August 29, 2008
Re: FTA Complaint Number 08-0287
Dear [name withheld]:
This letter responds to your complaint against Capital Metropolitan Transit Authority of Austin, TX, alleging discrimination on the basis of disability. 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 Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Department of Transportation's (DOT) implementing regulations at 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, and 38.
In the FTA complaint investigation process, we analyze allegations for possible ADA deficiencies by the transit provider. If FTA identifies what may be a violation, we first attempt to provide technical assistance to assist the public transit provider in complying 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 transit provider which may result in the termination of Federal funds. FTA also may refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement.
Each response is developed based on the specific facts and circumstances at issue. A determination resulting from a review of these facts is not intended to express an opinion as to the overall ADA compliance of that transit provider.
Specifically, your complaint to the Department of Justice of March 12, 2008, alleged that:
The plan by Capital MetroAccess (formerly Special Transit Service) to cancel the taxi voucher program discriminates against you and violates the ADA.
You state that the taxi voucher program allowed you to schedule trips with Yellow Cab, not just for the trips approved between your home and Janus Mutual Fund, your former employer, but for other trips, including medical appointments, to pick up prescriptions, to go to work, and to attend church. You prefer to use Yellow Cab over ADA complementary paratransit provided directly by Capital Metro because of a number of conveniences offered by Yellow Cab. Yellow Cab contacted you to let you know they had arrived. The cab driver would come to the second floor to assist you downstairs and would carry your personal items (including low-vision reading equipment). You also prefer Yellow Cab because you are not required to ride with other passengers, a practice which you state more often made you late for work and medical appointments.
The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR § 37.121 requires that each public entity operating a fixed route systems hall provide paratransit service that is comparable to the level of service provided to individuals without disability who use the fixed rout system. Vouchers for taxi service, however, are not required.
You state that the removal of this service puts you at a disadvantage obtaining reliable transportation. While we are sympathetic that Yellow Cab provided you with a convenience beyond that which is required of public transportation and one which individuals with and without disabilities who are able to utilize the fixed route system cannot enjoy we believe the ADA still affords you comparable transportation. As an ADA complementary paratransit eligible rider, you have the right to next-day origin-to-destination transportation without capacity constraints and meeting all other service requirements as outlined in DOT’s ADA regulations. This might include Capital Metro alerting you that the driver has arrived, if without such an extension of service you are unable to travel. However, we do not believe that Capital Metro should be required to provide you service to your second floor apartment or through the provision of personal services such as carrying your bags. These go beyond the requirements of public transportation.
If you receive poor transportation service that does not meet the standards as required by DOT’s ADA regulations, please contact Capital Metro’s customer service department at email@example.com. If poor service persists, please bring that to our attention by filing a new complaint directly with this office. Information about accessible public transportation, as well as a complaint form, can be found here.
You allege that Capital Metro had no public hearing or written notice of a public hearing. You believe that any change to or elimination of the taxi voucher program constitutes a violation of the ADA. On March 12, 2008, Capitol Metro and Texas Citizen Fund finalized a contract to convene a series of Community Dialogues to document the concerns of the disability community and other interested stakeholders in response to proposed Special Transit Services (STS) changes. Between March 13 and March 22, the Texas Citizen Fund convened six Community Dialogue meetings; 33 out of the 174 people attending represented community organizations. The Texas Citizen Fund reports that it encouraged and received a significant number of e-mail messages and phone calls from those participants as well as riders unable to attend the meetings..
Finally, you state that a legal settlement between you and Capital Metro guaranteed you taxi vouchers for the rest of your life. Any legal settlement you secured with Capital Metro should be pursued through legal representation through the court which approved that settlement.
After reviewing all of the submitted materials, the FTA Office of Civil Rights has not found Capital Metro to be in violation of the DOT ADA regulations. As the investigation phase of this process has been completed, we are closing your complaint as of the date of this letter.
This concludes our processing of this matter and no further investigation will occur. If new information comes to your attention, please contact us. While FTA’s decision in your case is administratively final, it does not prevent you from pursuing this matter privately in the appropriate court. If you have any questions regarding our determination, please contact Sue Clark of the ADA Team, at (202) 493-0511 or at her e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.
David W. Knight
ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights
Robert C. Patrick, FTA Region VI Administrator
William Jones, FTA Region VI Civil Rights Officer