Transportation Terms

Common Transportation Terms

In Massachusetts, there are many types of accessible transportation services. Below is a listing of common terminology used to describe the services available to meet the travel needs of seniors, people with disabilities and others who don’t have access to their own personal automobile?


This term refers to the extent to which facilities are barrier free and useable by disabled persons, including wheelchair users, or a measure of the ability or ease of all people to travel among various origins and destinations.

ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)

The legislation defining the responsibilities of and requirements for public transportation providers to make transportation accessible to individuals with disabilities.

ADA Paratransit

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that comparable transportation service be offered to individuals with disabilities who are unable to use fixed route public transportation systems. Paratransit service must be available to individuals who start and end their transportation within ¾ mile of a normal fixed route. In Massachusetts, ADA paratransit is a demand response service provided by contracted transportation providers, regional transit authorities or area councils on aging.

Dial-a-Ride (DAR) or Demand-Response Service

In Massachusetts, Dial-a-Ride (The Ride in Greater Boston) or demand-response services are services provided on demand and usually include door-to-door or curb-to-curb service provided to senior citizens, people with disabilities, and, on rare occasions, the general public. After the passenger, or an agent, contacts the transit operator to schedule transportation, a vehicle is then dispatched to pick up the passenger and transport them to their destination. Most Dial-a-Ride and demand-response services require at least 24 hours advance reservation and have a 30-60 minute pick-up window. To contain costs, passengers may be required to share the ride with other passengers.


In a route deviation service, a vehicle operates along a fixed route, making scheduled stops along the way. Upon request, vehicles will deviate from the fixed route for short distances, to pick-up and drop-off passengers. The vehicle then returns to the fixed route at the point at which it departed to accommodate the request.

Feeder Shuttle Service

A Feeder Shuttle Service typically uses smaller vehicles to transport passengers to and from a fixed-route bus stop or train station. These services can be used by the general public or by a person with disabilities.

Fixed-Route Transit Services

Fixed-route transit services in Massachusetts include buses, commuter rail trains, and light rail services (subways). These services are accessible for people with disabilities. The fixed-route transit services follow an established route and time schedule without deviation with vehicles stopping to pick-up and deliver passengers to specific locations; each fixed route trip serves the same origins and destinations, such as rail and bus; unlike demand responsive and vanpool services.

Flag-Stop and Request-A-Stop Service

Flag-stop service allows patrons to request a bus by waving it down anywhere along a route. Request-a-stop service allows a person on a bus to request to get off at any location along a route.


The term “mode” is used to refer to a means of transportation, such as automobile, bus, train, ship, bicycle and walking. Intermodal refers specifically to the connections between modes. Many towns and cities in Massachusetts have Intermodal Centers where bus and train routes meet.

MassHealth Transportation

Non-emergency transportation services to and from medical appointments for eligible MassHealth recipients only. To qualify for MassHealth Transportation, recipients must first complete a Prescription for Transportation (PT-1) form and the transportation must be to and from a MassHealth provider.


A form of transportation, other than public transit, in which more than one person shares in the use of the vehicle, such as a van or car, to make a trip. Ridesharing is a common practice used in Demand Response services.

Service Animals

Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a “service animal” is defined as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.” The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. In Massachusetts, service animals are welcome on buses and vans. The driver may ask to confirm that your animal is a service animal. Your animal must be on a leash or in a container, and remain under your control and behave appropriately.

Subscription Bus Service

Subscription bus service is a pre-arranged service designed to meet specific group or individual needs. Typically, this service is provided as part of a paratransit program; however, it can also be provided as part of a system’s fixed-route service using accessible buses that are available off-peak or by using accessible spare fixed-route buses.

Title VI

Refers to Title VI of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, and requires that public transportationplanning and programming be nondiscriminatory on the basis of race, color and national origin.


When a passenger needs to use several buses/routes to travel, a transfer allows them to ride multiple buses while paying only one fare. The passenger pays the fare for the first trip, and a transfer ticket allows them to board another bus for free or at a discounted rate.