Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet), Portland, OR, 1-23-09

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U.S. Department of Transportation

Federal Transit Administration

Headquarters

East Building, 5th Floor - TCR
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590

January 23, 2009

Re: FTA Complaint Number 06-0119

Dear [name withheld]:

This letter responds to your complaint against the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) 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 comply with 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 15, 2005 alleged that:

  1. On February 18, 2005, a TriMet LIFT driver informed you that you would not be given a scheduled paratransit ride in a sedan because you were traveling with a service animal because the dog occupies space intended for a person and that service animals presented a safety issue because of their large size.
  2. After you cancelled a November 3, 2005 paratransit trip, a dispatch representative told you that sedan trips would not be scheduled for riders traveling with a service animal because the animal occupies space intended for a person.

We apologize for the delay in responding to your complaint. Upon reviewing the files of a late colleague, we determined that you had not received a copy of our decision in this matter. FTA investigated your allegations and sent an information request to TriMet. We received a response from TriMet that addressed and provided relevant information on your allegation.

Each allegation is addressed in detail below:

1. On February 18, 2005, a TriMet LIFT driver informed you that you would not be given a scheduled paratransit ride in a sedan because you were traveling with a service animal because the dog occupies space intended for a person and that service animals presented a safety issue because of their large size.

In its response, TriMet acknowledged that when 15 sedans were initially added to the LIFT fleet in February 2005, the sedans were not used to transport customers traveling with service animals, customers using wheelchairs and customers whose children require car seat. TriMet also conceded at that time it would dispatch a bus to complete a trip, if a LIFT sedan arrived and it was discovered that a customer was traveling with a service animal.

With your complaint, you enclosed a copy of TriMetís March 1, 2005 letter of apology. This letter states that, in response to your comments, TriMet had examined its procedures for dispatching sedans and had removed the restriction on customers with service animals traveling in sedans, documenting that TriMet investigated your complaint and responded to it within two weeks. You report in your complaint that this letter resolved the service animal issue to your satisfaction.

2. After you cancelled a trip on November 3, 2005, a dispatcher told you that sedan trips would not be scheduled for riders traveling with a service animal because the animal occupies space intended for a person.

With your complaint, you also enclosed a copy of TriMetís November 10, 2005 letter responding to your November 3, 2005 voice mail message. This letter provides written clarification that all types of vehicles may be used to transport customers traveling with service animals and that the LIFT program assigns trips based solely on two considerations Ė vehicle availability and vehicle capacity.

Based on the information provided to us, TriMet responded promptly to your inquiries and took appropriate action. We have no information from you that this is an ongoing issue or that you have been denied transportation. In the future, if you experience service failures and/or receive information from TriMet employees which conflicts with the written policy on dispatching vehicles, we encourage you to first utilize TriMetís complaint process, as you did in this case. If you find that process unresponsive after allowing a reasonable amount of time for resolution, then we would reconsider revisiting that portion of your complaint.

After reviewing all of the submitted materials, the FTA Office of Civil Rights has not found TriMet 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 FTAís 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 Susan Clark, at (202) 493-0511 or via e-mail at sue.clark@dot.gov. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.

Sincerely,


John R. Day
Acting ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights

cc:
Fred Hansen, General Manager, TriMet
Meg Metcalf, Service Quality Administrator, TriMet Accessible Transportation Programs
Rick Krochalis, FTA Region X Administrator
Monica McCallum, FTA Region X Civil Rights Officer