What is MTS Access?
MTS Access operates wheelchair lift-equipped buses which provide transportation to transit riders whose disabilities prevent them from using fixed route bus or Trolley services. The program is in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
To use MTS Access services, a passenger must first be certified, and the application and certification process is described in the next section. Prior to booking a trip, eligible and certified passengers should ensure that the origin and the destination of the planned trip is within ¾ mile of an operating MTS fixed bus route or trolley line. You can call the MTS Access Paratransit Service provider at 1-888-517-9627 to determine if your trip is within the ADA service area. We suggest that all prospective passengers determine if the locations of your trip origins and trip destinations are within the MTS service area before beginning the certification process.
MTS Access provides complementary services that “mirror” the level of MTS service being offered within a ¾ mile radius of a nearby bus or trolley station. For example, if the bus route closest to you does not run on the weekends, MTS Access would not be available to you on the weekends, just as a passenger on a fixed route bus would not be able to ride the fixed route bus if it did not operate on the weekend.
If you reside outside the MTS ADA service area, your service is restricted to trip origins and destinations within our ADA service area. If your home address is outside the ADA service area, you may receive paratransit service by selecting a pick-up or drop-off location within our service area. In this scenario, the passenger will be required to transport themselves to/from a location within the service area. MTS Access cannot recommend alternative suitable addresses for trip origin or destination.
Given the large size of our service area, the MTS ADA service area is divided into four (4) zones. Passengers may be required to transfer to another vehicle for interzonal travel just as they would likely transfer between the MTS bus and trolley network of services. For example, if you live in Poway, and would like to travel to La Jolla, you would likely board a paratransit vehicle in Poway (Zone 2), and transfer to another paratransit vehicle to complete your trip to La Jolla (Zone 1).
Please note that our ADA service area will always complement the fixed route bus and trolley routes and times. The ADA service area and hours may contract or expand as we make service changes to our fixed route bus and trolley operations. If schedule or route changes are made to an existing bus or trolley line; the MTS Access Service Area Map would be modified accordingly.
MTS has confidence that First Transit will operate MTS Access in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and MTS policies. If you are dissatisfied with the service you receive from First Transit please call MTS Customer Service at 619-577-4555.
ADA Certification, Eligibility Concerns, and Visitor Information
To become certified for MTS Access, prospective passengers are required to complete an application for ADA certification, which can be obtained by calling the ADARide offices at 1-877-232-7433 and requesting a paper application. Applications may also be completed online at www.ADARide.com. The ADARide offices are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The ADARide office will review your completed paperwork and they will render a decision within 21 days from the date they receive your completed application. If 21 days have passed since your submittal of a complete application, you will be given temporary eligibility until a final determination occurs.
After a careful review of all application material, ADARide will make one of the following determinations:
• Unrestricted: Individuals who are never able to board, ride, disembark, or understand the fixed route bus and trolley system under all circumstances.
• Restricted: Individuals who sometimes are not able to board, ride, disembark, or understand the fixed route bus and trolley system.
• Temporary: Individuals whose disability may improve over time or with treatment.
• Visitor: Visitor status will be provided to any individual for up to 21 days in any 12-month period by providing documentation that you have a health condition or disability which prevents you from using the fixed route buses and trolley. If you travel to other areas and are certified in San Diego, you can contact the transit authority in that area and request visitor eligibility there.
• Ineligible: Individuals who indicate or demonstrate they have the functional ability to board, ride, disembark, and understand the fixed route bus and trolley system under all circumstances.
If you are visiting the San Diego area and use ADA Paratransit where you live, you may also enjoy the benefit of MTS Access for up to 21 days of travel in a 12-month period. Simply call ADARide offices toll-free 1-877-232-7433 (TTY/TDD: 1-310-410-0985) in advance of your need to schedule a trip to be added to our passenger list. We will require some basic information, and any documentation of your hometown ADA certification would be helpful. If certification documents are unavailable from your local transit agency, then you may demonstrate proof of disability which prevents you from using the fixed route buses and trolley.
If approved, a verification of certification status will be mailed to you for your records. You may reserve a ride after you have been certified as ADA eligible.
Reservations and Cancellations
To schedule a ride, call 1-888-517-9627 or 1-800-921-9664, any day between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (TTY/TDD: 1-800-568-7097). Reservations are accepted from two days in advance until 5 p.m. the day before travel. For example, if you want to travel on a Monday, you can call to schedule your trip from 8 a.m. on Saturday until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Be ready to provide us with the certified passenger’s name, pick-up address, when they would like to travel, the destination address, and if/when to book a return trip. On occasion, our reservation agents may not be able to provide an immediate trip time but will continue to work to locate a trip for you. In these cases, you will receive a phone call by 5 p.m. the day prior to your ride to notify you of the scheduled pick-up time.
Your reserved pick-up time will be within one hour of your requested pick up time. Please calculate sufficient riding time since trip lengths may cause rides as long as 60–90 minutes in duration. For example, if you request an 8 a.m. pick-up, your trip offer will be between 7 and 9 a.m. and your arrival time will depend on your trip pick-up time, other passenger pickup and drops and the varying amount of time it may take to travel to your destination.
When booking your reservation, you may also reserve a seat for one companion which can be anyone (certified or not) that you choose to bring with you. Additional companions may ride on a space available basis. Companions must pay the full fare.
You may always call the toll free number 1-888-517-9627 to check the status of your ride or to verify your confirmed pick-up time. We advise that our highest call volume is between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Calling during non-peak hours will usually result in a quicker response. Same day trip reservations are permitted on a space available basis and are not guaranteed.
MTS Access can only offer pick-up times, and cannot book trips by drop-off times because trip length, passenger loads, traffic conditions, and other variables can affect the travel time. Since trip prioritization is prohibited by federal law, all trips (medical appointments, school schedules, work schedules, beauty appointments, shopping trips, etc.) have equal priority in the MTS Access reservation systems.
If your travel plans change, we request that you call to cancel as early as possible, but no later than 2 hours before your arranged pick-up time. If we don’t receive a cancellation call and you don’t show up for your trip it is considered a “no show”. If we receive your cancellation call within 2 hours of the scheduled trip, it will be noted as a "late cancellation" which will be treated the same as a “no show”. Because the service we provide is important to so many people, we must enforce a suspension policy to ensure that trip resources are available for everyone. Any passenger who has three or more unexcused no shows or no shows for 10% of their scheduled trips (whichever is greater) within a calendar month will be suspended from using these services for two weeks (14 days). Please call us if you would like a copy of our no show/late cancellation policy.
Origin-to-Destination Service, Passenger Assistance, and Mobility Concerns
Similar to the MTS bus and trolley operations, MTS Access vehicles operate on a schedule. The vehicle may arrive up to 20 minutes after your scheduled time. Our drivers are required to wait no longer than three (3) minutes past the scheduled time and may be directed by dispatch to continue enroute if the passenger is not available at the pick-up location. If you are not at the vehicle within three (3) minutes of the vehicle’s arrival, you may receive a no-show. Your timeliness is appreciated since we cannot delay other passengers.
MTS operates a curb-to-curb paratransit service complementary to our fixed route operations. Passengers requiring a higher level of assistance from their origin to destination will need to contact MTS to identify reasonable accommodations that can be provided to assist their transportation. Because accommodations beyond curb-to-curb service may affect the time allotted for a particular trip, MTS requests that accommodation requests be submitted either at the time of certification (for permanent accommodations) or time of scheduling (for temporary accommodations).
Access drivers will travel up to 60 feet from the vehicle if they can remain in visual contact with their vehicle. Access drivers are forbidden to enter any private residence. Drivers are not permitted to assist passengers with the consumption of food, beverages, or medication.
Passengers and/or caregivers must advise our reservations center if a passenger cannot be left unattended. That passenger will receive origin-to-destination service within our guidelines. Passengers who appear, or claim to be, unable to care for themselves and do not have someone to receive them will be transported back to the origin of their trip, to the nearest medical facility, or to a police or sheriff’s substation, at the discretion of the paratransit supervisor.
Passengers who become physically violent, disruptive, harass other passengers and/or violate the MTS Passenger Code may be suspended from the service. At the time of such an event, the passenger will either be returned to the place of their trip origin or local law enforcement will be called to the scene at the discretion of the paratransit supervisor.
Drivers will assist passengers with up to two (2) twenty (20) pound packages on and off the vehicle. All packages must be able to be safely secured under the passenger’s seat or in the passenger’s lap. When travelling to/from the airport, cruise ship terminal, or an intercity bus or train station, the driver will assist with up to two (2) fifty (50) pound packages.
If you require assistance beyond the service level provided under the origin-to-destination standard, you may be certified to travel with a Personal Care Attendant (PCA). PCAs may ride with you free of charge.
The wheelchair lifts on the vehicles are designed to not exceed a combined device and passenger weight of 800 pounds, and accommodate devices 30 inches in width, and 48 inches in length. If you and your mobility aid exceed those dimensions but can safely fit on the vehicle, you will be transported. Mobility aids and passengers that exceed the 800 pounds or are not able to safely fit onboard the vehicle will not be transported.
Passengers using service animals or traveling with a respirator or portable oxygen supply are welcome on these services.
Transfers to NCTD Lift
If you plan a trip into the northern area of San Diego County, the trip will need to be booked with the North County Transit District (NCTD). NCTD has its own paratransit system known as NCTD LIFT; their reservation phone number is 1-760-726-1111. Trips are independently booked by MTS Access (Zones 1–4) and NCTD LIFT. Trips with origins and destinations accross in different service areas may require a transfer. Trips with origins and destinations across multiple service areas may experience more than one transfer. Therefore, you may be dropped off and left unattended at a designated transfer point before your scheduled pick up time with the other service. If origin-to-destination service is requested then the driver will wait with passengers for the next vehicle to arrive at transfer locations.
Subscription and Holiday Service
For passengers with a regular travel pattern, (the same trip on multiple days), subscription service may be available. Subscriptions will be authorized in the event that scheduling determines that they make operational sense, if they don’t impact the service, and if they comply with section 37.133 of the ADA. If subscriptions become an operational detriment, MTS could decide to eliminate all subscription service. Subscriptions, if granted, may be placed on hold for a maximum of 60 days (for vacations, school breaks, etc.). After 60 days, any subscription that has not been reactivated will be discontinued. Passengers who cancel or no show for more than 50% of their subscription rides in any given month may have their subscription services discontinued. At this time, the MTS paratransit contractor, First Transit, will review all subscription requests and may accept or reject any new subscription ride requests based on the shared ride nature of this service. Changes to subscription rides may result in the discontinuation of the individual’s subscription privilege. Only a limited number of subscription trips are available. Please call MTS Access at 1-888-517-9627 for more details.
All subscription trips are automatically cancelled on most holidays and days of reduced service that surround holidays. For a current list of days where subscription trips are cancelled, please contact the MTS paratransit contractor, First Transit, at 1-888-517-9627. If you have a subscription and will still need your ride on a given holiday, you MUST contact the reservation office at least 3 business days prior to the holiday to ensure that your ride is not cancelled.
On-Time Performance, Late Buses, Missed Trips, and Destination Changes
Drivers are provided a 20-minute window to arrive for a scheduled trip time and still be considered “on time." This 20-minute window starts at the scheduled trip time and ends 20 minutes after the scheduled trip time. For example, if you are given a 7:30 a.m. pickup time, the vehicle may appear from 7:30 a.m. until 7:50 a.m., and still be considered on time. On occasion, a cancellation or lighter than average traffic may result in a driver arriving to pick you up earlier than the scheduled pick-up time. As the passenger, you have the option to leave early or require the driver to wait until the scheduled time. It is your choice, and the driver cannot coerce you to leave earlier than you have scheduled.
If your bus is more than 20 minutes late, please call the MTS Access toll free number at 1-888-517-9627 to check on the status of your ride. Please inform the dispatcher that you are checking on the status of a scheduled ride, and provide your name (or the designated passenger’s) and pick-up location.
Please be advised that same day trips are not required by the ADA. If you miss your trip, we will attempt to offer you the best trip available. There is no guarantee on how quickly your same day replacement trip may be scheduled, and it may be scheduled much later than is convenient for you.
If a passenger wishes to change their destination while on board the bus, they must call the First Transit reservation office. Destination changes can only be authorized by the First Transit reservations and dispatch departments. If a passenger no longer wishes to travel to the originally booked destination, and the new trip destination cannot be accommodated, or approved by dispatch, the driver will return the passenger to the place of their trip origin.
Children and Personal Care Attendants (PCAs)
On MTS Access, children five years of age or younger may ride free with a fare-paying adult. While a Personal Care Attendant (PCA) may travel without paying a fare, at least one passenger must always pay a full fare. A fare must be paid when an adult or guardian is travelling as the non-paying child’s PCA. Likewise, two passengers cannot claim each other as Personal Care Attendants to avoid fare payment.
Fare Information/The Transit Store
The One-Way Fare is $4.50 for all MTS Zones. Transfers to NCTD will require a fare payment to NCTD. To make fare payment easier, you may purchase a 10-pack ticket book for $45 at The Transit Store at 102 Broadway in Downtown San Diego. The Transit Store accepts cash, checks, money orders, traveler’s checks, Visa and MasterCard credit cards.
You may also order your prepaid ticket booklets through the mail. Please send a check or money order for the amount of booklets you would like, payable to SANDAG, at:
San Diego Association of Governments
Attn: Pass Sales
401 B Street, Suite 800
San Diego, CA 92101-4231
Tickets can also be purchased online at the eStore.
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns regarding our service.
We may be reached at MTS Customer Service (619) 557-4555.
MTS ADA Services
100 16th Street
San Diego, CA 92101-7490
MTS hosts the Accessible Services Advisory Committee (ASAC). Quarterly meetings are held in Downtown San Diego to address the needs and concerns of the disabled community. For more information or a meeting schedule, please call (619) 231-1466.