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City of Laguna Beach, CA, May 5, 2015

May 5, 2015

Steve W. May
Director of Public Works/City Engineer
City of Laguna Beach
505 Forest Avenue
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Re: FTA Complaint No. 14-0232

Dear Mr. May:

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights has completed its investigation of the above-referenced complaint filed primarily against Laguna Beach Transit (the City) regarding an inaccessible bus stop on the Pacific Coast Highway and the inaccessibility of its Summer Trolley Service. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) was also mentioned in the complaint. A copy of our disposition letter to the complainant is enclosed for your information.

The FTA Office of Civil Rights is responsible for ensuring that providers of public transportation are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) implementing regulations at 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, 38, and 39.

As part of its investigation, FTA sent an information request to the City and OCTA and received separate written responses from both agencies.

Allegations

The complainant raised the following allegations pertaining to Laguna Beach Transit’s Summer Trolley Service and use of a bus stop:

  • Laguna Beach Trolley bus stop #18, shared with OCTA stop #3800 (Route 1), was inaccessible to people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs. Riders had to put themselves at risk and ambulate or roll on State Highway 1 to get to it, as there was no accessible path of travel to it. The stop itself was placed above a large storm drain, preventing a transit vehicle lift or ramp deployment.
  • Some vehicles used in the Laguna Beach Trolley Service are inaccessible and lack lifts/ramps for wheelchair access.
  • If a trolley is inaccessible, then the waiting passenger must ask the driver to radio and alert the next accessible trolley for pickup. Drivers will not stop if the trolleys are full, preventing the waiting passengers from making the request. Trolleys are often full on weekends.

We did not find Laguna Beach Transit or OCTA in violation of the DOT ADA regulations with regard to the allegations concerning the bus stop or full trolleys bypassing passengers waiting at other stops, provided that the trolley is accessible, as detailed in the enclosed disposition letter.

When reviewing the City’s response to our information request, however, we discovered potential compliance issues regarding the City’s failure to acquire accessible vehicles for use in fixed route service. The City’s response contains contradictory statements regarding its plans for acquisition of accessible vehicles in advance of the 2015 Summer Trolley Service, as well as the extent to which the 2015 Summer Trolley routes will be serviced by accessible and inaccessible vehicles as explained in more detail below.

Finding: Accessible Vehicles for Use in Trolley Service

Since 1990, the DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR §§37.71–37.75 have required that each new, used or remanufactured fixed route vehicle purchased or leased be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs. Part 38 of the DOT ADA regulations includes the design specifications that transportation vehicles must meet to be considered accessible under the ADA. The requirements include equipping vehicles with lifts or ramps, so that riders using wheelchairs can use them.

As described, the complimentary Trolley Service that the City operates from the end of June through the end of August meets the definition of fixed route service.

In its response to FTA, the City indicated that it had “rented” three inaccessible trolleys and that these three inaccessible trolleys were in use last summer, along with 21 accessible trolleys. We cannot address retroactively the fact that the City was apparently operating inaccessible vehicles on its fixed route in 2014.

In its response to FTA, the City stated it owns 21 Freightliner MB 55 trolleys that are “ADA compliant.” At one point in its written response, the City reported that it has ordered three more trolleys that will be in use in the summer of 2015, stating, “These trolleys will, of course be ADA compliant.” The City stated that it normally maintains one spare vehicle at peak hours and up to six spare vehicles during off-peak hours. The response did not specify whether the spares are inaccessible or accessible. Later in its written response, however, the City stated, “If there are any non-accessible trolleys in service, they will be staggered so that at least every other trolley will be ADA compliant,” implying that there may be plans once again to put inaccessible trolleys into service.

Conclusion

The information gathered during FTA’s investigation raises questions as to whether the City is meeting its obligations under §§37.71–37.75 and 49 CFR Part 38 and whether the 2015 Summer Trolley Service will be served by only vehicles equipped with a lift or a ramp, so that people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs, may access the trolley vehicles.

We ask the City to review its obligations as specified in the DOT ADA regulations under 49 CFR §§37.71–37.75, Appendix D to those sections, and Part 38, and submit the following to FTA:

  • Information substantiating that the trolleys to be used in the 2015 Summer Trolley Service and in future years will be equipped with a lift or ramp and meet all Part 38 design requirements, so that people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs, may access the trolley vehicles, consistent with the regulatory requirements.

In addition, FTA asks that the City review its obligations under §37.163(b)–(f) to keep lifts in operative condition and to provide alternative transportation within 30 minutes if a lift breaks down in service.

Please provide your response to investigator Susan Clark via e-mail at susan.a.clark@dot.gov within 30 days of the date of this letter. If you have any questions, Ms. Clark may be reached directly at (202) 493-0511 or via e-mail. Please include the FTA complaint number in any correspondence regarding this matter. Thank you for your assistance and continued cooperation.

Sincerely,

Dawn Sweet
Program Manager,
Complaints and Communications
Office of Civil Rights

Enclosure

cc:
OCTA
FTA Region 9

Updated: Monday, May 2, 2016
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