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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, San Diego, CA, 7-28-11

July 28, 2011

Re: FTA Complaint Number 11-0133

Dear [names withheld]:

This letter responds to your complaint against San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) 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 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.

In your complaint, you state that manual wheelchair users cannot navigate up ramps on MTS trolley cars. The ramps have a steep incline and a bump at the top of the ramp that makes it difficult for manual wheelchair users to navigate up the ramps. You state that the ramp ratio quoted by MTS is incorrect, that it is greater than what MTS states. You allege that the ramp is difficult and unsafe for wheelchair passengers to deploy from inside the trolley to exit.

Under 49 CFR §37.7(a) of the DOT ADA regulations, vehicles, must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. The DOT ADA regulations at §38.83(c) require that ramps have the least slope practicable, but also establish requirements for the maximum slope that is permitted under various conditions. For light rail vehicles (LRVs), if the height of the vehicle floor from which the ramp is deployed is 3 inches or less above the station platform (under 50% passenger load), a maximum slope of 1:4 is permitted; if the height of the vehicle floor is 3–6 inches above the station platform, a maximum slope of 1:6 is permitted; if it is 6–9 inches above the platform, a maximum slope of 1:8 is permitted; and if the height of the vehicle floor is greater than 9 inches above the station, platform a slope of 1:12 is required. According to information and drawings provided by MTS, the height of the floor of their LRVs is less than 3½ inches above the platform at the door, and achieves a slope of 1:6 at 50 percent passenger load as required.

Under §37.165(f) of the DOT ADA regulations, where necessary or upon request the transit system’s personnel are required to assist individuals with disabilities with the use of securement systems, ramps and lifts. As described in Appendix D to this section, the entity’s personnel have an obligation to ensure that a passenger with a disability is able to take advantage of the accessibility and safety features on vehicles. Consequently, the driver or other personnel must provide assistance with the use of lifts, ramps, and securement devices. On a vehicle that uses a ramp for entry, the driver may have to assist in pushing a manual wheelchair up the ramp (particularly where the ramp slope is relatively steep).

In addition, the ADA requires that public operators of a fixed-route transit system such as MTS provide paratransit as a complement to fixed-route service for those individuals whose disabilities prevent them from using the regular fixed-route system. For rail systems, the service area consists of a ¾-mile radius around each station, and trips must be provided from any point within the service area surrounding one station to any point within the service area around any other station.

In this situation, we have determined that no specific requirements of the DOT ADA regulations have been violated. We do not have information to suggest that the MTS LRVs fail to meet the design specifications outlined in the DOT ADA regulations. We are therefore taking no further action and closing your complaint as of the date of this letter. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or Michael Virts at (202) 366-0814 or via e-mail at Any further correspondence should reference FTA Complaint No. 11-0133. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention and we hope this information is helpful.


John R. Day
ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights

FTA Region 9