Good afternoon everyone and welcome to ADA Distance Learning 2003. Today''s session is being currently captioned on the Great Lakes ADA and Accessible IT Center at www.adagreatlakes.org. The service is being provided today by Caption Colorado. The live text streaming that is being used is accessible to Individuals used assistive technology such as screen readers. I would like to encourage you to contact your regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance centers. The ten regional centers are co-sponsoring the distance learning series. You can contact your regional center to find out about upcoming distance learning sessions, including the December 10th session on planning temporary events, and the January 21st, 2003 distance learning session, with Sharon Renhart from the equal employment opportunity commission. You can contact your regional center at 1-800-949-4232. Today''s session deals with paratransit services, and looking at the question, Are paratransit services equivalent to the services that are available to non-disabled individuals? Today we are very pleased to have with us Marilyn Golden from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. Good afternoon, Marilyn.
Marilyn will take us through her presentation. You can find her presentation again on the Great Lakes website, www.adagreatlakes.org. There are several links that will take you directly to the portion of the outline dealing specifically with the paratransit portion of our presentation. Additionally, there are other resources available on the Great Lakes site. And there is also a printable copy of the presentation, which has been added to the great lakes site. Marilyn is a policy analyst with the Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund. She has been closely involved with the ADA from the writing of the legislation to the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She is a highly regarded trainer for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. She is the author of the ADA Implementation Guide, which DREDF uses in its trainings. Marilyn was named to the access board in 1996, the U.S. Access board, by the president, and she is highly regarded with her knowledge and expertise on transportation matters, as they relate to the ADA. With that, I will turn the session over now to Marilyn.
Peter, thank you so much. It is a pleasure to be on this teleconference with all of you today about the paratransit requirements of the ADA. And the advocacy we can do to improve them. Sorry. Good. And you can find a DREDF transportation outline on the web for the Great Lakes DBTAC. I will follow along on the paratransit section. At the beginning of the outline you see it is a DREDF Training outline for transportation. You can use this outline if you maintain the DREDF file line at the top, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. And also you will see that, and also of course if you do not make any changes in it, right near the top, the Great Lakes website has put a link right to the beginning of the section on paratransit. So it is easy for you to find it. It is section 6, starting at the bottom of page 3. If you printed it out. In the very small type. It is not exactly my presentation, but it is our training Outline, which will I will follow more or less. And while you are finding that, let me mention that if you are interested in ADA transportation, I have been asked by the Southwest DBTAC to do a few other things in the next few months that people should know about. One exciting thing is the Southwest DBTAC is sponsoring to everyone, not just in their region, a three-day training in March, March 18th to 20th in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There will be spaces for people outside of the Southwest region. And also two more events on transportation something like today''s call, although web cast. They will be January 29th and February 12th, also on transportation, free, and to find out either more about the training or the web cast, you can call them at 713-520-0232. And ask for Maria. Let me repeat that number, 713-520-0232. Ask for Maria. And feel free to ask for that data again during the question session if you did not get it. I will say something about advocacy techniques as I go through. But I would like to do even more of that during questions. So I certainly encourage you to ask. To transition into the specific paratransit requirements, I want to remind everyone, which many of you know, that the ADA covers things besides transportation. The Americans with Disabilities Act also covers employment and public accommodations, which is a fancy name for most kinds of public places. Also the activities of state and local government and also telecommunications. And the areas, spears of life we have not talked about, that things like what happens in a classroom, things like housing, are covered by other disabilities rights laws. Within the ADA, the section on transportation, actually it is a couple of sections, cover both publicly funded transit, which is what we are talking about today, or part of it. It also covers privately funded transit, things like Greyhound buses or taxis to some degree are covered by the ADA. Transportation, as many of you know are divided into categories, into many categories. The two biggest categories, besides public and private, which crosscut those two, are the areas, the categories of fixed route and demand response transportation. Fixed route transportation means a system of transit vehicles that come and go according to a fixed schedule, whether or not you do something to summon the vehicle. The bus, the subway, are examples. Demand response transportation by contrast are where the vehicle comes to you only if you hail the taxi or register or call the paratransit van. As I move into paratransit, I want to mention that it is something of a challenge today to cover all of it. I will certainly do my best to run through the highlights. There will be important information we do not get to. But I will certainly do my best. And at the training in March, we will cover everything from Top to bottom. Okay, focusing in on the section of the outline called "Paratransit is required" is perhaps most important the general rule. Which states that it is discrimination under the ADA, and Section 504 of the rehab act, for a transit agency that operates a fixed route system, a fixed route bus or rail system, to fail to ensure that paratransit is provided to people with disabilities who cannot use the fixed route system, who cannot use it. The ADA does not pretend to provide all the paratransit we need. It is an equal-rights law, it provides paratransit to the same extent as everyone else uses the fixed route system that people with disabilities who due to their disability cannot use a fixed route system. And in order to implement this concept of people who cannot use the fixed route system, the ADA sets up three categories of eligibility that if you fit within one or more of them, you are eligible for paratransit under the ADA. The ADA recognizes, then, that there always will be some people who are unable to navigate the fixed route system on their own. And so these three eligibility categories have in a way nicknames, which you can see in your paratransit outline. Under "eligibility." Category 1, cannot navigate the system includes anyone with a disability who is unable, as the result of their disability, with or without some else''s assistance to board, ride or disembark from a vehicle on the system that is accessible. So they cannot ride even if the vehicle is accessible. This category would include, for example, people with cognitive disabilities if they are someone who would not know where to get off the bus, or how to get to their destination from the bus stop. It would also include, for example, a visually impaired person, a blind person, who has no mobility training, for a particular destination. It would include a person with multiple chemical sensitivities who may not be able to tolerate a particular element that is on the bus, but could tolerate the paratransit vehicle. The second category, needs and accessible bus, is someone who due to an ability impairment needs an accessible bus, but the buses are not lift or ramp equipped or not yet accessible on the routes they are riding. This, of course, this category has less and less people in it. As things move forward in time, and as bus systems replace old buses with new accessible buses. Which most cities in the U.S. have now done. The third eligibility category is dubbed "specific Impairment-related conditions." And it includes anybody with a disability whose disability prevents them from traveling to the boarding location or from the disembarking location to where they are going. It includes issues like architectural barriers not under the control of the transit agency, or environmental barriers, distance, terrain, or weather. These things do not, in and of themselves, form the basis for eligibility, but the interaction between them and a person''s disability can form the basis for paratransit eligibility, and this brings in the concept that you can be eligible for some rides or not others. Somebody may under this category be always eligible, for example, if there are architectural barriers on the way to the bus stop, for a person, who uses a wheelchair. Or it could be weather-related, someone who uses a wheelchair may be able to negotiate the way to the bus stop just fine, on a summer day. Up a gradual hill. But cannot do it during the dead of winter with two feet of unplowed snow on the ground. And in that situation, their impairment-related condition is interacting with the environmental barriers of the hill and the snow to trigger eligibility. I want to add that a few thoughts on eligibility, which, like many things, with paratransit, has proven to be an area with lots of pitfalls and lots of challenges. Many transit agencies have found a lot of factors that have broadened these categories. For example, a visually impaired person may have mobility training to reach a destination. But will encounter architectural barriers if there is safety hazards on the route. A wheelchair user who often takes the bus may still have conditional eligibility based on environmental barriers, like we mentioned, and also architectural barriers, and also limitations to how accessible the fixed route system is. There is not a system in the country that would not have some of these barriers. There is also a concept in eligibility that if something is so difficult as to be tantamount to impossible, it is not reasonable to expect the individual to do it. Further, it has been argued persuasively to me that if the paratransit corridors, and we will talk about service area in a minute, but if the paratransit corridors are three-quarters of a mile and the wheelchair user cannot go that far, they are eligible. In transit planning, non-disabled people are not expected to walk very far to a bus stop. So people with disabilities should not be either. Another important thing to remember about eligibility, Perhaps the most important part, and to train people with disabilities as they go to eligibility evaluations is that a lot of times people will only mention their primary disability and not secondary disabilities or a secondary situation that comes from their disability such as disorientation. Or somebody may mention the icy weather. So they are determined, or they may be determined to be eligible only when the bus has no lift but there are other architectural issues or other environmental issues. So it is important to train people to be very thorough in mentioning the different kinds of barriers that they genuinely encounter. In order to make sure they get a fair shake when eligibility is evaluated. Let me move on past eligibility to something that I categorize with eligibility and is on our outline near eligibility, which is the issue of an associate riding with someone. The ADA recognizes that people do not travel alone. And the issue was, should people traveling with you be able to ride paratransit given that it might be a trade-off with space for someone else? And where the ADA regulations came down is that at a minimum, you can always have one associate ride with you. If you are going out with a friend, with a family member, with a date, that person should be able to go with you. If you need an attendant in order to travel, that attendant does not count against your one associate limit, because that person is needed due to your disability. So you still can ride with another associate. The transit agencies are encouraged though not required to accommodate additional associates. Now, I want to move in to the area called "paratransit service criteria" which answers the question of, how good the service has to be. And a lot of the issues, virtually all the issues that we all struggle with, with our paratransit system, comes up gere. It is small c in your outline, if you printed it out, at Least for me it was on page 4 in the middle. Paratransit service criteria. There are six. The first one is "service area." And you will see another illustration of the literalness of The ADAs civil rights mandate here in that the ADA gives people with disabilities exactly what non-disabled people get when riding the bus or train. I will focus on the bus and if people want to talk about paratransit for subways or light rail, please bring it up in the question-and-answer session. The service area, when the paratransit is supplementing a fixed route bus system, is only required to be corridors that mirror the fixed routes. This is a little bit easier to illustrate visually, but we do not have that option today, so I will do my best to explain it and your outline explains it in a lot of detail. Some people are surprised by these requirements, and just assume that the paratransit service area is the whole city covered by the fixed route system. But actually cities are allowed to really limit it to the corridors that the buses run on. These corridors have to be three quarters of a mile on each side of the fixed route, that is each side of the street. So that is a mile and a half wide total. And at the end point of each route, it is like a semicircle around the end point, ¾ of a mile radius. Within the central urban area where all the corridors cross each other because the routes converge, the service area includes all the areas criss-crossed by the fixed routes. And service has to be provided from any point in any corridor to any point in any other corridor. Service criteria number 2 is response time. It has been a controversial one lately. Many of you may have seen DREDFs action alert in August about the issue of next-day service, which was resolved well and there was a victory alert on that a week or two ago. That is something else we can talk about question-and-answer session if it is of interest. The response time provision is quite strong. It requires transit agencies to schedule and provide paratransit service to anybody eligible for it at any requested time on a day in response to a request made the previous day. That is the previous day at any time. So if you want to ride at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, you can call for that ride at five minutes to 5:00 on Tuesday. The reservation service has to be available during all normal business hours of the transit agency. And those same hours, even when the agency is closed. For example on a Sunday. If that is the day before a service day. So they cannot require you to request your rides on Friday for the Monday. They have to take your reservations the day before. And an important rule that can be hard on people with disabilities is that the transit agency is allowed to negotiate pick-up times with the individual. But cannot require you to schedule a trip more than an hour before or after your desired departure time. If they cannot accommodate you within that one-hour frame, that is a denial of a ride and they should be counting it that way. I want to talk about that more under the sixth capacity Constraint. The sixth service criteria, capacity restraints.
Excuse me one second Marilyn, can I ask you to speak a little more directly into your phone?
Did not know that was happening. Is that better?
Yes, thank you.
Good. The third service criteria is about fares. Paratransit fares are allowed to be twice the fixed route fair. Not a discounted fair, but a full fair for the trip as any similar length and a similar time of day on the fixed-route service. Fares for somebody accompanying a paratransit eligible individual must be the same as for the person themselves. So if you need an attendant in order to travel, they will not be charged. The fourth service criteria, no trip purpose restrictions. Usually this does not come up. It came allot before the ADA where transit agencies might take you to the doctor or to work but not school or not shopping. Since the ADA transit agencies are not allowed to prioritize you based on trip purpose. Peter, is that coming through okay?
Yes, it is.
Okay, great. The fifth capacity constraint is hours and days of service. And it basically states that paratransit has to be available throughout the same hours and days as the transit agency''s fixed route service. By that does not mean the hours will be the same system wide. If some bus routes run say from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Paratransit can run on those routes and end at 5:00 p.m. But other routes may run through 10:00 p.m. And the service on those corridors for paratransit has to run then until 10:00 p.m. The last service criterion is capacity constraints, and this is very much the one that causes us the most grief. It basically states, a little abstract, I am going to try to make it more concrete, is that the transit agency is not allowed to limit the availability of service to people who are eligible in any way, really. And, for example, by not restricting the number of trips you can take a week or a month, by not establishing waiting lists, and by not establishing any operational patterns or practices that significantly limit paratransit availability. Including things like substantial numbers of significantly untimely pick-ups that is late pick-ups, substantial numbers of trip denials or mistrips, that is, where they deny you a trip or where they schedule it but do not pick you up. Nor substantial numbers of trips with excessive lengths. Those are the capacity constraints stated in the ADA regulations, although others are important as well. Substantial numbers of late arrivals, substantial numbers of arrivals way too early. Having to wait on hold to arrange a ride for the dispatcher for excessive lengths of time over and over and over again. Another capacity constraint would be particular unusual policies that they may establish. For example, there was a transit agency, which for a long time had a rule that required people to reconfirm their ride two hours ahead on their return trip. On their outbound and return, which was very difficult at times, depending on what people were doing, if they were taking an exam, if they had a medical procedure, you obviously cannot take a phone call two hours ahead. So it could add two hours to your day. It was very difficult and difficult to change, too. So those are good examples of capacity constraints. A very important principle that has come in to paratransit enforcement is that capacity constraints such as denials count as illegal if the reason for the denial is something that was within the transit agency''s control. So this principle basically means that if, say, the tornadoes our country experienced a few weeks ago, caused you not to get your ride. Or if there is a big power outage that affects the ability to receive a phone call by the transit agency, the phones are out. So you cannot reserve your rides. Something unexpected and unable to be planned for like that, rides that are denied or capacity constraints that occur are not to be seen as violations of the ADA. But if the reason for the denials is the fact that the transit agency does not have enough vehicles, does not have enough drivers, does not have enough dispatchers, does not have enough phone lines, because of their failure to plan for the expected amount of demand of paratransit, that is a good example of something that is within the transit agency''s control. Those denials are basically considered violations of the ADA. I want to point out that there is another option for providing service that changes this situation just a little bit. And that is subscription service. Subscription service is when someone is going to the same place say five days a week such as school or work. It is easier for them not to call in every day, but just to arrange for the paratransit agency to pick them up and take them home the same time every day. It is also good for the transit agency, it saves money, and it is easier for planning. However the ADA does not permit transit agencies to let subscription service consume more than 50% of their vehicle capacity at any period of the day. That means that if more than half the people riding at that time want subscription service, the transit agency may be required to limit it. And if that is the case, there may be a waiting list for subscription service, not for service at all, but for subscription service, where people may have to wait to get it or even discussion of what purposes is your trip. Because transit agencies are not allowed to give subscription service to everyone. The reason for this is so that there will be paratransit capacity left over for occasional and spontaneous riders. A few other important things on the issue of the capacity constraints. A big area of difficulty is paratransit pick-up times. There is a lot of things that really can skew the pick-up times and the arrival times, causing either late pick-ups or late arrivals. To a degree and to a rate that has a significant terrible impact on the life of the rider. There is the one-hour window. Then there is the pick-up window, a lot of transit agencies will establish, if you say expect to be picked up at 8:00, their policy is you can be picked up a quarter to 8:00 or 8:15 and you have to be ready. That adds time and that window varies from city to city. There is other problems, because the time that you understand to be your pick-up time may be different than what is written on the driver''s manifest so we are always urging advocates to have transport agencies be sure that the ride they negotiatethe ride time they negotiate is on the manifest of the driver. There is other things that make this very difficult and so when you add them altogether, we have people that need to be at work at 9:00 who are calling for rides at 6:30 a.m. On the occasions where they are picked up promptly they may get there at 7:30 in a terrible winter with no weather shelter and the building does not open until 10 of 9:00. There has been a lot of problems with this and one hint that we are giving transport agencies and it is unfortunate this is not in the regulations, but it is good if they use arrival time. For example, you use a riderwould-be rider will say I want to be there at 9:00. Forget when I want to be picked up, the issue is when they want to arrive. I want to be the doctor at or work at 9:00 or 10:00 or 8:00 and then the transportation agency can plan around arrival time. That is better when we can get them to do that. A good standard for them to set for themselves is that we can get you there a half hour early but not late at all. That is probably a legitimate window given the inevitable slips to some extent that occur in paratransit. We also encourage them to establish daily tours. That is a tour is what the driver''s list of who they are picking up and dropping off and where. Those should be redone every day. And leave them with the driver. This is something that can be advocated for. Sometimes the transit agencies will fit a few more in there. And they have to be actually thought about. Another big thing is failing to happen in a lot of cities is for the transit agencies could really monitor, pick-up times and other aspects of paratransit performance. Transit agencies often rely on paper monitoring. The reports of their contractors, rather than actually going out and spot-checking at known destinations, and riding the pick-up and drop-off times. It is important not to rely on the contractor reports. That is not real monitoring. Now, many systems are monitoring their fixed route service very actively. Does the driver get there on time? It is very common practice for them to do this and then not to do it on paratransit. And there is a move to talk about just one transit system meaning that paratransit is a full part of the system and is monitored as closely and taken as seriously. So that is a few things on the issue of pick-up times. On the issue of paratransit denials, again, I come back to this concept, what constituteswe said inwhen I gave the denials rule, the significant number of denials are a violation. What constitutes significant numbers? The answer we have now from the Federal Ttransit Administration, from all of DOT, is that transit agencies cannot plan to serve less than a hundred percent of capacity. Things beyond the transit agency''s control will sometimes cause denials or missed trips, the power outage affecting phone service, the very significant freeway accident. But if a planning decision, such as vehicle purchase, or hiring drivers, or failing to do those things affects you being denied because the planning was not done, that is the concept governing which denials are illegal. I also want to point out, just go another couple minutes here, and I want to take your questions, I probablydo not have to be the one to tell you that the denial rates in some cities are having a significant impact on riders. Some of you may beas advocates, may be in the situation where the transit agency is saying, oh, but we have only a 3% denial rate or 2% or 4% or some very small thing. And one would think that this would then mean that a 3% denial rate must mean that a paratransit rider who calls out of a hundred calls, 97, they are not denied, and three they are. That is what it sounds like, and we know in the experience of our clients ourselves that in fact the denial rate might be much higher. For every ten times we call, ten times we call, we may only get five rides or six rides. Sometimes the denial rates are very very high. How can they talk about 3% and 5%? Well, sometimes it is in fact not an accurate counting. But sometimes it is a good faith counting. There are a lot of things in the whole system of paratransit that skews those numbers. And that is why the discrepancy is there. I will give you a couple of examples, lets say you wanted to ride at 2:00 and they say they cannot get you till 3:30. And you accept the ride. That is more than an hour different than your desire. If they do not record that as a denial, that will skew the statistics. Another big thing is if they average in subscription service. Subscription service naturally has fewer denials. If they average all service together, that will lower the denial rate for people who ride intermittently. Also denial rates are often quite a bit higher if you call the day before you want to go than if you call a week before you want to go, assuming your transit agency accepts a week in advance. There may be a 2% denial rate calling five days in advance and a 60% denial rate calling the day before. But if the transit agency averages the denial rate over everybody, that will really lower that number and in a sense make it look like a smaller denial rate. And of course there is all the people that are not calling because they have been discouraged, there is the people that could not get through to the dispatcher if you are in a city with long hold times. There is a lot of things that savvy advocates really need to be aware of when hearing numbers from the transit agencies. I want to say one other thing about the systems, which has to do with contractors. We have had a lot of questions about how contractors should be organized. It is not a great idea when multiple contractors serve the whole service area. Because the contractors will try to take the cheap and easy subscription trips and push the other rides off on the other contractor. This particularly has happened if one is nonprofit and the other is for-profit. It works better in a larger city if they each have zones and it works better still in a small place to just have one contractor. The other factor that I like to mention to advocates, it gives a different perspective on these issues, is that a conclusion that many of us have come to in working with these agencies is the huge discrepancy that almost always exists between the pay for regular bus drivers, fixed-route bus drivers, and paratransit drivers. Who are usually paid much lower than bus drivers. And we hypothesized that if that problem was resolved, if the pay was the same, it would overnight resolve a huge number of problems we have on paratransit. We are doing welllet me take another few minutes and just talk a little bit about the administrative procedures. In determining eligibility, and then I want to open it up for questions. The ADA does not lay out a method for paratransit eligibility determinations. There is a huge variation. Sometimes it is the medical forum and the doctor and your signature, other times there is evaluations, sometimes everybody is always eligible and other cities do conditional eligibility, trip by trip eligible. But regardless of what system they use, all information has to be accessible in accessible formats, there can be no fees for determining eligibility. They are allowed to functionally evaluate or test you. They are allowed to give you broader eligibility. So they are also allowed to limit it to the categories I talked about. They are supposed to give you documentation of eligibility that states clearly whether or not you are eligible. And if it is conditional then on what basis. An important fact is that there is a 21-day limit on the procedures for eligibility determination. After you submit an application or finish the application procedure, whatever they are, if they have not made an eligibility determination within 21 days, the ADA regulations say that you are eligible and can ride. So that is the incentive for them to be prompt. They may require recertification of eligibility at reasonable intervals, such as every year, every three years. This is actually increasing in more cities for eligibility to be redetermined. A big area that was a problem before the ADA, and in some cities still, is the issue of visitors, can visitors use paratransit and the ADA says yes and sets up procedures for it. A visitor is someone simply who does not live there. If a visitor has documentation that they are eligible in their home city, they can show it and they are eligible. Period. If they do not have that, because they do not ride it at home or because they come from somewhere that does not have It, such as a place without fixed route transit that is not required to provide paratransit, the transit agency is not allowed to go through a whole three-week procedure. They mustthe person wanting paratransit, the transit agency may require them to present proof of residence, and some documentation of their disability unless it is obvious, unlessif it is not apparent. And then they must provide transportation service. That can happen for up to three weeks. If a person is going to be somewhere longer than that, then they should apply for permanent residenceexcuse me, for residential eligibility. So after a three-week stay, the paratransit service can require a regular eligibility determination because they have a three-week limit. They on how long it takes to process it. Two other important things. One, the appeals process. The transit agency is allowed to establish or must establish an administrative appeals process for people who are denied eligibility to obtain a review of the denial. They may require the transit agency may require that appeals be filed within 60 days of the denial. The appeals process must include an opportunity to be heard and to present information and arguments. The decision must be made by someone uninvolved with the initial decision to deny eligibility. And written notification must be provided of the result with the reasons stated. The transit agency does not have to provide service to the individual during the appeal. But if the transit agency has not made a decision on the Appeal within 30 days of the completion of the appeal process, then service must be again provided to that person. The last important plan I want to explain is the issue of suspension for a pattern of missing scheduled trips. Just as the transit agency is under regulation, not to have an undue number of mistrips, the transit agency can suspend individuals for routinely not showing up for trips. Sometimes this suspension issue has been abused and other times and other times not, and it can be abused both ways. The transit agency is allowed to establish an administrative process to suspend for a reasonable amount of time the provision of paratransit to people who establish a pattern of missing scheduled trips or no-shows. Trips missed by the individual for reasons beyond their control, including but not limited to, the transit agency''s fault, cannot establish a basis for this. So if transit agencies sometimes hold no-shows against someone when it was a trip that they missed outside of their control, that is not legitimate under the ADA. Before a suspension, the transit agency has to notify the individual in writing, with specificity, the basis of the suspension, in other words, why, setting forth how long it will be. The individual can appeal using the same appeals procedure I just explained a few minutes ago for eligibility. And you are not suspended through the appeal process. If your appeal upheld your suspension, then you can be suspended. Transit agencies have introduced a lot of kind of aberrant policies in with the suspension and it has been important to look at what the suspension policies are and kind of clean them up and limit them to just what the ADA allows.
Marilyn, in that same area, we have received some phone calls from transit agencies as to whether they can charge individuals for missed rides or perhaps even, you know, a pattern of missed rides.
Well, that is an interesting question. I would have to say no. The fare is for if you ride. The transit agency has something else they can do if you miss a ride and that is the suspension for a pattern of missing scheduled trips. I think that charging, in my opinion that would not be legal under the ADA. I do not know what they would say and I have not heard them addressing it. I do not think that would be legit. It is a good question, though. Peter, it is a good transition time. Let me just say things that I was not able to get to in case people want to ask about them. So I am certainly happy to list other ideas for advocacy techniques that we have seen effective, if somebody asks. Some people may be interested in how some cities are trying to establish premium service, paratransit service, that goes further than these minimums I have described, but charging people a higher fare. So that is something happening in a lot of cities. The trends in eligibility are lately with various cities, another thing we can talk about, there is a commuter bus exception to paratransit. Issues raised by door-to-door and curb-to-curb service is another thing.
Those are good topics. I am sure you will have lot more.
Marilyn, quickly, while the questions are lining up There. If you could speak briefly about the Department of Transportation and the amicus brief that was filed briefly, a copy which is available with the other resources on the Great Lakes website.
Good question. This had to do with next-day service. There has been a very important case in the second circuit in New York, a paratransit case. One of the issues in it being next-day service and a huge number of denials. And the disability side is saying every individual gets next-day service, and the transit agency argues that the capacity constraints provision means that what is illegal is not missing a single individual or a small number of individuals, but only significant numbers of denials are a violation. It was kind of a controversy over the next-day service criterion and the capacity constraint service criterion. It is involved. I can talk more about it if people like. The up shot was very good. The brief submitted to the second circuit by the solicitor general for the department of transportation did firmly establish the next-day service right and say that again say that denials outside the transit agency''s control are a violation, that transit agencies have to be plan to serve a hundred percent of expected demand.
Is there any independent entity that is monitoring the turndown from the transit agency?
There is no established independent entity monitoring. It is a great thing to try to get your transit agency to do and frequently, when losses are filed and they are settled, the settlements are negotiated. independent monitoring is part of the settlement. And it is of course critical to really seeing what happens. Another thing that is like that, that transit agencies can do and if there is a lot of problems should do, is there are some very, very good transportation planners and consultants That can be hired to evaluate a transit agency''s paratransit service and their fixed route as well. And find what the problems are. I am sure this not good travel planners and consultants that can be hired as well. We are aware of a few that are very solid and turn out reports that really lay it on the line of where the problems are in great detail with the transit agency''s operations at a level a lot of us advocates would not understand the operations well enough to be able to do. These reports are useful tools. The federal transit administration is doing these reports on transit agencies gradually across the country, based largely on where complaints come from and other situations that bring to light the need to do them. But transit agencies can do them on their own as well.
Do we have a next question?
Thank you for this conference. My question is on eligibility. Are regional transit authorities allowed to ask an applicant who is applying for paratransit services the diagnosis of the applicant?
Are they allowed to ask who?
The diagnosis of the applicant
Who are they?
The regional transit authority, we have one in Massachusetts that is asking applicants for paratransit, not, not why they need to use the paratransit service, but their diagnosis of what their condition is.
That is a good question. I have not seen it specifically forbidden. But it is true that these are supposed to be functional evaluations. And the question in a sense also takes into that there are many other areas under the ADA where asking questions about disabilities is illegal. I think you could make an argument that it is. That it is illegal. And it should be functional. I would want to look at this question a little more closely, though, before I stated a black and white answer yes-no. Where I am with it at this moment is I think you could make an argument that it is legal and you could alsoexcuse me, you could make a good argument that it is illegal but you could make an argument that it is nowhere specifically forbidden. If you want to contact DREDF, e-mail me through our website at www.dredf.org, I would be happy to look more closely with you at that question.
Excellent, our next question, please?
My question has to do primarily with the procedures and determining eligibility. You discussed the requirement, I guess, of 21 days to complete this determination. I have a young woman who has made application she has been eligible in the past for medical pick-up and delivery for medical purposes, appointments, and is trying to get through the winter weather pick up and drop off for an extracurricular activity, she is a high school student, and when does the 21 days begin and end? And if the transit agency is asking for additional documentation, is that all wrapped into the 21 days?
Well, first of all, if she is eligible for medical appointments, she should be eligible period.
So I already hear a violation not of the eligibility determination process, but of service criteria number four, no trip purpose restrictions. Eligibility is eligibility. If this is, it is important also to remember that the paratransit we are talking about is paratransit provided pursuant to a fixed route system. There are alsothere is a variety of services out there that are not necessarily subject to these rules, because they are not provided pursuant to a fixed route system. But if they are, if it is ADA paratransit, they should be, eligibility is eligibility. It is not for this or that. It is only subscription service where they really are asked toit is not therethere asas my nephews and niece say, it is none of their bees wax where you are going. They cannot, they should not even ask. And so that is already a problem. Eligibility is eligibility. I encourage you to take some kind offile on complaint on them. But if someone is applying for eligibility, meaning they are not eligible now, once they submit there, it depends on what the transit agency''s eligibility procedure is. Ones they, once they submit the application, if they have not, this is the basic resume, if they submit the application and it is not resolved in 21 days then they are eligible. I do not know if your system has applications, maybe they have in-person evaluations. If they do, then it is 21 days from that. If they have applications, but they are seeking more information from you, I guess one argument would be you have submitted an application so it is 21 days from that. Another argument would be they asked you for more information and the more information constitutes the submitting of the final application. The procedures vary so it is hard to say definitively. Does that help at all?
It helps a whole lot. Because our point has been if they will pick her up for medical appointments, wherever else she wants or needs to go is none of their business. Why should not she be able to go Christmas shopping just because it is cold out and she cannot go to the regular bus Stop and wait?
Right. Excellent. Thank you for your question.
Our public transportation system in Portland, Oregon, or the paratransit is looking at eligible changes and mainly going to the functional approach. We want to know are there any requirements and how important is it for the community to be involved in the design? We are concerned that the transit service is going to make their own decisions without getting input from the community at the designat the design stage.
That is a great question. At the early years of ADA paratransit, in 1992, and Approximately 1997, there was a lot of requirements for community participation. Subsequently, transit agencies have been given permission by DOT. To not have to submit these more elaborate paratransit plans but to really just self-certify every year that they are not in violation. And they have been making changes without the community participation. The ADA actually does require community participation for major changes. And your outline looks for public participation in development of plans. One could argue that these community participation methods are required when they make major changes. And I would encourage you to make those arguments. It has gotten a little squishy, though. Is it literally illegal for them to change the procedures without participation? I am not comfortable saying a hundred percent yes, it is. But it is a good argument. You have a good argument to make because it is in the DOT regulations and you can find themyou could find these in your transit outline a little bit lower. Also, I should just mention another resource that DREDF offers that is available to you that goes into much more depth than our outline. DREDF training manual on the ADA, which is called the ADA And Implementation Guide, is available for sale. It is an extensive book, it is very well organized with lots of subsections, very thorough, and it includes all the Information from the statutes of regulations, the technical Assistance manuals and even the legislative history leading up to the ADA. It is purchasable from DREDF in alternate formats if needed. It is a hundred dollars, $75 for people with Disabilities or Disability organizations, which is a rate that probably everybody on this call would apply for.
If a transit agency like ours is providing greater than the minimum requirement in paratransit, which I think is curb-to-curb, and they are providing door-to-door service, is that considered a premium service? And can they charge a premium fare for that?
Thanks for the question.
Okay. Transit agencies are increasingly establishing premium services and charging higher fares. What they mean is not that they move everyone to a higher fare, but that they provide basic ADA service that at least they say meets the minimums I have talked about. And then additional to that, they offer service that is better in one or more ways, but is more expensive. They are allowed to do that. But if you do not want to do that, you can always do the base, say, I amyou can get basic ADA fare, ADA service for the same fare. They are not allowed to only give you better service, in other words say, we do door-to-door, we are charging more to everyone. They have to provide the basic ADA service with the fare in The ADA regulations and also an additional service, I want to make sure if that is answered
Sure. With regards to that, what are the obligations of the transit agency in terms of getting the individual into or out of the building? Does that get into the premium services?
It actually gets into the questioner, the questioner''s statement, which was correct, by the way, that it is true, that transit agencies are allowed to choose whether they will provide door-to-door service or just curb-to-curb, meaning that the individual has to come out and come to the vehicle. If they choose to provide door-to-door, that is great. If they do not, they do not. They are allowed to establish it. They are only required to take you, if you get out to the vehicle. There have been a lot of problems with door-to-door, some transit agencies still do it, some offer it as a premium. But I would be very disturbed to hear if they offered it only and required a premium. That certainly would not be legal under the ADA. There has to be an ADA service that is the fare we described. And no more than that.
If they choose to provide the premium, that is the Individual''s choice to use them or not?
That is the individual''s choice, that is right. That is the individual''s choice to pay it and to take that service and then it is the transit agency is free to Charge more for it.
My question is did I understand you correctly to say that the transit systems have to provide next-day service? Ours requires that you call two weeks ahead of time.
Requires two weeks ahead?
Where is that if I may ask?
Where is that?
That is northern Kentucky, I am sorry.
That is okay. Well, that is certainly illegal. If it is ADA transit. If is ADA paratransit provided pursuant to a fixed route system, and I can explain what I mean by that, then they have to provide next-day service. That is a very serious ADA violation.
They say that well, they cannot do it the next day, and you have to call two weeks in advance. So, you know, I am glad to know this information, because One of the transit authority people are on our board, so I will give them this information.
Good. Go get em.
I have two questions. The first one is why, when I go from my house to Penn State or college, my fare is only $4. And when I come into another place, it is $6. and the other place is closer.
Well I guess that the issue of Marilyn of how many times a rider on the regular fixed bus route would, you know, if they would be required to transfer any additional charges that the transit agencies can charge a paratransit user.
Yes that certainly can be the reason, exactly as Peter said. If the same trip on the bus would cost more, then your paratransit trip is allowed to cost more. Now we say that, that we do not know the best case here, so people should look closely, maybe it is not the case in which case its not legal. But it would be legal if they cost more on the bus with the same proportion remembering that they are allowed to charge twice the fixed route fare.
But do the charge by mileage?
No, they charge based on how much it would cost to ride the bus to make the same trip.
Excellent. Thank you.
My question is concerning premium services. I am wondering if you could describe or give a few examples of what those are and how some of the paratransit agencies throughout the country have gone about establishing. And I have another question also.
Okay. Would you want to say what it is now?
The other question is you mentioned excessive lengths in terms of rides should be a violation. What considers an excessive length or time to be on a bus?
Good question. Okay. In terms of premium service, for example, it may be these things like, if your service areas is ones with the corridors, the corridors narrowing the bus route that the transit agency defiesto make a premium service that goes everywhere all over town. And another one would be making the service be curb-to-curb, excuse me, be door-to-door and not just curb-to-curb. Another one might be subscription service beyond immediate subscription service, not going through a waiting list. Another one might belet us see what some other people are doing. Oh, some cities are using same-day. It is called "real-time scheduling." If you think of how taxies in a big city, how taxies are routed and dispatched. People do not call for a taxi the day before. Sometimes you can but you do not have to. You call an hour before, a half hour or whatever. And you can often get them more quickly than that. And that is because the dispatcher is continually dispatching those vehicles. Transitparatransit is allowed to use that same system and for years Los Angeles has. They are thinking of shifting away. But that is called real-time scheduling. It means you can go to rides quicker. My understanding is that the accessible taxies in San Francisco, you can ride that way, even if it is as a Paratransit ride. There is someSan Francisco is doing good stuff with real-time. Some cities, for example, Chicago, is intending at least, I am not sure it has been implemented. They announced intentions to offer, as part of their premium service, same-day real-time so you could call the day you want to go. Another aspect of premium service can be wider eligibility. Let us say you could take a fixed route service, you wish to take paratransit, you would not be eligible for ADA service, But if you will pay the premium fare, they will give you eligibility for the premium service.
Excellent. And Marilyn, getting to the caller''s second question, regarding the time that a trip takes, in what would be considered to be extended.
This is an area that we are just beginning to move into a little more closely. Before recently there has not been a lot of rules of thumb. But some material is starting to emerge, I would have to pull some things together. If you want to e-mail me at DREDF, which is www.dredf.org, Go to that website and e-mail me, I would be happy to share that material with you. I do not have it assembled at my fingertips. But I should add that if where you live the rides are always hugely longer than fixed route, it would take half hour on the bus, and all the paratransit rides are two hours long or most of them, you know, that is too much. That is a capacity constraint. But how to make ithow to cut it more finely I would have to pull some things together for you.
And if individuals want to, they can also e-mail the Great Lakes center through the Great Lakes website and we will forward any of those questions on toon to Marilyn.
Yes, for a person who has mcs and cannot ride regular buses, what options are available? Because traditionally, it is the other passengers, or conditions in the bus before they get into the bus that is the issue, is there any option for private pay or mileage for people with mcs? And especially if they have other disabilities as well.
I think that there is nothing in the ADA regulation that really requires it. And it puts people with mcs, at a disadvantage, which is the same disadvantage they are always in, where things are harder and the ADA does not do a good job in anticipating the more finely tuned needs. It is something that we are working on. I am working on it, and we all have to work on, because I am tired of always have to tell, you know, people we have to come up with things outside of what the ADA provides. I would say that, in cities where the transit agency is acting in good faith to try to do a good job, and those cities do exist, I would encourage people with mcs to come together and approach the transit agency with the kind of problems and congestions you have talked about. I know cities that would try to accommodate you. But I do notI can nott say that they are required to. And I think that one problem inherent in the system that I do not know what to do with is that yes, sometimes it is the previous passengers, but other times, it really is the vinyl''s and solvents and upholsteries and other things used on a paratransit vehicle. So people are aspeople have as much difficulty riding paratransit as they would the bus.
Who is responsible for the costs incurred for Certification?
Definitely the transit agency. You mean for eligibility determination?
Right, or recertification, when you have to go to a doctor or whatever to get a certification.
Oh, I see. So you are saying the doctor charges even say to fill out a form?
Sure. It is time, time is money.
I would likemake an argument that the transit agency is required to cover it. I have not seen anything on it, but it is a cost. And it isthere are not supposed to be any charges.
That is what I thought.
So I wouldI think that would be a really good area to make a complaint to the fta on.
For individuals who arefor transit companies that require certification initially, are they responsible to provide transportation, for instance, if they have an on-site evaluation? Are they required to provide transportation to that evaluation?
Yes, they are required to provide you transportation to that absolutely yes. There are interesting innovations, for example, in Los Angeles they are coming to the individual with a vehicle that has a, you know, all thethe eligibility determination equipment and what have you in it. So they are actually coming to individuals. But generally, yeah, if there is a functional evaluation, usually it is at a central location and they have to give you paratransit to get there.
My question is, what has been your experience with regard to transporting persons with morbid obesity? Who, with their combined weight, with power wheelchair, is in excess of 700 pounds? I have run into that situation recently and have been working with transit to try to resolve it, but it has not been very fruitful so far.
Yeah, I am not optimistic, because there are weight limits in the U.S. Access board''s requirements for what lifts or other accessibility devices such as the ramps into vehicles have to be able to sustain. And if it is over that limit, which upon memory tells me is 600 pounds.
If it is over that limit, they do not have to. And people, for example, in Salt Lake City have been challenging this. I do not, I don''t know that. I think there is a lawsuit over it, in fact. And I do not know that it has beenactually I think it was decided and was appealed. But people are not having luck, because the weight limit is clear in those standards. And it is not good. Again, I would say that in places where there is good faith, approaching the transit agency for some of the vehicles to be able to withstand a higher load, but it is an important need, and a legitimate one. But I do not know how to sayI cannot give you a legal basis for arguing that they are required to go over those Limits.
And that is a question that the DBTAC see frequently especially with the proliferation of power-assisted devices and scooters which enable individuals who in the past could not get around now can, but then they run into the problem of not having transportation available to them.
This is a good example of the need for these standards to be periodically revised. I serve on the U.S.Access board, and, you know, it goes without saying that although it deserves to be said, that as some of those devices get larger there needs to be changes in the standards, also as people use scooters more, And it has been very very difficult politically to attain higher standards once a particular accessibility standard is in the ADA accessible guidelines. The guideline in question on the weight limit is also a standard from the access board for vehicles. And I want to talk to people on staff about changing it, but it is veryit is very difficult to do it. But important to try to do it. And the disability community, as advocates, we have to keep pushing on it.
In regard to trip denials, if the paratransit agency does not report anything more than zero trip denials, is that and it is known that there are in fact denials, what can be done about that? Is there an obligation on the part of the agency to report denials?
No, but what can be done on any of these things if they are violated is largely the same. In addition to advocacy, you can use the enforcement methodologies in the ADA. There is two avenues. I should just talk about that, make sure to talk about that briefly before our session ends. The two ways to enforce this part of the ADA and in effect any part of the ADA generally speaking, is submitting an administrative complaint which can mean writing a letter or filling out a form. That goes to the federal transit administration. Or litigation, filing a lawsuit. Both of these have had success. And we encourage people to do it. I know that the DBTAC has forms for people submitting ADA complaints. Peter, I assume you have the address for fta?
Peter, I do not know if the DBTAC''s even can send all the sites the form and the address.
Can do what, I am sorry?
Send all the sites for this conference call the complaint form, if people want to file a paratransit complaint, just to e-mail as an attachment, and also the address of fta so people can file the complaints if they want to?
Put it on the website or send it by e-mail to the sites.
That would be great. That information can also be obtained from DREDF. If people want to e-mail me through the DREDF website, feel free to do that.
Excellent. Even with our expanded time for the newthe new ADA Distance learning series, we still have a line of questions that we are not going to be able to answer. I would encourage you to contact your regional disability and business technical disability centers for any additional questions you may have. I am going to throw it back to Marilyn to give us a recap before we end the session.
I do not have anything specific to say. Other than people shouldwe really encourage people to give up the struggle. It is extremely important to advocate for better transportation, and it is generally speaking the only thing that has worked is to hang in there and push at the transit agency, work with people, organizeorganize and push for better service. It can be effective. People should make use of the ADAs enforcement procedures, filing complaints, filing litigation. This is an areathis may be the area where litigation has been the most effective on transportation. And you are always welcome to contact me at DREDF. If we can help further in any way. Contact us at www.dredf.org.
Excellent. Thank you very much, Marilyn for an outstanding presentation today. For additional questions, I would encourage you to contact your regional disability center at 1-800-949-4232. You can contact them about upcoming distance learning events, including the December 10th event, creating access to temporary events. Please notice that that session is being held on the second Tuesday of the month, and not in the normal third Tuesday of the month slot. That is due to the holiday schedule. So I know that it is the middle of December, and perhaps planning temporary events ismay not come readily to mind. This is when counties and municipalities are making plans for next summer, so this is a very important event to tune in to. And then in January, on January 21st, please join us for our first "ask the expert" when we will have Sharon Renhart the senior Attorney adviser with the equal employment opportunity commission answering questions from you. Again, I would like to thank all of you for joining us today. Thank you very much.