Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington, DC, 10-30-00

U.S. Department of Transportation

Federal Transit Administration

October 30, 2000

400 Seventh St. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590

Re: FTA Complaint No. 98105

Dear [Name withheld]:

This letter responds to your complaint against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), 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 we identify 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 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 transportation 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.

We have received a number of complaints, including yours, from various persons with disabilities alleging that the vertical and/or horizontal gaps between WMATA rail cars and platform edges are not in compliance with the DOT ADA regulations and cause difficulties in boarding and disembarking. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG) at Appendix A to 49 CFR part 37, Section 10.3.2(4) requires the following:

In light rail, rapid rail and commuter rail key stations, the platform or a portion thereof and the vehicle floor shall be coordinated so that the vertical difference, measured when the vehicle is at rest, within plus or minus 1-1/2 inches under all normal passenger load conditions, and the horizontal gap, measured when the vehicle is a rest, is no greater than 3 inches for at least one door of each vehicle or car required to be accessible by 49 CFR part 37.

We informed WMATA of these allegations and requested information relating to the complaints; reviewed the information presented by the complainants and WMATA; and made a determination based on our analysis of the compiled information in relation to the DOT ADA regulations as well as the corrective actions that WMATA has already undertaken.

WMATA has acknowledged that the allegations regarding vertical and horizontal gaps are accurate on some of its railcars and has addressed the situation with various solutions. In 1997, WMATA discovered that the leveling valves on 366 rail cars were identified as "failing to meet/maintain the proper platform-to-car tolerance." By the end of 1997, new leveling valves were installed in these rail cars. However, as you are probably aware, this did not completely rectify the problem. WMATA also discovered that the height of some of its platforms "may preclude compliance with the coordination requirements… for the full length of the platform." [Emphasis added.]

In an effort to resolve this problem, WMATA met with the Director of the FTA Office of Civil Rights and team members on numerous occasions regarding the issue of the gap. WMATA and the Director discussed the idea of installing bridgeplates on the doors of the rail cars, a solution that had been successful in Atlanta, Georgia. This idea was proposed and several cars were fitted for demonstration purposes. WMATA held several demonstrations, inviting members of the disability community as well as those who had filed complaints with this Office, to review and test the prototype and make observations regarding the effectiveness of the proposed solution. Staff from the FTA Office of Civil Rights also attended these demonstrations.

The use of the gap filler was favorably received, and, as a result, rather than attempt to alter the platforms, WMATA decided to install the "gap reducers" on each of its rail cars. To date, 410 cars have been modified, and the remaining 350+ cars should be completed by the end of this year. Any new rail cars that WMATA receives will have the gap reducers already in place.

In conclusion, WMATA acknowledged that some of its stations did not comply with the DOT ADA regulations regarding gaps between platforms and trains; however, its efforts have apparently resolved the issue. By modifying each door of each rail car, WMATA has gone beyond the minimum requirement stated above in addition to the following minimum requirement at 49 CFR section 37.93(c) which states that:

Each public entity providing light or rapid rail service shall ensure that each train, consisting of two or more vehicles, includes at least one car that is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs…

Thank you for bringing this problem to our attention and for your patience during the period pending its resolution. We also want to thank WMATA for exploring new options and taking the steps needed to help ensure accessible transportation for the passengers riding its system.

If you have any questions regarding this decision, please contact Mary-Elizabeth Peters, Equal Opportunity Specialist, at 202-366-0792, or at her electronic mail address: mailto:roberta.wolgast@dot.gov.


Cheryl L. Hershey
ADA Group Leader
Office of Civil Rights