Golden Empire Transit District, Bakersfield, CA, 5-15-08

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U.S. Department
of Transportation
Headquarters East Building, 5th Floor - TCR
1200 New Jersey Ave, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590
Federal Transit
Administration
May 15, 2008

Re: FTA Complaint Number 08-0087

     

Dear [name withheld]:

This letter responds to your complaint, on behalf of [name withheld] and [name withheld], against the Golden Empire Transit District (GET) alleging discrimination on the basis of disability.  The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights is responsible for civil rights compliance and monitoring, which includes ensuring that providers of public transportation properly implement Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Department of Transportation's (DOT) implementing regulations at 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, and 38.

In the FTA complaint investigation process, we analyze allegations for possible ADA deficiencies by the transit provider.  If FTA identifies what may be a violation, we first attempt to provide technical assistance to assist the public transit provider in complying with the ADA.  If FTA cannot resolve apparent violations of the ADA or the DOT ADA regulations by voluntary means, formal enforcement proceedings may be initiated against the public transit provider which may result in the termination of Federal funds.  FTA also may refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement.   

Each response is developed based on the specific facts and circumstances at issue.  A determination resulting from a review of these facts is not intended to express an opinion as to the overall ADA compliance of that transit provider.

Specifically, your complaint of December 4, 2007, alleged that:

1. Complainants are frequently denied access to board the public bus due to other passengers in wheelchairs already occupying the two spaces allotted for wheelchair users, and thus they must wait another hour for the next scheduled bus to arrive.
2. Some of the bus stops frequented by the complainants do not have shelter coverage.
3. Complainants and other wheelchair users are often referred to as “wheelchairs” by GET drivers and GET staff.

Each allegation is addressed in detail below.

1. Complainants are frequently denied access to board the public bus due to other passengers in wheelchairs already occupying the two spaces allotted for wheelchair users, and thus they must wait another hour for the next scheduled bus to arrive.

You report that the complainants are denied access to board at least three times a month due to the wheelchair securement areas being utilized by other disabled passengers.  You report that when the wheelchair securement area is full, the complainants must wait another hour for the next scheduled bus to arrive. 

The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR § 37.165(b) state that a transportation entity “is not required to permit wheelchairs to ride in places other than designated securement locations in the vehicle…”  Because of this requirement, GET may require a passenger using a wheelchair to wait for the next vehicle when the wheelchair securement area is full.  Although a transit entity may provide alternative transportation in situations such as those the complainants encounter, they are not required to do so.

2. Some of the bus stops frequented by the complainants do not have shelter coverage.

You state that the complainants often frequent bus stops that do not have shelter coverage, which results in the complainants having to endure the elements.  Bus stops are not required to have shelter coverage, and all persons using bus stops without coverage must endure the elements, including those without disabilities.

3. Complainants and other wheelchair users are often referred to as “wheelchairs” by GET drivers and GET staff.

The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR § 37.173 state:

Each public or private entity which operates a fixed route or demand responsive system shall ensure that personnel are trained to proficiency, as appropriate to their duties, so that they operate vehicles and equipment safely and properly assist and treat individuals with disabilities who use the service in a respectful and courteous way, with appropriate attention to the difference among individuals with disabilities.

The situation you describe may illustrate that GET drivers and staff are not trained to proficiency with regards to sensitivity.  However, we cannot investigate broad allegations, and you have not provided us with enough information to determine whether a pattern or practice of discrimination has occurred.  If the complainants continue to be treated disrespectfully, please have them file a complaint with GET each and time the incident occurs.  The complainants should also keep a personal log of these occurrences.  If the situation does not improve, please consider contacting us again.

Therefore, after reviewing all of the submitted materials, the FTA Office of Civil Rights has not found GET to be in violation of the DOT ADA regulations.  We are closing your complaint as of the date of this letter.

This concludes our processing of this matter and no further action will be taken.  If you have any questions regarding our determination, please contact Donna R. Walton, Ed.D., at (202) 366-4018 or at her e-mail address: donna.walton@dot.gov.  Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.



          

Sincerely,


David W. Knight
ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights