What Is Paratransit?

Complementary Paratransit is a specialized, door-to-door transport service for people who are not able to ride the fixed-route transit system because of a disability. This may be due to an inability to:

  • board, ride or disembark independently from any readily accessible vehicle on the regular fixed-route system
  • use a particular route or stop because it is not 100% accessible.
  • get to or from bus stops on the fixed route system.

The goal of the paratransit program is to ensure that all Americans have access to transit to meet basic mobility needs. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 recognized that people with disabilities have the same rights as other citizens to access services and facilities that are available to the public, including transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for the enforcement of ADA’s transportation requirements.

Eligibility Requirements

ADA Paratransit requires eligibility certification from TCAT. Please contact the ADA office at 277-9388 x420 (TTY: 277-9766) for an application. In order to be eligible an individual must be able to meet one of the following three eligibility requirements:

Category 1: Individuals who are unable to board, ride or disembark from a lift-equipped transit vehicle on the regular fixed-route system without the assistance of another person. Among others, this category includes people with physical or cognitive impairments who are prevented by their disability from learning to navigate the system.

Category 2: Individuals who are able to board, ride or disembark from a lift-equipped transit vehicle, but the fixed route on which they want to travel is not 100% accessible, for example, the vehicle’s lift or boarding device cannot be deployed at the stop they want to use.

Category 3: Individuals with a specific impairment-related condition that prevents them from getting to or from a bus stop location. Significant inconvenience, discomfort, or difficulty does not form a basis for eligibility under this section. Further, barriers not under control of the public entity providing the fixed-route service (such as distance or weather) do not by themselves form a basis for eligibility under this section. These situations are resolved on a case-by-case basis, determined by evaluating the interaction between the impairment-related condition and the barrier in question.

Types of Eligibility

Applicants who are determined eligible for ADA complementary paratransit service are assigned an eligibility category. The eligibility category is consistent with the applicant’s ability to use the regular fixed-route service. These categories are Unconditional, Conditional, Trip-by-Trip, Temporary, or not eligible.

Unconditional – Applicant is not able to use accessible regular fixed-route transit service under any circumstances and is eligible for all trips on ADA complementary paratransit service.

Conditional – Applicant is not able to use accessible regular fixed-route transit in specific circumstances but can reasonably be expected to use fixed route service for some trips (when barriers that prevent travel are not present). Individual is eligible to use ADA complementary paratransit service under limited circumstances identified by TCAT. The determination letter will cite the specific conditions under which the applicant qualifies for complementary paratransit service.

Trip-by-trip – Applicant is not able to use accessible regular fixed-route transit service for certain trips due to architectural and/or environmental barriers. The applicant is eligible to use ADA complementary paratransit service for those specific trips identified by TCAT.

Temporary – Applicant is not able to use accessible regular fixed-route transit service at this time, however the condition or circumstances leading to eligibility is reasonably expected to change in the future. For a limited period of time, the applicant is eligible to use ADA complementary paratransit service. Temporary eligibility can be unconditional or conditional.

Not eligible – Applicant can reasonably be expected to use fixed route service for any trips under all conditions.

Distance to a bus stop or illiteracy by themselves, are not considered disabilities and therefore do not qualify the applicant for ADA complementary paratransit service. Applicants who are blind or visually impaired may be eligible if they cannot use the regular fixed-route service. Applicants with medical conditions, such as epilepsy, kidney disorders, and diabetes, may be eligible depending upon their ability to use the regular fixed-route service.


We provide ADA paratransit for people with disabilities who need to use the service while visiting the area.

If you have documentation from another transit authority certifying eligibility for ADA paratransit, you may use Gadabout by showing such documentation.

If you have not been certified as ADA eligible by another public entity but either have an apparent disability or present documentation of disability to TCAT, paratransit service will be provided to you for 21 days. The 21 days of service that a visitor receives is calculated as any combination of 21 days during any 365 day period beginning with the visitor’s first use of Gadabout.

Visitors without documentation must notify TCAT of their disability and place of residence to obtain approval to use Gadabout. Contact Jenn Jennings, (607) 277-9388 x420 or email jj2@tcatmail.com.

How to apply for ADA certification

To become certified you must fill out an ADA eligibility application and submit it for review. Applications are available in several formats:

Hard copies: Hard copies of the application can be mailed or faxed to you and may be obtained by calling the TCAT ADA office at 277-9388 x420 (TTY: 277-9766). You can also download the PDF version and print it yourself.

Mail your completed application to: TCAT, Attn: ADA Coordinator, 737 Willow Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850.

Or fax your application to (607) 277-9551, Attn: Jenn Jennings

Electronic version: A special interactive version of the application can be sent to you via email. This form can be filled out digitally and returned via email. The interactive form can be obtained by sending an email request to jj2@tcatmail.com or by calling 277-9388 x420 (TTY: 277-9766).

Your application will be reviewed and you will be informed in writing of the decision. Your determination letter will cite any specific limitations (if any) on your eligibility.

The review process usually takes 1-3 weeks from the day your application is received. TCAT is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to make an eligibility determination within twenty-one (21) days of receipt of a completed application and Professional Verification Form (if requested). If a determination is not made within the 21 days, TCAT is required to provide temporary rides, beginning on day 22, until an eligibility determination is made.

If you are found to be ADA eligible, then you may call Gadabout to begin setting up your rides.

Service Area

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Paratransit serves the areas of Tompkins County currently receiving public transit through Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT).

The ADA Paratransit eligible region is defined as a three quarter mile wide corridor on either side of the fixed bus route. The origination and destination of the requested trip must be within these parameters.

Times of Service

TCAT has a contract with Gadabout Transportation Services to operate the ADA Paratransit during daytime, evenings, and weekends. The ADA Paratransit parallels the hours of the public bus system. Contact Gadabout (273-1878) for schedule information.

Companion Riders

A Personal Care Attendant (PCA) may accompany the ADA passenger at no charge provided that the rider has been approved for a personal care attendant at the time of application. When making a reservation, be sure to indicate that you will be accompanied by a PCA to allow for adequate space on the bus.

One guest is allowed to ride with an eligible ADA passenger. When you are making a reservation, please indicate that you will be accompanied by a companion. The companion must pay the appropriate fare. Additional guests may also ride on a space-available basis and must also pay the appropriate fare. Space for additional guests cannot be confirmed until the day of the trip.


ADA Paratransit requires advance reservation which can be set up by calling the Gadabout scheduling office at 273-1878. Reservations must be made at least one day prior to the day of travel, however, placing your reservation two business days in advance or by 2pm the business day before is greatly appreciated. Please call earlier in the day if it is possible.

ADA Trips may not be prioritized based on purpose.

Because this is a public transit service, the fare for a one-way trip is $2.00 within TCAT’s Zone One. This includes Pyramid Mall, BOCES, the Cayuga Medical Center, and the Tompkins County Airport. The fare for rural routes, or TCAT’s Zone Two including Trumansburg, Caroline, Dryden, Newfield, or Danby is $3.00 for a one way trip Please contact the Gadabout scheduling office (273-1878) for additional information.

Trouble getting through to the Gadabout office during normal business hours? Did you get a busy signal or did the line keep ringing but no one picked up? If you had an issue getting through, please let us know about it and be sure to tell us the date and time it occurred.

Pick-up Times

You must call Gadabout (273-1878) between 3:00-4:30 pm the afternoon before or on the morning of your scheduled trip to get your exact pick-up time. Pick-up times will be within one hour of requested time. You should be ready to be picked up at least fifteen minutes before that time. The bus will wait no longer than five minutes past your pick-up time before leaving without you. If the bus has not arrived by fifteen minutes past your pick-up time, please give Gadabout (273-1878) a call to check on the status of the bus. The bus is considered to be “on-time” as long as it arrives not earlier than fifteen minutes before the scheduled time or later than fifteen minutes past the scheduled time.

Drivers will wait five minutes after your scheduled pick-up time, even if they arrive early. Drivers arriving after your scheduled pick-up time must also wait five minutes before leaving. If you do not show up or if you are not ready, the driver will leave and it will be considered a no-show.

Cancellations & No-shows

Cancellations must be made one hour or more prior to a scheduled trip by calling the Gadabout office at 273-1878. Cancellations made less than one hour before a scheduled trip will be considered non-notification. If you are calling before or after office hours you must leave a message on the answering machine. If you need to cancel on short notice or after hours you should also call the Gadabout driver on the cell phone (279-6425 or 280-0478), but they may not be available, so please always contact the Gadabout office. If the customer cancels the trip when the vehicle arrives it is also considered non-notification.

Drivers are obligated to wait 5 minutes beyond the scheduled pick-up time for a customer to board the vehicle. If no one appears or if the driver must leave because a rider is not ready to travel at the scheduled pick-up time, it will be considered a No-Show.

Pattern and Practice of No-shows
Customers may be suspended from paratransit service when they show a “pattern and practice” of No Shows, which occurs when:

  1. A customer has five or more No Shows in a rolling 30-day period; AND
  2. The number of No Shows represents more than 15% of the trips booked by the customer in a rolling 30-day

A customer who shows a pattern and practice of No Shows may be subject to a suspension of service, as shown below.

Consequences for Pattern and Practice of No Shows

1st Violation– Letter of warning and/or phone contact

2nd Violation– 2 Day Suspension

3rd Violation– 5 Day Suspension

4th Violation– 10 Day Suspension and Loss of Subscription Service

5th+ Violation– 30 Day Suspension and Loss of Subscription Service

Violation history covers a 12-month floating period.

If a customer has a pattern and practice of No Shows as provided above, they will receive a suspension letter or email, proposing to suspend service within two weeks and outlining the appeals process. Suspension of service privileges will be postponed pending completion of the appeals process.

Please be considerate of other riders by reserving your trips carefully, confirming your ride times, and canceling unwanted trips in a timely manner. By doing so, you insure that everyone receives excellent service.

Please Note: Only No-Shows and Non-Notifications that are under the riders control will be counted against the rider. No-Shows and Non-Notifications caused by reasons beyond the riders control (e.g. scheduling problems, late pickups and operational problems on the part of the transit provider or a family emergency or sudden turn for the worse in a variable medical condition) or operator error will not be counted against the rider.

Right to Appeal

If you disagree with a suspension of service, denial of eligibility, or with the conditions placed on your eligibility you have the right to appeal. Appeals must be filed in writing with the TCAT office within 60 days of the receipt of the original determination or suspension letter. Click here for the official appeals policy.


Service can be suspended if a passenger engages in “violent, seriously disruptive, or illegal conduct”.


Drivers may help passengers board and exit the bus and assist them to their door. Passengers are limited to six packages of groceries each. Passengers may bring a reasonable amount of luggage on the bus. Drivers will not enter any buildings. Drivers will assist persons using wheelchairs but will not assist wheelchairs over curbs, stairs, or other large obstacles. Drivers are required to help passengers secure wheelchairs and fasten seat belts.

Traffic conditions may require the vehicle operator to make sudden stops, turns, or maneuvers. Fastening your seat-belt ensures a safer ride. You must fasten your seat-belt prior to the Gadabout vehicle’s movement. Drivers will assist in fastening and unfastening seat-belts upon request. This includes fastening the seat-belt/shoulder harness for those using wheelchairs/scooters. Customers who refuse to wear seat-belts or seat-belt/shoulder harnesses will not be transported. However, an exception may be made for customers whose disability prohibits them from wearing seat-belts.

Subscription Service

This service is offered to any customer who travels from the same location to the same destination at the same time of day for each trip, at least one day a week. These trips are prescheduled. You need to call if you wish to change, cancel or put trips on hold.