Hello. Good afternoon, and it is getting later. For some of you on the Pacific coast, it is almost going to be noon pretty soon. I do sincerely apologize. Let me take a moment to explain why we are so late starting today. We - in order to make this session fully assessable to all individuals, we utilize technology that ensures individuals with various different types of sensory impairments or other kinds of limitations who might not be able to access your traditional telephone call, will have access to this type of format of delivery. In doing so we use a real-time captioning system via the internet and unfortunately we had difficulties with our provider of that service this month and they were not able to provide the service at the time that was designated and originally set up and scheduled. In the interest of making sure we could offer a fully successful program, we had a sure delay while we were able to get that system back up and running and make sure we had the captioning available. I realize this resulted in a delay for all of you. But please understand that we - we need to make sure that all and everybody that wants to participate has an opportunity to participate. Given the fact we have started late I assure you we will continue and provide the full program. I realize that for some people that means you may not be able to stay past the allotted time that you have for the session. I do apologize. The program is being recorded and is being captioned. So a full transcript of the program and a full recording of this session will be posted on our website for access at a later time should you have to leave and not be able to take full benefit of the full time of this session. Again, I do apologize and I thank everybody of you for bearing with us during this delay and hope that you do understand the particular issues. Let me start by welcoming you to this session. We are going to be focusing today on transportation and very specifically on the report that was recently issued by the National Council on Disability (NCD). This program is part of a series of Audio Conferences that are provided on a monthly basis to address various issues around the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We cover a host of topics including employment, state and local government services, a variety of different communication, and other kind of access issues with the Internet. Just really a myriad of things that are interest of people and it is a way to provide information in a format that allows people to stay at their offices or get information in a timely manner such as some of the Supreme Court decisions and things. This is a collaborative program between the ten Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers also known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Accessible Information Technology (IT) Centers. We are a federally funded program from National Institute of Disability Rehabilitation and Research within the U.S. Department of Education. This program is, again, targeted towards transportation and we will in a minute introduce you to the various speakers. The program as I said is being real-timed captioned. If you are interested in accessing that technology go to www.adagreatlakes.org and you will see the link on your front page to get you into the captioning today. Without further a do and wasting anymore time let me turn it over to our speakers and let me first introduce Julie Carroll who is a Senior Attorney and Advisor for the National Council on Disabilities. This is an independent federal agency, which was created by Congress to advise Congress and the Executive branch on policy laws and issues affecting people with disabilities. Prior to joining the National Council, Julie was a Washington-based director for the government and industry relations - director of government and industry relations for the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center for the School of Law at the University of Iowa which is also a federally-funded program for technical assistance, to industry and consumers on Section 508 of the Rehab Act. She has also worked as attorney advocate for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and American Council for the Blind. And Before going to law school, she had a life before then she worked in the field of hospital administration. Also, joining us today is one of the authors of the National Council''s Report on the Status of Transportation, Marilyn Golden, who is a speaker familiar to many of us because she has joined us on the Audio Conference in the past on transportation issues. Marilyn is with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund or Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), and she serves as a Policy Analyst for that organization. DREDF is one of the nations foremost national law and policy centers on disabilities rights and was instrumental in the passage of American with Disabilities Act and has continued to be a highly visible organization for promoting compliance with the ADA and providing information, technical assistance and training in a variety of different manners. She is the principal author of DREDF publication, the ADA an implementation guide, also known to many of us as the "Blue Book." That curriculum is still used the widely in many places. She is involved instrumentally in issues of transportation. She was appointed to the U.S. Architectural Transportation Compliance Board otherwise known as the Access Board in 1996. She served on the board for many years throughout her terms and was very much involved in trying to shape some of the policies and some of the guidelines that have come out of that agency in recent years. She was - for nine years, Director of Access of California, which is a resource center on architectural disabilities and co-coordinator of disabled international support effort which provided materials, aid and assistance to disability organizations in developing countries. Her background is from Brandeis University. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and was - was very - soon after that, she acquired her own disability and became active in this movement. She has authored many articles and has been called on upon by many international entities as well as within the United States to assist them with her vast degree of knowledge and her expertise. I think you will find this session informative. You got one of the authors as well as Julie who served as coordinator for this with the National Council and is leading some of the efforts to put these recommendations forward. Without further adieu I am going to go ahead and turn it over to Julie and Marilyn. Go ahead.
Thank you, Robin. And thank you everybody for your patience and thank you, Robin for your assistance that we have a fully accessible web cast. We will try to step it up a little bit to make up for some of the last time. I will - just to let you know what we plan to do today, I will give a brief overview of the report itself and Marilyn will talk about some of the findings, the merging issues or advocacy issues so we have tips for you at the local level. I will give an overview about rule transportation. Marilyn will summarize our recommendations and then I would like to take a few minutes if there is time to talk about the two transportation bills that are currently pending and are in conference and then we will take some questions and hopefully hear from you. I think it goes without saying that we all know that transportation enables us to work, choose where to live, education, shopping, health care, recreation, et cetera, et cetera. And in the United States, we all know the automobile is the primary vehicle of mobility, but little is known about the choice of mobility for people with disabilities and the extent to which transportation, or the lack thereof that effects their choices in living independently. NCD has learned anecdotally from people, people who cannot drive, participate less in all aspects of society. Some people even live in institutions as a result of lack of transportation. Some of the things we knew before we started the research are research in the year 2000 conducted by the Harris Poll, sponsored by the National Foundation on Disability revealed that at least one-third of those with disabilities have difficulty in accesses transportation. The new freedom initiative acknowledges that transportation continues to limit people with disabilities, training recreational activities and employment. The community transportation association, which I recommend if you - if you are not familiar with this organization - that you really look at their website. They have a lot of great information how to handle getting new transportation at the local level. Their web address is www.ctaa.org. And according to CTAA, there are about 100 million people who are either low income, disabled or elderly who are unable to provide or afford their own transportation. And they also note about 40% of rural counties throughout the United States have no public transportation at all. So NCD commissioned this report on access to transportation and mobility of people with disabilities to all of the forms of surface transportation that you might imagine to identify transportation barriers and some best practices and models. And develop recommendations for improving transportation for people with disabilities. I think it is well accepted that access to transportation has improved significantly since passage of the ADA. We also know that 62 or so federal programs fund some form of transportation for people with disabilities. However, the input that we get from people with their disabilities continue to tell us that there are barriers, independent living, and that includes private transportation, public transportation, all of the forms of transportation that you can think of. This particular report focuses solely on surface transportation. We know there is a lot to be done in air travel as well as water transportation. This particular report is focused on surface transportation. We still know and we learned, again, through our resource on this reports that people with disabilities sometimes can''t even work or participate in a lot of their community activities because of a lack of transportation. The contractors on this report were DREDF, Disabilities Rights and Education Defend Fund, and our consulting associates. They did a fantastic job with producing this report that is far beyond our wildest dreams. I hope you have a chance to get through it. It is - there is a lot there. It gathered input with people from disabilities, through focus groups and interviews. We also looked at the public records that currently exist and interviewed people with disabilities as well as people in the transportation field, transportation professionals and the report includes recommendations for policymakers as well as individuals with disabilities, their advocacy tips as well as information for really anyone who wants to improve transportation for people with disabilities. The report is - is hopefully very comprehensive. We didn''t actually cover everything, but we covered a lot. We covered fixed roofs, paratransit, flex route and route deviation services, the pedestrians environment, intercity rail, over the roads bus service, and private services such as taxi and shuttles. And then we also took some looks at some non-traditional forms of transportation by primarily rural areas and providers. We looked at the impact on people''s disabilities to live independently; real choice is what we were looking for. We also asked our contractors to look at and identify future research needs, and any legislative, regulatory or administrative type recommendations that we could make that would improve access to transportation for people with disabilities. While much of what is contained in this report, a lot of us already knew. But hopefully, it will be helpful to have it all documented and have it all in one place where it brought together. There are two things that I want you to keep in mind as we go further today in to this. One is that, as you know, the ADA, as far as transportation goes, requires where there is public transportation, it be made accessible. Where there is no transportation at all there is no people with disabilities that is added by the ADA. There are many areas in the country where people with disabilities live where there is no public transportation at all. I am sure Marilyn will talk about, even where the areas the ADA is at play we have some of the gaps that existed from the beginning of the ADA. It just doesn''t cover everything. Our goal was to think outside the box and look at transportation in the broadest sense possible, not just in terms of where we are with the ADA. With that I am going to turn it over to Marilyn.
Thank you very much, Julie. Also thank you, Robin. I appreciate the opportunity to look at some interesting things from the report with - with this large group that I understand we have today. A thank you especially to NCD for allowing DREDF and us to take a look at some really interesting things that we haven''t had a chance before to shed a light on. What I will talk about now, are some emerging important areas and some important advocacy areas that are focused on in the report. There is four that I will jump around and I think some people have the report with them or have access to it in computer form from the NCD website. So I will let you know page numbers, a few big areas. And then if we have a few minutes, I actually want to fill in other things. Looking at some of the important areas and issues in the area of ADA paratransit. I want to look at eligibility first of all and that is on page 48. I won''t go point by point, but I will go through the highlights. Of course we know that the ADA requires paratransit service only for people who are unable to use fixed route service due to a disability. The trend is that in order to contain cost a lot of transit operators are adopting more restrictive ADA eligibility certification procedures usually through an introduction of an in person element of the process. The disability community is quite often reacting with great trepidation to these changes in transit agencies eligibility determination process fearing a loss of eligibility for a lot of writers. What we do in this section of the report is analyze why some people who use paratransit who perhaps could use a fixed route and also at the issue of how there are a lot of people with disabilities who need paratransit for some trips but can make some trips on the fixed route bus or rail service. Though, many transit agencies are not yet granting trip-by-trip eligibility but are seeing eligibility is an all or nothing thing. As larger transit systems now require in person interviews and sometimes-functional assessments. Some are going even further and going to trip-by-trip eligibility. Transit agencies that do this thoroughly and properly have found that about 20, 30% of all people eligible for paratransit require it only certain conditions. Whether transit agencies offer trip-by-trip eligibility or whether they do not, what we found is that the major concern about what they should be doing is that they should be using best practices that are found in the transit industry for determining paratransit eligibility. If they don''t, there could easily be problems for people with a disabilities who may be are denied eligibility when they really deserve it under the ADA or problems for the transit agencies, too, in the opposite sense. That a too loose eligibility criteria did not hurt people with a disability in a direct sense, but it may occupy more resources that - and indirectly hurts the system in other ways. What I want to do especially is give some examples of best practices and eligibility certifications. For one important practical point is that eligibility determination really should be considering conditions that could pose barrier to people with disabilities travel throughout the entire bus or rail system during all seasons, not just conditions in the person''s immediate neighborhood or in the locations to which they usually travel. And we are finding too restrictive eligibility certification when transit agencies only consider, say, the person''s neighborhood and where they work or where they most often go. Also important is considering any variable conditions, experienced by the individual. For example, somebody who has MS or MD and whose disability varies on different occasions, transit agencies that don''t look at that will not do an accurate job. Further they need to be looking at secondary disabilities such as disorientation and fatigue and difficulty with balance which may not be someone''s primary disability but which affects their ability to navigate the fixed route system. It is another best practice issue is that some disabilities cannot be evaluated by a functional assessment. Examples include seizures disorders, psychiatric disabilities and variable conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis. We don''t know statistically we have anecdotal evidence but we do not know statistically to what degree more rigorous eligibility screening is negatively impacting the mobility of people with disabilities. This is a major research recommendation that we are leaving. I want to move to another topic also in paratransit one more on paratransit and that is the issue of trip denials on paratransit. That section begins on page 56. It is still not fully known throughout the country by the paratransit using public that the ADA requires paratransit providers to schedule and provide rides to eligible individuals in response to any request made the previous day. Many transit agencies throughout the country continue struggle with high denial rates. For example, our focus group included one paratransit rider who said that the way the system works here, it is a week in advance. She said that for example tomorrow - say tomorrow is Wednesday. You start calling for next Monday''s trip and that is how it goes day by day. But - and this is a condition that is actually not legal under the ADA if next-day rides are not available. That is a violation of the ADA. The court established this right, an important lawsuit that involved the transit agency in Rochester, New York, and the second circuit in New York decided in July of ''03 that they made it clear that the ADA regulation requires paratransit to plan to meet 100 percent of the demand for next day rides. But they recognized that even well-made plans, as they put it, may misfire on occasion and permit the denial of a insubstantial number of trips as long as those denials are not attributable to the design of the paratransit system. What this means whether the trip denial was under the transit agency''s control. They made it a very important distinction that if a transit agency denies a paratransit ride or is not able to pick somebody up because of something that is truly outside of their control, such as an unusual weather event or a major power outage. That may not be under transit systems control and is not a violation of the ADA. But if the failure to provide a ride on a next-day basis is because the transit agency has too few drivers, too few vehicles or too few phone lines. These are things that are under the control of the transit agency and therefore, a denial for that reason is considered a violation of the ADA. What may seem to be a very small rate of denials can have a very significant impact on riders. Transit agencies for example will report that we have a denial rate of 2% or 3%. It sounds like that it means that the individual with the disability can get their paratransit ride the next day, 97 or 98 times out of 100. And yet riders may find that they are impacted far more then that by trip denial. And we found a lot of variables that mask the hidden impact of these seemingly small denial rates. The biggest one being the way denial rates is calculated. A transit agency rate may have a low denial rate on average, but they may have a very high denial rate for next-day service but when they average the rates at all times together, it may seem low. They may have a very small denial right at 2:00 in the afternoon. But a big denial rate at rush hour at 9 am or at 5pm. Yet, the average is much lower. A transit agency may not pick up the individual at the requested time and they only give them a time that is more than an hour from their requested time, which the ADA requires it to be within an hour. And also denial rate - and those should be accounted as denials but transit agencies do not always do that. There is a lot of discouraged demands as well in systems that have a lot of capacity constraints where people are not calling any more and of course the published denial rates, the calculated rates don''t take into account or are not able to take into account all of that "discouraged demand". So it is important for advocates to know that there are really these hidden factors affecting paratransit riders. I hope to be able to talk a little bit about on-time performance but just for sake to time. I want to move to a different area and hope to be able to come back. Another important policy area that the report addresses has to do with the role of the Department of Justice regulations and how they apply to transit providers. This section of the report starts on page 109. As many of you know, the - most of the requirements for publicly funded transportation are found in the Department of Transportation, ADA regulations. But the ADA has other, more general requirements that apply to publicly funded transportation as well. Publicly I should say as well privately funded transportation. These are in the United States Department of Justice ADA regulations and they apply not only to public transit agencies but also to all public entities including state and local governments but right now we are focusing on Title II regulations. Transit agencies are often unaware of their obligations under the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations. They are often only aware of the DOT, the Department of Transportation regulation. But D.O.T.''s regulations expressly state that recipients of federal funds, which are all of your transit agencies, must comply with the DOJ regulation as well, which includes the requirement to make reasonable modifications of policies, practices and procedures. Which is a very important requirement to avoid discriminating on the basis of disability. Entities covered by this are required to change policies, practices and procedures unless that would fundamentally alter the nature of the service or program. An example of this, on the subway train if there is a no eating policy on the train, the transit agency must still allow a modification of that policy in the case of somebody with say, diabetes, who would need to eat on a particular schedule. This is all well established. The wrench that came into the works was a recent court decision in the Fifth Circuit, which stated that the department of Justice regulation does not apply in particular to paratransit. We did a lot of research into this decision and found that there is actually a lot of legal authority that was very much at odds with this decision, including the Department of Transportation''s own 504 regulation, which I mentioned already. Another court decision interpreting the ADA out of the DC Circuit also the views of the Department of Justice and a Friend of the Court brief in that case and the Federal Transit Administration''s administrative decisions in complaints. So there is a lot of law really going in the direction that we have basically always interpreted this point to say which is that the Department of Justice regulations and the modification of policy requirement in particular do very much still apply to transit agencies. And we felt it is important to look at this in the report because people were getting confused by this more recent case and not knowing about all of the other law that is on the books. Really given us a lot of momentum in the direction of the original and more positive interpretation. And the report, if people want to look at it, goes through all of those different documents and basically comes to the strong conclusion that transit agencies are still strongly covered by the DOJ regulation. Before I turn it back over to Julie to talk about rural transportation, let me mention one other area in the privately transit realm. An area that is not part of the ADA and that is the issue of an accessible taxi service which starts on report on page 125. The ADA does not require wheelchair accessibility taxi vehicles, unless the taxi service uses particular types of Vans, an arrangement that is unusual though not unheard of. In the absence of ADA requirements, there is a great deal of activity all over the country aimed at putting wheelchair accessible in taxi cabs into circulation. Over the last few years in a lot of cities there is a lot more of wheelchair accessible taxi then there were before. The report goes into what is happening in a number of leading cities and then starting on page 132, talks about a lot of issues and concerns related to accessible taxi. What is being found out is that there is a lot of aspects of the whole system of accessibility taxi that have to be in place for before accessibility taxi service will work very well. Some cities are considering just mandating accessible taxi, but it really works better when all of the different stakeholders including the taxi industry buy into the plan of what is going to happen. What has worked the best is including incentives for the taxi companies and for taxi drivers. Also, including sanctions or regulatory involvement and enforcement. So where all of those things are in place, people may wonder why they are not getting good service even though they see accessibility taxi and that is why. There is a number of challenges, for example, for keeping taxi in use. Sometimes they sit in the lot or the first vehicles taken out of service or the last ones put in. Even if they are in service, they are still not necessarily providing services to people who need an accessible vehicle. Sometimes accessible taxi are in overuse as ADA paratransit contact providers. It is great for the public transit agency to provide a contract that uses accessible taxi because that provides a business incentive for companies to have accessible taxi. But if all of their time is being spent providing paratransit they won''t be available to individuals on a first come first serve basis who simply need them taxi service. Another thing we found and now moving to page 134. Other demands for accessible vehicles can pose other obstacles. A lot of times accessible taxi in large cities are sitting at the airport where they are called at the front of the line when somebody has golf clubs or bulky packages. So requirements that they actually be in service in the neighborhood seem to be needed. It is also a good idea for localities to adopt ADA non-discrimination standards and vehicle standards into their local ordinances. A lot of time enforces are not aware of the broader federal ADA standards. As usual, with just about anything in disability access, training is a very important part of an accessible taxi program, although sometimes training for accessible taxi drivers has been little or nothing. It is very important to ensure that every driver is trained. And last but not least, enforcement is a very critical issue and the absence of enforcement of accessible taxi ordinances can really be the biggest problem. That is a whirlwind tour through some of the areas. There is also really interesting things in here about on-time performance and paratransit, about calling out stops on the bus system. And other issues in the fixed route and quite a few other policy issues in paratransit. We should stop there and talk to you about some of the other issues we wanted to talk to you about.
I will just give you a few facts about rural transportation and then I really suggest that if you are in that environment, there is a lot of resources that are available that you can go to and models to look at. What we know about rural transportation is that 40% of our country has no public transportation. And about 25% has minimal services. You have 65 there with nothing. About one-third of people with disabilities live in an area where there is no public transportation. As I said earlier, according to CTAA, there are about 100 million people who are either disabled, elderly who are considered poor. As you know all of those groups overlap, are in a place where they cannot provide transportation for themselves. There are a couple of models that I hope you will look at. They have done some really interesting things in some of these rural areas. Byway of volunteer driver systems and voucher systems and usually are connected with the independent living systems. Either by getting grants by state which is what happened in one of the counties in Alaska to purchase accessible vehicles and then working on the arrangement with their local taxi company that they will serve people with disabilities. There is a lot of creative things in some of the rural areas that can service as models for other areas. I hope you will take a moment to look at that part of the report and some of the resources listed there. Marilyn, you want to go over some of the recommendations?
Sure. I can talk about some of the recommendations that we made and then - and then we want to open it up to questions. There are a lot of recommendations in the report, and we have got two very long appendices giving them - well, first of all they are sprinkled through the report in each section and then section 13 of the report on page 161 gives all of the recommendations and only the recommendations in the order in which they appear which is by subject area. And then section 14, starting - excuse me. That was appendix A and appendix B starting on page 177 gives them again. But this time organized by who their - you know, by what kind of entity they are recommended to. I wanted to address in particular some of the recommendations for governmental entities. On page 188, we give the Federal Government recommendations, and the report recommends that the federal transit administration should require that ADA paratransit include subscription service. It often does but there is something of a trend in transit agency to make subscription service which is where an individual who is going to the same location at about the same time of day every day such as to work or to school, every day or several days a week, the same, can get a subscription ride, meaning they don''t have to arrange, rearrange, the ride every single day. It is a very important service to people who are making trips. There is a tendency beginning for transit, which hopefully will not go very far but it has started - we have real concern it will continue for transit agencies to make subscription service a premium service that has an additional cost. We are recommending that FTA - that FTA requires subscription service at no extra cost to people who are ADA paratransit eligible. We also recommend that the Federal Government provide a significant level of funding increase for transportation in rural areas for people with disabilities both in general rural areas and specifically for people with disabilities. In the area of rail transit, we are recommending that the Federal Government go beyond the ADA requirements to make all key stations accessible and make funding available to make all passenger rail stations accessible which would solve significant problems that have evolved, particularly in some of the larger, older rail systems where not enough stations are accessible, even when they are in compliance with the ADA. We are also recommending under the area of rail that the Federal Government and commuter rail operators ensure that commuter rail stations provide full platform access, an alternative that is an option under the ADA when there are extraordinary constraints, are many high platforms but we are recommending that the government not eliminate them in commuter rail and that full platform access should always be given. The report recommends that the U.S. Access Board revisit the ADA vehicle standards and the common wheelchair definition in light of the increasing use of larger mobility devices by people with disabilities because, though it is still a relatively small number. Every year there are more individuals that run afoul of the so-called common wheelchair definition whose mobility devices do not necessarily fit on the ADA envelope as it is called, 30 by 48 inches measure 2 inches above the ground and weighing a maximum of 600 pounds. And those should be revised at this time. There is also a trend for transit agencies to misinterpret those standards and some people with disabilities are being told, for example, that they can''t ride because of issues with mobility devices that may still comply but that is more of a transit agency issue. We are also recommending, starting - looking at page 90 that municipal leaders play a leadership role in inaugurating accessible taxi programs. It has been found when there really isn''t leadership from the very top it is hard to make those programs work well. The report talks about the example of Chicago, where there really has been strong leadership from the Mayor in promoting that program. It is working better than many other programs in other cities and not falling prey to some of the same problems. That has been true in - to some degree in San Francisco and in some other cities. So there is are some of the big recommendations. Julie, should we turn it back - Julie, you were talk going to talk about the Senate bills.
Yeah, just briefly. We have really had to hopscotch because there is so much here. I wanted to let you know very briefly about what Congress is up to with respect to transportation at this time. There is one major federal authorization bill that funds transportation funding for the whole country. It typically reauthorized once every six years. It is currently up for reauthorization. This is very timely. A lot of people are not familiar with it because ADA transportation typically is not specifically funded as a line item by itself. Transit agencies are supposed to make the services accessible and use their budgets accordingly, regardless whether the people they are for people did with disabilities or not. There is no line item in the current transportation bills. But they are being reauthorized, they do fund or prescribe what federal funding will be for most transportation funding throughout the country for the next five or six years. And there are some differences. So I wanted to bring those to your attention. There is a House bill and a Senate bill and currently they are in conference. And the two bills are quite different. Some of the areas that we are most interested in have to do with, First of all, the new freedom initiative. What the administration recommended was separate funding for new freedom initiatives which specifically target gaps in transportation for people with disabilities. So, where the ADA doesn''t necessarily apply or resolve the problem you can apply these funds to those kinds of situations and I think today we have talked about several of those that are roaming around. The House version does that well. The Senate version takes the new freedom initiative and just lumps in with other preexisting programs. So the funding would be up for grabs by others as well as for people who want to really try to set up projects. The other significant difference in the House bill versus the Senate bill is that the House bill really goes through. And every time they talk about any type of transportation project, they insert the phrase, "including people with disabilities". So whether it is planning or spending money on transportation projects, highways, walkways, pedestrian ways. All of this now includes the provision that you have to consider people with disabilities. Technically under the ADA and Title II, yes of, of course you always will to include people with disabilities in your planning but it didn''t happen. And there are a lot of people in the transportation industry who have not been directly involved with ADA implementation in any other way. Sometime they are really not familiar with it or what their obligations are and this is the bill that is sort of their Bible. So it is inserted in many, many places in the House bill in order to get their attention and to get them, considering people with disabilities in their plans. The other thing is Project Action, which is funded federally but they work both with the transportation industry as well as people with individuals to try to bring the two together and resolve accessibility issues for transportation providers and people with disabilities. I think we certainly would not be anywhere near where we are today in terms of transportation access for people with disabilities without Project Action. The House version actually increases their funding to 3.5 million per year. Where is the House level - I am sorry, where the Senate level funds their funding. So those are the main differences, and I just wanted to make you aware of those just in case this is something you are active in. NCD did write a letter to the House and Senate last year, back in 2004, and it is on our website if you want to look at that for more particulars.
Great. Are we ready to take questions?
Operator, I will have you give these instructions. I understand the difficulty in trying to buzz through or report this 200+ pages with many, many highlights as part of it and hopefully individuals will have a chance to peruse through that. At this point we will see what type of burning questions we might be able to address.
Robin, if people want to know what the report may have to say about particular topics, they can ask that in their questions.
Okay. Great. Good. Why don''t you go ahead and give instructions.
Good afternoon. We would like to know the ADA''s stand on the no show policy on paratransit system?
Julie? Should I go ahead.
Well, that is a good question. It is an important part of ADA paratransit, the whole issue of no-shows and late translations and the report does address that issue. It starts on page 73. The ADA allows for suspending a reasonable period of time for people who establish a pattern or pack physical of missing scheduled trips also known as no-shows. But the way transit agencies are carrying that out is often not in compliance with the ADA. A lot have of transit agencies have no-show policies that penalize riders after 3 no shows and a 30-day period. But FTA has expressed the view that this is overly strict. And it is a very interesting point because then FTA is saying that a policy that many transit agencies have is not in compliance with the ADA. It is imposing a sanction to quickly. FTA is also recommending that transit agencies not just have a flat policy like "X" number of no-shows in "X" amount of time gives you a suspension but they consider the frequency of use or the percentage of trips because for somebody who rides every day. It means something very different to have, say, five no-shows in a metropolitan as opposed to somebody who rides once or twice a week. And transit agencies do not usually consider the frequency. Also, the ADA precludes transit agencies from including in their no-show tally that they are basing a suspension on. They are not supposed to include trips missed by riders for reason beyond the riders'' control but - and further the ADA guarantees that riders can appeal any no-show decisions or any suspension. But riders are not always informed of their right to contest particular no-shows or to appeal. The report suggests that any suspensions that have taken place without that kind of information being given are violations of the ADA''s due process requirements. There is number of best practices that the report suggests. Eliminating capacity constraint is a big one because a lot of time people have no-shows because they have to reserve rides too early and their plans changed. If they are providing next-day rides that will take away that problem. I don''t know if you, Julie, I know this is a important subject to you. I don''t know if you want to add anything.
I would like to add that is one of the recommendations that we made to the federal transit administration in this report and that is that they clearly define exactly what is a no-show and what isn''t. What we have seen happen so far is people who are complaining about the no-show policy in their area, bring it to the FTA''s attention and then FTA respond by dealing with a specific items of that no-show policy in that area. But there is really no overall guidance that applies to everybody. So that everybody is on the same page about what exactly is a no-show. You know, as Marilyn mentioned there are a number of factors here that you have to look at and in some indicators, the provider itself, it - as a system, it is so poor that it is not able to track cancellations properly, late cancellations and changes in schedule. So, a lot of people get penalized for no-shows that really are not no-shows. We are recommending that FTA clarify exactly what can be counted as a no-show.
Let me just add on page 78 of the report, while it is true that there may be no one FTA document that lays out every factor in a row. There is a lot that we know and the point should be made that transit agencies have plenty of guidance - I mean, transit agencies practices can be improved. They don''t need to wait for FTA action because there is a great deal that we know and we have actually our self kind of brought it together in the section but even more - even more precisely in the recommendation 4.20, on page 78, it addresses the capacity constraints issues, it addresses the overly strict. It addresses that riders need to be informed of their right to contest and about appeals an on and on. And so there really is a lot that we know about how transit agencies can improve this. And they don''t really need to wait for FTA action. Advocates can use these recommendations as a guide and the sections here say what is the best practice versus what is required? So if your transit agency says they don''t have to do X. The report says, for example, that it is a requirement, that individuals should be able to contest no-shows that were beyond their control and so - and we give examples of what it may look like when a transit agency does not do that and we have quotes from individuals talking about their own systems and some quotes from websites. So there really is - not to say that FTA - we know that is and important recommendation to NCD but just to make the point FTA has given enough clues that advocates have a lot of tools at their transit agencies. I shouldn''t say tools but enough recommendations.
Great. Let us go on to the next question.
Good afternoon. First of all, Julie good to talk to you. Julie and I worked quite a bit together in a previous life. I have a ton of questions. I will ask two real quickly. First of all did the report at all address any of the - one of the big issues that transit systems have with paratransit is the cost. Did the report at all look at recommendation to Congress to dedicate some federal dollars in the transportation bill or another legislation to partially federally fund the cost services, and second of all, a concern that we have here in Suburban Chicago is that we have a lot of services where there are buses and there only job is to feed the commuter rail system. The computer rail system is perfectly accessible but these routes which are called feeder routes are not covered by ADA and do not have to have complimentarily paratransit provided that. Did the report look at that at all and if not, why not?
I think one of the over arching recommendations of this whole report is that there should be more funding for transportation in general. Public transportation in general that isn''t private automobile based. And - not only rural, but that we make the point that there are so many people now as well as you all know. Increasing numbers of people just in a short amount of time due to the aging of the population that will be the more transportation services. And we know at least from - in the past, the last three authorizations bill of the transportation highway bill that I was talking about, the relative figures were 118 billion went towards highways and infrastructure versus 36 billion went towards transportation. Probably the most far-reaching recommendation in our report is that this equation be changed. That is the first answer regarding the funding for paratransit. Paratransit is not funded separately. It is not a line item. And that partly goes along with the philosophy of the ADA, which is if you provide public transportation and make it accessibility to everybody. So kind of a - on the federal level here is your money that we will provide for you to provide transportation in general. Divvy it up fairly. That is where the paratransit budget comes. It comes from the transit agency, which gets, you know, X amount of dollars and I think that often what we see is they really are not allocating enough to paratransit.
To follow up, I mean Julie is right that the - the approach of the report takes - public transit is so under funded in general. If it was funded adequately, the specific issue of paratransit funding would be - would be either absent or so much less of a problem, that we chose to look at it in an overarch manner. On the issue of the commuter rail exception in paratransit I think the questioner has made a good point. Even though the report is longer - definitely longer than was originally conceived by any of us who worked on it, even a report of this length did not go into every issue that there is. It is a huge area. We didn''t really look too closely at the commuter rail exception but I can say that - it might have been a good idea to recommend that it be - it be deleted or refined. DREDF thinks the commuter rail exception has been overly interpreted and the ADA gives characteristics for the kinds of service that should be exempt and in some cases it makes sense. Huge commuter train systems, there may be limitations to what would make sense to them providing paratransit. But routes to them, feeder services to them, are sometimes being interpreted as not requiring paratransit whether really they should. Each of those examples needs to be look at on a case-by-case basis with the factors weight of what the system is like. There may be - if you have a system that you think is overdoing that exception and it should really have paratransit. I recommend that a complaint be submitted to the federal transit administration under the ADA because that exception is definitely something that FTA could take a look at. If it is being overly broadly interpreted, a complaint could resolve that.
Great. Let us move on to the next question.
Hi, Marilyn. Long time. This is a beautiful report, very well documented and very well researched. Two areas that I have been dealing with that are not covered in there and I wanted to get some opinions. One being the traditional trolley car systems only Philadelphia and San Francisco still have any extensive system of the stop on the corner trolley cars. While San Francisco has got a little, Philadelphia doesn''t have a single stop nor a single car accessible with their first plans not getting their first accessible service until some unnamed date after 2013. The other issues is the provisions with the commuter bus services.
Okay. In the area of trolleys, I do not know why the Philadelphia trolley system would not be subject to the same key station and other rail requirements as is any other passengers rail system that is not Amtrak. That is in a single region. So I think it should be subject to it and somebody may be able to tell me why it isn''t and then I will know. But it seems to me that it should be and, you know, putting them off should not be happening because even extraordinarily expensive structural modifications to train stations are to be accomplished proportionately as we all know a number of year has passed since the ADA became - was enacted and so it seems like that should have been done. I don''t know details about that.
They don''t have any stations. That seems to be on the problem. They stop on the corner just like a bus.
We should look more closely at this because there should be, you know, there should be a way that the ADA does apply. In terms of stand in the shoes, I think what you are referring to is that some - it sounds like you would mean commuter bus systems that have contracts with private entities, not having enough accessible buses.
A lot of the - a lot of the commuter systems seem to be way behind on the percentage of vehicles that are accessible. One system that has 100% service still requires 24 hours advanced notice to get a commuter bus.
Certainly, there is no exception for vehicle access for anything related to commuter bus or train, anything. The only exception is in the area of paratransit and so again, maybe offline, so to speak, I would be happy to know more about - we have not a lot of violations of that requirement have come to life to DREDF but I am not surprised that they are out there. This is the first one I remember hearing about. It sounds like there should be a complaint to FTA.
A complaint has been filed to FTA about five years ago. Still hasn''t been dealt with.
I think calling the FTA Office of Civil Rights is a good idea and maybe refilling.
This is Julie. There is also an example in our paper about a trolley system that was made accessible in New Orleans, I believe.
That was a brand new system.
Right. That has stopped in stations like a light rail system even though it is a trolley. Philadelphia, still was probably one of the few systems left that is operated like the old-fashioned way. It runs like a bus. Down the middle of the street and stops in the middle of the street.
So perhaps this is an issue that needs more study, what you said, this is something that was not covered in this particular report. Perhaps this is a recommendation to NCD and others that this an area that needs to be further explored.
I don''t think it is an important area for advocacy. I think that we probably don''t have time on this web cast to discuss either of these specifics in more depth. It seems to me from the information I have been given so far unless I hear something otherwise, it seems there should be ways to use the ADA enforcement provisions to - because the ADA should apply - I can see ways the ADA should apply to both of these systems. I am happy to work with people on the community with that. Robin, you may want to go on to the next.
I want to be make sure we are able to go forward. Thank you. We will go on to the next question, please.
Yeah, hi. Just wanting to - just two quick questions here. One are there any bill numbers on those reauthorizations, the ones to the House and Senate and then also, the booklet that you are referring to, we have it electronically sent to us is there a way we can get that through mail?
I am not sure that Julie may have responded whether or not hard copies are being distributed. It is available on the website and that is what you received was a PDF as well as a word accessible document.
Let me go back to the House version. HR 3. And 732 is the Senate number. And since this is in conference, those things can change any day. And as far as when and where the report is available right now, it only available electronically, either in word or PDF on NCD''s website. It will shortly be available in HTML - that website is www.NCD-GOV/newsroom/publication/2005/publicaccess-htm. Print copies will be available probably sometime late July.
I was wondering if - if someone comes on as a new person - approves paratransit and they have a specific on every day they picked up and the same for the evening. MTA here, no longer here provides what you are calling subscription trips and what we call routine trips. Those who were on had been able to stay on. But anyone, as they say, coming on to the system now, that is not available. Is that a - something that our - that our system advisory committee to MTA should start pushing on?
It could be that advocacy can help you with. The report looks at subscription service. It explains an ADA requirement that is being misinterpreted, and looking at that may help you. It starts on page 69. Before I say what it says, let me just point out that organizing subscription service in the manner that you described, that distinguishing between previously certified eligible people versus new ones, it is not a distinction that really has any ADA relevance. It can be legal to give subscription service but restrict it. What the ADA says that is often misinterpreted is that it doesn''t allow transit agencies from having subscription service absorb more than 50% of their paratransit capacity at a given time of day, unless there is non-subscription capacity leftover. This is often misunderstood to me and an absolute prohibition on offering more than 50% at all. But actually, it is really a requirement that has to do with capacity constraints. And the simple way to explain it is that if a system is not denying any rides to non-subscription riders. That is if any one time rider could call and say hey it is 2:00 and I want to go to the grocery store at 9:00 tomorrow. I want to have an appointment with my lawyer or whatever and if there is occasional riders can still call in because there is capacity for them, which is required by the ADA, there is supposed to be whatever next-day capacity eligible people need. And if that is happening, then subscription service can go up as high as is needed. So the transit agency is not prohibited from providing, as much subscription service people need. But some transit agencies are doing it.
And some transit agencies are apparently charging for it or doing it as a special.
That is right. Some are not giving more - as much subscription as is needed or are charging extra for it. That is not illegal at this time. Our report recommends that subscription service should not cost extra and it should be available. Advocacy is something that can make a different here and, you know, people are encouraged to have the section - there is one section of the report that points out that advocacy is still - the fact that ADA is there, some people - it is almost like in some situations advocacy has taken a back seat when a transit agency or any covered entity does something that the ADA allows, even though we don''t like it, we don''t do anything we have let the ADA circumscribe our perspective in a sense and not advocated for more, when in fact advocacy campaigns can still be very successful. There is section of the report that points out what some advocates in different cities have done. In Chicago, the community was able to turn back a very - potentially extremely problematic paratransit fare increase that would have been legal. Which would have been very, very difficult for paratransit riders in that city because the fares are already high there and they were able to introduce a significant delay and possibly a complete postponement of that increase. And that story - there is a little bit about it in this section that starts on page 97. So there is also a kind of advocacy tools available to people with disabilities. I can''t say a transit agency is required to give subscription to every individual that wants it. That is not a requirement with the ADA right now.
Or it hasn''t been established as such.
It hasn''t been established as such, that is a goods way to put it.
In looking at the regulations please keep in mind that there are the details and then this over arching requirement that paratransit has to be comparable to the fixed route system. If somebody goes the same place every day at the same time on the fixed route system, they don''t have to call anybody. So again you can use that argument for advocacy.
Yeah. It is also true that I think the ADA could be interpreted to require subscription service because I think the basic equivalency that Julie is describing under the fact of scheduled consistency is something - is something that fixed route riders have. So it is an open area, put it that way.
Great. We will take another question, please.
My question may not be within the purview of the report, but can you give us and idea about the quantity of complaints that come into the ADA and the Justice Department and those that are not acted on DOJ and what classes of disabilities generate what portions of those complaints?
I can''t answer that. But I can address the issue of at least what is open and what isn''t in one respect which is that FTA, which enforces the publicly funded transit agency portion of the ADA transportation requirements, under title two of the ADA, public entities, including FTA covering publicly funded transit are required to open an investigative complaint. Under title 3 of the ADA, that covers privately funded facilities, the Department of Justice enforces the privately funded portion of ADA transportation and they are not required to open an investigative complaint and they don''t. Although DOJ has sent out many indications that they are particularly interested in transportation. And so I am optimistic that people sending in transportation complaints on private transportation to DOJ may have those complaints addressed to a greater degree to a higher percentage than, say, if it was architectural access or some other issue. But I don''t know the figures. I do know that DOJ has at a minimum and probably done a great deal more that I am not familiar with. I am not aware of all of the individual complaints but for sure DOJ has executed agreements with, for example, Greyhound and also with Super Shuttle which provides airport shuttle service in I think nine, or some number like that, of cities around the U.S. But again, I can''t give you the numbers. It is a good question. The other thing I can say about FTA is that what was once a big backlog of complaints, it is not closed but has been greatly reduced and that FTA in recent years has become, more responsive, more quickly to complaints. And they have - and this is in the report, they have been more vigorous in the content of their enforcement as well in saying that particular practices are discriminatory that perhaps in earlier years there wasn''t quite as vigorous an enforcement. We are optimistic and encouraging people to really use the FTA complaint process. FTA also does assessments of transit agencies, I think about five a year. And those have been important advocacy tools.
Thank you. Are you saying that the DOJ does not handle Title Two complaint at all?
DOJ refers them to DOT, the way Title II complaints under the ADA are farmed out to a variety of federal agencies. DOJ handles some that are in particular areas and others are farmed out under a scheme entitled to which - which says that DOJ won''t handle all of them but will refer them. Education ones go to the Department of Education and Transportation ones go to DOT and specifically FTA. But you can also send complaints directly to FTA. FTA does have a complaint form on its website, in fact. And Robin the web cast we did last Fall on paratransit or maybe two falls ago. I can''t remember. You have the complaint from URL on your website. Although it may have been changed since then. But I could send you the current URL and you could post it after the web cast, what is the complaint form and you can send it directly into FTA. You can directly use FTA''s own form and send it right to them.
This is Julie. We released this report on the Hill last Monday and FTA was on the panel that we had. And at that time, Michael Winter, Director of the Office of Civil Rights, he said they were getting 15 new complaints per year.
Yes. And I - I commented that - I certainly hear more informally than that.
They are male.
And - so I - I think that that is an important message for everybody to hear that we all know. Some of us as individuals could probably generate 15 complaints a day in we had the time and energy.
That post office don''t close down there?
Well, the website isn''t. So, you know, the message I think is they need to hear from us.
Right, If you just went to the - I just played around with it here. If you went to the website fta.dot.gov and they have a search area if you just put Civil Rights what comes up is the complaint form. In their search form. So that is another way to get right to that fore.
If I could just add one more thing, one of our more important recommendations is that FTA take on more of a comprehensive role in monitoring enforcement and that the current system of enforcement driven solely by complaints is too much of a burden with people with disabilities and Congress should fund and FTA should do much more compliance monitoring.
I have a question about the system here in Portland, Oregon because the system, Tri-Met, the public system here does not for disable people, it firms it outs, contracts out. I wanted to know why, which I think is a better system, Tri-Met doesn''t run it itself. It cost the public more money and I think it a terrible waste of taxpayers'' money. My wife uses it and it is a terribly run system.
It sounds like you may be talking about the paratransit functions, which are often contracted out. It is legal to do that. The ADA doesn''t say you have to provide it yourself. But it does provide standards that it has to meet and if it doesn''t meet those standards and your dissatisfaction suggests there are real problems there, people should be advocating or using the FTA''s either complaint procedures or - or people - you know, if people provide a squeaky enough wheel so to speak, for example, by submitting multiple complaints or by just communicating with the FTA offices about the problems of what see. FTA Office of Civil Rights has been good about scheduling assessments in - so to speak in trouble spots, spots where they know there is a lot of community dissatisfaction and they will come in and have quite good assessors give a thorough report on what the problems are. The report becomes an advocacy tool that you then have and they then monitor the service. You know, they don''t quite have the person power to snap their fingers and make it all right, right now. But overtime, it is useful to get that kind of thing going. The other thing about contracting out - and this is in the report - is that transit agencies should really be closely monitoring contracted out service. A lot of times transit agencies say their buses themselves - and they contract out paratransit - they may monitor the fixed route very, very closely and may not monitor the paratransit because it farmed out to a private entity but transit agencies should be closely monitoring paratransit and our section on on-time performance I think really goes into the monitoring question. In several places we have a recommendation that transit agencies more closely monitor contracted out service. There is other suggestion that transit answers can use when they contract out. For example, some transit agencies have moved towards instead of giving out contracts to the lowest bidder to really consider the quality of the service by saying that they will look at the proposal that - that addresses the questions that they ask about quality. And that they will consider the quality of the proposal more than just the lowest bid and I am looking for the section. It is. I will find it and tell you where it is. Here it is, it is on page 90. And transit agencies are encouraged to - to look at service quality in contracting. For example, using language and RFPs, that proposes must detail compensation levels by job type and explain how they will maintain an adequate and well trained workforce, minimize turnover, they can in RFP what is the proposed turnover has been in other contracts. And then verify this information when checking references. There is all kinds - and the section gives other things they can do to improve the performance of contract. So it is not just another gone conclusion that a contractor will provide poor service. Some transit agencies have changed contractors when the contract is up because people make it clear that the contractor is not providing good service. So advocacy and some of these other steps can help you.
Can give an example of what I am talking about?
My wife has spinal myopathy and we require that if you want to get transportation going any place, you have to call in ahead of time and that sounds great. It should allow the individual to provide proper transportation. But she, to make it safe, will tell the transportation system, she has to be there at a certain hour. About an hour ahead of them. But often she has had to wait an hour, sometimes had to wait two hours for the transportation to get there. That is - I don''t understand the system. It is - I could do a lot better job myself and I have never been in transportation.
Well, you make a really good point. On-time performance is something I hoped we had time to talk about, more than we may - we may. And I don''t know how quickly is coming to an end.
It is getting there.
On page 612, we start a section there on on-time performance. There is this pretty long - the thing that was good about the process here in this area is that we were able to really take apart - there is a lot of different complicated factors and paratransit operations they get jumbled together and they were - we were able to unpackage them and look at each one. Sometimes they often spiral together to create the kind of problem you describe. I don''t think I have time to go into it. But the report gives a lot of operational recommendations that transit agencies can do and that you can jump up and down to get your transportation agencies to do, for better on-time performance. Let me give one. FTA has stated in letters and some of these assessments, the transit agencies need to be taking very seriously peoples appointment times. If you need to get work at a certain time or a doctor''s appointment or for any reason to get to a location by a particular time, when the ride is negotiated, the transit agency needs to be taking that into account, including, you know, the right lengths, you know, all of the operation factors that go into getting their on time should be taken into account by the transit agency. They don''t have to give you the exact time you want. But they are supposed to take your appointment time into account and not just go by these windows which you described very well that can delay someone for much too long a time way beyond that is equivalent to the fixed route.
Okay. Thank you. Unfortunately our time has come to a close. We did go forever a little bit today because of our very late start. I apologize for anyone who we have messed up or played with your schedule. I am sure many of you still have questions and I know that organizations like DREDF and NCD are very interested in transportation issues and I think everybody heard loud and clear that advocacy is a component to this entire process. Because regardless of reports it still takes the community to come forward and really have a voice in what is necessary and needed and work with Congress and the various agencies to try to implement these changes. So I think there will be a lot more coming out in the future. But again, as Julie indicated in her remarks, some of the bills that are pending on funding, are key issues to be paying attention to. As I indicated earlier, this session was being audio recorded. It will be posted to our website in our archives as well as the transcript will be edited and posted in the next few days. The audio should be up in three day and the transcript in approximately five business days for your review. And hopefully that will help people go back on some of this information. You heard from Julie that the report is available on the NCD website at www.ncd.gov and follow links to their newsroom to their public section and it is currently the first one listed as a very prolific group they may know another one. You never know. I just want to remind people that next month is our session for July that session is scheduled for July 19th and it is featuring John Wodatch and Sharon Rennert. John is the Chief of the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice and Sharon is a Senior Attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They will be doing their program which is an update on the activities in collaboration with the anniversary of the ADA from the - from the various federal answers and what is happening within both DOJ and the Equal Employment Commission. We hope you will join us next month for that session. Again, I want to thank everybody for our patients. I want to thank our speakers for their time and commitment. And hope everything has a good Tuesday afternoon. At least what might be left of it for all of you. So once again thank you very much.