Memphis Area Transit Authority, Memphis, TN, 1-31-01

U.S. Department
of Transportation

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

Federal Transit
January 31, 2001


Re: FTA Complaint No. 99180

Dear (Name Withheld):

This letter responds to your complaint you filed against the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) of Memphis, Tennessee, alleging noncompliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the ADA) and/or the Department of Transportation (DOT) implementing regulations at 49 CFR parts 27, 37, and 38. The 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 identity 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 that 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. In this case, FTA did conduct an on-site compliance review of MATA’s ADA Complementary Paratransit service in February 2000. A finding of no violation of a particular allegation in this letter 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 allegations to be as follows:

1.  When you called to schedule an appointment to get your MATAPlus identification card, you were told to call back because they were too busy to talk to you.

2.  You were placed on a waiting list that was at MATA’s discretion.

3.  You were denied an ADA Complementary Paratransit trip from your home to your church.

We informed MATA of your allegations and requested information relating to your complaint; reviewed the information presented by MATA and you; referred to the final compliance review report; and made a determination on your allegations 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.  When you called to schedule an appointment to get your MATAPlus identification card, you were told to call back because they were too busy to talk to you.

The DOT ADA regulations state at 49 CFR sections 37.125(d) & (e):

37.125(d): The entity’s determination concerning eligibility shall be in writing.

37.125(e): The public entity shall provide documentation to each eligible individual stating that he or she is "ADA Paratransit Eligible." The documentation shall include the name of the eligible individual, the name of the transit provider, the telephone number of the entity’s paratransit coordinator, an expiration date for eligibility, and any conditions or limitations on the individual’s eligibility including the use of a personal care attendant.

The regulations place the onus on the transit property for notifying the applicant as to whether or not they have been found eligible. The regulations also require the transit provider to state if there are any conditions of eligibility. This must be provided in writing to the eligible rider. At this point, the rider’s right to ride is established. Absent from the regulations are any requirement that once a rider is determined eligible that the determination is contingent on further action by the now eligible rider.

Upon MATA’s determination of eligibility, and upon receiving an eligibility notification letter from MATA, you were eligible for ADA Complementary Paratransit service. This is so regardless of whether MATA had any appointments available to issue you an identification card. We believe that by preventing you from using MATAPlus service before you received your identification card, MATA denied you your right to ride, and this constitutes a denial. Moreover, the regulations do not make your right to ride contingent on a photo ID card or on a required document. We understand that during the course of the everyday operation of a bus system, identification and other procedural considerations can be required. In this instance, the right to ride prevails over such procedural considerations.

This specific issue was brought to our attention during the assessment and we are addressing it separately with MATA as part of our ongoing compliance effort there.

2.  You were placed on a waiting list that was at MATA’s discretion.

With the exception of subscription service, waiting lists for ADA Complementary Paratransit service are not allowed by the DOT ADA regulations. MATA responded that it does not utilize waiting lists. In addition, FTA performed a thorough investigation of MATA’s ADA Complementary Paratransit program during the compliance assessment and did not discover the use of any waiting lists.

3.  You were denied an ADA Complementary Paratransit trip from your home to your church.

The DOT ADA regulation requires a minimum service area that is described at 49 CFR section 37.131(a):

Service Area—(1) Bus. (i) The entity shall provide complementary paratransit service to origins and destinations within corridors with a width of three-fourths of a mile on each side of each fixed route. The corridor shall include an area with a three-fourths of a mile radius at the ends of each fixed route.

MATA confirmed that your request was denied because your church is outside of its ADA Complementary Paratransit service area. This is not a deficiency under the DOT ADA regulations.

The assessment of MATA’s ADA Complementary Paratransit service that FTA conducted was done partially in response to a trend of ADA complaints. The specific issues in your complaint were addressed from a broader perspective by this assessment. Where we made findings of deficiencies, FTA will continue its follow-up with MATA until we determine that the deficiencies noted in the report are corrected. We intend to combine our monitoring efforts on the complaints with those addressing the assessment findings.

If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Roberta Wolgast, Equal Opportunity Specialist at 1-888-446-4511 or at her email address: Please include the FTA complaint number on any correspondence with this office. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.


Cheryl L. Hershey
ADA Group Leader
Office of Civil Rights