April 30, 2009
Re: FTA Complaint Number 05-0035
Dear [name withheld]:
This letter responds to your complaint against the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) 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 comply with 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 alleged that:
- A ramp in PATH’s Pavonia/Newport Station has an excessive incline, and thus poses a safety hazard for individuals with disabilities.
- The same ramp at PATH’s Pavonia/Newport Station lacks traction, and thus poses a safety hazard for individuals with disabilities.
We apologize for the delay in our response. FTA investigated your allegations and sent an information request to PATH. We received a response from PATH that addressed your allegations and provided relevant information. In addition, a member of our office toured the station in question with PATH staff on December 15, 2004. He then met with you at length in your New York City office on the morning of December 21, 2004, to discuss your concerns and explain the legal requirements.
In its response to our inquiry, PATH provided details on the history and configuration of the Pavonia/Newport Station. Originally built in the early 1900s, the station underwent major reconstruction between the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 2000 the PATH board authorized a $15.7 million project to re-open a long dormant side platform. This project was completed in August 2003 and included the addition of an ADA-compliant elevator.
The ramp that is the subject of this complaint leads riders from the bottom of a set of escalators, or an elevator, which is immediately beyond the turnstiles, to a staircase or second elevator which accesses the train platforms. The ramp is in the station’s south passageway.
Each of your allegations is addressed in detail below:
1. A ramp in PATH’s Pavonia/Newport Station has an excessive incline, and thus poses a safety hazard for individuals with disabilities.
DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR Part 37 adopt as the regulatory standards for accessible transportation facilities the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) issued by the Access Board. The version of the ADAAG in effect at the time of the station’s renovation projects states in §4.8.2 that the maximum slope of a ramp in new construction shall be 1:12. Although PATH indicates that the ramp preexisted the renovation, it states that the slope does not exceed 1:12. According to PATH, the ramp slope varies between a low of 6.6% (around 1:16) and 8.3% (the 1:12 limit). Architectural drawings accompanying the response show an 8.3% maximum slope.
In addition, §4.8.2 states that the maximum rise for any run shall be 30 inches. Section 4.8.4 requires that a landing as wide as the ramp, and at a minimum length of 60 inches, be at the bottom and top of each ramp and each ramp run. In its response to this office, PATH indicated that there are compliant landings of 5 feet in length at intervals of no more than thirty feet. Architectural drawings confirmed that no ramp run in the south passageway rises more than 30 inches before having a compliant landing.
Based on the information provided by PATH, FTA finds no evidence to suggest that the ramp is out of compliance with regard to the slope or rise of this ramp.
2. The same ramp at PATH’s Pavonia/Newport Station lacks traction, and thus poses a safety hazard for individuals with disabilities.
Section 4.5.1 of ADAAG states that “ground and floor surfaces along accessible routes and in accessible rooms and spaces including floors, walks, ramps, stairs, and curb ramps, shall be stable, firm, slip-resistant . . .” The appendix to the section provides information on the measurement for slip resistance and the challenges inherent in assessing slip resistance on site.
PATH indicates that, in response to your concerns, scarifying of the tiles or acid etching was performed multiple times to enhance traction along the ramp. The record also shows that PATH informed you it stopped putting a “clear finish” on the corridor tiles. We recognize that you have questioned the effectiveness of these actions and said you have witnessed people fall in this area because of the slippery surface. As a result, we asked PATH to provide us with all incident/accident reports relevant to your allegations, including riders injured while navigating the ramp. PATH’s review of customer service and accident records revealed that no one else had reported injuries or raised similar concerns pertaining to the ramp.
Based on the information provided by PATH and the lack of reported incidents from riders, FTA finds no evidence to suggest that ramp is out of compliance with regard to surface requirements.
As the investigation phase of this process has been completed, we are closing your complaints as of the date of this letter. If new information comes to your attention please contact us again. 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 me or Maggie Smith of my staff at (202) 366-0805, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.
John R. Day
Acting ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights
Christopher O. Ward, PATH Executive Director
Joe Rippel, PATH Operations Support Division
Harold Levitt, PATH Capital Programs
Brigid Hynes-Cherin, FTA Regional Administrator, Region II
John Prince, FTA Region II Civil Rights Officer