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WMATA ADA Compliance Review - June 26, 2007

Location: Washington, DC
Date of Final Report: June 26, 2007 

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Transmittal Letter 

June 26, 2007

Dear Mr. Catoe:

Thank you for your response to the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) letter and preliminary report of findings of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complementary paratransit compliance review conducted at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) from December 4 to 8, 2006.  Enclosed is the Final Report that incorporates WMATA’s 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 and will be placed on our website at here.

Enclosed with this letter is a progress table listing FTA’s understanding of the corrective actions either planned or taken by WMATA 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 WMATA to clarify specific corrective actions based on WMATA’s response to the report findings

Please use the enclosed table as the format to report progress to FTA on the corrective actions that WMATA has completed or intends to implement as a result of our findings.  Please identify each response by item number (e.g., 1.1, 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 responses to specific reporting requests cited in this letter and on the enclosed table. 

The first report will be due on July 31, 2007, and should include data for the months of April through June 2007, and any actions completed prior to that date that have not already been addressed.  Additional reports will be due by October 15, 2007, January 15, 2008, and on the 15th day of each calendar quarter thereafter until FTA releases WMATA from this reporting requirement.

We recognize the progress that you have made in responding to the findings of the review as presented in your May 2, 2007, 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.

1.  Service Criteria

4.  Finding:  MetroAccess fares are more than twice the fixed route fare for of 31 MetroBus routes.  Fares are lower than $1.25 on the 31 routes.  For MetroAccess trips with origins and destinations within select corridors and areas in Virginia and Washington, DC, where these routes are concentrated, the MetroAccess fare does not meet the regulatory requirement for ADA complementary paratransit fares.  In the remaining service area, the $2.50 fare that WMATA charges for MetroAccess service meets the regulatory requirement that fares for ADA complementary paratransit service be no greater than twice the fare for a comparable trip on the fixed route.

Corrective Action Proposed by WMATA:  WMATA charges a blended fare for the convenience of the customer.  This has been a part of WMATA’s approved paratransit plan for many years.

We are reviewing this recommendation and plan to discuss this matter further with FTA representatives.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide a plan and timetable for revising the MetroAccess fare structure so that the fare for a MetroAccess trip is no greater than two times the fare for a comparable fixed route trip.

Alternatively, if WMATA believes that the blended fare makes its current fares compliant with ADA regulatory requirements, WMATA should provide specific facts that are legally sufficient to support its conclusion.  As WMATA indicates in its response to the draft report, it is strongly suggested that appropriate officials from WMATA contact FTA as soon as possible to discuss this matter.  That said, FTA remains convinced that this finding is an accurate description of ADA regulatory requirements and relevant aspects of WMATA’s fare structure.

2.  Eligibility

5.  Finding:  In the letter sent to applicants who are determined not eligible, two of the three reasons listed as potential reasons for the denial are not sufficiently specific.  Appendix D to 49 CFR Part 37 (Construction and Interpretation), Section 37.125 states that, “in the case of a denial, reasons must be specified.  The reasons must specifically relate the evidence in the matter to the eligibility criteria of this rule and of the entity’s [here, WMATA] process.  A mere recital that the applicant can use fixed route transit is not sufficient.”

Corrective Actions Proposed by WMATA:  We will work with our assessment centers to obtain more detailed diagnoses and will train eligibility staff to include the appropriate detail on the denial letters.

WMATA plans to discuss this matter further with FTA representatives pertaining to the nature of detail required.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  Since the eligibility assessors are collecting sufficient information during the in-person assessments to make recommendations on eligibility, WMATA already has the information that it needs.  It is likely more a matter of summarizing and including this information in the letters to the applicants determined not eligible.

Additional Reporting:  Please report on WMATA’s progress and submit sample revised letters with the additional explanations.

7.   Finding: WMATA’s appeals process “requires” the appellant to submit the reasons for the requested appeal in writing.  This requirement conflicts with the appellant’s right to be heard in person.

Corrective Actions Proposed by WMATA:  The policy will be revised to allow in-person appeals. The appeals process will be amended to allow applicants to contact the Office of MetroAccess Service and indicate their desire to present an oral appeal in person or through some means other than written form.

We plan to include our customers and other members of the disability community in the development of the revised policy in conjunction with our discussions on conditional eligibility. We plan to implement this recommendation by the due date subject to subsequent Board approval on any recommended policy changes.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  As stated in the Final Report, the issue here is that WMATA can not preclude the opportunity to be heard in person by “requiring” the appellant to submit information other than that needed to request an appeal.  WMATA can require that the request for an appeal be made in writing, but cannot require this written request to include the reasons for the appeal.  Although WMATA’s response takes a positive step in allowing in-person meetings for the actual appeal, it does not fully address the additional narrow issue of the appeal request itself.

Additional ReportingPlease report on WMATA’s progress in revising the appeals policy.  Specifically, WMATA should address whether reasons for an appeal are required in appeals requests.

5.  Service Performance

6.  Finding: WMATA does not have an on-time performance standard for trips with requested drop-off times.  WMATA does not measure on-time performance for drop-offs.  For many trips, such as medical appointments, work, school, and business appointments, on-time drop-offs are more important than on-time pickups.

Corrective Actions Proposed by WMATA:  WMATA plans to review this matter further with FTA representatives.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide a plan and timetable for setting a standard for on-time drop-offs.

7.   Finding:     On October 6, 2006, 14 drop-offs, which accounted for 2.5 percent of scheduled drop-offs that day, were more than 30 minutes late.  These 14 trips could be considered significantly late.  In addition, 53 trips, representing 10.1 percent of scheduled appointments, were late.

Corrective Actions Proposed by WMATA:  This has been a result of inefficient dispatching and is being addressed through staff augmentation and training for dispatchers and drivers.

The monthly average for excessively late trips has been 0.75%, and this number will continue to improve as staffing adjustments and supplemental training are provided (subject to contract modifications and Board approval).

Clarification of Corrective Action:  The figure cited by WMATA (0.75 percent excessively late trips) refers to late pickups rather than late drop-offs.  As noted in Finding 5.6, WMATA needs to measure on-time drop-off performance.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide information on the additional staffing and additional training for dispatchers and drivers, and how this has affected on-time drop-off performance.

18. Finding:     WMATA’s standard for travel time on MetroAccess does not adequately address fixed route trips that use rapid rail service.

Corrective Actions Proposed by WMATA:  It is WMATA’s position that paratransit cannot compete with rail travel times.

A recent comparison study of the paratransit and fixed-route travel time (performed by the KFH Group) indicated that paratransit travel time is comparable and sometimes faster than that of fixed-route.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  FTA does not expect that comparable trips on MetroAccess and MetroRail have equal travel times (assuming that is what WMATA means by “compete”).  However, since MetroRail is a key component of WMATA’s fixed route service, WMATA must account for its level of service when designing and evaluating the level of service provided to MetroAccess riders.

WMATA should develop some standards and methodology to determine how to compare travel times for comparable trips on MetroAccess versus trips that use MetroRail as part or all of their fixed route component.

19. Finding:     WMATA currently uses a multiple (1.5) of fixed route travel time as its standard for excessively long trips on MetroAccess.  Such a standard will not identify some significantly long trips and will misidentify other trips as significantly long.  For example, were a fixed route trip to take 2 hours, a paratransit trip could be 50 minutes longer and not be considered significantly long.  Similarly, if a fixed route trip were to take 20 minutes a comparable paratransit trip of 35 minutes would be considered excessively long.

Corrective Actions Proposed by WMATA:  As indicated previously, the KFH study indicates that paratransit travel time is sufficiently comparable to fixed-route.

WMATA will be installing a new Trapeze software module that will allow for ongoing comparison measurements to ensure continued compliance with policy. We anticipate that this recommendation will be implemented on time.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  Based on WMATA’s travel time standard: a 2-hour and 50-minute MetroAccess travel time vs. a 2-hour fixed route travel time for comparable trips would be acceptable; a 35-minute MetroAccess travel time vs. a 20-minute fixed route travel time for comparable trips would not be acceptable.

Please reconsider the blanket travel time standard of 1.5 times the fixed route travel time.

Additional Reporting:  Please provide the analysis and results of WMATA’s consultant study that compares paratransit and fixed route travel times.

22. Finding:     Of the 20 significantly longer trips, eight originated from the same address between 2:45 and 3 p.m.  This indicates a potential pattern of long trips.  WMATA officials responded that these trips were extended at the request of the parents of the riders.

Corrective Actions Proposed by WMATA:  WMATA has indicated that these are agency trips for which group travel has been requested to ensure continuity of routine for the customers who participate in special programs.

WMATA agrees with the findings of the review team in this area. Travel time for this segment of the ridership is atypical and is permitted in accordance with the wishes of the participating agencies due to the unique scheduling and care needs of their constituents.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  While FTA understands that WMATA is trying to meet the special requests of certain riders and their guardians, WMATA should have written policies and procedures in place that explain its actions of carrying riders on its vehicles for extended periods—which otherwise unexplained, indicate a pattern of long trips.

Please develop written policies for this situation and submit these policies to FTA for review.

6.  Resources

4.   Finding:     MetroAccess has sufficient schedulers to meet its current needs.  On the other hand, the current scheduling process appears to have limited potential for increasing vehicle productivity, which is a key element of WMATA budget projections.

Corrective Actions Proposed by WMATA:  Productivity goals have been reassessed and considered in the proposed budget and have been subordinated under service quality objectives.

Clarification of Corrective Action:  Please provide WMATA’s “reassessed” productivity goals and explain how they differ from the previously forecasted productivity targets for fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

Please discuss how WMATA is planning for the additional required resources (vehicles, drivers, dispatchers, vehicle maintenance) to accommodate the forecast increased demand for service, given the reassessed productivity goals.

We recognize the efforts that WMATA 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 me or Mr. Jonathan Klein, Equal Opportunity Specialist, at (202) 366‑0809 or at his e-mail address: jonathan.klein@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 III Civil Rights Officer at the following address:

Ms. Deborah Haines
Civil Rights Officer, Region III
Federal Transit Administration       
1760 Market Street
Suite 500
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4124
                                                                          
Sincerely,

Michael A. Winter
Director, Office of Civil Rights

Enclosures

cc: Herman Shipman, FTA Region III Acting Administrator
Janet Kampf, Acting FTA Region III Director of Program Management & Oversight           
Deborah Haines, FTA Region III Civil Rights Officer
Brian Glenn, Director, FTA Washington, DC Metropolitan Office

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