Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission, Woodbridge, VA, 01-25-08

U.S. Department
of Transportation
Headquarters East Building, 5th Floor - TCR
1200 New Jersey Ave, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590
Federal Transit
Administration
January 25, 2008

Re: FTA Complaint Number 08-0038

     

Dear [name withheld]:

This letter responds to your complaint against the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) 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 properly implement 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 October 15, 2007, alleged that:

1. PRTC offers a reduced fare for persons with disabilities only during non-peak hours, instead of all day as many transit systems offer.
2. PRTC does not give priority to persons with disabilities for the route deviation service.
3. There is not sufficient space on the bus for your service animal.
4. Some drivers do not announce the major stops on the bus route.

Each allegation is addressed in detail below.

1. PRTC offers a reduced fare for persons with disabilities only during non-peak hours, instead of all day as many transit systems offer.

As discussed with you via phone on January 8, 2008, while there is a “half-fare” requirement for recipients of FTA funding, it is not an ADA requirement; rather, it is a general requirement under Title 49 of the United States Code, Chapter 53.  Under 49 USC 5307(d)(1)(D), recipients of FTA funding must ensure that “elderly and handicapped individuals, or an individual presenting a Medicare card issued to that individual” are charged not more than half the peak fare during non-peak hours.  While many transit operators extend this discount to include peak hour service, they are not required to do so.  PRTC offers this discount during non-peak hours.  During peak hours, PRTC charges all riders the same fare.

2. PRTC does not give priority to persons with disabilities for the route deviation service.

We discussed this issue with you via phone on January 9, 2008.  During that call, you indicated that you personally had not experienced any problems with the route deviation service.  Even though you believe that disabled persons should have priority, you have not provided information to support an allegation that this service is operated in a discriminatory manner that would violate DOT’s ADA regulations.

3. There is not sufficient space on the bus for your service animal.

You state that when you sit with your dog in the front row of the PRTC vehicle there is insufficient room for you to sit without resting your feet on your service dog.  You also state that your service dog is cramped on the floor where you currently sit.  You provided photographs of both these issues.

In your complaint you provided and referenced information regarding ADA accessibility requirements for buildings and facilities.  For example, you state that the PRTC bus aisle “is not the ADA required 36 inches wide.”  These requirements are not applicable to vehicles, standards for which are found in 49 CFR Part 38, Accessibility Specifications for Transportation Vehicles.  Nothing in your correspondence suggests that PRTC’s buses are out of compliance with 49 CFR Part 38.

Your correspondence states PRTC has given you the option of sitting in the wheelchair securement area, which they believe has ample space for you to sit with your dog.  To reach this area, PRTC has suggested you either walk down the bus aisle or board the bus via the lift.  You believe neither of these options is satisfactory—you claim the aisle is not wide enough and that the wheelchair lift entrance is exactly as tall as you are and it is therefore impractical for you to enter the vehicle in this manner.  As stated above, there is nothing in your correspondence to suggest that PRTC’s buses are out of compliance with 49 CFR Part 38. 

Another option would be for your dog to sit on the seat next to you in the first row where you currently sit.  This would ensure that your dog is not blocking the area where your feet would rest.  Given the design of PRTC’s buses, your correspondence suggests that PRTC has been flexible in providing various alternatives that might make it easier for you to ride with your service animal.  We encourage you to explore this or other options which will allow you continued use of their service. 

4. Some drivers do not announce the major stops on the bus route.

The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR § 37.167(b) state that operators of fixed-route transit systems are required to make stop announcements at transfer points, major intersections and destination points, at intervals along the route, and for specific stops requested by a passenger.

In your complaint, you complain generally about “several” drivers not making these required announcements.  You do not, however, give specific instances of this occurring.  We cannot investigate this matter further based only on general allegations.  Please consider keeping track of your observations of compliance with this requirement, and bringing that information to our attention in the future.


After reviewing all of the submitted materials, the FTA Office of Civil Rights does not believe that you have raised a claim of violation of the DOT ADA regulations by PRTC.  For this reason, we are unable to investigate further, and 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 privately in the appropriate court.  If you have any questions regarding our determination, please contact Stephanie Sharer, at (202) 366-0272 or at her e-mail address: stephanie.sharer@dot.gov.  Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.



          

Sincerely,


David W. Knight
ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights



cc:
 Alfred H. Harf, Executive Director, PRTC
 Senator Jim Webb, United States Senate