Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, UT, 12-28-00

U.S. Department of Transportation

Federal Transit Administration

December 28, 2000

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

Re:FTA Complaint No.00047

Dear (Name withheld):

This letter responds to your complaint against the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) of Salt Lake City, Utah, alleging noncompliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (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 general allegations to be as follows:

  1. UTA bus operators often do not make proper stop announcements.
  2. You have experienced rude and insensitive behavior by bus operators.
  3. Audio equipment on buses sometimes malfunction.

We informed UTA of your allegations and requested information relating to your complaint, reviewed the information presented by UTA 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. You allege that bus drivers often do not announce stops to onboard passengers or to customers waiting at a bus stop.

The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR sections 37.167(b) and (c) require that stop announcements must be made on fixed route systems as follows:

In 1998, FTA conducted a compliance assessment of UTA in response to allegations of ADA violations cited in a newspaper article printed in a local Salt Lake City newspaper. The FTA Office of Civil Rights discovered, among other concerns, that UTA did not enforce the DOT ADA stop announcement requirements stated above. Since then, UTA has implemented an aggressive training and enforcement program that includes the following elements:

With this program in place, UTA reports that it has raised its driver compliance rate with required stop announcements from 32% to 82%. We acknowledge the substantial efforts taken by Utah to make these strides in performance, and we recognize the importance of calling stops to you and others in the disability community as necessary to the right to accessible transportation. In that vein we continue to ensure that UTA fulfills its ongoing obligation.

UTA has investigated the numerous complaints you have filed regarding this issue. We have attached UTA’s detailed response to each incident and observe that in some cases, such as the incident cited on March 18, 2000, the driver was disciplined. The names of the drivers and supervisors have been expunged for privacy purposes. The detailed response provided by UTA and its attention to each complaint demonstrates UTA’s willingness to continue to fulfill its obligations under the ADA DOT regulations. This requirement has proven to be difficult for transit providers across the country to implement. It appears that in this respect, UTA has taken a leadership position in the transportation community. We encourage you to contact UTA’s ADA Compliance Officer, Sherry Repscher, directly with any future complaints regarding this issue.

2. You allege numerous accounts of rude and insensitive behavior by bus drivers that include: a driver who tried to force you to sit in the priority seating area for persons with disabilities, and who pushed you when you refused; a bus driver who began driving while you were holding onto the door of the bus; and a bus driver who pushed you when you walked to the front of the bus to ask a question.

According to the DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR section 37.173:

Each public or private entity which operates a fixed route or demand responsive system shall ensure that personnel are trained to proficiency, as appropriate to their duties, so that they operate vehicles and equipment safely and properly assist and treat individuals with disabilities who use the service in a respectful and courteous way, with appropriate attention to the difference among individuals with disabilities.

According to UTA, bus drivers attend mandatory training that includes a module specific to ADA compliance requirements and a sensitivity session that encourages empathy toward, and understanding of, individuals with various types of disabilities. When appropriate, drivers are required to attend retraining sessions.

UTA investigated every complaint that you filed regarding bus driver behavior as well as each stop announcement complaint referenced in the previous section. The following paragraphs summarize UTA’s response to your complaints about incidents involving drivers.

UTA addressed the first complaint, regarding the driver who tried to force you to sit in priority seating, by meeting with the driver and discussing this situation with him. The driver explained that he thought the seats at the front were mandatory for your use. After this interview, the driver assured UTA that he would not try to require you to sit in the set aside seating area again. UTA stated that it called you to explain the action taken and that you indicated that you had not encountered any more problems of this nature.

UTA attempted to address the second complaint regarding a bus driver who began driving while you were holding onto the door of the bus, but despite efforts to identify the driver, it states that it could not positively identify the driver based on the information you provided.

UTA also attempted to investigate the third complaint regarding a bus driver who pushed you when you walked to the front of the bus to ask a question. However, it had no record of a

complaint called in by you for the date, December 31,1999, and no particulars as to the incident, such as bus route, bus number, time, or driver identification. UTA was unable to investigate this matter.

Training drivers does not always ensure that their behavior is commensurate with their training; however, based on the documentation provided in response to this investigation UTA meets the ADA training requirements, and takes appropriate action in response to complaints about its employees.

3. You allege that at times the audio equipment on buses malfunction that makes hearing stop announcements difficult or impossible.

The DOT ADA regulation at 49 CFR sections 37.161(a) - (c) require the following:

The DOT ADA regulations do not require the use of audio equipment. The requirement is for stop announcements to be made in such a manner that they can be heard by every person riding the bus. If the stop announcements are not audible, regardless of whether or not audio equipment is used, the requirement is not being met.

We have discussed in section #1, UTA’s practice as to training, monitoring and follow-up regarding stops announcements. UTA requires bus drivers to announce stops regardless of equipment failures. UTA states that both operators and service line employees check for defective equipment on a daily basis that when failures do occur, the equipment is repaired promptly. UTA provided documentation showing that for its fleet of approximately 125 buses, there were 10 audio equipment failures during the week of June 21, 2000. In addition, UTA states that it "has made available to all operators the option of using a lapel microphone which plugs directly into the bus and which broadcasts a clear announcement." UTA meets the ADA requirements stated above with regards to bus audio equipment.

If you have any questions regarding this decision, please contact Roberta Wolgast, on FTA’s toll free ADA Assistance Line at 1-888-446-4511, or at her electronic mail address: roberta.wolgast@dot.gov. You have brought several issues to our attention regarding UTA’s ADA performance. Without this type of consumer involvement, we would be largely unaware of the issues facing the public as they ride public transit. We thank you for your input.

Sincerely,

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