Maryland Transit Administration, Baltimore, MD, 11-17-08

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U.S. Department
of Transportation
Headquarters East Building, 5th Floor - TCR
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590
Federal Transit
Administration
November 17, 2008

Re: FTA Complaint Number 06-0187

 

Dear [name withheld]:

This letter responds to your complaint against the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) of Baltimore, MD, 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 are in compliance with 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 the complainant's 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 property.

Specifically, your complaint of February 22, 2006, alleges that:

1. MTA commuter bus drivers fail to operate bus kneelers upon request.
2. MTA commuter bus coaches lack “priority seating” signage.
3. MTA commuter bus coach drivers fail to offer you seating assistance when needed.

FTA investigated your allegations and sent an information request to MTA. We received a response from MTA that addressed and provided relevant information on your allegations. Each allegation is addressed in detail below.

1. MTA commuter bus drivers fail to operate bus kneelers upon request.

DOT’s ADA regulations at 49 CFR §37.173 state that:

Each public or private entity, which operates a fixed route or demand response 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.

You allege that drivers on MTA commuter bus route 903 fail to operate bus kneelers to assist you in boarding and deboarding. FTA has learned through its investigation that you have been in contact with MTA on several occasions regarding broken kneelers on this route. MTA asserts that on each occasion its commuter bus division has forwarded all relevant information to Keller Transportation (MTA’s contractor), and that Keller has promptly inspected all vehicles and repaired any vehicles that were not operational. MTA informed FTA that MTA personnel went onsite to review Keller’s operations after your allegations to confirm proper maintenance of bus accessibility features. It also informed FTA that those vehicles which could not be promptly repaired were removed from service on all bus routes, including route 903.

Furthermore, to address driver refusals to deploy lifts or engage the bus kneeling function, Keller has imposed a progressive discipline policy and has retrained operators, including those that have been the subject of your allegations.

It appears that a combination of your complaints directly to MTA, and subsequently to this office, have brought attention to your concerns. If in the future you encounter a pattern of refusals to deploy lefts or to engage the kneeling function, please contact our office, and we will further investigate the nature and extent of MTA’s progressive discipline policy and its retraining of operators.

2. MTA commuter bus coaches lack “priority seating” signage.

There is presently no requirement in DOT’s ADA regulations for “priority seating” signage on Over-the-Road Buses (OTRBs) (such as those operated by Keller). The absence of this requirement is currently the subject of a DOT Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register. The question posed there states:

49 CFR part 38 contains requirements for the designation and signage of priority seating for individuals with disabilities in several modes: §38.27 for buses, §38.55 for light rail, §38.75 for rapid rail, and, §38.105 for commuter rail. There are no parallel requirements for intercity rail and over-the-road bus. We seek comment on whether it be would be useful to add priority seating requirements in these other modes. We also seek comment on whether any provisions of §37.167, concerning the implementation of priority seating provisions be modified.

While there is no requirement for “priority seating” signage on OTRBs, the requirements at 49 CFR §37.173 which require that drivers provide assistance to people with disabilities are applicable to OTRBs. This requirement suggests that drivers should aid passengers with disabilities in securing desired seats so as to ensure that they are able to utilize a given transit service.

Please note, however, that while the bus driver should assist you, upon request, in asking other patrons to vacate a seat, those patrons would not be required to comply, consistent with the priority seating requirements on other types of transit vehicles.

3. MTA commuter bus coach drivers fail to offer you seating assistance when needed.

As noted above, MTA commuter bus coach drivers should provide you with seating assistance upon request. Patrons are not required to comply with driver requests; however, it is inappropriate for a driver to provide no assistance.

As stated above, Keller has imposed a progressive discipline policy and has retrained operators, including those that have been the subject of your allegations, in order to address any failure to provide needed assistance.

Again it appears that a combination of your complaints directly to MTA, and subsequently to this office, have brought attention to your concerns. If this situation does not improve, please contact our office and we will further investigate the nature and extent of the progressive discipline and retraining of operators who fail to offer you seating assistance.

After reviewing all documents submitted by MTA, the FTA Office of Civil Rights finds that MTA has taken appropriate action in response to your allegations. Therefore, 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 at the local level or privately in the appropriate court. If you have any questions regarding our determination, please contact myself or Kim Zapfel at (202) 366-1713, or via email at kim.zapfel@dot.gov. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.

Sincerely,

 

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