Subpart F—Paratransit as a Complement to Fixed Route Service
Section 37.121 Requirement for Comparable Complementary Paratransit Service
This section sets forth the basic requirement that all public entities who operate a fixed route system have to provide paratransit service that is both comparable and complementary to the fixed route service. By “complementary,” we mean service that acts as a “safety net” for individuals with disabilities who cannot use the fixed route system. By “comparable,” we mean service that meets the service criteria of this subpart.
This requirement applies to light and rapid rail systems as well as to bus systems, even when rail and bus systems share all or part of the same service area. Commuter bus, commuter rail and intercity rail systems do not have to provide paratransit, however. The remaining provisions of subpart F set forth the details of the eligibility requirements for paratransit, the service criteria that paratransit systems must meet, the planning process involved, and the procedures for applying for waivers based on undue financial burden.
Paratransit may be provided by a variety of modes. Publicly operated dial-a-ride vans, service contracted out to a private paratransit provider, user-side subsidy programs, or any combination of these and other approaches is acceptable. Entities who feel it necessary to apply for an undue financial burden waiver should be aware that one of the factors FTA will examine in evaluating waiver requests is efficiencies the provider could realize in its paratransit service. Therefore, it is important for entities in this situation to use the most economical and efficient methods of providing paratransit they can devise.
It is also important for them to establish and consistently implement strong controls against fraud, waste and abuse in the paratransit system. Fraud, waste and abuse can drain significant resources from a system and control of these problems is an important “efficiency for any paratransit system. It will be difficult for the Department to grant an undue financial burden waiver to entities which do not have a good means of determining if fraud, waste and abuse are problems and adequate methods of combating these problems, where they are found to exist.
Section 37.123 ADA Paratransit Eligibility—Standards
This section sets forth the minimum requirements for eligibility for complementary paratransit service. All fixed route operators providing complementary paratransit must make service available at least to individuals meeting these standards. The ADA does not prohibit providing paratransit service to anyone. Entities may provide service to additional persons as well. Since only service to ADA eligible persons is required by the rule, however, only the costs of this service can be counted in the context of a request for an undue financial burden waiver.
When the rule says that ADA paratransit eligibility shall be strictly limited to persons in the eligible categories, then, it is not saying that entities are in any way precluded from serving other people. It is saying that the persons who must be provided service, and counting the costs of providing them service, in context of an undue burden waiver, are limited to the regulatory categories.
Eligibility may be based on a temporary as well as a permanent disability. The individual must meet one of the three eligibility criteria in any case, but can do so for a limited period of time. For example, if an individual breaks both legs and is in two casts for several weeks, becomes a wheelchair user for the duration, and the bus route that would normally take him to work is not accessible, the individual could be eligible under the second eligibility category. In granting eligibility to such a person, the entity should establish an expiration date for eligibility consistent with the expected end of the period disability.
A person may be ADA paratransit eligible for some trips but not others. Eligibility does not inhere in the individual or his or her disability, as such, but in meeting the functional criteria of inability to use the fixed route system established by the ADA. This inability is likely to change with differing circumstances.
For example, someone whose impairment-related condition is a severe sensitivity to temperatures below 20 degrees is not prevented from using fixed route transit when the temperature is 75 degrees. Someone whose impairment-related condition is an inability to maneuver a wheelchair through snow is not prevented from using fixed route transit when there is no snow on the ground. Someone with a cognitive disability may have learned to take the same bus route to a supported employment job every day. This individual is able to navigate the system for work purposes and therefore would not be eligible for paratransit for work trips. But the individual may be unable to get to other destinations on the bus system without getting lost, and would be eligible for paratransit for non-work trips. Someone who normally drives his own car to a rail system park and ride lot may have a specific impairment related condition preventing him from getting to the station when his car is in the shop. A person who can use accessible fixed route service can go to one destination on an accessible route; another destination would require the use of an inaccessible route. The individual would be eligible for the latter but not the former.
In many cases, though the person is eligible for some trips but not others, eligibility determinations would not have to be made literally on a trip-by-trip basis. It may often be possible to establish the conditions on eligibility as part of the initial eligibility determination process. Someone with a temperature sensitivity might be granted seasonal eligibility. Somebody who is able to navigate the system for work but not non-work trips could have this fact noted in his or her eligibility documentation. Likewise, someone with a variable condition (e.g., multiple sclerosis, HIV disease, need for kidney dialysis) could have their eligibility based on the underlying condition, with paratransit need for a particular trip dependent on self-assessment or a set of medical standards (e.g., trip within a certain amount of time after a dialysis session). On the other hand, persons in the second eligibility category (people who can use accessible fixed route service where it exists) would be given service on the basis of the particular route they would use for a given trip.
Because entities are not precluded from providing service beyond that required by the rule, an entity that believes it is too difficult to administer a program of trip-by-trip eligibility is not required to do so. Nothing prevents an entity from providing all requested trips to a person whom the ADA requires to receive service for only some trips. In this case, if the entity intends to request an undue financial burden waiver, the entity, as provided in the undue burden provisions of this rule, must estimate, by a statistically valid technique, the percentage of its paratransit trips that are mandated by the ADA. Only that percentage of its total costs will be counted in considering the undue burden waiver request.
Category 1 Eligibility
The first eligibility category includes, among others, persons with mental or visual impairments who, as a result, cannot “navigate the system.” This eligibility category includes people who cannot board, ride, or disembark from an accessible vehicle “without the assistance of another individual.” This means that, if an individual needs an attendant to board, ride, or disembark from an accessible fixed route vehicles (including “navigating the system”), the individual is eligible for paratransit. One implication of this language is that an individual does not lose paratransit eligibility based on “inability to navigate the system” because the individual chooses to travel with a friend on the paratransit system (even if the friend could help the person navigate the fixed route system). Eligibility in this category is based on ability to board, ride, and disembark independently.
Mobility training (e.g., of persons with mental or visual impairments) may help to improve the ability of persons to navigate the system or to get to a bus stop. Someone who is successfully mobility trained to use the fixed route system for all or some trips need not be provided paratransit service for those trips. The Department encourages entities to sponsor such training as a means of assisting individuals to use fixed route rather than paratransit.
Category 2 Eligibility
The second eligibility criterion is the broadest, with respect to persons with mobility impairments, but its impact should be reduced over time as transit systems become more accessible. This category applies to persons who could use accessible fixed route transportation, but accessible transportation is not being used at the time, and on the route, the persons would travel. This concept is route based, not system based.
Speaking first of bus systems, if a person is traveling from Point A to Point B on route 1, and route 1 is accessible, the person is not eligible for paratransit for the trip. This is true even though other portions of the system are still inaccessible. If the person is traveling from Point A to Point C on route 2, which is not accessible, the person is eligible for that trip. If the person is traveling from Point A to Point B on accessible route 1, with a transfer at B to go on inaccessible route 3 to Point D, then the person is eligible for the second leg of the trip. (The entity could choose to provide a paratransit trip from A to D or a paratransit or on-call bus trip from B to D.)
For purposes of this standard, we view a route as accessible when all buses scheduled on the route are accessible. Otherwise, it is unlikely that an accessible vehicle could be provided “within a reasonable period of [a] time” when the individual wants to travel, as the provision requires. We recognize that some systems' operations may not be organized in a way that permits determining whether a given route is accessible, even though a route-by-route determination appears to be contemplated by the statute. In such cases, it may be that category 2 eligibility would persist until the entire system was eligible.
With respect to a rail system, an individual is eligible under this standard if, on the route or line he or she wants to use, there is not yet one car per train accessible or if key stations are not yet accessible. This eligibility remains even if bus systems covering the area served by the rail system have become 100 percent accessible. This is necessary because people use rail systems for different kinds of trips than bus systems. It would often take much more in the way of time, trouble, and transfers for a person to go on the buses of one or more transit authorities than to have a direct trip provided by the rail operator. Since bus route systems are often designed to feed rail systems rather than duplicate them, it may often be true that “you can't get there from here” relying entirely on bus routes or the paratransit service area that parallels them.
If the lift on a vehicle cannot be deployed at a particular stop, an individual is eligible for paratransit under this category with respect to the service to the inaccessible stop. If on otherwise accessible route 1, an individual wants to travel from Point A to Point E, and the lift cannot be deployed at E, the individual is eligible for paratransit for the trip. (On-call bus would not work as a mode of providing this trip, since a bus lift will not deploy at the stop.) This is true even though service from Point A to all other points on the line is fully accessible. In this circumstance, the entity should probably think seriously about working with the local government involved to have the stop moved or made accessible.
When we say that a lift cannot be deployed, we mean literally that the mechanism will not work at the location to permit a wheelchair user or other person with a disability to disembark or that the lift will be damaged if it is used there. It is not consistent with the rule for a transit provider to declare a stop off-limits to someone who uses the lift while allowing other passengers to use the stop. However, if temporary conditions not under the operator's control (e.g., construction, an accident, a landslide) make it so hazardous for anyone to disembark that the stop is temporarily out of service for all passengers may the operator refuse to allow a passenger to disembark using the lift.
Category 3 Eligibility
The third eligibility criterion concerns individuals who have a specific impairment-related condition which prevents them from getting to or from a stop or station. As noted in the legislative history of the ADA, this is intended to be a “very narrow exception” to the general rule that difficulty in traveling to or from boarding or disembarking locations is not a basis for eligibility.
What is a specific impairment-related condition? The legislative history mentions four examples: Chronic fatigue, blindness, a lack of cognitive ability to remember and follow directions, or a special sensitivity to temperature. Impaired mobility, severe communications disabilities (e.g., a combination of serious vision and hearing impairments), cardiopulmonary conditions, or various other serious health problems may have similar effects. The Department does not believe that it is appropriate, or even possible, to create an exhaustive list.
What the rule uses as an eligibility criterion is not just the existence of a specific impairment-related condition. To be a basis for eligibility, the condition must prevent the individual from traveling to a boarding location or from a disembarking location. The word “prevent” is very important. For anyone, going to a bus stop and waiting for a bus is more difficult and less comfortable than waiting for a vehicle at one's home. This is likely to be all the more true for an individual with a disability. But for many persons with disabilities, in many circumstances, getting to a bus stop is possible. If an impairment related condition only makes the job of accessing transit more difficult than it might otherwise be, but does not prevent the travel, then the person is not eligible.
For example, in many areas, there are not yet curb cuts. A wheelchair user can often get around this problem by taking a less direct route to a destination than an ambulatory person would take. That involves more time, trouble, and effort than for someone without a mobility impairment. But the person can still get to the bus stop. On the basis of these architectural barriers, the person would not be eligible.
Entities are cautioned that, particularly in cases involving lack of curb cuts and other architectural barrier problems, assertions of eligibility should be given tight scrutiny. Only if it is apparent from the facts of a particular case that an individual cannot find a reasonable alternative path to a location should eligibility be granted.
If we add a foot of snow to the scenario, then the same person taking the same route may be unable to get to the bus stop. It is not the snow alone that stops him; it is the interaction of the snow and the fact that the individual has a specific-impairment related condition that requires him to push a wheelchair through the snow that prevents the travel.
Inevitably, some judgment is required to distinguish between situations in which travel is prevented and situations in which it is merely made more difficult. In the Department's view, a case of “prevented travel” can be made not only where travel is literally impossible (e.g., someone cannot find the bus stop, someone cannot push a wheelchair through the foot of snow or up a steep hill) but also where the difficulties are so substantial that a reasonable person with the impairment-related condition in question would be deterred from making the trip.
The regulation makes the interaction between an impairment-related condition and the environmental barrier (whether distance, weather, terrain, or architectural barriers) the key to eligibility determinations. This is an individual determination. Depending on the specifics of their impairment-related condition, one individual may be able to get from his home to a bus stop under a given set of conditions, while his next-door neighbor may not.
The ADA requires entities to provide paratransit to one person accompanying the eligible individual, with others served on a space-available basis. The one individual who is guaranteed space on the vehicle can be anyone—family member, business associate, friend, date, etc. The provider cannot limit the eligible individual's choice of type of companion. The transit authority may require that the eligible individual reserve a space for the companion when the individual reserves his or her own ride. This one individual rides even if this means that there is less room for other eligible individuals. Additional individuals beyond the first companion are carried only on a space available basis; that is, they do not displace other ADA paratransit eligible individuals.
A personal care attendant (i.e., someone designated or employed specifically to help the eligible individual meet his or her personal needs) always may ride with the eligible individual. If there is a personal care attendant on the trip, the eligible individual may still bring a companion, plus additional companions on a space available basis. The entity may require that, in reserving the trip, the eligible individual reserve the space for the attendant.
To prevent potential abuse of this provision, the rule provides that a companion (e.g., friend or family member) does not count as a personal care attendant unless the eligible individual regularly makes use of a personal care attendant and the companion is actually acting in that capacity. As noted under §37.125, a provider may require that, as part of the initial eligibility certification process, an individual indicate whether he or she travels with a personal care attendant. If someone does not indicate the use of an attendant, then any individual accompanying him or her would be regarded simply as a companion.
To be viewed as “accompanying” the eligible individual, a companion must have the same origin and destination points as the eligible individual. In appropriate circumstances, entities may also wish to provide service to a companion who has either an origin or destination, but not both, with the eligible individual (e.g., the individual's date is dropped off at her own residence on the return trip from a concert).
Section 37.125 ADA Paratransit Eligibility—Process
This section requires an eligibilty [sic] process to be established by each operator of complementary paratransit. The details of the process are to be devised through the planning and public participation process of this subpart. The process may not impose unreasonable administrative burdens on applicants, and, since it is part of the entity's nondiscrimination obligations, may not involve “user fees” or application fees to the applicant.
The process may include functional criteria related to the substantive eligibility criteria of §37.123 and, where appropriate, functional evaluation or testing of applicants. The substantive eligibility process is not aimed at making a medical or diagnostic determination. While evaluation by a physician (or professionals in rehabilitation or other relevant fields) may be used as part of the process, a diagnosis of a disability is not dispositive. What is needed is a determination of whether, as a practical matter, the individual can use fixed route transit in his or her own circumstances. That is a transportation decision primarily, not a medical decision.
The goal of the process is to ensure that only people who meet the regulatory criteria, strictly applied, are regarded as ADA paratransit eligible. The Department recognizes that transit entities may wish to provide service to other persons, which is not prohibited by this rule. However, the eligibility process should clearly distinguish those persons who are ADA eligible from those who are provided service on other grounds. For example, eligibility documentation must clearly state whether someone is ADA paratransit eligible or eligible on some other basis.
Often, people tend to think of paratransit exclusively in terms of people with mobility impairments. Under the ADA, this is not accurate. Persons with visual impairments may be eligible under either the first or third eligibility categories. To accommodate them, all documents concerning eligibility must be made available in one or more accessible formats, on request. Accessible formats include computer disks, braille documents, audio cassettes, and large print documents. A document does not necessarily need to be made available in the format a requester prefers, but it does have to be made available in a format the person can use. There is no use giving a computer disk to someone who does not have a computer, for instance, or a braille document to a person who does not read braille.
When a person applies for eligibility, the entity will provide all the needed forms and instructions. These forms and instructions may include a declaration of whether the individual travels with a personal care attendant. The entity may make further inquiries concerning such a declaration (e.g., with respect to the individual's actual need for a personal care attendant).
When the application process is complete—all necessary actions by the applicant taken—the entity should process the application in 21 days. If it is unable to do so, it must begin to provide service to the applicant on the 22nd day, as if the application had been granted. Service may be terminated only if and when the entity denies the application. All determinations shall be in writing; in the case of a denial, reasons must be specified. The reasons must specifically relate the evidence in the matter to the eligibility criteria of this rule and of the entity's process. A mere recital that the applicant can use fixed route transit is not sufficient.
For people granted eligibility, the documentation of eligibility shall include at least the following information:
—The individual's name
—The name of the transit provider
—The telephone number of the entity's paratransit coordinator
—An expiration date for eligibility
—Any conditions or limitations on the individual's eligibility, including the use of a personal care attendant.
The last point refers to the situation in which a person is eligible for some trips but not others. Or if the traveler is authorized to have a personal care attendant ride free of charge. For example, the documentation may say that the individual is eligible only when the temperature falls below a certain point, or when the individual is going to a destination not on an accessible bus route, or for non-work trips, etc.
As the mention of an expiration date implies, certification is not forever. The entity may recertify eligibility at reasonable intervals to make sure that changed circumstances have not invalidated or changed the individual's eligibility. In the Department's view, a reasonable interval for recertification is probably between one and three years. Less than one year would probably be too burdensome for consumers; over three years would begin to lose the point of doing recertifications. The recertification interval should be stated in the entity's plan. Of course, a user of the service can apply to modify conditions on his or her eligibility at any time.
The administrative appeal process is intended to give applicants who have been denied eligibility the opportunity to have their cases heard by some official other than the one who turned them down in the first place. In order to have appropriate separation of functions—a key element of administrative due process—not only must the same person not decide the case on appeal, but that person, to the extent practicable, should not have been involved in the first decision (e.g., as a member of the same office, or a supervisor or subordinate of the original decisionmaker [sic]). When, as in the case of a small transit operator, this degree of separation is not feasible, the second decisionmaker should at least be “bubbled” with respect to the original decision (i.e., not have participated in the original decision or discussed it with the original decisionmaker). In addition, there must be an opportunity to be heard in person as well as the chance to present written evidence and arguments. All appeals decisions must be in writing, stating the reasons for the decision.
To prevent the filing of stale claims, the entity may establish a 60 day “statute of limitations” on filing of appeals, the time starting to run on the date the individual is notified on the negative initial decision. After the appeals process has been completed (i.e., the hearing and/or written submission completed), the entity should make a decision within 30 days. If it does not, the individual must be provided service beginning the 31st day, until and unless an adverse decision is rendered on his or her appeal.
Under the eligibility criteria of the rule, an individual has a right to paratransit if he or she meets the eligibility criteria. As noted in the discussion of the nondiscrimination section, an entity may refuse service to an individual with a disability who engages in violent, seriously disruptive, or illegal conduct, using the same standards for exclusion that would apply to any other person who acted in such an inappropriate way.
The rule also allows an entity to establish a process to suspend, for a reasonable period of time, the provision of paratransit service to an ADA eligible person who establishes a pattern or practice of missing scheduled trips. The purpose of this process would be to deter or deal with chronic “no-shows.” The sanction system—articulated criteria for the imposition of sanctions, length of suspension periods, details of the administrative process, etc.—would be developed through the public planning and participation process for the entity's paratransit plan, and the result reflected in the plan submission to FTA.
It is very important to note that sanctions could be imposed only for a “pattern or practice” of missed trips. A pattern or practice involves intentional, repeated or regular actions, not isolated, accidental, or singular incidents. Moreover, only actions within the control of the individual count as part of a pattern or practice. Missed trips due to operator error are not attributable to the individual passenger for this purpose. If the vehicle arrives substantially after the scheduled pickup time, and the passenger has given up on the vehicle and taken a taxi or gone down the street to talk to a neighbor, that is not a missed trip attributable to the passenger. If the vehicle does not arrive at all, or is sent to the wrong address, or to the wrong entrance to a building, that is not a missed trip attributable to the passenger. There may be other circumstances beyond the individual's control (e.g., a sudden turn for the worse in someone with a variable condition, a sudden family emergency) that make it impracticable for the individual to travel at the scheduled time and also for the individual to notify the entity in time to cancel the trip before the vehicle comes. Such circumstances also would not form part of a sanctionable pattern or practice.
Once an entity has certified someone as eligible, the individual's eligibility takes on the coloration of a property right. (This is not merely a theoretical statement. If one depends on transportation one has been found eligible for to get to a job, and the eligibility is removed, one may lose the job. The same can be said for access to medical care or other important services.) Consequently, before eligibility may be removed “for cause” under this provision, the entity must provide administrative due process to the individual.
If the entity proposes to impose sanctions on someone, it must first notify the individual in writing (using accessible formats where necessary). The notice must specify the basis of the proposed action (e.g., Mr. Smith scheduled trips for 8 a.m. on May 15, 2 p.m. on June 3, 9 a.m. on June 21, and 9:20 p.m. on July 10, and on each occasion the vehicle appeared at the scheduled time and Mr. Smith was nowhere to be found) and set forth the proposed sanction (e.g., Mr. Smith would not receive service for 15 days).
The entity would provide the individual an opportunity to be heard (i.e., an in-person informal hearing before a decisionmaker) as well as to present written and oral information and arguments. All relevant entity records and personnel would be made available to the individual, and other persons could testify. It is likely that, in many cases, an important factual issue would be whether a missed trip was the responsibility of the provider or the passenger, and the testimony of other persons and the provider's records or personnel are likely to be relevant in deciding this issue. While the hearing is intended to be informal, the individual could bring a representative (e.g., someone from an advocacy organization, an attorney).
The individual may waive the hearing and proceed on the basis of written presentations. If the individual does not respond to the notice within a reasonable time, the entity may make, in effect, a default finding and impose sanctions. If there is a hearing, and the individual needs paratransit service to attend the hearing, the entity must provide it. We would emphasize that, prior to a finding against the individual after this due process procedure, the individual must continue to receive service. The entity cannot suspend service while the matter is pending.
The entity must notify the individual in writing about the decision, the reasons for it, and the sanctions imposed, if any. Again, this information would be made available in accessible formats. In the case of a decision adverse to the individual, the administrative appeals process of this section would apply. The sanction would be stayed pending an appeal.
There are means other than sanctions, however, by which a transit provider can deal with a “no-show” problem in its system. Providers who use “real time scheduling” report that this technique is very effective in reducing no-shows and cancellations, and increasing the mix of real time scheduling in a system can probably be of benefit in this area. Calling the customer to reconfirm a reasonable time before pickup can head off some problems, as can educating consumers to call with cancellations ahead of time. Training of dispatch and operator personnel can help to avoid miscommunications that lead to missed trips.
Section 37.127 Complementary Paratransit for Visitors
This section requires each entity having a complementary paratransit system to provide service to visitors from out of town on the same basis as it is provided to local residents. By “on the same basis,” we mean under all the same conditions, service criteria, etc., without distinction. For the period of a visit, the visitor is treated exactly like an eligible local user, without any higher priority being given to either.
A visitor is defined as someone who does not reside in the jurisdiction or jurisdictions served by the public entity or other public entities with which it coordinates paratransit service. For example, suppose a five-county metropolitan area provides coordinated paratransit service under a joint plan. A resident of any of the five counties would not be regarded as a visitor in any of them. Note that the rule talks in terms of “jurisdiction” rather than “service area.” If an individual lives in XYZ County, but outside the fixed route service area of that county's transit provider, the individual is still not a visitor for purposes of paratransit in PQR County, if PQR is one of the counties with which XYZ provides coordinated paratransit service.
A visitor can become eligible in one of two ways. The first is to present documentation from his or her “home” jurisdiction's paratransit system. The local provider will give “full faith and credit” to the ID card or other documentation from the other entity. If the individual has no such documentation, the local provider may require the provision of proof of visitor status (i.e., proof of residence somewhere else) and, if the individual's disability is not apparent, proof of the disability (e.g., a letter from a doctor or rehabilitation professional). Once this documentation is presented and is satisfactory, the local provider will make service available on the basis of the individual's statement that he or she is unable to use the fixed route transit system.
The local provider need serve someone based on visitor eligibility for no more than 21 days. After that, the individual is treated the same as a local person for eligibility purposes. This is true whether the 21 days are consecutive or parceled out over several shorter visits. The local provider may require the erstwhile visitor to apply for eligibility in the usual local manner. A visitor who expects to be around longer than 21 days should apply for regular eligibility as soon as he arrives. The same approach may be used for a service of requested visits totaling 21 days or more in a relating compact period of time. Preferably, this application process should be arranged before the visitor arrives, by letter, telephone or fax, so that a complete application can be processed expeditiously.
Section 37.129 Types of Service
The basic mode of service for complementary paratransit is demand responsive, origin-to-destination service. This service may be provided for persons in any one of the three eligibility categories, and must always be provided to persons in the first category (e.g., people who cannot navigate the system). The local planning process should decide whether, or in what circumstances, this service is to be provided as door-to-door or curb-to-curb service.
For persons in the second eligibility category (e.g., persons who can use accessible buses, but do not have an accessible bus route available to take them to their destination), origin-to-destination service can be used. Alternatively, the entity can provide either of two other forms of service. One is on-call bus, in which the individual calls the provider and arranges for one or more accessible buses to arrive on the routes he needs to use at the appropriate time. On-call bus service must meet all the service criteria of §37.131, except that on-call buses run only on fixed routes and the fare charged can be only the fixed route fare that anyone pays on the bus (including discounts).
The second option is “feeder paratransit” to an accessible fixed route that will take the individual to his or her destination. Feeder paratransit, again, would have to meet all the criteria of §37.131. With respect to fares, the paratransit fare could be charged, but the individual would not be double charged for the trip. That is, having paid the paratransit fare, the transfer to the fixed route would be free.
For persons in the third eligibility category (e.g., persons who can use fixed route transit but who, because of a specific impairment-related condition, cannot get to or from a stop), the “feeder paratransit” option, under the conditions outlined above, is available. For some trips, it might be necessary to arrange for feeder service at both ends of the fixed route trip. Given the more complicated logistics of such arrangements, and the potential for a mistake that would seriously inconvenience the passenger, the transit provider should consider carefully whether such a “double feeder” system, while permissible, is truly workable in its system (as opposed to a simpler system that used feeder service only at one end of a trip when the bus let the person off at a place from which he or she could independently get to the destination). There may be some situations in which origin to destination service is easier and less expensive.
Section 37.131 Service Criteria for Complementary Paratransit Service Area
The basic bus system service area is a corridor with a width of 3/4 of a mile on each side of each fixed route. At the end of a route, there is a semicircular “cap” on the corridor, consisting of a three-quarter mile radius from the end point of the route to the parallel sides of the corridor.
Complementary paratransit must provide service to any origin or destination point within a corridor fitting this description around any route in the bus system. Note that this does not say that an eligible user must live within a corridor in order to be eligible. If an individual lives outside the corridor, and can find a way of getting to a pickup point within the corridor, the service must pick him up there. The same holds true at the destination end of the trip.
Another concept involved in this service criterion is the core service area. Imagine a bus route map of a typical city. Color the bus routes and their corridors blue, against the white outline map. In the densely populated areas of the city, the routes (which, with their corridors attached, cut 1-1/2 mile swaths) merge together into a solid blue mass. There are few, if any, white spots left uncovered, and they are likely to be very small. Paratransit would serve all origins and destinations in the solid blue mass.
But what of the little white spots surrounded by various bus corridors? Because it would make sense to avoid providing service to such small isolated areas, the rule requires paratransit service there as well. So color them in too.
Outside the core area, though, as bus routes follow radial arteries into the suburbs and exurbs (we know real bus route maps are more complicated than this, but we simplify for purposes of illustration), there are increasingly wide white areas between the blue corridors, which may have corridors on either side of them but are not small areas completely surrounded by corridors. These white spaces are not part of the paratransit service area and the entity does not have to serve origins and destinations there. However, if, through the planning process, the entity wants to enlarge the width of one or more of the blue corridors from the 3/4 of a mile width, it can do so, to a maximum of 1-1/2 miles on each side of a route. The cost of service provided within such an expanded corridor can be counted in connection with an undue financial burden waiver request.
There may be a part of the service area where part of one of the corridors overlaps a political boundary, resulting in a requirement to serve origins and destinations in a neighboring jurisdiction which the entity lacks legal authority to service. The entity is not required to serve such origins and destinations, even though the area on the other side of the political boundary is within a corridor. This exception to the service area criterion does not automatically apply whenever there is a political boundary, only when there is a legal bar to the entity providing service on the other side of the boundary.
The rule requires, in this situation, that the entity take all practicable steps to get around the problem so that it can provide service throughout its service area. The entity should work with the state or local governments involved, via coordination plans, reciprocity agreements, memoranda of understanding or other means to prevent political boundaries from becoming barriers to the travel of individuals with disabilities.
The definition of the service area for rail systems is somewhat different, though many of the same concepts apply.
Around each station on the line (whether or not a key station), the entity would draw a circle with a radius of 3⁄4 mile. Some circles may touch or overlap. The series of circles is the rail system's service area. (We recognize that, in systems where stations are close together, this could result in a service area that approached being a corridor like that of a bus line.) The rail system would provide paratransit service from any point in one circle to any point in any other circle. The entity would not have to provide service to two points within the same circle, since a trip between two points in the vicinity of the same station is not a trip that typically would be taken by train. Nor would the entity have to provide service to spaces between the circles. For example, a train trip would not get close to point x; one would have to take a bus or other mode of transportation to get from station E or F to point x. A paratransit system comparable to the rail service area would not be required to take someone there either.
Rail systems typically provide trips that are not made, or cannot be made conveniently, on bus systems. For example, many rail systems cross jurisdictional boundaries that bus systems often do not. One can travel from Station A to a relatively distant Station E on a rail system in a single trip, while a bus trip between the same points, if possible at all, may involve a number of indirect routings and transfers, on two bus systems that may not interface especially well.
Rail operators have an obligation to provide paratransit equivalents of trips between circles to persons who cannot use fixed route rail systems because they cannot navigate the system, because key stations or trains are not yet accessible, or because they cannot access stations from points within the circles because of a specific impairment-related condition. For individuals who are eligible in category 2 because they need an accessible key station to use the system, the paratransit obligation extends only to transportation among “circles” centered on designated key stations (since, even when the key station plan is fully implemented, these individuals will be unable to use non-key stations).
It is not sufficient for a rail operator to refer persons with disabilities to an accessible bus system in the area. The obligation to provide paratransit for a rail system is independent of the operations of any bus system serving the same area, whether operated by the same entity that operates the rail system or a different entity. Obviously, it will be advantageous for bus and rail systems to coordinate their paratransit efforts, but a coordinated system would have to ensure coverage of trips comparable to rail trips that could not conveniently be taken on the fixed route bus system.
Under this provision, an entity must make its reservation service available during the hours its administrative offices are open. If those offices are open 9 to 5, those are the hours during which the reservations service must be open, even if the entity's transit service operated 6 a.m. to midnight. On days prior to a service day on which the administrative offices are not open at all (e.g., a Sunday prior to a Monday service day), the reservation service would also be open 9 to 5. Note that the reservation service on any day does not have to be provided directly by a “real person.” An answering machine or other technology can suffice.
Any caller reaching the reservation service during the 9 to 5 period, in this example, could reserve service for any time during the next 6 a.m. to 12 midnight service day. This is the difference between “next day scheduling” and a system involving a 24-hour prior reservation requirement, in which a caller would have to reserve a trip at 7 a.m. today if he or she wanted to travel at 7 a.m. tomorrow. The latter approach is not adequate under this rule.
The entity may use real time scheduling for all or part of its service. Like the Moliere character who spoke prose all his life without knowing it, many entities may already be using some real time scheduling (e.g., for return trips which are scheduled on a when-needed basis, as opposed to in advance). A number of transit providers who have used real time scheduling believe that it is more efficient on a per-trip basis and reduces cancellations and no-shows significantly. We encourage entities to consider this form of service.
Sometimes users want to schedule service well in advance, to be sure of traveling when they want to. The rule tells providers to permit reservations to be made as much as 14 days in advance. In addition, though an entity may negotiate with a user to adjust pickup and return trip times to make scheduling more efficient, the entity cannot insist on scheduling a trip more than one hour earlier or later than the individual desires to travel. Any greater deviation from desired trip would exceed the bounds of comparability.
To calculate the proper paratransit fare, the entity would determine the route(s) that an individual would take to get from his or her origin to his or her destination on the fixed route system. At the time of day the person was traveling, what is the fare for that trip on those routes? Applicable charges like transfer fees or premium service charges may be added to the amount, but discounts (e.g., the half-fare discount for off-peak fixed route travel by elderly and handicapped persons) would not be subtracted. The transit provider could charge up to twice the resulting amount for the paratransit trip.
The mode through which paratransit is provided does not change the method of calculation. For example, if paratransit is provided via user side subsidy taxi service rather than publicly operated dial-a-ride van service, the cost to the user could still be only twice the applicable fixed route fare. The system operates the same regardless of whether the paratransit trip is being provided in place of a bus or a rail trip the user cannot make on the fixed route system. Where bus and rail systems are run by the same provider (or where the same bus provider runs parallel local and express buses along the same route), the comparison would be made to the mode on which a typical fixed route user would make the particular trip, based on schedule, length, convenience, avoidance of transfers, etc.
Companions are charged the same fare as the eligible individual they are accompanying. Personal care attendants ride free.
One exception to the fare requirement is made for social service agency (or other organization-sponsored) trips. This exception, which allows the transit provider to negotiate a price with the agency that is more than twice the relevant fixed route fare, applies to “agency trips,” by which we mean trips which are guaranteed to the agency for its use. That is, if an agency wants 12 slots for a trip to the mall on Saturday for clients with disabilities, the agency makes the reservation for the trips in its name, the agency will be paying for the transportation, and the trips are reserved to the agency, for whichever 12 people the agency designates, the provider may then negotiate any price it can with the agency for the trips. We distinguish this situation from one in which an agency employee, as a service, calls and makes an individual reservation in the name of a client, where the client will be paying for the transportation.
Restrictions and Priorities Based on Trip Purpose
This is a simple and straightforward requirement. There can be no restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose in a comparable complementary paratransit system. When a user reserves a trip, the entity will need to know the origin, destination, time of travel, and how many people are traveling. The entity does not need to know why the person is traveling, and should not even ask.
Hours and Days of Service
This criterion says simply that if a person can travel to a given destination using a given fixed route at a given time of day, an ADA paratransit eligible person must be able to travel to that same destination on paratransit at that time of day. This criterion recognizes that the shape of the service area can change. Late at night, for example, it is common for certain routes not to be run. Those routes, and their paratransit corridors, do not need to be served with paratransit when the fixed route system is not running on them. One couldn't get to destinations in that corridor by fixed route at those times, so paratransit service is not necessary either.
It should be pointed out that service during low-demand times need not be by the same paratransit mode as during higher usage periods. For example, if a provider uses its own paratransit vans during high demand periods, it could use a private contractor or user-side subsidy provider during low demand periods. This would presumably be a more efficient way of providing late night service. A call-forwarding device for communication with the auxiliary carrier during these low demand times would be perfectly acceptable, and could reduce administrative costs.
This provision specifically prohibits two common mechanisms that limit use of a paratransit system so as to constrain demand on its capacity. The first is a waiting list. Tyically [sic], a waiting list involves a determination by a provider that it can provide service only to a given number of eligible persons. Other eligible persons are not able to receive service until one of the people being served moves away or otherwise no longer uses the service. Then the persons on the waiting list can move up. The process is analogous to the wait that persons in some cities have to endure to be able to buy season tickets to a sold-out slate of professional football games.
The second mechanism specifically mentioned is a number limit on the trips a passenger can take in a given period of time. It is a kind of rationing in which, for example, if one has taken his quota of 30 trips this month, he cannot take further trips for the rest of the month.
In addition, this paragraph prohibits any operational pattern or practice that significantly limits the availability of service of ADA paratransit eligible persons. As discussed under §37.125 in the context of missed trips by passengers, a “pattern or practice” involves, regular, or repeated actions, not isolated, accidental, or singular incidents. A missed trip, late arrival, or trip denial now and then does not trigger this provision.
Operational problems outside the control of the entity do not count as part of a pattern or practice under this provision. For example, if the vehicle has an accident on the way to pick up a passenger, the late arrival would not count as part of a pattern or practice. If something that could not have been anticipated at the time the trip was scheduled (e.g., a snowstorm, an accident or hazardous materials incident that traps the paratransit vehicle, like all traffic on a certain highway, for hours), the resulting missed trip would not count as part of a pattern or practice. On the other hand, if the entity regularly does not maintain its vehicles well, such that frequent mechanical breakdowns result in missed trips or late arrivals, a pattern or practice may exist. This is also true in a situation in which scheduling practices fail to take into account regularly occurring traffic conditions (e.g., rush hour traffic jams), resulting in frequent late arrivals.
The rule mentions three specific examples of operational patterns or practices that would violate this provision. The first is a pattern or practice of substantial numbers of significantly untimely pickups (either for initial or return trips). To violate this provision, there must be both a substantial number of late arrivals and the late arrivals in question must be significant in length. For example, a DOT Inspector General's (IG) report on one city's paratransit system disclosed that around 30 percent of trips were between one and five hours late. Such a situation would trigger this provision. On the other hand, only a few instances of trips one to five hours late, or many instances of trips a few minutes late, would not trigger this provision.
The second example is substantial numbers of trip denials or missed trips. For example, if on a regular basis the reservation phone lines open at 5 a.m. and callers after 7 a.m. are all told that they cannot travel, or the phone lines shut down after 7 a.m. and a recorded message says to call back the next day, or the phone lines are always so busy that no one can get through, this provision would be triggered. (Practices of this kind would probably violate the response time criterion as well.) Also, if, on a regular basis, the entity misses a substantial number of trips (e.g., a trip is scheduled, the passenger is waiting, but the vehicle never comes, goes to the wrong address, is extremely late, etc.), it would violate this provision.
The third example is substantial numbers of trips with excessive trip lengths. Since paratransit is a shared ride service, paratransit rides between Point A and Point B will usually take longer, and involve more intermediate stops, than a taxi ride between the same two points. However, when the number of intermediate stops and the total trip time for a given passenger grows so large as to make use of the system prohibitively inconvenient, then this provision would be triggered. For example, the IG report referred to above mentioned a situation in which 9 percent of riders had one way trips averaging between two and four hours, with an average of 16 intermediate stops. Such a situation would probably trigger this provision.
Though these three examples probably cover the most frequently cited problems in paratransit operations that directly or indirectly limit the provision of service that is theoretically available to eligible persons, the list is not exhaustive. Other patterns or practices could trigger this provision. For example, the Department has heard about a situation in which an entity's paratransit contractor was paid on a per-trip basis, regardless of the length of the trip. The contractor therefore had an economic incentive to provide as many trips as possible. As a result, the contractor accepted short trips and routinely denied longer trips. This would be a pattern or practice contrary to this provision (and contrary to the service area provision as well).
This provision emphasizes that entities may go beyond the requirements of this section in providing service to ADA paratransit individuals. For example, no one is precluded from offering service in a larger service area, during greater hours than the fixed route system, or without charge. However, costs of such additional service do not count with respect to undue financial burden waiver requests. Where a service criterion itself incorporates a range of actions the entity may take (e.g., providing wide corridors outside the urban core, using real time scheduling), however, costs of providing that optional service may be counted for undue financial burden waiver request purposes.
Section 37.133 Subscription Service
As part of its paratransit service, an entity may include a subscription service component. However, at any given time of day, this component may not absorb more than 50 percent of available capacity on the total system. For example, if, at 8 a.m., the system can provide 400 trips, no more than 200 of these can be subscription trips.
The one exception to this rule would occur in a situation in which there is excess non-subscription capacity available. For example, if over a long enough period of time to establish a pattern, there were only 150 non-subscription trips requested at 8 a.m., the provider could begin to provide 250 subscription trips at that time. Subsequently, if non-subscription demand increased over a period of time, such that the 50 trips were needed to satisfy a regular non-subscription demand at that time, and overall system capacity had not increased, the 50 trips would have to be returned to the non-subscription category. During times of high subscription demand, entities could use the trip time negotiation discretion of §37.131(c)(2) to shift some trips to other times.
Because subscription service is a limited subcomponent of paratransit service, the rule permits restrictions to be imposed on its use that could not be imposed elsewhere. There may be a waiting list for provision of subscription service or the use of other capacity constraints. Also, there may be restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose. For example, subscription service under peak work trip times could be limited to work trips. We emphasize that these limitations apply only to subscription service. It is acceptable for a provider to put a person on a waiting list for access to subscription service at 8 a.m. for work trips; the same person could not be wait-listed for access to paratransit service in general.
Section 37.135 Submission of Paratransit Plans
This section contains the general requirements concerning the submission of paratransit plans. Each public entity operating fixed route service is required to develop and submit a plan for paratransit service. Where you send your plans depends on the type of entity you are. There are two categories of entities which should submit their plans to states—(1) FTA recipients and (2) entities who are administered by the state on behalf of FTA.
These FTA grantees submit their plans to the states because the agency would like the benefit of the states' expertise before final review. The states' role is as a commenter, not as a reviewer.
This section also specifies annual progress reports concerning the meeting of previously approved milestones, any slippage (with the reasons for it and plans to catch up), and any significant changes in the operator's environment, such as the withdrawal from the marketplace of a private paratransit provider or whose service the entity has relied upon to provide part of its paratransit service.
Paragraph (d) of this section specifies a maximum time period for the phase-in of the implementation of paratransit plans. The Department recognizes that it is not reasonable to expect paratransit systems to spring into existence fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Under this paragraph, all entities must be in full compliance with all paratransit provisions by January 26, 1997, unless the entity has received a waiver from FTA based on undue financial burden (which applies only to the service criteria of §37.131, not to eligibility requirements or other paratransit provisions).
While the rule assumes that most entities will take a year to fully implement these provisions, longer than a year requires the paratransit plans to submit milestones that are susceptible to objective verification. Not all plans will be approved with a five-year lead-in period. Consistent with the proposed rule, the Department intends to look at each plan individually to see what is required for implementation in each case. DOT may approve only a shorter phase-in period in a given case.
Section 37.137 Paratransit Plan Development
Section 35.137 establishes three principal requirements in the development of paratransit plans.
First is the requirement to survey existing paratransit services within the service area. This is required by section 223(c)(8) of the ADA. While the ADA falls short of explicitly requiring coordination, clearly this is one of the goals. The purpose of the survey is to determine what is being provided already, so that a transit provider can accurately assess what additional service is needed to meet the service criteria for comparable paratransit service. The plan does not have to discuss private paratransit providers whose services will not be used to help meet paratransit requirements under this rule. However, the public entity will need to know specifically what services are being provided by whom if the entity is to count the transportation toward the overall need.
Since the public entity is required to provide paratransit to all ADA paratransit eligible individuals, there is some concern that currently provided service may be cut back or eliminated. It is possible that this may happen and such action would have a negative effect on transportation provided to persons with disabilities in general. The Department urges each entity required to submit a plan to work with current providers of transportation, not only to determine what transportation services they provide, but also to continue to provide service into the foreseeable future.
Second, §37.137 specifies requirements for public participation. First, the entity must perform outreach, to ensure that a wide range of persons anticipated to use the paratransit service know about and have the opportunity to participate in the development of the plan. Not only must the entity identify who these individuals or groups are, the entity also must contact the people at an early stage in the development process.
The other public participation requirements are straightforward. There must be a public hearing and an opportunity to comment. The hearing must be accessible to those with disabilities, and notice of the hearing must be accessible as well. There is a special efforts test identified in this paragraph for comments concerning a multi-year phase-in of a paratransit plan.
The final general requirement of the section specifies that efforts at public participation must be made permanent through some mechanism that provides for participation in all phases of paratransit plan development and submission. The Department is not requiring that there be an advisory committee established, although this is one method of institutionalizing participation. The Department is not as interested in the specific structure used to ensure public participation as we are interested in the effectiveness of the effort.
The Department believes that public participation is a key element in the effective implementation of the ADA. The ADA is an opportunity to develop programs that will ensure the integration of all persons into not just the transportation system of America, but all of the opportunities transportation makes possible. This opportunity is not without tremendous challenges to the transit providers. It is only through dialogue, over the long term, that usable, possible plans can be developed and implemented.
Section 37.139 Plan Contents
This section contains substantive categories of information to be contained in the paratransit plan: Information on current and changing fixed route service; inventory of existing paratransit service; discussion of the discrepancies between existing paratransit and what is required under this regulation; a discussion of the public participation requirements and how they have been met; the plan for paratransit service; the budget for paratransit services; efforts to coordinate with other transportation providers; a description of the process in place or to be used to register ADA paratransit eligible individuals; a description of the documentation provided to each individual verifying eligibility; and a request for a waiver based on undue financial burden, if applicable. The final rule contains a reorganized and slightly expanded section on plan contents, reflecting requests to be more explicit, rather than less explicit.
The list of required elements is the same for all entities required to submit paratransit plans. There is no document length requirement, however. Each entity (or group plan) is unique and we expect the plans to reflect this. While we would like the plan elements presented in the order listed in this section, the contents most likely will vary greatly, depending on the size, geographic area, budget, complexity of issues, etc. of the particular submitting agency.
This section and §37.139 provide for a maximum phase-in period of five years, with an assumed one-year phase-in for all paratransit programs. (The required budget has been changed to five years as well.) The Department has established a maximum five-year phase-in in the belief that not all systems will require that long, but that some, particularly those which had chosen to meet compliance with section 504 requirements with accessible fixed route service, may indeed need five years.
We are confident that, through the public participation process, entities can develop a realistic plan for full compliance with the ADA. To help ensure this, the paratransit plan contents section now requires that any plan which projects full compliance after January 26, 1993 must include milestones which can be measured and which result in steady progress toward full compliance. For example, it is possible that the first part of year one is used to ensure comprehensive registration of all eligible persons with disabilities, training of transit provider staffs and the development and dissemination of information to users and potential users in accessible formats and some modest increase in paratransit service is provided. A plan would not be permitted to indicate that no activity was possible in the first year, but proportionately more progress could be planned for later years than for the first year. Implementation must begin in January 1992.
Each plan, including its proposed phase-in period, will be the subject of examination by FTA. Not all providers who request a five-year phase-in will receive approval for a five-year phase-in. The plan must be careful, therefore, to explain what current services are, what the projections are, and what methods are in place to determine and provide accountability for progress toward full compliance.
We have been asked for assistance in assessing what the demand for paratransit service will be. FTA's ADA Paratransit Manual provides detailed assistance in this and many other areas of the plan development process.
The ADA itself contained a figure of 43 million persons with disabilities. It should be pointed out that many of these may not necessarily be eligible for ADA paratransit service. The Department's regulatory impact analysis discussing the probable costs involved in implementing this rule places the possible percentage of population who would be eligible for paratransit service at between 1.4 and 1.9 percent. This figure can vary depending on the type and variety of services you have available, or on such things as climate, proximity to medical care, family, etc. that a person with a disability may need. Clearly estimating demand is one of the most critical elements in the plan, since it will be used to make decisions about all of the various service criteria.
Section 37.139 contains a new paragraph (j), spelling out in more detail requirements related to the annual submission of plans. Since there is now the possibility for five-year phase-ins, the annual plan demonstrates the progress made to date, and explains any delays.
Section 37.141 Requirements If a Joint Plan is Submitted
The Department believes that, particularly in large, multi-provider regions, a coordinated regional paratransit plan and system are extremely important. Such coordination can do much to ensure that the most comprehensive transportation can be provided with the most efficient use of available resources. We recognize that the effort of putting together such a coordinated system can be a lengthy one. This section is intended to facilitate the process of forming such a coordinated system.
If a number of entities wish to submit a joint plan for a coordinated system, they must, like other entities, submit a document by January 26, 1992. At a minimum, this document must include the following:
(1) A general statement that the participating entities intend to file a joint coordinated plan;
(2) A certification from each participating entity that it is committed to providing paratransit as a part of a coordinated plan;
(3) A certification from each participating entity that it will maintain at least current levels of paratransit service until the coordinated paratransit service called for by the joint plan is implemented;
(4) As many elements of the plan as possible.
These provisions ensure that significant planning will precede, and plan implementation will begin by, January 26, 1992, without precluding entities from cooperating because it was not possible to complete coordinating different public entities by that date. The entities involved in a joint plan are required to submit all elements of their plan by July 26, 1992.
The final provision in the section notes that an entity may later join a coordinated plan, even if it has filed its own plan on January 26, 1992. An entity must submit its own plan by January 26, 1992, if it has not provided a certification of participation in a joint plan.). In this case, the entity must provide the assurances and certifications required of all of the other participating entities.
The Department fully expects that many jurisdictions filing joint plans will be able to do so by January 26, 1992. For those who cannot, the regulatory provision ensures that there will be no decrease in paratransit service. Further, since we anticipate coordinated service areas to provide more effective service, complete implementation of a joint plan could be more rapid than if each entity was providing service on its own.
Entities submitting a joint plan do not have any longer than any other entities to fully implement complementary paratransit service. In any case, all plans (joint or single) must be fully implemented by January 26, 1997, absent a waiver for undue financial burden (which would, in the case of a joint plan, be considered on a joint basis).
Section 37.143 Paratransit Plan Implementation
As already discussed under §37.135, the states will receive FTA recipient plans for recipients of funding under 49 U.S.C. 5311 administered by the State or any small urbanized area recipient of funds under 49 U.S.C. 5307 administered by a state. Public entities who do not receive FTA funds will submit their plans directly to the applicable Regional Office (listed in appendix B to the rule).
The role of the state is to accept the plans on behalf of FTA, to ensure that all plans are submitted to it and forward the plans, with any comments on the plans, to FTA. This comment is very important for FTA to receive, since states administer these programs on behalf of FTA. Each state's specific knowledge of FTA grantees it administers will provide helpful information to FTA in making its decisions.
The rule lists five questions the states must answer when they forward the plans. These questions are gauged to capitalize on the working knowledge the states possess on the grantees. FTA will send a more specific letter of instruction to each state explaining its role.
Section 37.147 FTA Review of Plans
This provision spells out factors FTA will consider in reviewing each plan, including whether the submission is complete, whether the plan complies with the substance of the ADA regulation, whether the entity complied with the public participation requirements in developing the plan, efforts by the entity to coordinate with other entities in a plan submission, and any comments submitted by the states.
These elements are not the only items that will be reviewed by FTA. Every portion of the plan will be reviewed and assessed for compliance with the regulation. This section merely highlights those provisions thought most important by the Department.
Section 37.151 Waiver for Undue Financial Burden
The Department has adopted a five-year phase-in for paratransit service. Under this scheme, each entity required to provide paratransit service will be able to design a phase-in of its service specifically geared to local circumstances. While all jurisdictions will not receive approval for plans with a five year phase-in, each entity will be able to request what it needs based on local circumstances. Generally, the section allows an entity to request a wavier at any time it determines that it will not be able to meet a five-year phase-in or make measured progress toward its full compliance date specified in its original plan.
A waiver for undue financial burden should be requested if one of the following circumstances applies. First, when the entity submits its first plan on January 26, 1992, if the entity knows it will not be able to reach full compliance within five years, or if the entity cannot make measured progress the first year it may submit a waiver request. The entity also should apply for a waiver, if, during plan implementation, there are changed circumstances which make it unlikely that compliance will be possible.
The concept of measured progress should be given its plain meaning. It is not acceptable to submit a plan which shows significant progress in implementing a plan in years four and five, but no progress in years one and two. Similarly, the progress must be susceptible to objective verification. An entity cannot merely “work toward” developing a particular aspect of a plan.
The Department intends that undue burden waiver requests will be given close scrutiny, and waiver will not be granted highly. In reviewing requests, however, as the legislative history indicates, FTA will look at the individual financial constraints within which each public entity operates its fixed route system. “Any determination of undue financial burden cannot have assumed the collection of additional revenues, such as those received through increases in local taxes or legislative appropriations, which would not have otherwise been made available to the fixed route operator.” (H. Rept. 101-485, Pt. 1, at 31)
Section 37.153 FTA Waiver Determination
If the FTA Administrator grants a waiver for undue financial burden, the waiver will be for a specified period of time and the Administrator will determine what the entity must do to meet its responsibilities under the ADA. Each determination will involve a judgment of what is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. Since each waiver will be granted based on individual circumstances, the Department does not deem it appropriate to specify a generally applicable duration for a waiver.
When a waiver is granted, the rule calls for entities to look first at limiting the number of trips provided to each individual as a means of providing service that does not create an undue burden. This capacity constraint, unlike manipulations of other service criteria, will not result in a degradation of the quality of service. An entity intending to submit an undue burden waiver request should take this approach into account in its planning process.
It should be noted that requiring an entity to provide paratransit service at least during core hours along key routes is one option that the Administrator has available in making a decision about the service to be provided. This requirement stems from the statutory provision that the Administrator can require the entity to provide a minimum level of service, even if to do so would be an undue financial burden. Certainly part of a request for a waiver could be a locally endorsed alternative to this description of basic service. The rule states explicitly the Administrator's discretion to return the application for more information if necessary.
Section 37.155 Factors in Decision To Grant an Undue Financial Burden Waiver
Factors the Administrator will consider in making a decision whether to grant an undue financial burden waiver request include effects on current fixed route service, reductions in other services, increases in fares, resources available to implement complementary paratransit over the period of the plan, current level of accessible service (fixed route and paratransit), cooperation among transit providers, evidence of increased efficiencies that have been or could be used, any unique circumstances that may affect the entity's ability to provide paratransit service, the level of per capita service being provided, both to the population as a whole and what is being or anticipated to be provided to persons who are eligible and registered to receive ADA paratransit service.
This final element allows some measure of comparability, regardless of the specific service criteria and should assist in a general assessment of level of effort.
It is only the costs associated with providing paratransit service to ADA-paratransit eligible persons that can be counted in assessing whether or not there is an undue financial burden. Two cost factors are included in the considerations which enhance the Administrator's ability to assess real commitment to these paratransit provisions.
First, the Department will allow a statistically valid methodology for estimating number of trips mandated by the ADA. While the regulation calls for a trip-by-trip determination of eligibility, this provision recognizes that this is not possible for some systems, particularly the large systems. Since only those trips provided to a person when he or she is ADA eligible may be counted in determining an undue financial burden, this provision is necessary.
Second, in determining costs to be counted toward providing paratransit service, paragraph (b)(3) allows an entity to include in its paratransit budget dollars to which it is legally entitled, but which, as a matter of state or local funding arrangements, are provided to another entity that is actually providing the paratransit service.
For example, a state government may provide a certain formula allocation of the revenue from a certain tax to each jurisdiction for use in providing transportation service at the local level. The funds, depending on local arrangements, may flow either to a transit authority—a regulated entity under this rule—or to a city or county government. If the funds go to the transit authority, they clearly may be counted in an undue burden calculation. In addition, however, this provision also allows funds that flow through the city or county government to be counted in the undue burden calculation, since they are basically the same funds and should not be treated differently based on the accident of previously-determined local arrangements. On the other hand, this provision does not allow funds of a private non-profit or other organization who uses Department of Health and Human Services grant or private contributions to be counted toward the entity's financial commitment to paratransit.