Mass Transportation Authority, Flint, MI, 04-21-08

U.S. Department
of Transportation
Headquarters East Building, 5th Floor - TCR
1200 New Jersey Ave, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590
Federal Transit
Administration
April 21, 2008

Re: FTA Complaint Number 07-0119

     

Dear [name withheld]:

This letter responds to your complaint against the Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) of Flint, MI, 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 January 17, 2007, to the US Department of Justice, alleged that:

1. Drivers pass you at bus stops and harass you when you try to bring your service animal on transit vehicles.
2. Drivers will not ask non-disabled passengers to move from the priority seating area to accommodate you.

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

1. Drivers pass you at bus stops and harass you when you try to bring your service animal on transit vehicles.

You indicate, without giving specific instances or dates, that MTA drivers pass you at bus stops without stopping to pick you up because you have a service animal.  You report that MTA drivers have often told you that you cannot bring your dog on the bus.  You also mention that you are not allowed to keep your service animal on the seat next to you, but instead are required to leave the animal on the floor of the vehicle.

With regard to passing you when you were waiting at a bus stop, MTA provided us with a copy of a complaint you filed with them on August 28, 2006, where you claim the bus driver passed you at a bus stop because you had a service animal.  MTA investigated this matter and spoke with the driver, who insisted you were not at a stop when the bus passed you.  Unfortunately, in situations such as this one, where information is at odds, we cannot make a finding.

Concerning your complaint that drivers are insensitive to your service animal and attempt to prohibit you from bringing your dog on the bus, MTA provided us with their training materials for drivers encountering service animals.  Drivers that display unprofessional conduct or engage in confrontation are subject to disciplinary action and retraining. 

You also request that your service animal be allowed to sit on a seat next to you.  We have tried to contact you via phone several times but have not been able to get in touch with you regarding this particular issue.  You do not mention a specific reason why your dog needs to be on the seat next to you; in fact, you say you want your dog on the seat next to you because it “protects” him and makes other riders “feel better” when he’s next to you.  These reasons alone do not entitle you to place the dog on the seat next to you.  MTA’s policy is to accommodate what is reasonable, and in this situation placing the dog on the floor beneath you seems to be a reasonable policy which you do not refute in your complaint.

2. Drivers will not ask non-disabled passengers to move from the priority seating area to accommodate you.

The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR §37.167 state that transit entities must request that non-disabled passengers move from priority seating areas when an individual with a disability enters a vehicle, and because of a disability, the individual needs to sit in a seat or occupy a wheelchair securement location. 

You report that MTA drivers do not ask for non-disabled persons to move from the priority seating areas when the priority seating areas are full.  MTA provided a copy of their policy regarding their priority seating areas and noted that:
 

Drivers are limited to requesting customers occupying priority seating to please move to another seat.  If the customer refuses, the driver must not engage in any further discussion or confrontation regarding the issue.

You give no specific instances of drivers refusing to ask passengers to move from the priority seating area, and in the complaints you filed with MTA you do not mention this issue at any time.  Since we do not have any further information regarding these instances, and since MTA’s policy appears to be in compliance with the 49 CFR §37.167, we cannot make a finding in this matter.


After reviewing all of the submitted materials, the FTA Office of Civil Rights does not find MTA to be in violation of the DOT ADA regulations.  As the investigation phase of this process has been completed, we are closing your complaint as of the date of this letter.

Please note that MTA has established a formal complaint procedure to provide passengers the opportunity to file comments and complaints regarding their experiences with transit services.  It is important that if an incident occurs in the future, you immediately bring it to MTA’s attention with as much detail as possible so that they have an opportunity to investigate and respond.  You can file a complaint in person, by phone, by mail, or by e-mail to the local Disability Network at (810) 767-0100.

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:
   Edgar H. Benning, MTA Assistant General Manager
   Marisol Simon, FTA Region V Administrator
   Dwight Sinks, FTA Region V Civil Rights Officer