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EBP Consortium ADA Compliance Review - March 16, 2005

Location: Oakland, CA
Date of Final Report: March 16, 2005

Alameda-Contra Cost Transit District & San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (East Bay Paratransit Consortium) Transmittal Letter 

March 16, 2005

Mr. Richard C. Fernandez
General Manager
Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
1600 Franklin Street
Oakland, California  94612

Mr. Thomas E. Margro
General Manager
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District
300 Lakeside Drive
Oakland, California  94612

Dear Messrs. Fernandez and Margro:

Thank you for your 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 East Bay Paratransit Consortium (EBP) from February 24 to 28, 2003.  Enclosed is the Final Report that incorporates AC Transit’s and BART’s official 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.

Enclosed with this letter is a progress table listing FTA’s understanding of the corrective actions either planned or taken by AC Transit and BART in response to the preliminary findings contained in the draft report.  If you feel 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 AC Transit and BART to clarify specific corrective actions based on AC Transit’s and BART’s response to the report findings.

Please use the enclosed table as the format to report progress to FTA on the corrective actions AC Transit and BART have completed or intend 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 on the enclosed table.  The first report will be due on April 15, 2005, and should include data for the months of January through March 2005, and any actions completed prior to that date that have not already been addressed.  Additional reports will be due by July 15, 2005, October 15, 2005, January 15, 2005, and each calendar quarter thereafter until FTA releases AC Transit and BART from this reporting requirement.

We recognize the progress that you have made in responding to the findings of the assessment as presented in your August 27, 2003 letter.  In addition to these efforts, we request that your first progress report more fully respond to the following findings, which are also addressed in the progress table.

B.  ADA Complementary Paratransit Eligibility

1.  Finding:  In general, the eligibility determination process used by ATC on behalf of AC Transit and BART does not seem to deny service to eligible individuals.  In fact, ATC’s approval rate for full or partial eligibility of 99% indicates that its evaluation process may be granting eligibility to individuals who are able to use fixed route service.

Corrective Action Proposed by AC Transit and BART:  East Bay Paratransit, through ATC, uses an eligibility process which was developed in concert with 21 transit agencies in the Bay Area in an effort facilitated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, our MPO.  During the past three years, the denial rate at ATC has varied from 3% to 1%.  That rate is typical of Bay Area agencies.  In addition to those denied, approximately 2% of the initial applicants self-select out during the application process.  Finally, 28% of the applicants who are not denied are granted only partial or “conditional” eligibility.  That rate is similar to agencies nationally using rigorous eligibility processes.

Staff from BART and AC Transit have reviewed the eligibility process and the outcomes of a sample of recent applications.  There appear to be no systematic errors with the decisions being reached by the certification staff.  Nevertheless, along with all the agencies in the Bay Area, EBPC is interested in strengthening the eligibility process.  Therefore we will be implementing recommendations from a common program of improvements developed by a consulting team working for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on behalf of the 21 Bay Area transit agencies on a schedule which has not yet been finalized.

Additional Reporting:  Please describe the changes to the eligibility process that AC Transit and BART, through EBP, have made or intend to make.  In addition, please provide a schedule of implementing the MTC’s recommendations.

4.  Finding:  EBP has a suspension policy for riders in which three no-shows in a calendar quarter could result in a 30-day suspension.  EBP has not suspended any riders for excessive no-shows for at least two years.  Nevertheless, this policy’s threshold for potential suspension may be an overly restrictive interpretation of the DOT ADA regulations.  Appendix D of 49 CFR Part 37 indicates 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 AC Transit and BARTEast Bay Paratransit has had a threshold of possible suspension after three no-shows in a quarter since ADA service began in 1996.  This policy was discussed in detail during a review of the Rider Policies in 1997 and was supported by both the rider advisory committee and the Boards of both operators at that time.  Any change to the policy would need consultation with the EBPC consumer advisory committee.  East Bay Paratransit will discuss this finding with the advisory committee and make a determination by January 2004 about whether or not to pursue a change in the policy. 

In general, East Bay Paratransit finds that counseling and warning individuals who no-show prevents the need for substantial numbers of suspensions.  In FY 2000/2001 and FY 2001/2002, there were few suspensions, partly because of a transition to new reservation and scheduling software.  However, the normal procedure has resumed.  East Bay Paratransit believes that the current policy is fairly administered and does not represent an overly restrictive burden on the riders.  This is indicated by the fact that, in FY 2002/2003, only 41 individuals were suspended for no-shows, out of an active ridership of over 10,000.   East Bay Paratransit has a dedicated no-show clerk who monitors and counsels riders who no-show.

Suspensions are not instituted for no-shows that are beyond the rider’s control, no matter how frequent.  In addition, no-shows are not imposed if the driver arrives past the end of the pick-up window and the rider has left.  Riders who dispute a no-show on their record are afforded every opportunity to explain their circumstances, and the decision errs on the side of the rider.  No-shows which prove to be beyond the control of the rider are removed from their records.  EBP is confident that riders who are ultimately suspended are ones whose no-shows has become a practice of intentional no-shows and late cancellations.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  While EBP has procedures in place to limit the number of suspensions for no-shows, EBP’s policy for suspending service for no-shows could result in suspension of service for a regular, daily rider who has one no-show for every 43 trips.  This rate of no-shows does not appear to be a pattern or practice of missing trips as described in 49 CFR Subpart 37 Appendix D.  One way of addressing frequent riders in the no-show suspension policy is to consider trip frequency as part of the policy.

Please identify what actions EBP plans to take to further review its policy of suspending service for three no-shows in a three-month period.

D.  Scheduling of Trip Requests

2.  Finding:  The vehicle manifests do not display the pickup window times or the negotiated pickup time.  This can cause a driver to be unaware that he/she is late and cause miscommunication with customers.

Corrective Actions Proposed by AC Transit and BART:  The pickup window will be printed on the driver manifest and the drivers will be trained about the relevance of the window to their schedule.  Completion of this project at all five providers is expected by January 2004.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide a sample of the new driver manifest that shows the pickup window.  In addition, please describe how drivers are being trained about the relevance of the pickup window.

E. Operations

1.  Finding:  EBP appears to have a small, but consistent, number of trip denials and missed trips each day.  Eleven additional potential denials were identified from ATC records for the sample day of January 15, 2003.  This represents less than 0.4% of requested trips.  The missed trips represents 1.2% of requested trips.  EBP also reports a small number of trip denials and missed trips from its sampling of trip records.

Corrective Actions Proposed by AC Transit and BART:  The small number of denials at EBP reflects a continuing commitment to analyze the system, improve efficiency, and shift capacity to reflect demand trends and denial times.  We will continue to do so in the expectation of reducing the level further in the future.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  Please describe specific steps that AC Transit and BART, through EBP, will take to move toward no denials.  Also, please discuss steps that AC Transit and BART, through EBP, will take to reduce the number of carrier missed trips.

Please provide a timetable for these proposed activities.

3.  Finding:  174 trips (7.6% of scheduled trips) were reported as late cancellations and customer no shows on the sample day.  These cancellations and no-shows might provide capacity on the day of service to schedule and serve denied and missed trips.

Corrective Actions Proposed by AC Transit and BART:  The time freed up by cancellations and no-shows is used for medical “go-backs,” urgent same day trip requests, and capacity for helping late runs including minimizing “missed trips.” EBP believes that the amount of over-scheduling currently being used is appropriate.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  EBP should conduct its daily operations according to its best judgments.  Nevertheless, as cited in E.1., EBP must adjust its operations to eliminate its denials and reduce its carrier missed trips.

4.   Finding:  EBP appears to have a small number of significantly late pickups.  EBP reports approximately 0.2% pickups more than one hour late in 2002.  Based on the one-day sample conducted by the assessment team, 1% of pickups and 1.3% of drop-offs were more than one hour late.

Corrective Actions Proposed by AC Transit and BART:  EBP believes that the inconsistencies between the assessment team on-time calculations and those of EBP are a result of differences in the sampling methodology and volume.  The team sampled approximately 300 trips.  EBP samples 100% of the trips on five randomly selected sample days each month.  In FY 2002/2003, a total of approximately 100,000 trips were sampled.  The annual average was 0.14% pick-ups more than one hour late.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide FTA with the statistics on pickups that were more than one hour late (total and percent) for the sample days selected by EBP in the months of October 2004 to March 2005.

5.   Finding:  The definition of the 20-minute on-time window (0/+20) does not appear to be effectively communicated to service providers and drivers.  The contracts between ATC and the service providers cite a contract penalty for pickups completed more than 30 minutes after the scheduled pickup time.  As a result, the service providers’ incentive is to pick customers up within 30 minutes of the scheduled pickup time (0/+30), not 20 minutes.  Operator manuals do not address the on-time pickup window and only an estimated pickup time appears on the drivers’ manifests.  Several observations were made of scheduled pickup times on driver manifests that were outside of the customer’s 20-minute pickup window.  Most drivers interviewed did not know what the pickup window is.  As a result, the driver is usually unaware of what the customer is expecting for a pickup time.  This can result in miscommunications between driver and customer and can contribute to late and early pickups.

Corrective Actions Proposed by AC Transit and BART:  As stated in the response to D.2. above, the manifest will be revised to include the pickup window.  Drivers, dispatchers, and call center agents will receive training prior to implementation which is expected by January 2004.

AC Transit’s and BART’s contract with ATC contains incentives and disincentives relating to on-time performance and missed and very late trips which are related closely to the window.  ATC’s contracts with their sub-contracted service providers are developed by ATC based on their experience of service provider management.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide a sample of the new driver manifest (as requested in D.2).  In addition, please provide information about how driver are being trained about the relevance of the pickup window (as requested in D.2).

Clarification of Corrective Action:  Please clarify whether ATC’s contract incentives and disincentives are tied to the precise (0/+20) pickup window, or to another window, such as (0/+30).  If the contracts of ATC and the providers are tied to another window, please explain the rationale.

6.   Finding:  EBP does not have a standard for on-time performance for drop-offs for appointments and does not measure on-time performance for drop-offs.

Corrective Actions Proposed by AC Transit and BART:  EBPC finds that it is more accurate to measure on-time performance for all trips based upon the single measure pickup time.  A reverse engineered pickup time is created for all appointment arrival times requested by the passenger.  This pickup time includes time for travel and shared rides.  Timeliness of drop- off is monitored through passenger surveys, complaints, and ride diaries.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  FTA encourages AC Transit and BART to monitor the timeliness of EBP trips for which the rider requested a drop-off time.  49 CFR Part 37.131(f)(3) of the DOT’s ADA regulations requires that transit entities not constrain capacity by  “any operational pattern or practice that significantly limits the availability of complementary paratransit service.”  This section of the regulations specifically cites patterns or practices of untimely pickups as an example of such a capacity constraint.  Just as substantial numbers of untimely pickups limit the utility and, therefore, availability of service to people with disabilities, so do a substantial number of untimely drop-offs.  For many passenger trips, the timeliness of the drop-off is more critical to the utility of the service than the timeliness of the pickup.  Such trips are those with an appointment time such as trips to work, school, medical appointments, recreational events, etc.   Substantial numbers of significantly late drop-offs for appointments can limit the utility of the service to customers and constitutes a capacity constraint.  In order to ensure that EBP is not constraining capacity by providing a substantial number of significantly late drop-offs, it is necessary to measure on-time performance in meeting customers requested drop-off or appointment times.

Since EBP already collects the required data, computing on-time drop-off performance should only require a small additional effort.

F. Resources

3.   Finding:  Operating resources, including drivers and vehicles, appear to be adequate to serve existing travel demand.  Flexible capacity for some carriers may be insufficient to respond to absences, demand spikes, and real time scheduling of trips that are currently denied.

Corrective Actions Proposed by AC Transit and BART:  Because EBP has five service providers and the capability to easily shift trips between carriers even on the day of service, we believe there is adequate capacity to respond to the issues mentioned above.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  EBP and its five service providers may be flexible in terms of shifting trips between carriers.  However, as cited in E.1., EBP must adjust its operations to eliminate its denials and reduce its carrier missed trips.

We recognize the efforts that AC Transit and BART have already made 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 staffs have provided us during this review.  If you have any questions about this matter, please contact me or Mr. David Knight, Equal Opportunity Specialist, at (202) 366‑0805 or at his electronic mail address: david.knight@fta.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 IX Civil Rights Officer at the following address:

Mr. Derrin Jourdan
Civil Rights Officer, Region IX
Federal Transit Administration       
201 Mission Street, Suite 2210
San Francisco, California 94105-1800

                                                                                           
Sincerely,

Michael A. Winter
Director, Office of Civil Rights

Enclosure

cc:   Leslie Rodgers, FTA Region IX Administrator
Derrin Jourdan, FTA Region IX Civil Rights Officer

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