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Q Transport of Chicago offers its clients full mobility and access with the MV-1 paratransit vehicle for all kinds of trips, including appointments, airport runs, and theater excursions.
As American society ages with healthier generations living longer, the number of people over the age of 80 will more than double by 2032. In tandem, medical advances and mobility improvements are enabling disabled citizens to move about like never before.
For operators, these two trends are spurring an ever-growing market segment for chauffeured transportation, as there will always be a growing subset of clients preferring private sector, and even, luxury paratransit service.
Packed with potential
Paratransit — defined as non-emergency medical and disability related transportation — is a diverse niche that generates $3 billion in revenue each year nationwide, with 75% of service provided by private contracted operators and the rest by public transit agencies themselves, says Hal Morgan, executive vice president of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) since 1994.
Paratransit consists mostly of a public sector component spurred by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) which requires paratransit public transportation service for anyone living within three-quarters of a mile of a bus stop who can’t access standard public buses. Much of that is contracted through brokers in 31 states, who act as middlemen to private providers, Morgan says. “The law is you have to provide it, so every person on Medicaid can get to doctors.”
Private paratransit primarily serves hospitals, nursing homes, workmen’s comp claim clients, and insurance clients, Morgan says, but the biggest potential growth area is what is loosely called the aging-in-place client market of seniors who can live independently at home with regular caretakers and get around with assisted mobility.
“People do not want to give up their autos; they want to drive as long as possible,” Morgan says. “But you have to give up at some point. Look what it costs [to drive] in insurance and maintenance. It might be as much as $1,000 per year.” When factoring in gas and car payments, the specter of rising transportation costs can help seniors to think outside the box when the time comes to hand over the keys, he says.
Chauffeured transportation companies can step into the breach and sell safety, convenience and quality of life — at a pricing level that would either equal or build affordably on the cost of self-driving. The limousine industry already has the inbred advantages of knowing how to operate safe, clean, reliable, quality, luxury vehicles on time with professional chauffeurs — at a profit.
A&A Metro Transportation CEO Thomas Arrighi has helped run a paratransit and medical transportation service for 20 years, which serves a wide variety of clients, such as Jeff Hughes.
“People are living longer and they want to be mobile,” says Thomas Arrighi, owner and CEO of A&A Metro Transportation in Bridgewater, Mass., which has run a paratransit and medical transportation division since 1992. “They’re not homebound and can get around and go places. Before, it was a little tougher with not as many vehicles out there providing this service. Non-ambulatory transportation is now growing with the aging of the population.”
Three avenues for clients
Morgan outlines three ways limousine operators can explore and expand into paratransit service:
- Go to the local transit agency and see which contractors are looking for complementary ADA paratransit and what vehicles they prefer.
- Talk to state Medicare/Medicaid offices and learn about transportation opportunities, whether through an agency or a broker.
- Check out hospitals, nursing homes, private medical complexes, and retirement communities that need transportation services.