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44 Case Examples Introduction This chapter presents case examples of transit systemsâ experiences implementing the reason- able modification final rule. Six case examples were developed for this synthesis: 1. ACCESS Transportation Systems (Pittsburgh, PA) 2. Chicago Transit Authority (Chicago, IL) 3. Senior Citizens of Kodiak, Inc., d.b.a. Kodiak Area Transit System (Kodiak, AK) 4. Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, d.b.a. rabbittransit (York, PA) 5. San Mateo County Transit District (San Carlos, CA) 6. Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (Canton, OH) Figure 4-1 displays the locations of the case examples on a map of the United States. The case examples were selected to represent a range of service types, system sizes, organizational struc- tures, and operating environments. Information gathered to develop the case examples included survey responses from each system, interviews with representatives of each system, information and documents gleaned from each systemâs website, additional documents provided by the indi- viduals interviewed, data from the National Transit Database (NTD), and data from the U.S. Census where noted. The chapter ends with a summary of common elements, challenges, and practices reported by transit systems to be effective. ACCESS Transportation Systems Introduction and Context ACCESS Transportation Systems is one of the largest coordinated demand response transpor- tation systems in the United States. ACCESS works as a decentralized brokerage through con- tracts with private and nonprofit transportation providers to work in designated service areas. Service is provided throughout Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and destinations in adjoining counties. ACCESS services are sponsored by more than 140 human service agencies and blends funding from more than 11 state and federal funding sources. ACCESS brokers complement ADA paratransit services for the Port Authority of Allegheny County, the fixed-route public transit provider that serves the Pittsburgh urbanized area, which contracts with ACCESS. Although this case example focuses on the services of ACCESS, NTD data for the Port Author- ity of Allegheny County, including ACCESS services provided under contract, is provided for context in Table 4-1. It should be noted that the services that ACCESS brokers are reported as âdemand-response/purchased transportationâ in the NTD. C H A P T E R 4
Case Examples 45 Figure 4-1. Locations of case examples. Urbanized Area (UZA) Statisticsâ2010 Census âPittsburgh, PA Square Miles 905 Population 1.73 million Population Rank out of 498 UZAs 27 Service Area Statistics Square Miles 775 Population 1.4 million Vehicles Operated in Maximum Service Demand Response/Purchased Transportation 271 Inclined Plane/Directly Operated 2 Light Rail/Directly Operated 60 Bus/Directly Operated 606 Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips Demand Response/Purchased Transportation 1,527,690 Inclined Plane/Directly Operated 492,009 Light Rail/Directly Operated 8,132,130 Bus/Directly Operated 53,671,684 Total 63,823,513 Source: Port Authority of Allegheny Countyâs 2016 Annual Agency Profile, National Transit Database (NTD) Table 4-1. Port Authority of Allegheny County (including demand response services brokered through ACCESS) service area and operations size statistics.
46 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule ACCESS brokers approximately 1.5 million trips per year, through six service providers operating from seven locations. In addition to ADA paratransit, ACCESS brokers discounted demand response transportation services for other types of customers, including seniors, people with disabilities without bus service in their area, Medicaid recipients, and general public demand response services. ACCESS operates with a cashless payment system through an electronic âePurseâ account. ACCESS-brokered services are operated on a door-to-door basis. Drivers provide assistance with going up or down as many as four stairs, carrying up to four packages/grocery bags, and using child car/booster seats. ACCESS provides 10-minute arrival/pick-up notification by automated phone call or text. At public use buildings, drivers will enter the building lobby to announce themselves to the waiting passenger. Operators may set bags inside the passengerâs door or enter just inside the door to assist a passenger who uses a wheelchair. ACCESS has an extensive safety net in place for their passengers. For customers who need continuous supervision, service is provided on a hand-to-hand basis, leaving the passenger at their destination only if there is a responsible person at the destination to receive them there. Customers who need supervision (or special assistance) have a code in their ACCESS file so drivers will know to ensure they are met by their designated person at the drop off point before the vehicle leaves. ACCESS has a no-strand policy, meaning that passengers are guaranteed a ride back home, and drivers are trained to never leave a rider stranded. Additionally, drivers are trained to report signs of changes in health, cognitive functioning, housing, mobility, and problems with personal hygiene or nutrition to the ACCESS central office, and ACCESS works with a network of community service providers to resolve individual problems. General Approach to Reasonable Modifications ACCESS established its reasonable modification policy and procedures in 2014, prior to the publication of the U.S. DOT final rule, because they wanted to have a more structured approach. Prior to this, they had an informal reasonable modification policy. Their policy and procedure was updated following the publication of the final rule. ACCESS provides many of the com- monly requested modifications listed in Appendix E to Part 37 as a standard part of their ser- vice policies, including requests for specific types of vehicles when available, although specific vehicles are not guaranteed. The opportunity to request reasonable modifications is posted on several pages and docu- ments on the ACCESS website, including âIs ACCESS for Me?,â the âACCESS-at-a-Glanceâ fact sheet, and âTrip Tipsâ guides for different customers. Links to these documents on the ACCESS website are provided at the end of this case example. Customers are also notified through the ADA paratransit eligibility determination process. ACCESS provides comprehensive training to contract operators, which includes the reason- able modification in the new hire and refresher training, in addition to distributing the written reasonable modification policy and procedure. How Requests Made in Advance Are Handled Submission of Requests The âIs ACCESS for Me?â web page includes a section under âSpecial Requestsâ that advises, âIf there is an ACCESS rule or policy that, due to your disability, makes it difficult or prevents you from using the service, you may call or write to the central ACCESS office to discuss your situation. When at all possible, requests should be made in advance and will be considered on a
Case Examples 47 case-by-case basis as long as they are reasonable and do not create a direct threat to others or a fundamental change to basic ACCESS service.â ACCESS does not require customers to use the words âreasonable modificationâ when making a request. They encourage customers to include as many details as possible, including reasons why the request is necessary. Requests received by phone, mail, or email are entered into an issue-tracking database and may be escalated for immediate review depending on the request. Requests may also be made through the ADA paratransit eligibility determination process, through the complaint process, as part of the trip scheduling process, and in some cases, on board the vehicle. The reasonable modification process begins with an investigation that may include request- ing additional information from the customer or other involved parties, requesting information from the service provider, and a site or home visit by ACCESS staff. Evaluation of Requests and Decision Making Each request is considered on a case-by-case basis by the ACCESS Reasonable Modifica- tion (RM) Committee. This committee includes senior staff from the Quality Assurance, Customer Service, Safety and Training, and Consumer Advocacy departments, as well as a senior administrator/director. Although ACCESS does not directly involve consumers with disabilities in the decision-making process, the RM Committee includes senior staff from the Consumer Advocacy department. The committee reviews each request, following a decision tree to come to a final decision. The decision tree (Figure 4-2) involves asking: 1) Is the request due to a disability? (and is the modification necessary in order for the passenger to use the service?) If yes, 2) Does the requested modification fundamentally alter the nature of the service? If no, 3) Would the modification create a direct threat? If no, 4) Does the request create an undue financial burden? Consensus of the committee is required for determination. If consensus is not reached, the Executive Director makes the final decision. If the decision is to deny the request, ACCESS explores and seeks work-arounds to help the passenger obtain the service they need. An example of a work-around was for an individual who uses a reclining wheelchair with legs extended. This individualâs chair takes up two spaces on a van. ACCESS advised the individual that if they could travel during off-peak hours, ACCESS could always accommodate them. During peak hours, ACCESS would try to accommodate them on a space-available basis but could not guarantee it. An example of a work-around in a challenging situation involved a customer whose wheel- chair when occupied exceed 800 pounds (more than the ACCESSâs fleet lift design load could accommodate). The customer was offered the alternative of riding separately from her wheel- chair. However, the individual needs substantial assistance in getting in and out of her chairâ constituting Personal Care Assistant (PCA) service that ACCESS drivers do not provide. The individual is able to travel with a home health aide who provides the needed support, and ACCESS builds significant additional boarding time into the schedule for this individual. Another work-around was found for a customer needing to travel with a large number of grocery bags. ACCESSâs regular policy is that drivers will provide assistance with up to four gro- cery bags. Customers who need assistance with a larger number of bags are transported once, but then their service is suspended on the basis of a service disruption. A customer attempted to ride ACCESS with a grocery caddy filled with food plus ten full bags. The customer had obtained food for her extended family from a local food bankâa critical need to feed her family
48 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule Figure 4-2. Decision tree used by ACCESS to evaluate reasonable modification requests. (Courtesy: ACCESS Transportation Systems)
Case Examples 49 that would be occurring once a month. ACCESS provided the needed assistance and then found a work-around for the customer. They allowed her to travel with an escort at no charge (this customer is not eligible for ADA paratransit and thus would normally have to pay a fare for an escort). ACCESS also reached out to the food bank to request their assistance in ensuring that on future visits, her food could be packed into a maximum of eight grocery bags weighing no more than 20 pounds each. The food bank obliged, and with her fare-free companion, the cus- tomer is now able to travel without the driver needing to assist with more than four grocery bags. An example of a challenging request that resulted in a decision to deny the request as a âdirect threatâ involved a passenger who uses a wheelchair and has temperature sensitivity. Under ACCESSâs standard boarding policy, the driver would park the vehicle, go to the door and ring the doorbell, return to the vehicle with the customer, lower the lift, and board the customer. Due to this customerâs disability, the individual is unable to be outside in the cold for the amount of time it takes under the standard procedure. The customer requested instead that the driver park the vehicle, go to the door and ring the doorbell, return to the vehicle while the customer remained indoors, lower the lift, and remain waiting at the vehicle, until the customer came out so he could get on the lift with virtually no delay. In this case ACCESS determined this would create a direct threat to the health of passengers waiting on board the vehicle, because the heat would escape from the vehicle while the lift was lowered during the time it would take for the passenger to arrive at the vehicle and board the lift. In this case, given that this customerâs tem- perature sensitivity could not withstand the additional 90 seconds in the cold required to deploy the lift, an effective work-around could not be identified. Another example of a request that was denied, this time on the basis that the customer could use the service even without the modification, involved a customer who uses a service dog that is trained to ride curled up at her feet in a large sedan in either the front or back seat. ACCESS service providers have been replacing older fleet sedans with smaller modelsâFord Tauruses which have smaller back seats than previously operated Crown Victorias. The cus- tomer requested that she be allowed ride only in the front seat of the sedan because the space at her feet in the rear of the smaller sedan was uncomfortable for the passenger with the dog there. ACCESS declined this request because it was made on the basis of comfort and conve- nience, rather than necessity. Figure 4-3 provides a photo of an ACCESS driver assisting a passenger. Communicating Decisions to Customers Once a decision is made, a designated staff notifies the customer of the decision, including whether an approved request is a one-time, temporary, or ongoing modification. ACCESSâs policy is to make the decision and notification well within ten calendar days whenever pos- sible, and in all cases within 30 calendar days. Communicating Decisions to Transit System Personnel Operating staff are notified of the decision through the customerâs database record, via email and telephone, and in the case of approved requests, via mobile communications and inclusion on the driverâs schedule on the day of service. Handling Ad Hoc Requests Ad hoc requests, referred to by ACCESS as same-day requests, can be made to the vehicle operator or to the call center staff on the day of service. Drivers and reservationists are required to contact dispatch or a supervisor who will either make the decision independently or with guidance from the central ACCESS office.
50 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule How Appeals Are Handled Customers who are unsatisfied with a denied request can file a complaint with the ACCESS administrative office by telephone or in writing. In practice, since this is the office that denied the request, customers will contact an elected official who then contacts the ACCESS admin- istrative office. ACCESS responds to the elected official. Requests are carefully considered and denied only with very good policy-based reason. ACCESS only very rarely hears back from the elected official. Documentation As noted earlier, ACCESS staff enters each request into an issue-tracking database. This includes requests that come from drivers and reservationists. Details of the investigation are entered, as is correspondence with the customer, notification to the service provider, and edits made to the customerâs database file. Discussion and reasoning of the RM Committee is ideally also entered, although in practice the decision-making process is not consistently documented. The RM Committee is careful to consider each request through the decision treeâACCESS feels this process works excellentlyâbut the discussion at these meetings is not always well- documented. On the other hand, additional documentation would result in an additional administrative burden. Each quarter the RM Committee and the Executive Director review a summary of requests approved or denied by category to identify trends and potential consid- eration of changes to existing policies and practices. Impacts on Operations ACCESS has not experienced additional operating burdens or expenses as a result of imple- menting reasonable modification. The high level of person-centered passenger assistance that ACCESS provides may preempt the types of reasonable modification requests that other transit Figure 4-3. An ACCESS driver assists a passenger. (Courtesy: ACCESS Transportation Systems)
Case Examples 51 agencies may receive. In the 2017 calendar year, ACCESS received fewer than 100 advance requests, of which 80%â90% were approved, and fewer than 50 ad hoc requests, about 50% of which were approved. The most frequent request ACCESS receives is for a specific type of vehicle (typically sedan- only) or specific seats on a vehicle (e.g., front seat of sedan-only). ACCESS has found these always to be a legitimate request relating to a disability. For example, a customer with an intel- lectual disability may truly be unable to use the service if they must sit next to another individual, or a specific type of vehicle may be needed to maneuver on someoneâs driveway. ACCESS tries to accommodate people whenever they can. In the beginning, they were more generous in granting these types of requests, but in practice found them hard to manage. Today they grant requests for specific types of vehicles based on availability, but do not guarantee their availability. Perhaps the biggest challenge for ACCESS in implementing reasonable modifications is the use of a case-by-case decision-making process that can appear to result in inconsistency of outcomes. Even though each request involves individual, person-centered decisions based on specific circumstances, the body of decisions sets a precedent. The case-by-case approach can be difficult to explain to the community and customers, as it can appear from the outside as arbitrary and capricious when a rule is broken for one customer but not for others. This is an area where other community agencies can collaboratively help; if they understand, they can help explain to their customers. ACCESS has made presentations to its advisory committee, the Area Agency on Aging, the county Department of Human Services, and community-based agencies (based on its own training for senior managers of the contract service providers). The case-by- case approach to reasonable modification can also be difficult to explain to operators. There has been pushback, and it is an ongoing effort to get operators on board. ACCESS encourages operators to ask questions. Concluding Thoughts ACCESS regularly looks at its own precedents to see if requested needs point to the need for a change in regular policy. About 30 years ago, ACCESS changed its base mode of service from door to door to hand to hand, based on customer needs. During this past winter (2017), which was particularly harsh in the Pittsburgh area, ACCESS modified its inclement weather policy to be less restrictive than it was previously. Since 2015, ACCESS reviews all incident reports to see if there is need for a reasonable modi- fication. This has been a useful source of identifying reasonable modification needs. Reaching out to other community organizations that can help a customer get the extra assis- tance they need to use ACCESSâs services is often the key to finding an effective work-around. As noted above, it has also been helpful in explaining the case-by-case decision-making nature of the reasonable modification policy. ACCESS emphasizes person-centered solutions. They see their role as providing more than a ride, and they focus on the needs of each person. As a broker rather than an operator, ACCESS can be more objective and bring more advocacy to the table than they feel they would be able to if they operated the service. Useful Links â¢ âIs ACCESS for Me?â http://www.myaccessride.com/is-access-for-me/ â¢ âACCESS-at-a-Glanceâ fact sheet http://www.myaccessride.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/ ACCESS-AT-A-GLANCE-Fact-Sheet-12.17-FINAL-1.pdf â¢ âTrip Tips: A Guide for ACCESS ADA Customersâ http://www.myaccessride.com/htmlpdf/ ADA_TRIP_TIPS_Revised_12_17_FINAL/index.html
52 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule Chicago Transit Authority Introduction and Context The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the nationâs second largest public transporta- tion system and covers the City of Chicago and 35 surrounding suburbs. On an average week- day, approximately 1.6 million rides are taken on the CTA whose mission is to âdeliver quality, affordable transit services that link people, jobs and communities.â The Chicago Transit Authority operates rail and fixed-route bus services in the Chicago metropolitan area. CTA operates in coordination with the Regional Transportation Author- ity (RTA) and Pace Suburban Bus. Pace operates the ADA complementary paratransit service for CTAâs fixed routes, and the RTA is responsible for ADA paratransit eligibility certifi- cation. This case study focuses on the reasonable modification practices and experiences on CTAâs fixed-route service. Table 4-2 provides basic indicators of service area and scale of CTA operations. CTAâs bus and rail services are operated entirely in-house. The 129 bus routes serve approxi- mately 10,800 bus stops located throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. The rail system, known as the âL,â is comprised of 145 stations, all of which include some accessible features such as tactile warning strips/truncated domes on platforms, accessible Ventra Fare Media Machines, and accessible fare gates. Additionally, 102 of the stations also have elevators and/or ramps providing vertical access to individuals who use mobility devices or otherwise need this accommodation. Planning is currently under way to achieve 100 percent station accessibility through CTAâs All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP). All CTA stations are staffed by at least one Customer Service Assistant (CSA) to provide information and other assistance to all customers, including those with disabilities. CSAs typically assist riders with disabilities in purchasing Ventra Fare Cards, accessing the station, boarding or alighting the train using a gap filler (portable ramp), securing a mobility device if requested by the customer, and notifying appropriate personnel at the rail station where assistance alighting the train is needed. Addi- tional CSAs and other Operations or Safety Department personnel are posted at more complex stations (such as those with multiple platform levels) and during major visitor events. General Approach to Reasonable Modifications CTA adopted a formal reasonable modification policy as a result of the U.S. DOT final rule in 2015. Prior to the final rule, the transit system had an informal policy regarding reason- able modification requests. As an overarching approach, CTA strives to provide excellent cus- tomer service, including service for people with disabilities. Making reasonable modifications is something CTA does as a matter of customer service and was doing so prior to the final rule. Urbanized Area (UZA) Statisticsâ2010 CensusâChicago, IL- IN Square Miles 2,443 Population 8.6 million Population Rank out of 498 UZAs 3 Service Area Statistics Square Miles 309 Population 3.2 million Vehicles Operated in Maximum Service Heavy Rail/Directly Operated 1,140 Bus/Directly Operated 1,572 Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips Heavy Rail 238.6 million Bus 259.1 million Total 497.7 million Source: CTAâs 2016 Annual Agency Profile, National Transit Database (NTD) Table 4-2. CTA service area and operations size statistics.
Case Examples 53 Particularly with ad hoc requests, operators and other personnel take reasonable modification requests in stride as part of providing day-to-day customer service. CTAâs general policies are such that some policies would not need to be modified to accom- modate people with disabilities. For example, consuming prescribed or needed medication is permitted on board transit vehicles and on other CTA property for all customers. In addition, bus operators are allowed to stop at an alternate location to avoid on-street obstacles for all customers, not just those with disabilitiesâa âcommon senseâ policy that eliminates the need for a policy modification in a city that experiences heavy snowfall and ongoing construction. While eating and drinking is prohibited on CTA property, including on buses and trains, that policy would be reasonably modified should an individual who had a medical condition such as diabetes need to eat while in transit in order to avoid negative consequences. Operation staff is informed about the reasonable modification policy through distribution of written policies and procedures and as part of new hire and refresher training. Management staff is informed via written policies and procedures, as part of new hire training, and at staff meetings. CTAâs Manager of ADA Compliance Programs also defines the policy during ADA and disability awareness trainings and provides telephone clarification in response to specific questions/situations. The ADA manager also works with CTAâs customer service department to ensure that any requests they receive are handled appropriately for review and follow-up. How Requests Made in Advance Are Handled Submission of Requests CTAâs reasonable modification policy, which is posted on the CTA website and found by searching âreasonable modification requests,â instructs customers to submit requests for rea- sonable modifications to CTAâs customer service department by email or telephone. Their web page provides the email address and toll-free telephone numbers for the customer service department. A link to this form is provided at the end of this case example. Customers can also submit requests using CTAâs online feedback form or by calling CTAâs Manager of ADA Com- pliance Programs (whose contact information can be found on other CTA web pages related to accessibility) or other CTA personnel. There is no minimum time frame required for advance submission of requests. Evaluation of Requests and Decision Making Requests for (or complaints related to) reasonable modifications submitted to the customer service department are first reviewed by the customer service staff member who receives the call or email. Requests that are straightforward may be handled by that department and are logged as customer service accommodation requests. Requests that are not straightforward are forwarded to CTAâs Manager of ADA Compliance Programs for evaluation and follow-up. If the manager has any uncertainty as to how to respond, she consults with CTAâs law depart- ment, which includes CTAâs overall compliance unit. If the Manager of ADA Compliance Programs is unavailable, other management personnel can make a decision. CTAâs Manager of ADA Compliance Programs estimates that she has only received one to five formal requests per year for reasonable modifications since the U.S. DOT final rule was published. This excludes requests for service or facility enhancements that are beyond the scope of a reasonable modification policy, even though the customer may label them as such. For example, a customer submitted a reasonable modification request that CTA install customer restrooms at every rail station. It is believed that the low number of requests is related to the fact that the CTA already pro- vides a wide range of accommodations within its formal policies and procedures. Therefore,
54 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule what some people may view as a reasonable modification or accommodation request is not necessary since the accommodation may already exist as a general means of practice. Although CTA does not involve consumers with disabilities who are not employees in the reasonable modification decision-making process, CTAâs Manager of ADA Compliance Pro- grams is an individual with a disability. Communicating Decisions to Customers Once a decision is made, the Manager of ADA Compliance Programs typically communi- cates the decision to the customer by telephone, email, or letter, depending on the customer, nature of the request and preferred communication mode. The decision may also be sent to CTAâs Customer Service Department, which closes the loop on any request that comes through that department. If the decision is to deny the request, the ADA manager explains why this was the case, and offers the customer alternative approaches when possible. For example, in 2016, an individual requested that a CTA fixed-route bus wait for him at a specific location and time in order to facilitate a connection from a Metra commuter rail train (operated by the Commuter Rail Division of the RTA of Chicago), to ensure that he could subsequently make a connection with another fixed-route bus. CTAâs policy is that fixed-route operators continue along their route after servicing a bus stop (assuming they are not running ahead of schedule). The Manager of ADA Compliance Programs determined that having a bus wait at a stop beyond the scheduled time to accommodate an individual customer, who might be running late, would constitute a fundamental alteration of service. However, she provided the customer with other options that could help him make his desired connections, such as Paceâs Taxi Access Program (which encompasses all city taxis at a reduced fare, providing the customer is certified for ADA para- transit eligibility, as this individual was). Communicating Decisions to Transit System Personnel The Manager of ADA Compliance Programs conveys information about approved requests to the management of the appropriate operating unit, through such means as telephone calls, messages emailed to staff, and memos distributed to rail station personnel. The information is conveyed to vehicle operators by mobile communications, such as through the CTA Control Center. To provide an example, in 2016, a couple who was planning to visit Chicago called to request usage of CTA staff restrooms at certain stations during a specific period of time, due to the medical condition of one member of the couple that requires frequent restroom usage. CTA stations are equipped with staff restrooms but not public restrooms. CTAâs general policy, as a safety/security precaution, is to allow a customer to use the staff restroom in certain emergency situations only if three CTA staff members are present at the station. In this case, CTA modified this policy and approved the request by the couple and informed the CTA management staff in charge of these particular rail stations of the decision so that they could alert the stationâs CSAs who would be on duty to be on the lookout for the couple on the days they would be visiting. Handling Ad Hoc Requests Fixed-route operators make decisions about ad hoc requests for reasonable modification as part of their routine customer service policies. As noted earlier, CTA operators take customer service requests in stride. Operators are instructed to ensure safety first and to accommodate customer requests that do not compromise safety.
Case Examples 55 If an operator is uncertain how to respond to any customer request, they are instructed to contact the Operationâs Control Center. Control Center personnel may make the decision or request assistance from a supervisor or the Manager of ADA Compliance Programs depending on the situation. The Manager of ADA Compliance Programs has trained Operationâs Con- trol Center staff and supervisors regarding ADA compliance and general disability awareness information, and the individuals working in these positions often come from other areas of operations and are already familiar with accommodating customer service requests. Rail station CSAs, customer service representatives/supervisors, or other on-site CTA person- nel also respond to ad hoc requests for reasonable modifications during the course of providing customer service. Additionally, they may observe a customer struggling to access the station and offer to assist the customer. In many cases, this would not require a policy to be modified because it is CTA policy that they provide many types of assistance. One type of ad hoc reasonable modification that the Manager of ADA Compliance Programs believes to be relatively common is assisting passengers with handling fare payment. The gen- eral policy is that bus operators, rail CSAs, or other CTA staff are not to touch an individualâs personal belongings or reach inside a bag or backpack. However, they may handle a customerâs Ventra fare card upon request, if it is visible, for instance if the customer is wearing it on a lanyard. Likewise, if a CSA observes that a customer is struggling to insert cash into the Ventra Fare Card Media Machine, they can offer to assist or respond to a customerâs request to assist, but the cash needs to already be in the customerâs hand or otherwise already visible. These are examples of how the CTA provides a reasonable modification to an established operating procedure and practice. How Appeals Are Handled As of March 2018, CTA had not yet received any requests for appeals for reasonable modifica- tion request decisions. In the event of a future appeal, the first step in the process would be to have the ADA manager review the situation, followed by input as needed by the law department and/or CTAâs compliance manager. CTA would then communicate with the customer regarding the outcome of the appeal via telephone, email, or letter. Impacts on Operations As mentioned previously, only a handful of reasonable modification requests are received by the Manager of ADA Compliance Programs, including those escalated to her from the cus- tomer service or other operationâs departments. CTA maintains files regarding all inquiries and decisions. Unless the operator is uncertain how to respond and calls the Operations Control Center, ad hoc requests for reasonable modifications, such as allowing a customer to exit a bus at an unofficial bus stop due to construction or snow blocking the designated bus stop, are not docu- mented or tracked, and it is unknown how frequently this happens. CTA reports that it has experienced no known challenges to date in implementing the reasonable modification final rule with respect to its fixed-route bus and rail systems. Addi- tionally, some Pace paratransit passengers may utilize fixed-route service as a result of modi- fications of policies related to CTAâs mainline transit systems. The experiences of paratransit services (provided by Pace with eligibility certification by the RTA) are not reflected in this case example.
56 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule Concluding Thoughts CTAâs overall commitment to accessibility, safety, and excellent customer service may have preempted the need for many types of requests for reasonable modifications. Many reasonable modification requests may be handled on an ad hoc basis by front-line personnel. The low frequency of reasonable modification requests and related complaints that are escalated to the Manager of ADA Compliance Programs suggests that CTA is effectively addressing customer service requests related to modification of its policies, procedures, and practices. Useful Links â¢ CTAâs accessibility web pageâhttp://www.transitchicago.com/accessibility/ â¢ CTAâs reasonable modification policyâhttp://www.transitchicago.com/accessibility/features/ #rmr â¢ CTAâs online feedback formâhttp://www.transitchicago.com/feedback/ â¢ CTAâs All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP)âhttp://www.transitchicago.com/accessibility/ asap Senior Citizens of Kodiak, Inc., d.b.a. Kodiak Area Transit System Introduction and Context Kodiak Area Transit System (KATS), a program of Senior Citizens of Kodiak, Inc. (SCOK), serves the Kodiak Island Borough off the coast of Alaska, mostly within the city limits of Kodiak. Created as a coordinated human service transportation program in 2000, KATS ser- vices were opened to the general public in 2015. Today the KATS system operates dial-a-ride services seven days a week and provides approximately 20,000 passenger trips per year with two accessible vehicles. In addition to dial-a-ride services, KATS operates scheduled-stop service with flexible rout- ing on weekdays. The scheduled-stop service makes stops at five locations at set times several times a day: the senior center, Sun-aq Tribe of Kodiak offices in downtown Kodiak, the public library, Walmart, and Safeway, which is the only supermarket in Kodiak. In between these time points, dial-a-ride service can be scheduled on the same vehicle to accommodate individual origins and destinations. KATS operations are contracted from a private operator, including dispatchers, drivers, maintenance, and rider registration for dial-a-ride service. SCOK staff provides the upper management and administrative function for KATS. Table 4-3 provides basic indicators of service areas and scale of KATS operations. Service Area Statistics City of Kodiak/Square Miles 3.49 City of Kodiak/Population 6,130 Kodiak Island Borough/Square Miles 6,550 Kodiak Island Borough/Population 13,592 Vehicles Operated in Maximum Service Demand Response/Purchased Transportation 1 Bus/Purchased Transportation 1 Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips Demand Response 17,437 Bus 2,507 Total 19,944 Source: U.S. Census (2010 population), Senior Citizens of Kodiakâs 2016 Annual Agency Profile, National Transit Database (NTD) Table 4-3. KATS service area and operations size statistics.
Case Examples 57 General Approach to Reasonable Modifications KATS provides an essential lifeline for many passengers, and providing assistance tailored to each passengerâs needs is part of how the organization provides regular service to everyone. KATS had a reasonable modification policy prior to the 2015 U.S. DOT final rule, which was updated following the publication of the rule, with a procedure adopted. The reasonable modi- fication policy and procedure is posted on the KATS website and included in the rider guide. Links to these documents are provided at the end of this case example. KATS dial-a-ride service operates on a door-through-door basis, and provision of a high level of passenger service is part of standard operating procedure. At health care facilities, passengers are accompanied through the door to the counter where they check in with medical care personnel. For return trips from a clinic, the clinic calls KATS when the passenger is ready, and the KATS driver meets the passenger inside. Drivers routinely assist with carrying bags of groceries as well as boxes of food from the food bank. Passenger assistance is part of driver training, and the written policy/procedure for reasonable modifications has been distributed to SCOK employees and contract operators. Figure 4-4 provides a photo of a driver assisting a rider in using the lift on a KATS vehicle. How Requests Made in Advance Are Handled Submission of Requests KATSâs reasonable modification policy instructs customers to submit requests for reasonable modifications by telephone or email with at least one day notice. Customers can also submit requests through an ADA complaint (this procedure is also included in the rider guide and on the website), as part of the dial-a-ride service registration, and as part of the trip scheduling process. Although dial-a-ride service is open to everyone, passengers need to register for dial- a-ride service before scheduling a ride. As part of the initial registration process, KATS deter- mines any specific assistance needs. The few advanced requests KATS has received tend to be made by telephone. As a very small organization, KATS publishes a single telephone number that customers can use to get general information, schedule rides, request reasonable modifica- tions, and file complaints. Figure 4-4. A KATS driver assists a rider in using the lift. (Courtesy: KATS)
58 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule Evaluation of Requests and Decision Making Decisions on advanced requests can be made by the operations manager, operations super- visor, or trip scheduler. Typically the person who talks with the rider who makes the request by phone makes the decision. Only a handful of reasonable modification requests have been receivedâonce or twice a monthâand these tend to be requests for service extending outside of the KATS service area, rather than to modify an operating policy. In the case of a request for a ride to the airport (outside of the service area), the person was referred to the senior center, and the senior center found a volunteer to provide the ride. To date, KATS has not denied any requests to modify a policy necessary due to an individualâs disability. If an individual has a wheelchair that, when occupied, exceeds the weight limits of the vehicles (which are described in the rider guide), KATS would reevaluate the situation. In a situation where KATS would have a request for reasonable modification for which input from a person with a disability would be helpful, KATS would seek input from one of its regular riders with a similar disability if possible. SCOK provides services to a wide range of persons with dis- abilities through various programs who could provide feedback and direction. Communicating Decisions to Customers In most cases, the person who talks with the customer making the request by telephone is the person who approves the request, communicates the decision to the rider, and communicates the level of assistance to the drivers. To date, there have been no denials. If a request for a reason- able modification is denied, the executive director would convey this to the customer. Communicating Decisions to Transit System Personnel Decisions are conveyed to operating staff through the customerâs database record in sched- uling and dispatching software as well as on the vehicle operatorâs daily schedule when the individual is scheduled to ride. Denied requests would also be conveyed through phone calls and emails to staff. Handling Ad Hoc Requests Vehicle operators, the dispatcher, supervisor, and operations manager are all authorized to make decisions on ad hoc requests. If a driver is unsure how to respond, they can call dispatch or speak to a manager, which generally can be done within minutes. If needed, the request could be escalated up to the executive director. Ad hoc requests are not documented, but KATS receives very few, if any, ad hoc requests, since passenger assistance needs are generally identified when the individual first registers for dial-a-ride service. How Appeals Are Handled KATS has not established a formal appeals process. However, to date, KATS has not yet denied any requests for modifications, so there has not been a need for appeals. Impacts on Operations Having grown out of a human service transportation program based at a senior center, KATS has always provided a high level of passenger assistance including door-through-door service. It had a reasonable modification procedure in place before the U.S. DOT final rule and adopted a formal policy and updated its reasonable modification procedure following publication of the
Case Examples 59 rule. This has not caused a significant change for KATS operators, because it is standard policy for KATS to provide assistance to meet customer needs. Ad hoc requests are provided by drivers who do not typically need to request permission (though they can contact the dispatcher if they are unsure), so the number of ad hoc modifica- tions is not known. Responses to KATSâ annual passenger survey, and a lack of complaints related to reasonable modification, suggest that KATSâ approach is working effectively for their community. Summary KATS, which grew out of a coordinated human service transportation system, provides a high level of passenger assistance (including door-through-door transportation), and reason- able modifications are made as a matter of regular customer service. Requests for reasonable modifications are rarely received and are typically identified as part of the dial-a-ride registration process, which all riders (including the general public) go through in order to schedule rides. To date, KATS has not denied a request for reasonable modifications. Useful Links â¢ âAbout KATSâ web page, which includes accessibility information as well as the reasonable modification policy and procedureâhttp://katsbus.org/about/index.html â¢ KATS Rider Guideâhttp://katsbus.org/downloads/KATS-Rider-Guide.pdf Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, d.b.a. rabbittransit Introduction and Context Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (doing business as rabbittransit) provides regional public transportation in ten counties in south central Pennsylvania. Headquartered in the City of York, rabbittransit serves both the York urbanized area and the surrounding rural areas. Rabbittransit operates fixed-route bus service in York and Gettysburg (known as Freedom Transit), commuter bus service (known as rabbitEXPRESS) connecting with several other urbanized areas, and demand response service called Shared Ride service. In an eleventh county, rabbittransit is under management contract for the transit system operated by another transit provider. The name âShared Rideâ encompasses all of rabbittransitâs demand response services, includ- ing ADA complementary paratransit service, rural general public demand response, and services provided for human service agency clients and other particular populations covered by a broad mix of funding sources. (It should be noted that the use of the âShared Rideâ service name, by rabbittransit as well as other transit systems in Pennsylvania, differs from the use of the expres- sion âshared rideâ in reference to ADA complementary paratransit in Appendix E to Part 37.) Rabbittransit operates a fully coordinated demand response system, and the agency is able to meet more general public needs by leveraging a wide array of funding sources through arrange- ments with human service agencies, senior centers, hospitals, employers, Veterans Affairs offices, the Pennsylvania Medical Assistance (Medicaid) program, and other entities. Descrip- tions of the various programs included within Shared Ride can be found on rabbittransitâs web- site. Links to web pages referred to in this case example are found at the end of the case example.
60 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule All of rabbittransitâs fixed-route services and most of its demand response services are oper- ated in-house with a portion of the demand response services contracted out. Table 4-4 provides basic indicators of service area and the scale of rabbittransitâs operations. General Approach to Reasonable Modifications Rabbittransit adopted a formal reasonable modification/accommodations policy and pro- cedure as a result of the U.S. DOT final rule in 2015. Prior to the final rule, the transit system had an informal policy as well as a procedure regarding reasonable modification requests. The current policy is posted on the âAccessibility Featuresâ page of the rabbittransit website and the procedure, updated in March 2017, can be downloaded from that web page. Other accessibility features are also introduced on the web page. The ability to request reasonable modifications is addressed in rabbittransitâs Shared Ride Guide in the section on the trip reservation process, with a link provided to more information on rabbittransitâs website. Participants in travel train- ing are informed about the opportunity to request reasonable modifications. Rabbittransitâs overarching approach is customer-centric. The organizationâs mission state- ment reflects this: âMobility is an essential need in order to experience a high quality of life. Rabbittransit dedicates itself to providing its constituents safe, reliable and customer-centered mobility services consistent with the stewardship of its resources.â The transit system wants to âsay yesâ to every request they can, unless it would involve a change of service, a safety hazard, or a significant financial burden, and they want to review and change policies when they do not make sense. Figure 4-5 provides a photo of a customer using a wheelchair on the lift of a rabbittransit vehicle. The entire staff receives ADA training (new hire and refresher for operations, new hire for management), and the staff, including contract operations staff, receives the reasonable modi- fication policy and procedures in writing. The director of mobility services conducts the ADA training. How Requests Made in Advance Are Handled Submission of Requests Rabbittransitâs reasonable modification procedure, which is posted on the website, indicates that customers can submit requests for reasonable modifications by telephone to Mobility Urbanized Area (UZA) Statisticsâ 2010 CensusâYork, PA Square Miles 132 Population 232,045 Population Rank out of 498 UZAs 158 Service Area Statistics Square Miles 911 Population 381,751 Vehicles Operated in Maximum Service Commuter Bus/Directly Operated 9 Demand Response/Directly Operated 103 Demand Response/Purchased Transportation 13 Demand ResponseâTaxi/Purchased Transportation 18 Bus/Directly Operated 35 Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips Commuter Bus 90,973 Demand Response 434,390 Demand ResponseâTaxi 25,385 Bus 1,554,071 Total 2,104,819 Source: York County Transportation Authorityâs 2016 Annual Agency Profile, National Transit Database (NTD). York County Transportation Authority is a legacy name, and the transit agency was renamed Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in 2016. Table 4-4. Rabbittransit service area and operations size statistics.
Case Examples 61 Planning or via email; rabbittransit provides their telephone number and email address on the website as part of the posted reasonable modification procedure. Instructions for submitting complaints and a link to rabbittransitâs Discrimination Complaint Form are also provided. The Shared Ride brochure provides instructions for submitting requests for reasonable modifica- tions in advance via telephone, email, and U.S. Postal Service. Requests Made as Part of Paratransit Eligibility Determination Rabbittransit uses a single application form, available online, for all of the demand response services it operates (including ADA paratransit), collectively referred to by the name Shared Ride. The application gathers enough information to screen applicants for the various funding programs (which can help reduce the cost of service for some trips, or allow for broader service parameters if the customer is eligible for a certain funding program, since, as noted earlier, Shared Ride encompasses other services in addition to ADA paratransit). After eligibility for programs is determined, rabbittransit Mobility Planning staff give a âwel- come callâ to the customer (in addition to a letter), during which the programs they are eligible for are explained. During this call, the rabbittransit staff member explains the Shared Ride services for which the customer is eligible and encourages the customer to explain any special accommoda- tions they might need (such as eating and drinking to maintain blood sugar level), which allows for reasonable modification needs to be addressed at this early stage. Rabbittransit receives about 500 applications per week for Shared Ride services. Evaluation of Requests and Decision Making Advanced requests for reasonable modifications are routed to the director of mobility ser- vices, who either makes the decision himself or consults with the executive director. The director of mobility services serves as rabbittransitâs ADA compliance officer and oversees the customer service and mobility management functions. Rabbittransit focuses on developing an inclusive environment for all riders and utilizes a Transportation Partnerships on Mobility committee to facilitate operational decision making Figure 4-5. A rider uses a rabbittransit lift. (Courtesy: rabbittransit)
62 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule when it comes to riders with disabilities. The committee includes community funding partners and riders (including riders with disabilities and seniors). Committee members are available for consultation, and rabbitransit uses them for specific questions and feedback on the reasonable modification policy. Although not required under the DOT final rule, rabbittransit does try to accommodate requests for specific types of vehicles as best they can, considering this a reasonable request. The only denials to date have been for requests for specific drivers (a fundamental alteration given the need for driver schedule flexibility in providing Shared Ride service) and a request for light rail service (which rabbittransit does not operate, so more involved than a modification of policy) to connect with light rail service in Maryland. Communicating Decisions to Customers Decisions on advanced requests are conveyed to the customer by telephone. In the rare instances when a request has been denied, the director of mobility services calls the individuals to explain the reasoning behind the denial and may also send a letter with an explanation. In the case of the request for light rail service, he explained to the customer how to take fixed-route bus service to connect to the light rail service in Maryland system. No appeals have been received to date, although rabbit does have an appeals process in place. Communicating Decisions to Transit System Personnel Approved requests are conveyed to operating staff through the Shared Ride customer data- base, on the vehicle operatorâs daily schedule when the individual is scheduled to ride, to the vehicle operator by mobile communication, and via email messages to staff. In the event a denial would need to be conveyed to staff, similar lines of communication would be used, but to date this has not been much of an issue. Handling Ad Hoc Requests The organizational culture of saying yes means that drivers make reasonable modifications as part of the normal course of business. If they are uncertain about whether or not a request should be approved, they contact dispatch for assistance. Drivers, dispatchers, supervisors, and managers are authorized to make decisions on ad hoc requests, which tend to be taken care of as part of day-to-day customer service. The written procedure notes the following: Operator availability may be very limited when providing service and if the request would require extended consideration, we may not be able to grant your request immediately, and you may be encour- aged to submit a written request for further consideration on future trips. Rabbittransitâs ability to grant the requested modifications may vary by route, day of travel, time of day, or other circumstances. For example, while a request may be able to be granted in one instance, that same request may be denied in another instance if granting the request would fundamentally alter the nature of the service or create a safety threat, or if the request is not a functional necessity. (rabbittransit, 2017) Ad hoc requests are not routinely documented, so an exact count is not known, but they are believed to be in the range of a few hundred per year, with the vast majority approved. How Appeals Are Handled To date, rabbittransit has not received any appeals for reasonable modification decisions. The established appeals process uses the same form as appeals for service suspension/termination and an appeal would need to be submitted to Mobility Planning.
Case Examples 63 Impacts on Operations Rabbittransit has received very few requests for reasonable modificationsâan estimated two per month on averageâin large part because rabbittransit already proactively makes it easy to ride. One common request is for different passenger pick-up/drop-off locations due to weather or construction. In general, rabbittransitâs executive director encourages reassessment of existing rules that may not work for rabbittransitâs customer-centered mission, which has reduced the need for policy modifications. One significant change made since July 2015 was for rabbittransit to move to a door-to-door ADA paratransit policy (formerly curb-to-curb). The director of mobility services noted that while rabbittransit in general has not experi- enced challenges implementing reasonable modifications, on an individual level he experi- enced a learning curve on considering requests for reasonable modifications when first hired. At the time of this case example interview, he had been in the position 17 months, having made a career transition from a different field. Summary Rabbittransitâs customer-centered approach and proactive changing of policies to make ser- vices more customer-friendly is such that reasonable modifications are infrequently requested and rarely denied. Accommodation needs are identified through an application process for Shared Ride services, which includes ADA paratransit, general public demand response service, and other demand response services. Useful Links â¢ Web page describing the various programs included within rabbittransitâs Shared Ride service componentâhttp://www.rabbittransit.org/SharedRide/HowtoApply/ProgramDescriptions. aspx â¢ âAccessibility Featuresâ page of the rabbittransit website which includes links to download the reasonable modification procedure in different file formats and languagesâhttp://www. rabbittransit.org/SharedRide/AccessibilityFeatures.aspx â¢ rabbittransitâs Shared Ride Guideâhttp://www.rabbittransit.org/Portals/0/PDF/Rabbit- 17-2320_Paratransit_web.pdf â¢ rabbittransitâs Shared Ride application formâhttp://www.rabbittransit.org/dotnetnuke/ Portals/0/PDF%20Files/Shared%20Ride%20Application%20.pdf San Mateo County Transit District Introduction and Context The San Mateo County Transit District (the District) administers public transit and trans- portation programs in San Mateo County, California. San Mateo County is located within the San FranciscoâOakland, California, urbanized area, immediately south of San Francisco on the peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Services and programs admin- istered by the District include SamTrans bus service, Redi-Wheels and RediCoast paratransit services, Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (doing business as Caltrain commuter rail), and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, which funds transportation services and projects through a voter-approved tax measure.
64 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule Headquartered in San Carlos, SamTrans provides fixed-route bus services throughout most of the populated areas of the county with service into downtown San Francisco and to Palo Alto in Santa Clara County. Redi-Wheels serves the north and east (bayside) of San Mateo County, and RediCoast serves the Pacific coast side. Paratransit operates on a curb-to-curb basis with door-to-door service upon request. Caltrain operates between San Francisco and Gilroy in Santa Clara County to the south (serving the San Jose urbanized area). The District also operates several commuter-oriented shuttles to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rail stations, as well as several shuttles within local communities to Caltrain stations. Some of the community shuttles operate on a route-deviation basis for the general public, and some allow passengers to flag the bus to stop anywhere along the route where it is safe to stop. Other shuttles are designed to meet the needs of specific populations and provide door-to-door dial-a-ride service. The District contracts out all rail and paratransit service operations, as well as ADA para- transit eligibility determination. Some paratransit service is subcontracted to a taxicab operator. Fixed-route bus is operated both in-house and by contract operators. Table 4-5 provides basic indicators of service area and the scale of SamTrans (including paratransit) and Caltrain services. General Approach to Reasonable Modifications The District adopted a formal reasonable modification policy as a result of the U.S. DOT final rule in 2015. Prior to the final rule, the transit system did not have a policy regarding reason- able modification requests. However, the District had (and continues to have) an overarching approach to providing good customer service, and requests for reasonable modifications are part of providing customer service. Both in-house and contracted operations staff members are informed about the Districtâs reasonable modification policy through new hire and refresher training and through written policy and procedures (including the personnel handbook). Man- agement also receives the written policy and procedure. Customers and potential customers are informed about the ability to request reasonable modifications through multiple approaches. Printed brochures include this information in SamTrans/ Paratransit Caltrain Urbanized Area (UZA) Statisticsâ2010 Censusâ San FranciscoâOakland, CA Square Miles 524 Population 3,281,212 Population Rank out of 498 UZAs 13 Service Area Statistics Square Miles 97 425 Population 737,100 3,690,367 Vehicles Operated in Maximum Service Commuter Rail/Purchased Transportation 0 105 Bus/Directly Operated 180 0 Bus/Purchased Transportation 80 30 Demand Response/Purchased Transportation 81 0 Demand ResponseâTaxi/Purchased Transportation 20 0 Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips Commuter Rail 0 18,355,641 Bus 13,170,760 728,346 Demand Response 269,371 0 Demand ResponseâTaxi 90,634 0 Total 13,530,765 19,083,987 Source: 2016 Annual Agency Profiles for San Mateo County Transit District and Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board d.b.a. Caltrain, NTD Table 4-5. San Mateo County Transit District service area and operations size statistics.
Case Examples 65 the context of general system accessibility as well as for specific services. The websites of both SamTrans and Caltrain include information on reasonable modification, and reasonable modi- fication is discussed as part of travel training. The San Mateo County Paratransit Riderâs Guide includes a section on reasonable modification. This guide also provides detailed information on what drivers can and cannot do, what passengers can bring with them on the service, and other policies and service features (such as the use of a mix of vehicle types and the permit- ting of eating and drinking on the vehicle if necessary due to a disability) that could impact requests for reasonable modifications. Links to each of these documents and other web pages referred to in this case example are found at the end of this case example. How Requests Made in Advance Are Handled Submission of Requests SamTransâs reasonable modification policy web page encourages customers to submit requests for reasonable modifications through an online form. A screen capture of this form is provided in Figure 4-6. Telephone, email, and postal mail addresses for the SamTrans Accessible Services Department staff are also provided on the reasonable modification web page, as is a link to an online complaint form. Comparable information is posted in the Caltrain website with a link to a similar form. Both the SamTrans and Caltrain forms allow customers to submit one request for multiple applicable district transit services. The San Mateo County Paratransit Riderâs Guide also provides a link to the SamTrans online request form. Many requests for modifications of policy are submitted by telephone, email, or online as general customer service requests to the customer service center (for SamTrans, Paratransit, or Caltrain) without necessarily specifying âreasonable modification.â The customer service rep- resentatives log customer service requests into a database for tracking. Requests for reasonable modification that come to the customer service center are emailed to the Accessible Services department where the messages are handled by multiple individuals to ensure coverage. Other requests are made directly to the Accessible Services department or through the ADA complaint process. Evaluation of Requests and Decision Making The accessibility coordinator is the individual primarily responsible for evaluating reasonable modification requests, with other individuals available as a backup in his absence. The acces- sibility coordinator contacts the customer and requests specific information about the situation. Bus or rail operations are consulted if relevant to the request, and legal may be consulted for challenging situations. In the event a request is determined to be a direct threat to the safety of others or a fundamental alteration of service, Accessible Services works with the customer and appropriate operations department to identify another work-around to enable the customer to use the service. General decisions made at a policy level are made by the District staff. An example that required additional information from both the customer and bus opera- tions was a request for bus operator assistance to assist the customer with boarding using her wheeled walker. Accessible Services contacted bus operations to obtain their perspective and learned that this particular customer had modified her walker with several attachments that expanded its size considerably. Upon further discussion with the customer, Accessible Services learned that what the customer really wanted was assistance securing the walker rather than boarding assistance, but the assessment of operations was that, due to the attachments, the walker and the attachments were so large that they created a safety concern for other pas- sengers. After consulting with the Districtâs legal department and meeting with the customer and looking at the device, it was determined that the request could be accommodated if the
66 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule Figure 4-6. Request for reasonable modification form on the SamTrans website. (Courtesy: San Mateo County Transit District)
Case Examples 67 customer reduced the size of some of the attachments so that the device did not block the aisle or otherwise create a safety hazard. An example of a request on paratransit that was not straightforward for determining an immediate response involved a pick-up request in a private parking lot that was not safe for certain buses in the fleet to maneuver. Assigning a particular type of vehicle would have consti- tuted a fundamental alteration of service. Although the transit agency found it unsafe to access the customerâs requested pick-up location with its mixed fleet, they offered an alternative loca- tion with a safe place for a paratransit vehicle to pull over. An example of a challenging request on Caltrain service involved a customerâs request to bring a tandem bicycle on board the train. (The customer rode a tandem bicycle with another person because of a visual disability.) Caltrainâs general policy regarding bicycles on trains prohibits tandem bicycles and, for safety reasons, protrusion of any bicycles into the aisle. Due to the size of this particular customerâs tandem bicycle, it could not be positioned in a way that did not block the door to the rail car, so this request was not approved. Communicating Decisions to Customers Once a decision is made, the District responds with a letter to the customer, a telephone call, or an email. If there are any caveats to an approval, they are detailed in the letter. In the case of the customer requesting assistance with boarding/securing her modified wheeled walker, the letter of approval was on the condition that the attachments did not block the aisle. It was signed by the Director of Bus Transportation, providing the customer with a statement of authority in the event she needed to show the letter to an operator. Communicating Decisions to Transit System Personnel Staff is notified internally through an email chain and through management of contracted services who issue notices to operators. For rail services, notices are also provided to conductors. Decisions on reasonable modifications on paratransit are conveyed through operations notices as well as to individual operators through notes on their manifests and to reservationists in the scheduling software. In the case of the customer requesting assistance with boarding/securing her modified wheeled walker, bus operations management were notified, and they sent notices to operators. Addition- ally, the customer could show her letter of approval signed by the Director of Bus Transpor- tation. Decisions on reasonable modifications on paratransit are also conveyed to operators through notes on their manifests and to reservationists in the scheduling software. Handling Ad Hoc Requests Operators, as part of providing day-to-day customer service, may make reasonable modifi- cations on an ad hoc basis, with radio control and supervisors authorized to make decisions. Ad hoc requests are not routinely documented. When the District implemented its reasonable modification policy and procedures in 2015, the plan was to keep a tally of instances of providing ad hoc modifications (for example, moving the stopping location when the bus stop is blocked). Fixed-route transit operators recorded the number of occurrences by pressing a button on the mobile data terminal. Although this procedure has not been fully or consistently implemented, if an operator contacts radio control regarding an unusual situation, this communication is docu- mented in the dispatch log. Paratransit operators may also record notes on their trip manifest. Most ad hoc requests are believed to be addressed by operators without contacting radio con- trol, and it is unknown how frequently ad hoc requests are made. However, the transit agency
68 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule has not received complaints to suggest that ad hoc reasonable modification requests are being denied. (Accessible Services reviews complaints to determine if there are potential customer service issues related to reasonable modifications.) Requests Identified through the Paratransit Eligibility Determination Process The ADA paratransit determination process of the District begins with in-person interviews during which the particular abilities and needs of the individual are evaluated, including the need for a modification of general policy. The need for a modification of policy in order to use the paratransit service does not affect the individualâs eligibility for paratransit (although if the District does not approve the request, the prospective applicant may determine that this is not the best service for them). How Appeals Are Handled The District has yet to receive any appeals of decisions on reasonable modification requests. However, an appeals process has been established in case this is ever necessary. Appeals would be considered by an ad hoc panelâformed with representatives of Accessible Services, the legal department, the appropriate operating division, and potentially other departments, as appropriate. Impacts on Operations The District has not experienced a high volume of requests; however, they occasionally experi- ence difficulty in determining whether a request would amount to a fundamental alteration or a direct threat, or whether a modification is needed in order for a customer to use the service. Finding a work-around on specific situations can sometimes pose a challenge. The District has made some changes to operating policies to preempt the need for a reasonable modification request. The former âno eating on the busâ policy was changed to allow any customer to eat on board if they state that they need to do so because of a disability. (Eating has always been allowed on rail services.) Also, fixed-route bus operators are allowed as a general policy to stop at alterna- tive locations when there are barriers at a bus stop. In calendar year 2017, the District received 18 advanced requests for reasonable modifica- tions. About 61% were denied on the basis of fundamental alteration or direct threat, 5% were approved, and the remaining 33% were ânot applicable.â The ânot applicableâ requests were determined to be general customer service requests, such as instructions on how to apply for paratransit, or requests for amenities such as a bench at a bus stop, rather than true reasonable modification requests. Some of the requests have been for modifications to policies that the District has already changed (for example, eating on the bus). Accessible Services reports that the most popular request on paratransit has been for a specific type of vehicle (which would constitute a fundamental alteration), and rail requests often involve bicycles. To date, no requests for reasonable modifications have been made on the deviated fixed-route or general public dial-a-ride services. Summary Making reasonable modifications is part of the Districtâs overarching approach to provid- ing customer service. Under its general policies, the District already meets many accessibility needs, such as door-to-door paratransit upon request, permission for riders to eat on board if they need to due to a disability, and authorization for operators to adjust fixed-route stopping
Case Examples 69 locations to avoid access barriers. The District has not experienced a high volume of modifica- tion requests in advance, but for those few it does receive, many are already consistent with regular service policies. Occasionally the District experiences difficulty in making the decision as to whether or not to approve the request or how to provide a work-around when denied. Ad hoc requests, though generally not documented, are believed to be effectively addressed by operators as part of day-to-day customer service based on lack of complaints received related to ad hoc modification requests. Useful Links â¢ SamTrans accessible services brochureâhttp://www.samtrans.com/Assets/_Accessible+Services/ pdf/2016+People+with+Disabilities.pdf â¢ SamTrans web page on reasonable modificationsâhttp://www.samtrans.com/Accessibility/ ReasonableModification.html â¢ Caltrain web page on reasonable modificationsâhttp://www.caltrain.com/riderinfo/ Accessibility/ReasonableModification.html â¢ San Mateo County Paratransit Riderâs Guideâhttp://www.samtrans.com/Assets/_Accessible+ Services/pdf/Paratransit+Riders+Guide.pdf â¢ SamTrans reasonable modification request formâhttp://www.samtrans.com/Accessibility/ ReasonableModification/ReasonableModificationForm.html â¢ Caltrain reasonable modification request formâhttp://www.caltrain.com/riderinfo/ Accessibility/ReasonableModification/ReasonableModificationForm.html â¢ Caltrain policy regarding bicycles on trainsâhttp://www.caltrain.com/riderinfo/Bicycles/ Bicycle_General_Info.html Stark Area Regional Transit Authority Introduction and Context Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), based in Canton, Ohio, provides fixed-route bus services throughout Stark County and to Akron and Cleveland. SARTA operates 34 fixed routes (including local and commuter bus routes), ADA paratransit service known as Proline, and demand response services for eligible Medicaid recipients. SARTA serves both urban and rural areas. All services are operated in-house. Table 4-6 provides basic indicators of service area and scale of SARTAâs operations. General Approach to Reasonable Modifications SARTA adopted a formal reasonable modification as a result of the U.S. DOT final rule in 2015. Prior to the final rule, the transit system had an informal policy regarding reasonable Urbanized Area (UZA) Statisticsâ2010 Census â Canton, OH Square Miles 166 Population 279,245 Population Rank out of 498 UZAs 135 Service Area Statistics Square Miles 581 Population 375,586 Vehicles Operated in Maximum Service Demand Response/Directly Operated 30 Bus/Directly Operated 33 Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips Demand Response 171,493 Bus 2,341,142 Total 2,512,635 Source: SARTAâs 2016 Annual Agency Profile, National Transit Database (NTD) Table 4-6. SARTA service area and operations size statistics.
70 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule modification requests, but not a formal procedure for handling requests. SARTA regards itself as a community resource and accommodates modification requests as part of doing the right thing. Customers and potential customers learn about SARTAâs reasonable modification policy and procedure in the Proline Shared Ride Policy handbook (Figure 4-7), through the Proline eligibil- ity application process, and as part of travel training (provided by SARTA for both fixed-route and Proline services). A link to the Proline Shared Ride Policy handbook, as well as other web pages referenced here, are provided at the end of the case example. SARTAâs staff training on making reasonable modifications includes new hire and refresher training conducted by the Transit Trainers and the Transportation Planning Manager. They also provide individual coaching for operators when needed. How Requests Made in Advance Are Handled Submission of Requests As explained in the policy, requests can be submitted by telephone, email, and U.S. Postal Service. SARTA has a form for requesting reasonable modifications posted to their website. The policy and request form provide contact information for the Director of Employee Relations and EEO. Requests are also identified through the ADA complaint process, as part of the ADA paratransit eligibility determination process, during the paratransit trip reservations process, through ad hoc requests (described later), and occasionally through social media. Most requests are made through telephone calls and the paratransit eligibility determination process. Evaluation of Requests and Decision Making Requests received in advance are sent to the Transportation Planning Manager. He is respon- sible for approving the request if the request would constitute a direct threat, a fundamental alteration, or undue burden. Other staff members may be involved in the decision-making Figure 4-7. SARTA Proline policy handbook cover. (Courtesy: SARTA)
Case Examples 71 process in situations where they may have operational control or situational expertise that would be better suited to making an informed decision. Sometimes, road supervisors are called upon to evaluate potential safety issues. In more complex requests, other managers, the chief operating officer, and/or legal counsel may be consulted. One of the more frequent types of requests SARTA receives is for the Proline vehicle to pull into a passengerâs driveway. For these requests, a road supervisor makes a site visit and assesses the driveway conditions, including width, grade, and surface condition. Other conditions are also reviewed, including hazards such as shrubbery or tree branches, turnaround area, and roadway conditions. They check to see if the vehicle needs to back out into traffic, potentially causing damage to the vehicle or the customerâs private property. The road supervisor also determines whether or not the SARTA vehicle could safely utilize the driveway. The supervisor takes photos and measurements documenting the determination of accommodating a vehicleâs turning radius. Communicating Decisions to Customers SARTA generally conveys approvals of the requests for modifications to customers by tele- phone. If the request cannot be fulfilled, SARTA attempts to find an alternate solution for the passenger. In those cases, a letter is sent by mail. Often the alternative solution involves reach- ing out to other community partners who could help the customer or change circumstances to facilitate SARTAâs approval of the request. For example, in the case of a Proline customer with tree branches hanging over the driveway, SARTA referred the customer to a local nonprofit that could trim the branches for him. In another case, a customer requested assistance pushing a manual wheelchair up a pair of 2â x 4â boards lying on porch steps up to their door. While this was determined to pose a direct threat to the safety of the operator and passenger, SARTA reached out to a community organization that constructs ramps for those in need and helped the customer obtain an appropriate ramp. Communicating Decisions to Transit System Personnel Reasonable modification approvals and denials are communicated through notes in the Pro- line passenger record in the scheduling software. SARTA operators see these notes on their manifest via the mobile data terminal (MDT). Notes are also included on the operatorâs mani- fest. In some cases, denials are conveyed through staff memos, training, and employee emails. When an operator misses the modification and a complaint is filed or discovered through routine checks, additional training is provided. Identifying Reasonable Modifications through the Paratransit Eligibility Determination Process SARTA may identify requests for reasonable modifications as part of the Proline para- transit eligibility determination process. In such cases, the intake administrator may approve the customerâs request for reasonable modification of policy. If the intake administrator does not approve the request, he forwards the request to the transportation planning administrator for consideration. The most common requests for reasonable modifications on Proline are utilizing the cus- tomerâs driveway, assisting a customer to and from a door other than the front door, assistance through the door, and requests for a particular type of vehicle. Proline service operates door to door upon request. SARTAâs policy is to stop at the door and to keep the vehicle in view. While this is the official policy, SARTA operators will try to accommodate through-door requests to the first point of reception in public or commercial buildings such as health care facilities, but not in private residences such as apartment buildings. SARTA operators are not authorized to make
72 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule this modification in situations where a passenger with dementia (or other types of cognitive or emotional disabilities) would be left alone on board the vehicle. SARTA may accommodate requests for specific types of vehicles if the alteration is deemed to be a necessity rather than a preference. The most requested vehicle is the MV-1, a unique type of vehicle that comprises about 20 percent of the Proline fleet. The MV-1, which is smaller and easier to maneuver than other fleet vehicles, is often used to accommodate requests to use passenger driveways. One customer requested not to be transported on an MV-1 because of his height and inability to bend down to board. This request was approved as it was related to a medical condition. SARTA has received requests for MV-1s simply because a customer preferred it over types of vehicles. These requests were not approved because the customer was still able to use the service without the modification. For Proline applicants who use mobility devices, SARTA conducts an assessment of the mobility device as part of the eligibility determination process. The mobility device assessment includes taking measurements, obtaining the weight of the occupied device, and determining how to secure the device on SARTA vehicles (which often includes installation of QâStraint webbing loops). The lifts on SARTAâs fleet are designed to accommodate up to 800 pounds. Pas- sengers whose occupied devices exceed this weight are offered the option of boarding separately from their device with the assistance of a PCA (provided by the passenger). Handling Ad Hoc Requests Operators are allowed a good deal of discretion to make decisions on ad hoc requests. In fact, SARTA encourages decision making at the earliest level possible (with the exception of drive- way service requests), and transit operators know how to make determinations on common scenarios. For situations that might result in a direct threat to health or safety, or any situation in which the operator is uncertain how to respond, they are directed to contact dispatch. Dispatch is authorized to make decisions on ad hoc requests. For more complex situations or those with potential safety concerns, a road supervisor will report to the scene to assess the situation and make a determination. Generally, a road supervisor will be on scene in less than 20 minutes. If the decision is made by the operator or dispatcher, it is generally determined within a couple of minutes. Ad hoc requests on paratransit are typically for assistance to or from the door (provided upon request as part of regular policy), or to meet the customer at a different door. Sometimes driveway service requests are made on an ad hoc basis, and these trigger the need for a road supervisor. Nearly all fixed-route requests for reasonable modifications are made on an ad hoc basis, and most have to do with bus stop locations. At stops where the wheelchair lift or ramp is needed but not accessible (e.g., because there is no sidewalk or paved landing area), operators are instructed to stop at the nearest driveway to deploy the lift. In these cases, a passenger will not need to request the modification. Occasionally, operators receive requests to make a flag or courtesy stop at a location along the route that is not a designated bus stop. In these cases, the operator may make the stop, if safe to do so, and advise the passenger of the regular policy. Ad hoc requests are not documented. However, operators are encouraged to submit a feed- back form at the end of their shift to report ad hoc requests. The intake administrator or para- transit supervisor reviews ad hoc requests to determine if the modification might become an ongoing need (particularly when a road supervisor was called to the scene). If this is the case,
Case Examples 73 they will proactively consider this an advanced request and add a note in the Proline record of how to handle the approved or denied request in the future. This allows SARTA to reduce the decision-making burden on operators, dispatchers and transit supervisors. How Appeals Are Handled SARTA has established a formal appeals process for reasonable modification request deci- sions; this is detailed in the reasonable modification policy. At the time of this draft report, no appeals have been filed. In one case, a customer who was denied a requested modification chose not to file an appeal but instead filed two tort cases and discrimination charges with the Ohio Civil Rights Com- mission. The Civil Rights Commission found no probable cause of violating her rights and both tort cases were dismissed with prejudice. This individual requested, among other things, to have a specific forward facing seat on any fixed-route bus (not one of the designated priority seats for seniors and people with disabilities, but one with ample leg room) be made available to her on an on-call basis. Additionally, she requested that SARTA ensure no rider using a mobility device be positioned in front of her. Impacts on Operations SARTA does not track requests for reasonable modification and the number of requests received is not known. Most requests are dealt with through the paratransit eligibility determi- nation process or on an ad hoc basis. Since this is the operational procedure, tracking has not been implemented. Operational impacts to SARTA as a result of the reasonable modification rule have been minimal. The most significant delays occur when a Road Supervisor is dispatched to the scene. Challenges and Lessons Learned One of the challenges that SARTA has experienced is consideration of specific circum- stances related to ad hoc requests. Despite training on the primary guidelines for reason- able modifications, some circumstances present a challenge to decipher. SARTA has taken a number of steps to alleviate staff concerns and has learned from its experiences. The first step is to create a culture where line staff is educated enough to make routine decisions. This can be accomplished through routine new hire and refresher training. SARTA allows staff to call dispatch or a supervisor when the circumstances are not âcut and dry.â The second step is to take a proactive approach for requests, especially related to paratransit needs. Taking steps to ensure the request is on the manifest, and that time is built into the schedule, has been instrumental to not hindering key performance metrics. Providing a method for operators to communicate ad hoc requests (through the feedback form) has been helpful for turning ad hoc requests into solutions. Useful Links â¢ SARTAâs accessibility web page, which includes a link to download SARTAâs reasonable modification policyâhttp://www.sartaonline.com/accessibility â¢ SARTAâs reasonable modification request formâhttp://www.sartaonline.com/Content/ uploads/ADA-Request-for-Reasonable-Modification-3090.pdf â¢ Proline Shared Ride Policy handbookâhttp://www.sartaonline.com/Content/uploads/ Paratransit-Policy-May-2018-3867.pdf
74 Implementing the U.S. DOT Reasonable Modification Rule Summary This chapter presents the experiences of six transit agencies operating a wide variety of services in a wide variety of operating environments and organizational structuresâfrom a two-bus general public demand response system in a small town in a very rural area, to the fixed-route bus and rail system serving Chicago. A common theme across each of the case examples is a customer-centric approach that existed in each before the publication of the final rule on reasonable modification. None of these examples have experienced an additional burden on operations as a result of implementing the final rule. The challenges that they reported facing include the following: â¢ Time involved in making decisions; â¢ Use of a case-by-case decision-making process which can appear inconsistent to customers and outside organizations; and â¢ Documentation, especially of ad hoc requests. Actions that the case examples have found to be effective include the following: â¢ Taking a proactive approach for identifying needs for reasonable modifications, including the paratransit eligibility process as well as reviewing complaints, incident reports, and ad hoc requests; â¢ Using a decision tree to evaluate requests; â¢ Reaching out to other organizations in the community to help with work-arounds; â¢ Collaborating with other organizations to educate their customers about the reasonable modification policy; â¢ Educating staff on how to make routine decisions; â¢ Consulting with other persons in the transit agency to help evaluate requests, including operations and legal; â¢ Ensuring that approved requests are on the driverâs manifest; â¢ Building extra time into the driverâs schedule for requests that need additional time; â¢ Providing a method for operators to communicate ad hoc requests; and â¢ Reviewing requests on a regular basis to determine if changes to regular policies may be warranted.