Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District, Santa Barbara, CA, 12-31-08

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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
December 31, 2008

Re: FTA Complaint Number 06-0247

 

Dear [name withheld]:

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights has received your complaints filed October 1, 2005 and January 27, 2006, against the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (“SMTD”), alleging discrimination on the basis of disability. The Office of Civil Rights is responsible for 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 U.S 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 provider.

Specifically, your complaints of October 1 and November 15, 2005 and January 23, 2006 alleged that:

1. SMTD fixed route drivers refused to deploy the lift or ramp for you at the bus stop at Anapamu and Alta Vista (across the street from Santa Barbara High School).
2. SMTD fixed route drivers refused to assist you.
3. You were treated rudely by the drivers in question.

We apologize for the delay in responding to your complaint. In reviewing the files of our late colleague Mr. Akira Sano, we determined that we needed additional information to process your complaint. FTA investigated your allegations and sent an information request to SMTD. We received a response from SMTD that addressed and provided relevant information on your allegations.

Each allegation is addressed in detail below:

1. You allege that SMTD fixed route drivers refused to deploy the lift or ramp for you at the bus stop at Anapamu and Alta Vista (across the street from Santa Barbara High School).

Under §37.167(g) of the DOT ADA regulations, transit operators are prohibited from refusing to permit a passenger who uses a lift from boarding or disembarking at any designated stop, “unless the lift cannot be deployed, the lift will be damaged if it is deployed, or temporary conditions at the stop…preclude the safe use of the stop by all passengers.”

Appendix D to §37.167 provides further clarification:

“It is inconsistent with this section for a transit provider to refuse to let a passenger use a lift at any designated stop, unless the lift is physically unable to deploy or the lift would be damaged if it did deploy (see discussion under §37.123). In addition, if a temporary situation at the stop (e.g., construction, an accident, a landslide) made the stop unsafe for anyone to use, the provider could decline to operate the lift there (just as it refused to open the door for other passengers at the same point). The provider could not, however, declare a stop “off limits” to persons with disabilities that is used for other persons. If the transit authority has concerns about barriers or safety hazards that peculiarly affect individuals with disabilities that would use the stop, it should consider making efforts to move the stop”[1].

DOT further addressed this matter in a May 21, 1996 Final Rule making various amendments to amendments to its ADA regulations. In response to a petition from a transit operator in the Pacific Northwest, DOT agreed to examine whether or not transit operators should have the discretion to declare certain stops “off limits” to persons with disabilities on the basis of safety. After due consideration, DOT reaffirmed its original position that transit operators should not have such discretion, and left §37.167(g) unchanged. See the Federal Register, Volume 61, Number 99, pages 25409-25416 (61 FR 25409).

In a December 14, 2006 letter to Mr. Sano, SMTD indicated that it was working with the City of Santa Barbara to move the bus stop and that SMTD anticipated that work would be completed during the first quarter of 2007.

On November 16, 2007, you provided our office with a photograph of the bus stop at Anapamu and Alta Vista to document that the stop had not yet been moved. In a telephone conversation with our office on that date, you indicated that you had also been denied access at the stop at Anapamu and Nopal (Santa Barbara High School) on Route 2-Downtown Santa Barbara toward Eastside and also an opposite side stop at Anapamu and Nopal Eastside toward Downtown Santa Barbara.

A member of our office contacted SMTD obtain its position and comments on your concerns. In telephone conversations on November 30, 2007 and December 5, 2007, SMTDs Manager of Strategic Planning and Compliance reiterated SMTD’s ongoing commitment to coordinating with the City of Santa Barbara to move the stop at Anapamu and Alta Vista a few feet to the east. On December 28, 2007, SMTD provided this office with information and a photograph documenting that the City of Santa Barbara had constructed a bus pad at the stop at Santa Barbara High School on the north side of Anapamu Street and Alta Vista. In subsequent conversations with our staff you confirmed that you SMTD allowed you to board at that stop. During those conversations, staff reiterated that our office has no jurisdiction over the City of Santa Barbara’s construction or alteration of bus stops on city property.

While it appears that this matter has been resolved, we will remind SMTD of the prohibitions under §37.167(g) against declaring any designated stop “off-limits” to persons with disabilities, unless the lift cannot be deployed, would be damaged if deployed, or the stop is declared off-limits to all passengers.

2. You allege that SMTD fixed route drivers refused to assist you.

 The DOT ADA regulations address the responsibilities of fixed route drivers to provide assistance at §37.165(f):

“Where necessary or upon request, the entity's personnel shall assist individuals with disabilities with the use of securement systems, ramps and lifts. If it is necessary for the personnel to leave their seats to provide this assistance, they shall do so”.

Appendix D continues:

“The entity's personnel have an obligation to ensure that a passenger with a disability is able to take advantage of the accessibility and safety features on vehicles. Consequently, the driver or other personnel must provide assistance with the use of lifts, ramps, and securement devices. For example, the driver must deploy the lift properly and safely. If the passenger cannot do so independently, the driver must assist the passenger with using the securement device. On a vehicle which uses a ramp for entry, the driver may have to assist in pushing a manual wheelchair up the ramp (particularly where the ramp slope is relatively steep). All these actions may involve a driver leaving his seat. Even in entities whose drivers traditionally do not leave their seats (e.g., because of labor-management agreements or company rules), this assistance must be provided. This rule overrides any requirements to the contrary.”

In telephone conversations on November 30 and December 5, 2007, SMTD agreed to instruct drivers to provide the required assistance.

3. You allege that you were treated rudely by the drivers in question.

Section 37.173 of the DOT ADA regulations outlines the following additional training to proficiency requirements:

“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.”

 Appendix D to this section addresses appropriate interaction with and treatment of people with disabilities:

“every public contact employee also has to understand the necessity of treating individuals with disabilities courteously and respectfully, and the details of what that involves.”

SMTD has agreed to meet its obligations to deploy the lift or ramp for you at bus stops, and to instruct drivers on their obligations to assist you with courtesy and respect in the use of the accessibility features on the vehicle.

As these issues appear to have been resolved, and we have no information from you to indicate that these deficiencies are ongoing, 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 at this time. 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. 

As my staff indicated in our February and March 2008 telephone conversations with you, we encourage you to monitor SMTD’s compliance with these requirements, and we will consider re-opening your complaint if presented with information that these deficiencies are ongoing or recurring. If new or additional information comes to your attention, please contact Susan Clark of my staff at (202) 493-0511, or by email 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:
Sherrie Fisher, General Manager, SMTD
Steve Maas, Manager of Strategic Planning & Compliance, SMTD
Bill Morris, Manager of Operations, SMTD
Leslie T. Rogers, FTA Region IX Administrator
Derrin Jourdan, FTA Region IX Civil Rights Officer

 



[1] Note also that under §37.123(e)(2)(i), if the lift on a vehicle cannot be deployed at a particular stop (or would be damaged if deployed), individuals who require the use of a lift to board would be eligible for paratransit with respect to the service to that stop. Although not part of your complaint, SMTD’s obligation to provide paratransit under these conditions was discussed in our conversations with SMTD.