New Jersey Transit Corporation, Newark, NJ, 12-29-00

U.S. Department
of Transportation

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

Federal Transit
Administration
December 29, 2000

 

Re: FTA Complaint No. 99076

Dear (Name withheld):

This letter responds to your complaint against New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJT), in Newark, New Jersey, and potential 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 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, 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 allegations to be as follows:

1. NJT ADA Complementary Paratransit drivers required you to pay $1.90 for a one-way fare and later reduced it to $1.45, even though the fare had been $1.00 for many years; and

2. You believe that based on NJT’s literature, you are entitled to have a companion who rides free with you.

We informed NJT of your allegations, requested information relating to your complaint, reviewed the information presented by NJT and you, and made a determination in relation to the DOT ADA regulations based on our analysis of the compiled information. We have restated your allegations followed by our determinations below.

1. NJT ADA Complementary Paratransit drivers required you to pay $1.90 for a one-way fare and later reduced it to $1.45, even though the fare had been $1.00 for many years.

The DOT ADA regulation at Section 37.131(c) states:

…fare for a trip charged to an ADA paratransit eligible user of the complementary paratransit service shall not exceed twice the fare that would be charged to an individual paying full fare for a trip of similar length, at similar time of day, on the entity’s fixed route system.

Our investigation found that the NJT Access Link ADA Complementary Paratransit service fares are determined based on NJT Bus Fare Tariffs. This means that Access Link calculates the fare based upon the fare for the most direct route for the fixed route rather than checking multiple routes to find the least expensive combination. Access Link provides curb-to-curb service from the point of origin to the point of destination. Therefore, if you travel from one place to another using a number of different combinations of bus routes, you will likely have a different fare.

NJT stated in response to our inquiry that in an effort to provide the rider with consistent fares, it has implemented a "repetitive trip" feature in its computer system. This permits NJT to store data on riders’ most frequent trips in an attempt to eliminate the possibility of differing fares for the same ride. In the future, when you call to schedule transportation, you may wish to ensure that your "frequent trips" are entered into that system. As the ADA Complementary Paratransit fare is based on the fixed route fare, the NJT system for calculating fares does not appear to exceed twice that of the fixed route and is not a violation of the DOT ADA regulation at 49 CFR section 37.131(c).

NJT established an ADA Task Force in 1992, for persons with disabilities to provide input on its ADA Complementary Paratransit System. Member organization representatives included the New Jersey (NJ) Commission for the Blind, United Cerebral Palsy, County Offices for the Disabled, and the NJ Protection and Advocacy Group. NJT in its response advised that when it modified the bus, rail and paratransit passengers’ fare in 1989 through public input, they relied on input from public hearings, customer forums and annual passenger surveys. It also had the agreement and approval of the NJT Board of Directors and the State Government.

2.  You believe that based on NJT’s literature, you are entitled to have a companion who rides free with you.

The DOT ADA regulation states at 49 CFR section 37.131(c)(2) & (3):

(2) The fares for individuals accompanying ADA paratransit eligible individuals, who are provided service under 37.123(f) of this part, shall be the same as for the ADA paratransit eligible individuals they are accompanying.

(3) A personal care attendant shall not be charged for complementary paratransit service.

The DOT ADA regulation states at 49 CFR section 37.123 (f):

(f) Individuals accompanying an ADA paratransit eligible individual shall be provided service as follows: One other individual accompanying the ADA paratransit eligible individual shall be provided service- (i) If the ADA paratransit eligible individual is traveling with a personal care attendant, the entity shall provide service to one other individual in addition to the attendant who is accompanying the eligible rider.

Under the DOT ADA regulation, an ADA Complementary Paratransit eligible person is entitled to have a personal care attendant (PCA) who rides free. In addition, the eligible rider is entitled to ride with one companion. However, a companion is required to pay the same fare of the individual he or she is accompanying. NJT, in its response, asked that in the future when you reserve a ride you should inform it whether a PCA or companion will be traveling with you so that fares will be assessed accordingly. The "New Jersey Transit Access Link Paratransit Service Questions and Answers" put out by NJT provides both for "personal assistants of ADA eligible riders or companions of eligible riders." As such, it is not a violation of the ADA DOT regulations cited above. We will advise NJT through cover of separate letter that the term "personal assistant" should be replaced with "personal care attendant" the term used by the DOT ADA regulation, to avoid any possible future confusion. However, we do not find any violation in the provision of services.

NJT ADA Complementary Paratransit drivers are responsible for collecting the fare indicated on the manifest. If a fare dispute arises, NJT requests that you do not argue with the driver, but simply pay the fare and later contact ACCESS customer service department to resolve the problem.

We apologize for the delay of our response to your complaint. If you have any questions regarding this decision, please contact Roger Peralta, at our toll free FTA ADA Assistance Line, 1-888-446-4511, or at his electronic mail address: roger.peralta@dot.gov.

 

Sincerely,
/signed/
Cheryl L. Hershey
ADA Group Leader
Office of Civil Rights