November 1, 2011
Re: FTA Complaint Number 09-0340
Re: FTA Complaint No. 09-0340
Dear Ms. Halterman:
I am writing seeking a response to a complaint filed with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights against Clovis Transit alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The Office is responsible for civil rights compliance and monitoring, which includes ensuring that providers of public transportation are in compliance with the 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.
The complainant alleged that Clovis Transit was charging Round Up paratransit customers an extra fee for door-to-door service.
After reviewing Clovis Transit’s website, we confirmed that the agency has a written policy of charging $1 extra for “assist[ing] passengers to/from the door of their destination.” This blanket policy, if applied to ADA paratransit eligible customers, violates two provisions of the DOT ADA regulations: the requirement that ADA complementary paratransit service be origin-to-destination service in 49 CFR §37.129(a) and the prohibition against imposing special charges on individuals with disabilities in §37.5(d).
Section 37.129(a) of the DOT ADA regulations provides that, with few exceptions, “complementary paratransit service for ADA paratransit eligible persons shall be origin-to-destination service.” This term emphasizes the obligation of transit providers to ensure that eligible passengers are actually able to use paratransit service to get from their point of origin to their point of destination. For some individuals, door-to-door assistance may be needed to use the service; for others curb-to-curb service may suffice.
Because arranging for assistance beyond the curb may require additional time on the transit provider’s part, the transit provider may ask for advance notice from the passenger of a need for this assistance. This gives the provider the opportunity to evaluate how to meet the need, as well as potential obstacles to providing it. In the case of a passenger who sought this assistance on a regular basis, this notice could be provided as part of the application process for paratransit eligibility or at the time that a change in circumstances made regular provision of assistance necessary. Because there will still be circumstances in which the need for assistance beyond the curb may not be apparent until the vehicle arrives at the passenger’s destination, however, advance notice will not always be possible.
The regulations do not require a general change in a provider’s basic mode of service from curb-to-curb service to door-to-door service. Under the ADA rule, however, it is not appropriate for a paratransit provider to establish an inflexible policy that refuses to provide service to eligible passengers beyond the curb in all circumstances. On an individual, case-by-case basis, paratransit providers are obliged to provide an enhancement to service when it is needed and appropriate to meet the origin-to-destination requirement.
Transit providers are not required to take actions to accommodate individual passengers’ needs that would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, which for public transit is getting people from Point A to Point B, or create an undue burden. Transit providers are not obligated, for example, to provide personal or attendant-type services to riders or to provide services that exceed “door-to-door” service (e.g., go beyond the doorway into a building to assist a passenger). Drivers also would not be required, for lengthy periods of time, to leave their vehicles unattended or lose the ability to keep their vehicles under visual observation.
We have enclosed a copy of the DOT Disability Law Guidance on Origin-to-Destination Service for reference.
A transit provider cannot charge ADA paratransit customers for door-to-door service that does not constitute a fundamental alteration or undue burden. Section 37.5(d) of the DOT ADA regulations explicitly states:
“An entity shall not impose special charges, not authorized by this part, on individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs, for providing services required by this part or otherwise necessary to accommodate them.”
According to the City of Clovis’ website, an extra $1 is being charged to paratransit riders in certain cases. The website states: “One-way fares for Round Up within Clovis are $1.25. Travel to Fresno ranges from $2.00 to $2.75. Door-to-door service, which includes the driver pushing a wheelchair to the bus from a rider’s front door and/or carrying packages, is $1 extra.” A document on the website titled “Policies Related to Individual Users of Clovis Transit Roundup Services” dated September 1, 2010, further describes the agency’s policy on door-to-door service: “Regular Roundup service is curb-to-curb and provides only assistance necessary to board, disembark, or stow personal belongings. For an additional fee, Roundup will assist passengers to/from the door of their destination, or carry packages. . . .” 1
A distinction can be made, however, between “assisting passengers to/from the door” and “carrying packages.” A paratransit provider is not required to assist with passengers’ grocery bags or other packages to meet its origin-to-destination obligation. Carrying packages treads into the type of service that a personal care attendant, or PCA, would provide.2 And drivers are not required under the regulations to provide attendant-type services as explained in Appendix D to §37.5. Some transit providers offer this service for free or for a nominal charge similar to Clovis Transit, recognizing the value to customers. Providing this service is a local decision.
Clovis Transit does not need to change its basic mode of service from curb-to-curb but it does need to provide door-to-door service free of charge on a case-by-case basis for those ADA paratransit eligible customers who require such assistance to use Round Up, unless a fundamental alteration of service or undue burden arises.
We ask that Clovis Transit ensure its ADA complementary paratransit service is operating in compliance with 49 CFR §§37.5(d) and 37.129(a), take any corrective action needed, and report back to the FTA Office of Civil Rights. Please provide the following information:
- Copies of revised policies and public information (website information, brochures, etc.) clarifying that door-to-door service is available without additional cost to ADA eligible paratransit riders.
- Details on how the need for door-to-door service will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, if Clovis Transit maintains its basic mode of service as curb-to-curb, and how riders request door-to-door assistance.
- Information on the level of assistance that Clovis Transit will provide to a rider needing door-to-door service. A written policy describing the kinds of assistance available and circumstances that prevent door-to-door service is recommended, while keeping in mind that fundamental alteration and undue burden are often case-by-case assessments.
(As explained above, a paratransit provider is not required to assist with passengers’ grocery bags or other packages to meet its origin-to-destination obligation as this service would fundamentally alter the nature of public transit. A transit provider can decide to offer this service free of charge, or as Clovis Transit has decided, apply a fee.)
In reviewing your website, we also noticed that Clovis Transit is asking riders to call “at least 24 hours before” a desired pickup. This instruction is inconsistent with the requirement for next-day scheduling in the DOT ADA regulations. Section 37.131(b) states, “The entity shall schedule and provide paratransit service to any ADA paratransit eligible person at any requested time on a particular day in response to a request for service made the previous day.” This means, for example, that if reservations are accepted until 5 p.m., and a rider calls at 4:45 p.m., he could schedule a trip for the next morning or anytime the next day. We ask Clovis Transit, when revising its informational material on origin-to-destination service, to also clarify that riders can call anytime the day before a desired trip, when the reservations office is open, to schedule a trip for the next day.
Please provide this update, along with any other relevant information, to my attention within 30 days of the date of this letter. Include such documents as copies of any informational material, revised policies, and updated website links or snapshots. For items in progress, please describe their status and estimated timeline for completion.
We thank you for your help in resolving this complaint and for your continued assistance. If you have any questions, please contact me or Dawn Sweet at (202) 366-0529 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Further correspondence should reference FTA Complaint No. 09-0340.
John R. Day
ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights
cc: FTA Region 9
1 City of Clovis Website, “Round Up Transit Service,” http://www.ci.clovis.ca.us/SERVICESANDDEPARTMENTS/TRANSITSERVICE/Pages/RoundUpService.aspx (accessed Aug. 26, 2011).
2 A personal care attendant (PCA) accompanying a paratransit customer cannot be charged a fare under the DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR §37.131. PCAs can assist individuals with tasks on and off the vehicle.