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LIRR ADA Compliance Review - October 17, 2008

Location: Jamaica, NY
Date of Final Review: October 17, 2008

Long Island Railroad Transmittal Letter

October 17, 2008

Ms. Helena Williams
President
MTA Long Island Rail Road
Jamaica Station
Jamaica, NY 11435

Dear Ms. Williams:

Thank you for the cooperation that you and your staff provided during the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) compliance review initiated on July 16, 2007, of the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Stop Announcement and Route Identification Efforts. Enclosed is the Final Report that incorporates LIRR’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 LIRR 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
  • Requested LIRR to clarify specific corrective actions based on LIRR’s response to the report findings

Please use the enclosed table as the format to report progress to FTA on the corrective actions that LIRR 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 on the enclosed table. The first report will be due on November 20, 2008, and should include data for through October 2008, and any actions completed prior to that date that have not already been addressed. Additional reports will be due by January 15, 2009, April 15, 2009, and each calendar quarter thereafter until FTA releases LIRR from this reporting requirement.

Applicability of DOT ADA regulations concerning fixed route announcements to the Long Island Railroad

It is important to address the concern expressed in your letter of April 7, 2008, that, as a commuter rail transportation provider, LIRR does not fit the definition of a “fixed route system” for the purposes of 49 CFR 37.167, and LIRR’s interpretation that compliance with that regulation is not mandatory. 

The requirements and definitions applicable to fixed route service codified in 49 CFR § 37 (“Part 37”) are based on and authorized by 42 USC §§ 12143, 12149, and 12164. As defined in 49 CFR § 37.3, fixed route means, “a system of transporting individuals (other than by aircraft) … on which a vehicle is operated along a prescribed route according to a fixed schedule.” On its face, this definition includes all rail transportation service. The inclusion of commuter rail is clarified in Appendix D to Part 37. 

The authority granted to the Secretary of Transportation under § 12164 should not be confused with the slightly different authority granted under 42 USC §§ 12143 and 12149. As a matter of statutory construction, § 12164 is codified under Subpart II of Title II Subtitle B of the ADA, whereas §§ 12143 and 12149 are under Subpart I. Subpart I concerns authority over a limited “designated” category of fixed route public transportation, which excludes intercity and commuter rail. Under Subpart II, by contrast, the Secretary is granted authority over intercity and commuter rail transportation service. See 42 USC §§ 12161, 12164. The Secretary satisfied the regulatory directives of both Subparts I and II through the regulations under Part 37. See 49 CFR § 37.1 (Part 37 is authorized by Title II of the ADA, generally). Because the authority for the portions of Part 37 that apply to commuter rail is based on § 12164 of Subpart II, any limitations in the scope of authority granted under § 12141 of Subpart I are inapplicable to defining the extent of regulatory authority over commuter rail.

The FTA Office of Civil Rights appreciates LIRR’s efforts to improve its performance in the area of stop announcements, but the record needs to reflect that, although you would make these efforts voluntarily, they are in fact mandated by the DOT ADA regulations.

We recognize the progress that you have made in responding to the findings of the review as presented in your April 7, 2008 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.

A. Stop Announcement and Route Identification Requirements

Finding A.5: In April 2007, LIRR began a covert monitoring program of train crew. For 17 observations over a three-month period, managers observed two problems with the PA system.

Corrective Actions Proposed by LIRR: In April 2007 (prior to the on-site inspection) the Transportation Department instituted a Covert Train Ride Program to monitor on-board train announcements (as well as uniform compliance and fare collection). The covert train rides are performed by managers. After each train ride, the manager completes a Covert Train Ride Form. Among other things, the manager will confirm whether all announcements (including initial terminal, route, transfer, and delay announcements) were made in accord with Appendix C.

The Transportation Department continues to conduct its Covert Train Ride Program. In the nine month period beginning April 25, 2007, the Transportation Department made 70 covert rides. This program is ongoing.

Additional Reporting: Please report on the findings of the Covert Train Ride program in the next Quarterly Progress Report. In particular, please indicate whether station and route announcements were observed and whether any corrective actions have been taken in response to the results.

B. Stop Announcements

Finding B.2: On cars without ASI, the review team observed audible announcements 62 percent of the time. This rate of announcements by train crews on cars without ASI is deficient in identifying stations for people who are blind or who have low vision.

Corrective Actions Proposed by LIRR: At the outset, it is not entirely clear what percentage of the announcement failures are attributable to equipment defects, as opposed to train crew performance. If most of the announcement failures resulted from equipment defect, train crew performance should not be impugned.

In any event, as part of a proactive approach, the LIRR has already begun a concerted effort to improve the performance of its train crews in making stop announcements on cars without the ASI system. The LIRR has taken several corrective actions and, most significantly, is in the process of developing a new covert train ride program that will be conducted by the MTA Audit Services Department.

Corrective actions the LIRR has taken and will take are as follows:

(a) September 17, 2007 Letter to All Train Service Employees – Joseph Antonucci, the Acting (and now appointed) Chief Transportation officer, sent a letter dated September 17, 2007, to all train service employees (including Assistant Conductors, Conductors, Collectors, and Movement Bureau PA Operators) seeking their support for an important communications initiative. After citing the preliminary results of the stop announcement audit, Mr. Antonucci reminded crews to follow the guidelines in Appendix C in making announcements – noting that “train announcements are a lifeline for visually disabled customers.” When working on trains with automated announcements, Mr. Antonucci directed the crews to focus on initial, route, and transfer/connecting announcements. He closed the letter by appealing to the crews’ “professionalism and commitment to ensure the success of our operation.” A copy of this letter is annexed hereto as “Exhibit F.”

(b) October-November 2007 MTA Audit – In mid-September 2007, the Transportation Department also contacted the MTA Audit Services Department (“MTA Audit”). MTA Audit is responsible for conducting covert monitoring of fare collections by LIRR train crews. This covert monitoring of fare collection is carried out by undercover MTA auditors as well as outside companies retained by the MTA. The Transportation Department asked MTA Audit to perform an audit of public announcements by LIRR train crews in conjunction with its covert fare collection monitoring. From October 13 to November 3, 2007, MTA Audit conducted 46 train rides. On these 46 train rides, there were 26 instances of failed announcements.

As a result of the findings by MTA Audit, the transportation Department embarked on a campaign to educate its train crews on the importance of announcements.

(c) December 2007 ADA Workshop – On December 18, 2007, the Transportation Department held a workshop on “The Americans With Disabilities Act As It Relates To Train And Engine Service.” The transportation Department partnered with the United Transportation Union (“UTU”) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (“BLE&T”), the unions representing train service employees and engineers, to present the workshop. The workshop was held for the train crews that had been identified by MTA Audit as having failed to make one or more announcements. In addition, three union representatives and four managers attended the workshop. The five hour workshop included an overview of the ADA, a review of announcements required by the ADA, as well as practical applications of the ADA, and concluded with a training video.

(d) Poster Campaign – In December 2007, the Transportation Department designed an educational poster alerting train service personnel to the importance of making stop announcements. The top of the poster announced: “Don’t Announce Station Stops Because It’s the Law. Announcement Station Stops Because It’s The Right Thing To Do.” The poster then showed the caption of a lawsuit entitled Martin v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority – and informed the crews that the failure to make stop announcements is a violation of the ADA. The bottom of the poster read: “For The Visually Impaired, Your Announcements Are A Lifeline.” This educational poster was posted at numerous work sites at the LIRR. A copy of this poster is annexed hereto as Exhibit “G.”

(e) ADA Training Added to PTEP – every two years qualified Conductors must attend Passenger Train Emergency Preparedness (“PTEP”) training. PTEP training was recently extended from a one-day class to a two-day class. The importance of communication is stressed through this training. As part of this focus on communication, the Transportation Department has added an hour and a half training segment at the end of the second day of class on public announcements and ADA requirements.

(f) Covert Train Ride program Conducted by MTA Audit – the LIRR Transportation Department is working with MTA Audit to develop a permanent monthly covert train ride program. MTA Audit will prepare and deliver a monthly audit report to the Transportation Department, which will follow up with counseling and discipline, where appropriate.

(g) STAR Program – the Transportation Department has maintained this employee recognition program since 2003. The STAR Program, which stands for Superior Transportation Announcement Recognition, was started in order to acknowledge and reward employees who demonstrate exceptional communication skills. The program is a peer-recognition program, and any member of the Transportation Department who believes that an employee does an outstanding job with announcements can submit the employee’s name for consideration. Once nominated, a transportation manager will, on a variety of occasions, listen to and assess the quality of announcements the employee is making to determine whether an award is merited. Employees selected for this recognition are treated to lunch with the Chief Transportation Officer and are awarded a plaque and a pin (that can be pinned to their uniforms). A group picture is also taken and placed in “Along the track,” the monthly LIRR employee newsletter.

(h) “Track Record” Notice – the Public Affairs Department included a service notice in its daily LIRR employee publication, called the “Track Record.” The service notice provided: “Our customers’ need for accurate, timely, and frequent announcements is of paramount importance to our communication efforts. This is especially true on our M-3 equipment, which does not have automated announcements.”

(i) “Along the Track” Article – the Public Affairs Department will also be writing a feature article in the monthly LIRR employee newsletter to highlight the importance of communication (especially stop announcements) for customers with disabilities. This article may follow the real life commute of an LIRR customer who is blind.

Additional Reporting: LIRR has responded in a very substantial manner to the finding regarding the rate of station announcements by train crews. Please report on the following efforts in the next Quarterly Progress Report.

Regarding LIRR’s contention that crew performance should not be faulted where the failure to announce results from equipment failure, however, FTA disagrees. The requirement to make station and route announcements remains the same whether announcements are made by voice or through an automated mechanism, such as ASI. Technology and mechanical equipment can be helpful in ensuring that announcements are properly made, but they do not excuse or reduce the requirement that announcements in fact be made.

Failure to announce by voice where the automated equipment fails is just as serious of a violation of the regulatory requirements as failure to announce by voice on a train without automated equipment…[detailed responses to particular elements of LIRR’s reported progress are included in the attached reporting table]

Finding B.3: During the site visit, not all LIRR documentation associated with the maintenance of its ASI or PA systems was available. Accordingly, the review team did not determine whether or not LIRR identified and repaired in a timely fashion the PA systems observed by reviewers as inoperable.

Corrective Actions Proposed by LIRR: The LIRR objects to this finding. As explained in Section “D” [of the letter dated April 7, 2008] the LIRR was unaware that the review team was looking for additional records or an explanation of the LIRR’s equipment maintenance system. … Moreover, the LIRR does, in fact, maintain system records to “identify reported problems with the ASI and PA systems” and track associated repairs. Specifically the LIRR utilizes a Rolling Stock Maintenance System (“RSMS”), a computer software program that was customized by the software developer for the LIRR, that supports the needs of the Maintenance of Equipment Department in maintaining the LIRR’s electric and diesel fleets.

When a train crew encounters a problem with a communications system (PA or ASI), they call the problem in to the Movement Bureau (Transportation Department) or directly to Central Control (Maintenance of Equipment Department). If the call comes to the Movement Bureau, the Movement Bureau will transmit this information to the Central Control. Central Control inputs this mechanical problem into RSMS. RSMS then generates a work order. Central Control endeavors to correct the problem as soon as possible. If the problem appears to be mechanical in nature, Central Control will contact a Car Inspector to investigate and correct the problem. If the problem involves an ASI system and appears to be software-related, Central Control will contract the Information Services (“IS”) Department to investigate and correct. Once the problem is corrected, that information is inputted into RSMS.

We would note that while RSMS adequately captures all necessary information, RSMS is an older, non-Windows-based system. The LIRR is currently looking to switch to a Windows-based maintenance system that allows multiple access by various departments.

In sum, the LIRR maintains adequate, organized records regarding reported equipment problems and repairs and stands ready to produce any RSMS records requested by the FTA Office of Civil Rights.

Additional Reporting: Thank you for providing the maintenance data and the RSMS system information. Please provide maintenance records for repairs made (including nature of the repair, date identified, and date of completion for the repair) to the AVI and/or the PA systems, as applicable, for the following cars during the period from one week prior through one week following the review (i.e., July 9 through July 24, 2007):
4039, 4087, 4088, 4094, 7173, 7187, 9811, 9812, 9817, and 9878.

Please note that this finding has been modified in the final report in light of comments received from LIRR regarding the draft report.

Finding B.4 : As noted in Section 3 of this report, conductors are not responsible for testing the PA system at the start of a trip. Rather, car repairmen are responsible for daily inspection of PA systems. As a result, conductors indicated that they do not consistently check the operation of the PA system on each car. As a result, conductors may not know if the PA is functioning or not.

Corrective Actions Proposed by LIRR: This finding appears to be based on the erroneous belief that the Conductors are required to perform the daily PA inspections. However, as explained in Section “E(3)(a)” [of the letter of April 7, 2008], while a daily inspection of the PA systems n LIRR rail cars is performed, this inspection is performed by Car Repairmen – not the Conductors. The PA inspection is part of the daily 2B inspection performed by the Car Repairmen. Thus, the Conductors are not required to perform a daily PA inspection. Consequently the finding is of no import.

Additional Reporting: Thank you for the clarification regarding daily 2B inspections. Please see the revised finding and associated recommendation. Since conductors are responsible for making on-board announcements, LIRR should consider having conductors confirm that the PA system is operable each day.

Finding B.5 : All conductors understood the need to make stop announcements at all stations; however, conductor interviews indicate that they do not follow any specific pattern or procedure in making the announcements.

Corrective Actions Proposed by LIRR: As explained in Section E(3)(b) [of the letter of April 7, 2008], this finding mistakenly implies that the LIRR does not maintain any procedure for Conductors to follow in making stop announcements. However, Appendix C “On-Train Announcements” … instructs the Conductors in making public announcements, including initial terminal announcements, route announcements (which includes stop announcements), and transfer announcements. … Appendix C informs the Conductor when to make the announcement, what to announce, and even provides a sample announcement that the conductor can use as a script in making his/her announcements.

Additional Reporting: Thank you for the clarification, which is incorporated in the Final Report. By way of clarification, this finding pertains to the understanding of the requirements among conductors and the practices carried out by the conductors, rather than LIRR written procedures. The information gathered during conductor interviews indicates that conductors do not follow a specific pattern or procedure in making announcements and that additional training or notices may be necessary to ensure that all conductors follow the procedures in Appendix C. In the next Quarterly Progress Report, please comment on how the measures (a) through (h) reported by LIRR in response to Finding 2.2, above, are reinforcing the procedures in Appendix C. Please note if there have been any additional efforts that address this finding.

C. Route Identification

Finding C.3: Train announcements at Jamaica Station can usually be heard from the platform entrances along Sutphin Boulevard, one level below the trains. Street noise, however, can sometimes drown out the announcements.

Corrective Actions Proposed by LIRR: We disagree with the review team’s perception that street noise on Sutphin Boulevard can “sometimes drown out” the announcements. Numerous speakers are mounted overhead all along Sutphin Boulevard and our experience shows that the announcements are not “drowned out” along the boulevard. …
Jamaica Station … has five elevators that provide access to the platforms from Sutphin Boulevard. We assume [the original finding in the Draft Report regarding accessible routes to the platforms’] was an inadvertent error.

Additional Reporting: The finding has been revised in the Final Report. Please clarify whether LIRR has attempted, on Sutphin Boulevard, to use equipment that adjusts for ambient noise, of the type that was attempted and ultimately rejected to address the ambient noise on the AirTrain bridge.

Finding C.5: Partly as a result of the various speech accents of some of the ushers, announcements at Jamaica Station were sometimes difficult to understand.

Corrective Actions Proposed by LIRR: The issue of “speech accents” was raised by the consultants during the exit conference. While we understand the need for clear announcements, as a public service provider, we must be sensitive to our ethnically diverse workforce and customer base. To address the consultants’ concerns, the Transportation Department provided professional speech training for its Ushers (Jamaica Plain, Penn, and Flatbush Stations). Over the course of several weeks, all Ushers were given a private session with an experienced speech professional. The speech professional met with each Usher individually to emphasize the importance of clear and understandable announcements. The Ushers received instruction and then practiced announcements. The practice was recorded and the speech professional gave constructive feedback on pronunciation and speech clarity during the playback of the recording. The Ushers were given a copy of the recording to keep and use for practice. We believe this professional speech training has resulted in clearer announcements at Jamaica Station.

Additional Reporting: It is suggested that LIRR continue this innovative program of speech training for newly hired ushers and periodically evaluate clarity of announcements to determine if any of the personnel making announcements would benefit from refresher or continued training. Please describe any ongoing training program.

Finding C.7: The five stairway entrances to the LIRR platforms on Sutphin Boulevard do not have raised letter or Braille signage to identify which platform platforms they lead to. This makes it difficult for a person who is blind or who has low vision to find the proper stairway. Also, it is not in compliance with ADAAG, Section 10.3.1(4).

Corrective Actions Proposed by LIRR: Notwithstanding our disagreement with the review team’s interpretation that the signs are required by the ADAAG, the LIRR has decided to follow the recommendation of the review team and post raised letter and Braille track number signs at Jamaica Station. We believe the recommendation has merit and that the signage would be of value to our customers with vision impairments, The LIRR Structures Department has designed the raised letter and Braille track number signs that will be posted at either side of the stairways hat lead from Sutphin Boulevard to the platforms. The cost estimate for this sign installation is approximately $7,000. The LIRR expects to put this contract out for competitive bidding in the near future.

Additional Reporting: The interpretation is based on the fact that a large visual sign identifying the station is present above the stairway entrances. In the next Quarterly Progress Report, please report on progress in installing the signs.

We recognize the efforts that LIRR 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 myself or Jonathan Klein, the program manager for this review, at (202) 366‑0809 or by e-mail at: jonathan.klein@dot.gov.

It would also be very helpful to us if you would provide an electronic copy of all correspondence to this office to the FTA Region II Civil Rights Officer by e-mail at: john.prince@dot.gov.


Sincerely,

Cheryl Hershey
Director
FTA Office of Civil Rights

Enclosures

cc: Brigid Hynes-Cherin, FTA Region II Administrator
John Prince, FTA Region II Civil Rights Officer
Larry Penner, FTA Region II Director of Operations & Program Management
Planners Collaborative, Inc.

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