You are here

ABQ Ride ADA Compliance Review - February 15, 2007

Location: Albuquerque, NM
Date of Final Report: February 15, 2007     

City of Albuquerque Transit Department (ABQ Ride) Transmittal Letter

February 15, 2007

Mr. Greg Payne
Director
City of Albuquerque Transit Department
Alvarado Transportation Center
100 1st Street, SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

Dear Mr. Payne:

Thank you for the City of Albuquerque Transit Department’s (the City or ABQ Ride) response to the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) letter and preliminary report of findings of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) complementary paratransit compliance review conducted at the transit department from September 12 to 15, 2005.  Enclosed is the final report that incorporates the City’s response by attachment.  As of the date of this letter, the final report became a public document and is subject to dissemination under the Freedom of Information Act of 1974.  It will also be posted on FTA’s ADA website here.

Enclosed with this letter is a progress table listing FTA’s understanding of the corrective actions either planned or already taken by the City in response to the preliminary findings contained in the draft report.  If you believe that our summarization of corrective actions is inconsistent with your response, please inform us in writing as soon as possible.

Following most of the areas where findings were made, we have:

  • Identified responses that adequately address the finding;
  • Requested documentation of results and outcomes; or
  • Requested the City to clarify specific corrective actions based on the transit department’s response to the report findings.

Please use the enclosed table as the format to report progress to FTA on the corrective actions the City has completed or intends to implement as a result of our findings.  Please identify each response by item number (e.g., A.1, etc.).  The requested documentation, along with updates on the status of implementation of proposed corrective actions, should be provided in quarterly reports to FTA.  Each report should include the planned and actual completion date of the corrective action; the current status and contact person information for each corrective action; and specific reporting requests cited in this letter and in the enclosed table.  The first report will be due April 15, 2007, and should include data for the months of January through March, 2007,, and any actions completed prior to that date that have not already been addressed.  Additional reports will be due by July 15, 2007, October 15, 2007, January 15, 2008, and each calendar quarter thereafter until FTA releases the City from this reporting requirement.

We recognize the progress that you have made in responding to the findings of the assessment as presented in your January 9, 2007 chart.  We would also like to acknowledge the many recent service improvements noted in your response.  These improvements indicate the City’s intent and efforts to meet the transportation needs of persons with disabilities.

Below is a partial list of areas where further action is needed by the City.  Please see the enclosed table for a complete list of actions and findings.  The City should respond to the table, not to the partial list below, which is provided merely to highlight areas of particular concern.

B. ADA Complementary Paratransit Eligibility Determinations

3.   Finding:  City policy requires that riders who use wheelchairs have wheelchairs with working brakes in order to receive Mini Ride service.  As part of the in-person eligibility interview, the City also appears to check wheelchairs for working brakes.  Having working brakes on wheelchairs cannot be a prerequisite for receiving ADA paratransit service.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  ABQ Ride has in the past, required that all wheelchairs have working brakes for safety reasons. If this review does not feel this is appropriate, the practice can bee discontinued immediately.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  The ADA’s definition of a common wheelchair does not include a requirement for brakes or any other equipment.  A driver may not deny transportation to a wheelchair user because the wheelchair does not have brakes or the user does not choose to set the brakes.  Also, determinations for paratransit eligibility cannot be made based on the condition of a person’s mobility aid.  You may, of course, encourage riders to set their wheelchair brakes for safety purposes.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide documentation of a revised policy which indicates that (1) drivers cannot refuse service to riders who decline to set their wheelchair brakes or whose device lacks working brakes and (2) paratransit certification cannot be contingent upon a person having working brakes on his or her wheelchair.

5.   Finding:  City policy requires that children under the age of 12 must be accompanied on Mini Ride by a “responsible person.”  A similar policy does not appear to exist for the fixed route service.  The City cannot impose this restriction on Mini Ride passengers if it is not a policy that applies to all children under the age of 12 who ride the fixed route.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  ABQ Ride will revise the policy of not allowing children under 12 to ride with another person.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  The proposed corrective action is unclear.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide documentation of a revised policy that makes the attendant rule the same for children under the age of 12 traveling on Mini Ride and the fixed route.

9.   Finding:  The City does not have a system for tracking ADA paratransit applicants as they go through the determination process.  It therefore is not possible to easily determine if the process has taken more than 21 days and if an applicant should therefore receive presumptive eligibility for ADA complementary paratransit service until a determination is made.  The City also, as a result, does not notify applicants of the availability of service, or enter applicants into the system as presumptively eligible, if the determination process exceeds 21 days.  Public information and instructions about applying also do not inform applicants of their right to service if determinations are not made within 21 days of the receipt of a completed application.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  ABQ Ride has changed it’s certification process by adding additional certification days to insure all applicants are certified within 21 days if they are eligible for service. ABQ ride will add comments into public information to notify passengers of presumptive eligibility if the process exceeds 21 days.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide a description of any actions taken or plans to develop a system for tracking applications through the eligibility process.  Although adding certification days will likely expedite processing, it is unclear by how much.  Indicate how you will determine whether adding more days is actually ensuring eligible applicants are certified within 21 days and how you will know whether a particular determination is taking longer than 21 days, making the applicant presumptively eligible.

Also please submit documentation of your efforts to notify applicants that if determinations take more than 21 days, they will receive service until the final decision is made (e.g., revised language on the application form).

11. Finding:  Some City staff appear to have made ADA paratransit eligibility determinations based on applicants’ abilities to use fixed route service with an attendant.  Section 37.123 of the DOT ADA regulations requires that eligibility determinations be made based on an individual’s ability to use the fixed route system independently.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  If ABQ Ride has done this in the past, this practice will be stopped immediately.

Additional Reporting:  Please describe your efforts to instruct staff involved in paratransit eligibility determinations to only consider the ability of the applicant to independently use the fixed route system.

13. Finding:  Mini Ride Supervisors denied eligibility to at least three applicants, overturning the recommendations of the staff and Review Board, without documenting the reasons for the denials.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  ABQ ride has followed and will continue to follow the review board or appeals committee recommendations in regards to denied certification.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  The proposed corrective action directly contradicts the finding.  The review time found instances of the Review Board’s recommendation being ignored.  The proposed corrective action also does not indicate whether supervisors will make certain that they document their reasons for denying eligibility when eligibility has been recommended.

Additional Reporting:  Please describe your efforts to ensure sufficient documentation when the recommendation of staff and the Review Board are overturned and eligibility is denied.  

15. Finding:  The City’s no-show policy imposes suspensions on riders for no-showing three or more times in a 30-day period.  Subsequent no-shows may lead to longer suspensions.  Considering only three no-shows in a 30-day period to be excessive and an abuse of the service may unreasonably limit service to ADA eligible customers.  Appendix D of 49 CFR Part 37 states that suspensions of eligibility for no-shows are intended to prevent a “pattern or practice of ‘no-shows.’”  It is further noted, “a pattern or practice involves intentional, repeated or regular actions, not isolated, accidental or singular incidents.”

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  ABQ ride will review it’s no show policy and check with other agencies in the area to see what the standard practice is.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide an update on your consideration of revising the policy to consider the frequency with which riders no-show.  We caution that a common or standard practice in a particular area might not reflect the best approach to handling no-shows.  To get an idea of what other agencies are doing and further guidance from FTA to agencies, however, you also may wish to consult the Transit Cooperative Research Program’s 2005 report, “Practices in No-Show and Late Cancellation Policies for ADA Paratransit” (Synthesis 60), which documents current and innovative practices of U.S. transit agencies in the development and implementation of passenger no-show and late cancellation policies.  The report can be accessed at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_syn_60.pdf.

C. Telephone Access

4.   Finding:  The peak call times for Mini Ride trip requests are from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.  The standard work shifts for CSRs [customer service representatives] are from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  As a result, neither peak call time is covered by peak CSR staffing.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  ABQ Ride has already adjusted work schedules to better accommodate peak call times.

Additional Reporting:  Please describe how you reallocated staff to cover peak hours. 

D. Trip Reservations

2.   Finding:  The City does use a type of a wait list when handling Mini Ride trip requests.  The “placement list” used by the City does not appear to be a guarantee of service and is not understood by riders to be a guarantee of service.  Riders must call back by 4:45 p.m. on the day before the day of service to determine if trip requests put on the placement list have been scheduled and to receive the actual scheduled pickup time.  Section 37.131(f) of the DOT ADA regulations considers the use of a wait list to be a kind of capacity constraint on the service.  Firsthand observations of the handling of 119 trip requests found that nine requests (7.6 percent of all requests) were put on the placement list.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  ABQ Ride does currently still use placements to accommodate requests from passengers. Customer Service personnel have been instructed to insure that placements are offered to all passengers who cannot be scheduled through the normal scheduling process. In addition, they are to explain to the passenger that although the time requested may change, the ride is guaranteed.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  We appreciate that ABQ Ride has changed its practice and now communicates to riders that these trips are guaranteed.  However, requiring a caller to place a second call, and at a specific time, to receive an actual pickup time does not appear to comply with the requirement that trip reservation service be available during normal business hours.  49 CFR §37.131(b).

Systems that can not schedule a trip at the time of the request will simply accept the requested time and then fit the trip into the schedule later.  If the pickup time needs to be altered, the agency will call the rider back, and engage in the required negotiation.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide documentation that customer service and other appropriate personnel have been informed through a memorandum or other means that rides put on the placement list are guaranteed, reversing the January 30, 2004, internal memorandum on this subject.  In addition, please respond to our concerns that requiring a rider to place multiple calls is not in accord with the regulatory service critera.

3.   Finding:  Some trip requests also appear to be denied but not recorded by the City as denials.  Firsthand observations of the handling of 119 trip requests found that no trip offers were made to three callers who were requesting rides (2.5 percent of all requests observed).  In all three cases, CSRs cancelled the trip transaction and did not record the transaction as a trip denial.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  All passengers requesting a ride will get their ride, however a placement is put in to allow the Scheduling Supervisor to place the ride on the best available route.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  The proposed corrective action does not address the issue of CRSs’ canceling trip transactions.

Additional Reporting:  Please indicate whether, and if so how, CRSs will be informed that when trip offers are not made to callers who request a ride, a “trip denial” should be entered.  Also describe any plans for monitoring CRSs to ensure that trip denials are properly recorded.

4.   Finding:  CSRs also were observed to “open” the two-hour scheduling window in the Trapeze system to allow the system to identify trip offers more than one hour from the requested time.  In three of the 119 trip bookings observed (2.5 percent of observed requests), the CSRs offered riders pickup times that were more than an hour from their requested time.  If these were not accepted by riders they were recorded as “refusals” rather than trip denials.  And, if accepted, they were not recorded as a kind of “denial” of the original request.  These also should be more accurately recorded by the City as denials.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  If a passenger requests a ride, the CSR’s do have the ability to pick a ride within a hour window of the requested time but should not offer times to passengers that are more than an hour after the requested time. If an offer is made to passengers within the hour and the passenger refuse the offer it is recorded as a refusal and cancelled. ABQ ride will train CSR’s to insure rides are coded correctly.

Additional Reporting:  Please indicate whether the training occurred in December 2006, as you planned, and if so, describe the scope of the training.  If the session was delayed, please provide a timeframe for training the CSRs on recording trips and applying the pickup window standard to reservations.  As with Finding D.3, please describe any plans for monitoring CRSs to ensure that trips are properly recorded (e.g., having managers regularly listen in on how CRSs handle calls and reviewing special reports that show trip requests recorded as “cancelled” to determine if any of the calls should have been recorded as a “denial” because a responsive trip offer was not made).

5.   Finding:  The observations of outright denials, plus the observations of trips negotiated more than an hour from the requested time suggest that the City may be denying about 5 percent of all Mini Ride trip requests.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  ABQ Ride makes a commitment to insure that anyone requesting a ride gets a ride.

Additional Reporting:  Please describe how you have increased, or plan to increase, service capacity to reduce denials.

6.   Finding:  The City Mini Ride program does not appear to offer reliable next-day service and trip denials for requests made one day in advance are very high.  Only 16 of the 119 trip requests observed firsthand (13.4 percent) were placed one day in advance.  Only six of these 16 trip requests (37.5 percent) were scheduled responsively.  The rest of the callers were either put on the placement list, denied a trip, scheduled more than one hour from the requested time, or offered a time that was more than one hour from the requested time which did not work for the caller.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  As stated above, ABQ Ride still uses the placement list to accommodate passenger’s requests for a ride.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  This response is insufficient.  The finding highlighted a number of situations that, in combination, suggested that only six of the 16 trips observed were scheduled responsively.  While reliance on the placement list was one of the reasons (and is further discussed in finding D.2, trip denials and trips scheduled or offered beyond one hour from the negotiation time also contributed to this poor rate or responsiveness.

Additional Reporting:  Please describe any actions or plans to increase service capacity to reduce reliance on the placement list and better accommodate requests for next-day service.  ABQ should give particular attention to Findings F.1, F.12, and D.7, which address ABQ Ride’s apparent resource problems.

7.   Finding:  A total of 77 of the 119 trip requests observed (64.7 percent) were placed by riders a full seven days in advance.  When responsive trip offers could not be found, CSRs also were observed to tell riders that they needed to call seven days in advance.  Mini Ride public information also encourages riders to call seven days in advance.  These are clear indications that the Mini Ride system has significant capacity constraints and that riders cannot rely on the program for next-day service.  These capacity constraints and the City’s instructions to riders to call seven days in advance also appear to be causing the long telephone hold times each morning.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  ABQ Ride has always recommended that callers call as far in advance as possible to schedule their rides but has never required this.

Clarification of Corrective Actione  The purpose of this finding was to illustrate that an overwhelming majority of trip requests are made a full seven days in advance.  It has been our experience that where systems have sufficient capacity and riders can reasonably expect to get responsive trip offers, they do not feel the need to make trip requests so far out (and that trip requests made this far out have a higher rate of cancellations and no-shows). 

The conclusion that the disproportionate advanced booking indicates capacity constraints is reinforced by CSRs’ practice of informing callers to call seven days in advance and by public information distributed by Mini Ride that encourages advance reservations.  In our experience, transit providers with insufficient capacity often encourage riders to book trips earlier than legally required.  Unfortunately, advising riders to make reservations so far in advance is contrary to 49 C.F.R. § 37.131 (b), which requires transit agencies to make paratransit service available to eligible riders who request service the previous day.

ABQ should resolve its apparent capacity problem by increasing trips, hiring more drivers, acquiring more operational vehicles or some other means that directly addresses capacity.

Additional Reporting: Please describe your efforts to instruct CSRs not to inform riders that they need to call seven days in advance of a trip.  Also indicate whether you expect any increases in service capacity, as will be described in your responses to Findings D.5 and D.6, to eliminate the apparent need for riders to call seven days ahead.

E. Service Performance

1.   Finding:  At the time of the review, the City was not regularly monitoring on-time performance or generating regular on-time reports.  Regular monitoring of on-time performance is vital for ensuring service quality and compliance with established service performance goals.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  Prior to leaving ABQ Ride in June 2005 ABQ Ride’s Operations Manager Annette Paez ran 100 % six-day surveys to insure on time performance was monitored. In returning to the position of Operations Manager Ms. Paez will resume the six-day report monitoring.

Additional Reporting:  Please indicate how regularly these reports will be run and analyzed.  Describe how you plan to use the report findings to adjust operations and resource/staff allocations, if needed, to improve on-time performance.

6.   Finding:  The City standard for travel time is that no Mini Ride trip should exceed 60 minutes.  The City, however, does not regularly track or analyze Mini Ride on-board travel times.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  Prior to leaving ABQ Ride in June 2005 ABQ Ride’s Operations Manager Annette Paez ran 100 % six-day surveys to insure on time performance was monitored. In returning to the position of Operations Manager Ms. Paez will resume the six-day report monitoring.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  The response does not address the finding, which was focused on on-board travel time, not on-time performance.

Additional Reporting:  Please indicate whether the City intends to regularly track and analyze Mini Ride on-board travel times, and if so, how.

8.   Finding:  The City does not appear to have a formal definition of a “missed” trip and does not differentiate between trips that are rider “no-shows” and those that should be considered “missed” by Mini Ride.  Mini Ride dispatchers add notes to the trip file when vehicles are late and no-shows are recorded, but the trips are still recorded as no-shows and then might be counted against riders for potential service suspensions.  The DOT ADA regulations (49 CFR §37.131(f)) also prohibit a pattern or practice of a substantial number of missed trips.  It therefore is important that missed trips be defined and recorded to ensure compliance with this section of the regulations.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  No action required. If a passenger schedules a trip and the van arrives within the scheduled window and for whatever reason the passenger doesn’t take this trip it is considered a No Show. Conversely, If a passenger schedules a trip and the van arrives late the ride is then considered a cancellation. Prior to any passenger being sent either a warning letter for no shows or a suspension letter, these no shows are researched to insure their accuracy.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  Trips should be categorized as “missed” trips when the vehicle does not show up for a scheduled pickup or when the vehicle arrives after the scheduled pickup window and the passenger either is not there or refuses a ride.  Trips that take place where the driver arrives after the pickup window and the rider accepts the ride should be classified as “late” trips.  Categorizing all trips in which the van arrives late as “cancellations” does not sufficiently distinguish between rides not taken because of the transit agency itself and those not taken because of the rider’s actions.  Please review your trip categories, and report any changes or clarify your response above.

F. Resources

  • Finding:  The shortage of available vehicles on a daily basis appears to be the primary factor in the City’s ongoing trip denials for Mini Ride service.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  In early 2006 ABQ Ride increased it’s seating capacity by replacing the older 2000 series van with a larger 2006 Ford Candidate II model van. This van has double the seating capacity of the van it replaced.

  • Additional Reporting:  Please indicate whether you have found that the addition of these new, larger vehicles has helped reduce trip denials.

12. Finding:  Even though the Mini Ride service appears to be capacity constrained, the Mini Ride Operations Manager has not requested increases in operating funding to increase service capacity.  This appears to be due to the lack of accurately recording trip denials and monitoring on-time performance.

Corrective Action Proposed by ABQ:  ABQ Ride has a new Operations Manager in place that is very knowledgeable in the operation of a paratransit systsem. During the FTA review of 2005 ABQ Ride did not have a person in place with the experience and expertise to fully address the concerns expressed during the review. All necessary monitoring will be resumed to determine what changes need to occur.

Additional Reporting:  Please describe in more detail how the new Operations Manager plans to monitor Mini Ride service performance and ridership levels, and whether and how the information gathered will be used to request operating funding to meet service demands.

We recognize the efforts that ABQ Ride has already taken to correct the deficiencies identified in the draft report, and we anticipate your continued endeavors to take further corrective actions as noted in this letter.  We appreciate the cooperation and assistance that you and your staff have provided us during this review.  If you have any questions about this matter, please contact me or Mr. Jonathan Klein, Equal Opportunity Specialist, at (202) 366‑0809 or at his e-mail address: jonathan.klein@dot.gov.

It would also be very helpful to us if you would provide a copy of all correspondence to this office to the FTA Region VI Civil Rights Officer at the following address:

Mr. Bill Jones
FTA Civil Rights Officer
Room 8A36
819 Taylor Street
Fort Worth, TX  76012

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Michael A. Winter
Director, Office of Civil Rights

Enclosures

cc:  Robert C. Patrick, FTA Region VI Administrator
Gail Lyssy, FTA Region VI Director of Oversight & Program Management           
William Jones, FTA Region VI Civil Rights Officer

DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact
Submit Feedback >