As a part-time resident of Orlando, Florida, I often use the city's international airport. Transportation between my home and the airport is limited to two equally unappealing options: a city bus ride of at least 2 hours, or a $60 taxi fare. I recently discovered a third, more affordable option - SuperShuttle, which I would like to share with you here.
SuperShuttle is a shared ride service that transports travelers between airports and nearby hotels in 39 cities throughout the United States. They'll also take travelers to their homes or places of work, but at a significantly higher cost. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, SuperShuttle is required to serve everyone equally - including wheelchair users. In my quest to uncover the best ground transportation options for myself and other wheelchair users, I've been testing SuperShuttle around the country.
To date, I have booked SuperShuttle rides at the following airports: Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO) and Washington-Dulles (IAD).
Wheelchair Accessible SuperShuttle
What does a wheelchair accessible SuperShuttle look like? There are several different types of wheelchair accessible shuttle vans currently in use - check out the photographs I have shared below:
I have used the accessible van with a rear-mounted wheelchair lift most often, like the one pictured above at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. The lift is capable of carrying large powered wheelchairs without issue. Inside, you'll find a large space to park your chair. Securement straps attached to the floor will be used to hold your wheelchair in place. The van is also equipped with a safety belt to be placed across your chest.
The pictures above represent two other types of SuperShuttle vehicles. The first, which I encountered in Orlando, FL, is similar to the rear-entry van I described above, but with a wheelchair lift built-in to the side of the vehicle. The second, in Miami, Florida, is actually a mini-bus, similar to many of the wheelchair accessible hotel shuttles that exist in the USA.
Both versions feature a wheelchair lift that can accommodate heavy powered wheelchairs. They each feature securement straps and safety belts to ensure a safe ride.
In Los Angeles, where I have booked two SuperShuttle rides, the agent at the airport has set me up instead with a wheelchair accessible taxi. This was done as a courtesy, and to ensure that I would not be forced to wait for an extended period of time. SuperShuttle picked up the bill on an $80 cab fare, and I was only responsible for the $17 shuttle fare (plus tip) that I had pre-paid at booking.
Important Tips & Information
Before you book your trip with SuperShuttle, I want to make you aware of some important information - based on my experience as a customer on more than 15 occasions, across 5 cities. Use these tips to make sure your SuperShuttle experience runs as smoothly as possible.
1. Book in advance - don't wait until you arrive at the airport.
If you make a reservation 12-24 hours in advance, your shuttle is much more likely to be waiting when you arrive. If you wait to book the service until you arrive at the airport, as I have tested in Dallas, Los Angeles, Orlando and Miami, expect to be waiting at the curb for one to two hours.
While the ADA requires SuperShuttle to offer an "equivalent" service to persons with disabilities, they do not. At least not with respect to on-demand or same-day bookings. This is because most of the company's branches have only one, two or three accessible vehicles. Some may not have any at all (we'll get to that in a minute).
2. Use SuperShuttle with a smartphone.
Smartphones make everything easier - including booking and managing your SuperShuttle rides. I make my reservations through the company's iOS mobile app, directly on my iPhone. The screenshots below depict the booking process from start to finish on the iPhone application:
In addition to the ease of booking rides at your fingertips, you'll also be able to "check-in" for your trip and track the arrival of your SuperShuttle van.
If the mobile app isn't your thing, you can make a reservation via the SuperShuttle website at www.supershuttle.com.
3. Hold SuperShuttle to account for service failures.
Have you been forced to wait longer for your shuttle than able-bodied customers? Request a refund. If your request is denied, demand it or issue a chargeback with your credit card company. "ADA violation" is all your bank will need to hear.
I also encourage you to report any ADA violations to the United States Department of Justice, via www.ada.gov. The DOJ has previously filed suit against SuperShuttle and other transportation companies, in an effort to protect our civil rights. They can only step in to defend you, me and every other disabled customer if we let them know the challenges we face. A little government action can only make accessibility better for all of us.
4. Tip your driver.
It is rarely the driver's fault when something goes wrong. Remember that. Don't be the reason drivers dread picking up a wheelchair user - leave a tip. You can do this during booking on the SuperShuttle app or website, or you can slip him/her some cash.
I often hear from service industry employees that wheelchair users never tip - don't be that person! A few bucks can go a long way to improving the quality of service our disability community receives. One driver at a time.
Cost & Savings
The cost of booking a ride with SuperShuttle depends on a multitude of factors, including the city/airport and the distance to your drop-off point. I've routinely sound SuperShuttle fares to offer a discount of 25% to 75% off the cost of a standard taxi. Typically, the greatest savings are seen on the longest trips.
If your hotel is within 5 miles of the airport, you will probably be better served booking a wheelchair taxi, as opposed to the shuttle. It is on trips of 15-25 miles where you will save the most, which has been the case for me in cities like Dallas and Los Angeles. Just as a point of reference, here are some of the fares I have paid, listed with the city and number of miles covered by the SuperShuttle ticket (not including tip):
- Dallas, TX (DFW) -- 21 miles -- $16
- Los Angeles, CA (LAX) -- 21 miles -- $17
- Miami, FL (MIA) -- 5 miles -- $13
- Orlando, FL (MCO) -- 18 miles -- $25
- Washington, DC (IAD) -- 12 miles -- $29
The differences in fare often have a lot to do with local conditions and contracts, airport access fees and whether or not toll roads exist in the service area. SuperShuttle offers an all-in price, so you won't have to worry about a taxi driver taking advantage of you. That is just one of the reasons I prefer to use SuperShuttle over a taxi.
Although SuperShuttle has failed to offer me an equivalent service on a number of occasions, I've not found a better way to safe money on vehicular transportation to/from the airport. If public transportation is not your cup of tea, or it won't work well for the transfer you need - consider booking a ride with SuperShuttle.
Because the cost of travel is more expensive for people with disabilities, I take every opportunity to save money on wheelchair travel. Sometimes, the savings are worth a little frustration. And, when SuperShuttle delivers the service they should, I'm very happy with my savings and an affordable mode of accessible transportation.
Have you used a wheelchair accessible SuperShuttle or similar service?
What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!