King County Metro Transit, Seattle, WA, 12-18-08

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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

Re: FTA Complaint Number 07-0203

 

Dear [name withheld]:

This letter responds to your complaint against King County Metro Access Transportation (King County Metro) 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 of1990 (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 September 20, 2006 alleged that:

1. King County Metro provided you with paratransit trips of excessive length.
2. King County Metro provided you with untimely paratransit pickups.
3.King County Metro responded to your complaints in an “abusive” and “disrespectful” manner.

We apologize for the delay in our response. FTA investigated your allegation and sent an information request to Access Transportation. We received a response from Access Transportation that addressed and provided relevant information on your allegations. Each allegation is addressed in detail below.

1. King County Metro provided you with paratransit trips of excessive length.

Under §37 .131(f)(3) of the DOT ADA regulations, transit operators such as King County Metro are prohibited from engaging in any operational pattern or practice that significantly limits the availability of service to ADA paratransit eligible individuals. As specified in §37.131(f)(3)(i)(C), such prohibited patterns or practices include substantial numbers of trips with excessive trip length.

You provided FTA with your calendar from April 23 through July 30, 2007. Using the information available in this calendar we were able to determine that you took approximately 100 trips on Access Transportation over this three-month period. By comparing the information in your calendar with the response from Access Transportation we were able to address your allegation of excessive trip lengths.

Using the online Trip Planner provided by King County Metro, FTA determined that your morning route from home to work would typically take one hour and twenty-six minutes using the comparable fixed-route bus. This estimate assumes you plan to arrive at work at 7:30 a.m., wait five minute at your bus stop, and adopt a walking pace of two miles an hour. According to the data you provided, and verified by Access Transportation, your morning trip exceed this time on the following dates:

May 2, 2007 – 1 hour, 45 minutes (19 minutes longer than a comparable trip)
June 8, 2007 – 1 hour, 30 minutes (4 minutes longer than a comparable trip)
June 13, 2007 – 1 hour, 32 minutes (6 minutes longer than a comparable trip)
June 18, 2007 – 2 hours, 9 minutes (44 minutes longer than a comparable trip)

Using the online Trip Planner, FTA determined that your evening route from work to home would typically take one hour and twenty minutes using the comparable fixed-route bus. This estimate assumes you leave work at 5:00 p.m., wait five minutes at your bus stop, and adopt a walking pace of two miles an hour. According to the data you provided, and verified by King County Metro, your evening trip time exceeded this estimate on the following dates:

June 12, 2007 – 1 hour, 30 minutes (10 minutes longer than a comparable trip)
July 17, 2007 – 1 hour, 25 minutes (5 minutes longer than a comparable trip)

You also alleged that Access Transportation provided you with a trip of excessive length on May 8, 2007. According to your records, you were dropped off at about 7:15 p.m. on this date. According to King County Metro, you were dropped off at about 6:23 p.m. Due to the discrepancy between these two records, FTA is unable to make a determination as to the timeliness of your trip on this date.

Our investigation of this three-month period determined that six of 100 trips were longer than comparable trips on the fixed-route bus. Moreover, four of those six were longer by ten or fewer minutes. Therefore, we can not find that King County Metro has subjected you to a substantial number of trips with excessive trip length.

While we sympathize with the inconvenience you experience due to long trip length, we remind you that ADA paratransit services are a shared-ride public transportation service. The appropriate measure of a trip length is that of the comparable fixed route, not a taxi or other direct means of travel.

2. King Country Metro provided you with untimely paratransit pickups.

The capacity constraints prohibited under the DOT ADA regulations also include substantial numbers of significantly untimely pickups for initial or return trips; see 49 CFR §37.131(f)(3)(i)(A). Comparing the information you provided FTA with the data available from King County Metro, FTA has determined that you were picked up outside of Access Transportation’s 30-minute pickup window on the following dates:

May 8, 2007 – 12 minutes after window
June 11, 2007 – 35 minutes after window
June 19, 2007 – 39 minutes after window
June 25, 2007 – 44 minutes after window
July 2, 2007 – 5 before window
July 9, 2007 – 36 minutes after window
July 10, 2007 – 39 minutes before window
July 16, 2007 – 41 minutes after window
July 24, 2007 – 16 minutes after window
July 25, 2007 – 5 minutes before window
July 25, 2007 – 1 hour 15 minutes after window

You also alleged that you were subject to a late pickup on June 6, 2007. According to your records, your pickup window was around 5: 15 p.m. According to Access Transportation, your pickup window was 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. and you were picked up at 7:15 p.m. A pickup of 5:15 p.m. is consistent with your usual travel patterns, so we will assume that your records are correct in this instance. It appears that a miscommunication about your pickup window resulted in a late pickup approximately two hours after your pickup window.

Our investigation of this three-month period thus determined that on twelve of 100 trips you were picked up outside your pickup window. Of these twelve trips, in three instances you were picked up prior to your pickup window. In nine instances you were picked up after your pickup window.

You should never be required to board a vehicle prior to your pickup window; however, according to King County Metro many customers are ready prior to their pickup window and appreciate being given such an option. According to King County Metro, it is the company’s policy to offer but not require early boarding; drivers and dispatchers are aware of this policy and their scheduling software will not allow a “no show” prior to five minutes after the customer’s trip window has begun. However, the King County Metro Access Rider’s Guide states, “The Access van could come any time within the 30-minute window. You must be ready to leave at the beginning of the window; the van must leave within 5 minutes of its arrival.” This wording could be construed by customers to mean that they must board the Access van within five minutes of its arrival, regardless of whether the van has arrived prior to the trip window. In a separate letter we will ask King County Metro to revise this language in its next Rider’s Guide in order to more clearly indicate that customers need not board the Access van prior to the pickup window and that the Access van must wait for five minutes within the scheduled pickup window.

Based on the available information, FTA found that ninety-one percent of your pickups with Access Transportation were early or on-time. This is consistent with Access Transportation’s overall reported on-time performance of ninety-two percent. While Access Transportation should always strive to always be on-time, it does not appear that you have experienced a disproportionate or substantial number of untimely pick-ups. In this case we therefore can not find King County Metro to be in violation of the prohibition on a substantial number of untimely trips. Nonetheless, King County Metro has offered to monitor your trip performance to ensure that you’re not experiencing a disproportionate number of untimely trips.

3. King County Metro responded to your complaints in an “abusive” and “disrespectful” manner.

No one may intimidate, threaten, coerce, or engage in other discriminatory conduct against anyone because he or she has taken action or participated in an action to secure rights protected by the ADA. Section 503 of the ADA (Title 42, United States Code, Sec. 12203) prohibits retaliation against any individual who exercises his or her rights under the ADA. Regulations implementing these prohibitions were issued by the Attorney General; see §35.134 of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations implementing Title II of the ADA (28 CFR Part 35). In addition, §37.173 of the DOT ADA regulations require personnel to be “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.”

Your allegation is general in nature, and thus more difficult to investigate. However, in reviewing all materials provided by King County Metro, including draft versions of three customer service response letters to you, we found no indication that their interaction with you rose to the level of “abusive” or “disrespectful.” Without further information, we can not make a finding on this allegation. If you believe that you have been subjected to retaliatory, coercive or abusive treatment prohibited by DOJ ADA regulations, we recommend that you bring this matter to the US Department of Justice.

After reviewing all of the submitted materials, the FTA Office of Civil Rights does not in this case find King County Metro Access Transportation to be in violation of 49 CFR §37.131 of the DOT ADA regulations. However, as indicated above, we will ask King County Metro to revise the language of its Rider’s Guide in order to more clearly describe vehicle wait time policy and to indicate that early boarding is not required.

As the investigation phase of this process has been completed, we are closing your complaint as of the date of this letter. 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 me or Kim Zapfel of my staff 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

 

cc:
Kevin Desmond, King County Metro General Manager
Bob Sahm, Supervisor, King County Metro Accessible Services
Rick Krochalis, FTA Region X Administrator
Monica McCallum, FTA Region X Civil Rights Officer