Accessible Transport Options in Florida

In my experience, living with a disability can be challenging. One of my most daunting limitations is having to rely on others for transportation. Sometimes it can be difficult to coordinate with my family, as I have to be conscious of everyone's schedule. That in turn affects my social life. Given my experiences, I wanted to look into some of the accessible transport options available throughout the state of Florida. My motive is not only to educate myself on the available options, but to serve as a resource to anyone who might be looking for accessible transportation.

Sunshine Line

Sunshine Line is a transport service that goes door-to-door, taking people with disabilities and the elderly to medical appointments, nursing homes, and other health-related locations. Trips that are not health-related are only booked when Sunshine Line's schedule permits. Fees are charged based on income and range from free to $5. Reservations can be made Monday through Friday up to seven days prior to the trip, but no less than two days prior. Eligibility for service is based on a variety of factors, including age, income, disability, availability, and destination. The buses will go as close to the desired location as possible, and drivers can assist with tasks such as entering & exiting the vehicle and fastening a seat belt. If you would like to apply for service or would like to know more about eligibility, call Sunshine Line at 813-272-7272. The company also supplies HART bus passes to those who qualify.

HART

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) is a public transport company in Hillsborough County, taking patrons to popular locations in the area. Their main service is a public bus system, which runs on several fixed routes throughout the county. Many other services are offered, such as express bus service, a streetcar, and HARD Plus paratransit. The standard bus fare is $4, and fares vary depending on the service and the purchase of a fare pass. Discounts are available for students, persons with disabilities, seniors, and law enforcement. All buses and vans are wheelchair-accessible. HART even offers a travel training program designed for those new to the bus system who would like assistance learning how it works.

HART bus

Care Ride

Care Ride is an accessible transport company located in Pinellas County. Their services are only offered within the county, but will take customers anywhere within the state. They offer transportation to medical offices, nursing homes, and other health-related sites. Care Ride will also take customers to shop, to churches, and to sporting events. Services are provided to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority DART recipients, Transportation Disadvantage clients, private payers, and those who receive workers' compensation. Rates vary by type of client. If you would like to make a reservation or find out more, call Care Ride at 727-866-1193, or visit their website.

Although I haven't used Sunshine Line or Care Ride, I do have experience with the HART bus system. I used HART during my freshman year of college, which transported me back and forth from the University of South Florida (USF). I relied on this service and was upset when they were eliminated. The routes were changed as part of an initiative known as the Mission MAX route plan. I enjoyed taking the bus because it gave me a sense of independence. It also saved gas for my mom, because she didn't have to drive me to and from school. The staff was friendly, helpful, and always let me off at the appropriate stop. However, there were also some drawbacks to this mode of transportation. Riding the bus could be frustrating because each bus only had two spaces available for passengers in wheelchairs. If a bus already had two passengers in wheelchairs, I had to wait for the next one. I also don't appreciate that all the stops were removed from the USF campus. Many students and staff, myself included, did not have cars, and couldn't make the commute home. But using the bus was simple and easy to understand, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an accessible transport option.

All of these companies share a common goal: providing transportation to people with disabilities. I think that most of these companies focus too much on medical trips. Public transportation is the only exception, and will take passengers to recreational places. Yes, medical care is important to the livelihood of people with disabilities. However, medical care isn't the only need we have. Just like everybody else, we have social lives. Furthermore, some people with disabilities neither have the ability to drive, nor live close enough to bus or van routes. I do appreciate that they have assisted with independence in some capacity. However, it would be nice if more emphasis was placed on recreational travel so that we can be more active in our communities.

A rider in a wheelchair boards an accessible bus
Photo credit: GHN83613. Unmodified and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

There are many useful transportation services for those with disabilities throughout Florida. Most of them are used strictly for medical trips, or travel to a select few locations outside of these. The exception to this is using public transport, such as the HART bus. Thus, people with disabilities are limited in their ability to go on social outings unless they have family members to drive them or an accessible vehicle they can drive on their own. With this in mind, I believe a new type of service should be created specifically for the disabled so that they can run errands and do other social activities. As a result, we wouldn't have to wait for the next bus or ask out families to drive us, allowing a sense of independence as well. The creation of such a system would open so many doors and allow people with disabilities to interact with society in a way that is not currently possible.

About the Author

Bryanna Tanase

My name is Bryanna and I am a 20-year-old college student and avid paraequestrian living with cerebral palsy. Horses are my passion and motivation for everything that I do. I hope to make it to the Paralympics one day and plan to use my experience with horses to help and inspire others.

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Date: 10/1/2019 12:00:00 AM


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