September 6, 2011
Re: FTA Complaint Number 09-0134
Dear [name withheld]:
This letter responds to the complaint you filed against Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) 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 are in compliance with 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 C.F.R. Parts 27, 37, and 38.
In the complaint investigation process, we analyze the complaint’s 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 the 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 termination of Federal funds. FTA may also 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.
We apologize for the delay in responding to your complaint. FTA investigated your allegations and sent an information request to MATA. We received a response from MATA that addressed and provided relevant information on your allegation, which is addressed in detail below.
Your complaint of January 7, 2009, and subsequent correspondence dated January 25, 2011, alleged that MATA had frequently arrived late for scheduled pickups.
Upon reviewing your complaint correspondence, you submitted two trip logs detailing specific dates and times where late pickups or missed trips occurred. Your original complaint identified 11 instances between August 8, 2008 and January 7, 2009, where your scheduled ride never arrived or arrived after the pickup window. Additionally, the second trip log you submitted identified 9 instances between May 24, 2010 and January 25, 2011, where your scheduled ride never arrived or arrived after the pickup window.
Relevant ADA Background
The DOT ADA regulations at 49 C.F.R. § 37.131(f) prohibit transit entities from limiting paratransit service to eligible individuals by means of a “pattern or practice”—or substantial number—of significantly untimely pickups for initial or return trips and missed trips. Appendix D to Part 37 explains that a “pattern or practice involves regular, or repeated actions, not isolated, accidental, or singular incidents.”
Appendix D to Part 37 also explains that a transit provider can violate the ADA via an operational pattern or practice “if on a regular basis, the entity misses a substantial number of trips (e.g., a trip is scheduled, a passenger is waiting, but the vehicle never comes, goes to the wrong address, is extremely late, etc).”
In its response to this office’s request for information, MATA indicated that its paratransit program, MATAplus, uses a 30-minute pickup window. It considers a pickup late if the vehicle does not arrive until more than 30 minutes after the scheduled time.
FTA reviewed your trip records provided by MATA for the period of August 2008 through early January 2009, which was cited in your original correspondence. During this period, you took more than 200 paratransit trips on MATA. Of the 11 pickups cited in your complaint that were either allegedly late or missed, 6 pickups (or 3% of your total trips) arrived outside the 30-minute pickup window over this 4-month period. The late pickups you identified ranged between 2 and 20 minutes after close of the 30-minute pickup window, which makes the average late pickup 9.5 minutes after close of the pickup window. Of the remaining 5 cited trips, 2 showed a cancellation after the driver failed to show up within the window, 1 trip was missed due to mechanical problems with the vehicle, 1 trip was not completed because you allegedly were not at the designated pickup spot, and finally 1 time MATA appeared not deliver you to your destination and returned you home.
Subsequently, you submitted additional trip logs covering more current dates between May 2010 and January 2011. Of the 9 incidents you cite, 5 occurring outside the pickup window had an average lateness of 12 minutes past the pickup window over a 7-month period. On 3 occasions you cancelled the scheduled trip well after the close of the pickup window, and on 1 occasion the pickup occurred within the pickup window.
The limited pickup issues described in your complaint and follow-up correspondence, and largely substantiated by your trip records, do not appear to rise to the level of a pattern or practice—or a substantial number—of late pickups or missed trips.
By copying MATA on this letter, however, we are asking it to review its trip coding system and ensure it is coding trips cancelled after the pickup window as “missed trips” caused by MATA and not as “cancellations” by the passenger. We have concerns that a few of your trips in your records may have been miscoded. One instance we identified occurred on October 22, 2008, where you stated that you were scheduled for a 7:20 pickup from home, but ended up cancelling at 8:30 when you ride had still not arrived. However, MATA coded this trip as a late cancellation. Another instance occurred on November 17, 2010, where you stated you cancelled 23 minutes after the pickup window when your ride never arrived, however, MATA coded this trip as a same-day cancellation. It appears these trips should have been coded as missed trips.
In this situation, the record does not support a finding that MATA has violated specific requirements of the DOT ADA regulations. While MATA should strive to achieve 100% on-time service, the untimely pickups cited in your complaint do not appear to represent a pattern or practice of significantly untimely pickups or missed trips based on how frequently you ride the service. We are therefore taking no further action and are closing your complaint as of the date of this letter. While FTA’s decision in your case is administratively final, it does not prevent you from pursuing this matter privately in court. If you have any questions regarding this determination, please contact me or Aaron Meyers at (202) 366-3055 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any further correspondence should reference FTA Complaint No. 09-0134. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention, and we trust the above information is helpful.
John R. Day
ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights
Memphis Area Transit Authority
FTA Region 4