Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, UT, 1-31-01
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Transit Administration
January 31, 2001
400 Seventh St. S.W.
Re: FTA Complaint No. 00-0263
Dear (Name Withheld):
This letter responds to your complaint against the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) of Salt Lake City, Utah, alleging noncompliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the ADA) and/or the Department of Transportation's (DOT) implementing regulations at 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, and 38. 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 the ADA, the DOT ADA regulations, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
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 address it by assisting the transit provider to comply with the ADA. If we cannot resolve apparent violations of the ADA or the DOT ADA regulations by voluntary means, formal enforcement proceedings may be initiated against the public transportation provider who may result in the termination of Federal funds. FTA also may refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement.
Because of the limitation in resources, the majority of complaint investigations are conducted by telephone and written inquiry. In a few circumstances, where time and resources permit, investigations may be complemented by other means, such as compliance reviews or other on-site action. A finding of no violation of a particular allegation should be understood to apply specifically to the facts and circumstances at issue. Such a determination is not intended to express an opinion as to the overall ADA compliance of that transit property.
We understand your major concern to be that changes in your ADA Complementary Paratransit service (provided by Flextrans through UTA) that were implemented in conjunction with the opening of the new light rail line in Salt Lake City affected your boarding location. We previously responded to the same concern in FTA Complaint Number 99292 in a letter dated February 2, 2000, and therefore will not re-address this issue. A copy of our letter is enclosed for your information.
The remaining issues that pertain to public transportation about which you complained in a September 23, 2000, letter to this office are as follows:
- Flextrans will not drive down an alley behind your workplace to allow you to embark/disembark, and it will not use a main entrance of a major medical facility as a pickup/drop off location.
- Some of your Flextrans trips have been longer that it would have taken you if you were riding on fixed route service.
- UTA employs occupational therapists to perform functional testing for eligibility decisions.
- There are no bus shelters or seats for some fixed route lines.
We informed UTA of your allegations and requested information relating to your complaint; reviewed the information presented by UTA and you; and made a determination based on our analysis of the compiled information in relation to the DOT ADA regulations. We have restated your allegations, followed by our determinations, below.
1. Flextrans will not drive down an alley behind your workplace to allow you to embark/disembark, and it will not use a main entrance of a major medical facility as a pickup/drop off location.
The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR section 37.129(a) state that, "… complementary paratransit service for ADA paratransit persons shall be origin-to-destination service."
UTA has adopted a policy of curb-to-curb service. The exact location of pick-up and drop-off sites are an operational issue not governed by the regulations. We note that, according to UTA, its decision regarding the location at the hospital was necessitated because the hospital instituted valet parking at the previous location. As to the alley, UTA cannot drive down the alley because there is no place to turn around without backing the vehicle out of the alley. We do not find any deficiencies in UTA’s actions.
2. Some of your Flextrans trips have been longer that it would have taken you if you were riding on fixed route service. Some trips have taken two hours in comparison to 55 minutes on the fixed route.
The DOT ADA regulations address excessive trip lengths at 49 CFR section 37.131(f)(3)(i)(C):
- (f) Capacity Constraints. The entity shall not limit the availability of complementary paratransit service to ADA paratransit individuals by any of the following:
- (3) Any operational pattern or practice that significantly limits the availability of service to ADA paratransit eligible persons.
- (i) Such patterns or practices include, but are not limited to, the following:
- (C) Substantial numbers of trips with excessive trip lengths.
UTA reported that it investigated two complaints that you filed in 2000 regarding excessively lengthy trips. On April 11, 2000, you complained that you were on the van for three hours. UTA found that a scheduling error had been made and sent you an apology.
On May 22, 2000, you complained that you were on the van for an hour and forty minutes. UTA explained to you that your ride was scheduled as a shared ride with another passenger who was picked up and dropped off before you, contributing to a longer than usual trip for you.
- In 1998, based upon information in a newspaper article’s in Salt Lake City Weekly and subsequent follow- up, the FTA Office of Civil Rights opened a complaint and conducted an assessment of UTA’s ADA Complementary Paratransit service. At that time, there were concerns in the area of capacity constraints. Subsequent to the findings in the assessment, we worked with UTA to improve its service, continued to monitor their system and based upon their actions by letter of May 31, 2000, closed the complaint.
These facts presented do not appear to violate section 37.131 (f)(3) of the DOT ADA regulations.
3. UTA employs occupational therapists to perform functional testing for eligibility decisions, rather than depending on the applicants’ private physicians.
The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR section 37.125 state that:
"Each public entity required to provide complementary paratransit service by section 37.121 of this part shall establish a process for determining ADA paratransit eligibility."
The ADA DOT regulation at Appendix D to 49 CFR section 37.125 provides further guidance in saying that:
The process may include functional criteria related to the substantive eligibility criteria of section 37.123 and, where appropriate, functional evaluation or testing of applicants. The substantive eligibility process is not aimed at making a medical or diagnostic determination. While evaluation by a physician (or professionals in rehabilitation or other relevant fields) may be used as part of the process, a diagnosis of a disability is not dispositive. What is needed is a determination of whether, as a practical matter, the individual can use fixed route transit in his or her own circumstances. That is a transportation decision primarily, not a medical decision.
As the DOT ADA regulations do not prescribe the method by which eligibility decisions are to be made and instead, stress that the decision should be based on a person’s functional abilities; eligibility should be strictly limited to those who cannot ride fixed route transit. This is not a violation of 49 CFR section 37.125 of the DOT ADA regulations.
4. There are no bus shelters or seats for some fixed route lines.
The ADA DOT regulations at Appendix A to Part 37, Standards for Accessible Transportation Facilities, section 10.2.1(2) regarding bus shelters provides that, if they are installed, they must be accessible in accordance with the DOT ADA regulations. There is no requirement that they shall be installed. UTA responded to this concern by explaining that it has no public way use agreement with Salt Lake City governing sidewalks, and therefore has no control over where bus shelters are situated. UTA does have an agreement that governs the property on which the TRAX platforms are located, and has provided shelters at those sites. To pursue this further, you may wish to contact the Salt Lake City government.
We hope that this letter sufficiently addresses your concerns. If you have any questions regarding our determinations, please contact Roberta Wolgast at our toll free FTA ADA Assistance Line, 1-888-446-4511, or at her electronic mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheryl L. Hershey
ADA Group Leader
Office of Civil Rights