Cobb Community Transit, Marietta, GA, 03-13-08

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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
March 13, 2008

Re: FTA Complaint Number 08-0060

     

Dear [name withheld]:

This letter responds to your complaint against Cobb Community Transit (CCT) 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 October 30, 2007, alleged that:

1. Your dog is not allowed to accompany you on paratransit.
2. On September 26, 2007, you missed your CCT paratransit ride and were not allowed to reschedule a pickup, forcing you to take the fixed route home.
3. In March 2007, you were 15 minutes late for an appointment because the paratransit vehicle did not drive directly to your destination.

Each allegation is addressed in detail below.

1. Your dog is not allowed to accompany you on paratransit.

You indicate that your dog was formerly allowed to ride with you on the paratransit vehicle.  You also describe a situation on October 1, 2007, where you had difficulty securing permission to let your dog ride with you on the paratransit bus.  You attached a letter from Rebecca Gutowsky, Transit Division Manager of CCT, that informed you that your dog was not considered a service animal and therefore would not be allowed on transit.

The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR 37.167(d) state that transit systems “shall permit service animals to accompany individuals in vehicles and facilities.”  Currently, the DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR § 37.3 define “service animal” as the following:

Service animal means 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 vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.

Although you mention that your dog "relieves [your] stress and anxiety as [you] are being transported," you do not state the nature of the work or which tasks your dog has been individually trained to perform for you.  Merely providing comfort by its presence does not make an animal a service animal.  For these reasons, we cannot dispute the decision by CCT to prohibit your dog from accompanying you aboard its transit vehicles.

2. On September 26, 2007, you missed your CCT paratransit ride and were not allowed to reschedule a pickup, forcing you to take the fixed route home.

You provided us with information regarding a situation that occurred on September 26, 2007, where you missed your connection on another transit system, causing your arrival to your CCT paratransit pickup point to be later than you expected.  You indicated that immediately after missing your connection, one hour and 15 minutes before your scheduled CCT paratransit pickup, you called CCT to schedule a later pickup.  You complain that CCT would not reschedule your pickup and you were forced to take fixed route home. 

The DOT ADA regulations at § 37.131(b)(1) require that paratransit service must be provided on the day following a request for service.  There is no requirement for same-day service, and as a result, no requirement that CCT pick you up at a different time when, through no fault of their own, you missed your connection and as a result could inform CCT only one hour and 15 minutes before your scheduled pickup time that you would need a different pickup time.  While we understand that you may have been inconvenienced on this occasion, CCT did not violate DOT ADA regulations when they were unable to accommodate you.

3. In March 2007, you were 15 minutes late for an appointment because the paratransit vehicle did not drive directly to your destination.

You state that CCT is often putting you on buses “going the opposite direction,” thus causing you to be late for appointments.  Specifically, you mention an incident in March 2007 where you were 15 minutes late for a speaking engagement because the bus did not drive directly to your destination. 

Paratransit service is by nature a shared-ride service that is comparable to the fixed-route system.  The paratransit system is not a taxi service.  A paratransit trip should be comparable in length to an identical trip on the fixed route system, including the time necessary to travel to the bus stop, wait for the bus, actual riding time, transfers, and travel from the final stop to the person’s ultimate destination.  You do not indicate what an average trip to the same destination would be on the fixed-route system.  Regardless, a 15 minute delay, in one instance, does not establish a pattern or practice of significantly late or long trips that would indicate that CCT is violating the DOT’s ADA regulations.

After reviewing all of the submitted materials, the FTA Office of Civil Rights has not found CCT to be in violation of the DOT ADA regulations.  As the investigation phase of this process has been completed, 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 new information comes to your attention, please contact us.  While FTA’s decision in your case is administratively final, it does not prevent you from pursuing this matter privately in the appropriate court.  If you have any questions regarding our determination, please contact Stephanie Sharer, at (202) 366-0272 or at her e-mail address: stephanie.sharer@dot.gov.  Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.


          

Sincerely,


David W. Knight
ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights



cc:
 Rebecca Gutowsky, Transit Division Manager, CCT
 Paulette Blake, Paratransit Manager, CCT
Yvette G. Taylor, FTA Region IV Administrator
 Frank Billue, FTA Region IV Civil Rights Officer