurate and timely eligibility determinations.

Several industry-leading transit agencies are digitizing their eligibility management process today with Spare Engage. For example, we partnered with CapMetro to implement Spare Platform for their 100+ vehicle paratransit service in October 2023. In partnership with CapMetro, Engage has been configured to support nine application processes, including their 16-step ADA eligibility rider application and 10 case templates of varying complexities, significantly reducing physical paper volumes and manual effort.

Here are the key ways that Engage streamlines and digitizes the eligibility process:

Online application process

Transitioning from paper to digital, Spare Engage offers a streamlined online application process. This transformation allows riders to apply for paratransit services conveniently from home, eliminating the need for physical paperwork or in-person visits. The result is a significant reduction in processing times and a decrease in errors associated with manual data entry.

Although CapMetro’s thorough eligibility process is amongst the best in the country, they needed to heavily adapt their processes to fit with Trapeze.

Digital Medical Verification

With Spare Engage, the medical verification process enters the digital age. Medical professionals can submit their verifications directly through the platform, bypassing the outdated fax and mail system. This not only expedites the verification process but also reduces the administrative burden on healthcare providers, ensuring that essential information is conveyed clearly and efficiently.

Automated Letter Creation and Rider Communication

The platform's ability to generate and send letters automatically upon decision-making or when action is needed is a game-changer. This feature significantly shortens response times and improves engagement with riders – critical considering that the ADA has a 21-day determination window that excludes the time it takes to request and receive the application at home.

Moreover, Spare Engage keeps riders informed about their application status, upcoming appointments, and any necessary actions through email, SMS, or dedicated portals. This level of transparency and continuous communication helps manage rider expectations and reduces uncertainty.

Real-time Application Visibility

Both riders and agency staff benefit from real-time visibility into application status via a dashboard or portal. This feature not only fosters transparency but also enables efficient workload management for agency staff, allowing for prioritization of tasks and better overall service delivery.


AI Scan: Embracing Inclusivity through Innovation

Recognizing that a digital-first approach may not be accessible to all riders from the get-go, Spare Engage introduces AI Scan. This innovative AI-powered feature is designed to bridge the gap between paper and digital, enabling the swift conversion of handwritten notes and paper applications into digital formats. By automating what has traditionally been a manual and time-consuming task, AI Scan ensures that all riders, irrespective of their digital literacy, can apply for and access paratransit services with ease.

The integration of Spare Engage and AI Scan marks a significant leap forward in the quest to streamline the paratransit eligibility process. By embracing digital innovation, transit agencies can enhance the accessibility and efficiency of their services, aligning with the core principles of the ADA. This shift not only benefits riders by providing a more user-friendly and expedient application process but also empowers agency staff to focus on delivering quality service.

To learn more about AI Scan, and the future of AI in transit, check out our latest webinar with METRO Magazine.