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Suggested Citation:"Legal Research Digest 54." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Impacts of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Transit Agency Liability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25329.
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TRANSIT COOPERATIVE RESEARCH PROGRAM Sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration December 2018 Legal Research Digest 54 IMPACT OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ON TRANSIT AGENCY LIABILITY This report was prepared under TCRP Project J-05, “Legal Aspects of Transit and Intermodal Transportation Programs,” for which the Transportation Research Board is the agency coordinating the research. The report was prepared under Topic 17-01 by Larry W. Thomas, The Thomas Law Firm, Washington, D.C. Responsible Senior Program Officer: Gwen Chisholm Smith The Problem and Its Solution The nation’s 6,000 plus transit agencies need to have access to a program that can provide authoritatively researched, specific, limited-scope studies of legal issues and problems having national significance and application to their business. Some transit programs involve legal problems and issues that are not shared with other modes, as for example, compliance with transit-equipment and operations guidelines, FTA financing initiatives, private- sector programs, and labor or environmental standards relating to transit operations. Also, much of the informa- tion that is needed by transit attorneys to address legal concerns is scattered and fragmented. Consequently, it would be helpful to the transit lawyer to have well- resourced and well-documented reports on specific legal topics available to the transit legal community. The Legal Research Digests (LRDs) are developed to assist transit attorneys in dealing with the myriad of initia- tives and problems associated with transit start-up and operations, as well as with day-to-day legal work. The LRDs address such issues as eminent domain, civil rights, constitutional rights, contracting, environmental concerns, labor, procurement, risk management, security, tort liabil- ity, and zoning. The transit legal research, when conducted through the TRB’s legal studies process, either collects primary data that generally are not available elsewhere or performs analysis of existing literature. Foreword In the 28 years since its enactment, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) has become a fixed part of America’s cultural and legal landscapes. The ADA has transformed U.S. transit agencies, which now have sophis- ticated programs to address a wide variety of accessibility goals in such areas as the design of transit stations, bus and rail vehicle design, media stop announcements, para- transit programs, website design and content, and many other tools that address ADA requirements. In 1998 when the ADA was relatively new and there was very little reported case law, TCRP saw a need to assess the potential of tort liability and identify unreported tort liability cases arising out of the ADA, and in Decem- ber 1998, TCRP published TCRP Legal Research Digest 11: Potential for Tort Liability for Transit Agencies Arising Out of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the years since, it has become clear that for transit agencies tort lia- bility is only a small aspect of the many legal risks and liabilities presented by the ADA. In fact, by far the most publicized legal disputes involving transit agencies and ADA claims have been civil rights lawsuits. In response to several U.S. Supreme Court cases that narrowly interpreted the ADA definition of disability, in 2008 Congress amended the ADA to clarify and broaden the definition. This digest provides a comprehensive overview of the types of transit agency ADA requirements and legal claims against transit agencies that the ADA as amended has generated. This research presents an assessment of problems in implementing the Act from the perspective of transit operators. Although case law is limited, the Federal Transit Admin istration (FTA) has issued exten- sive regulatory guidance, which transit agencies can draw upon in assessing compliance requirements associated with the Act. Relevant FTA guidance is summarized in detail in this report. This digest will be helpful to transit operators, admin- istrators, planners, risk managers, and attorneys with an interest in devising a transit program that meets the objectives of the ADA.

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TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Legal Research Digest 54: Impacts of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Transit Agency Liability explores the types of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and legal claims against transit agencies. The ADA has transformed U.S. transit agencies, which now have sophis­ticated programs to address a wide variety of accessibility goals in such areas as the design of transit stations, bus and rail vehicle design, media stop announcements, para­transit programs, website design and content, and many other tools that address ADA requirements. This research presents an assessment of challenges in implementing the ADA from the perspective of transit operators. Additionally, this digest summarizes relevant guidance from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration. Download the following appendix that accompanies the report:

  • Appendix D: Transit Agencies' Policies, Procedures, and Other Materials
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