Americans With Disabilities Act

Challenges Faced by Transit Agencies in Complying With the Act's Requirements Gao ID: RCED-94-58 March 11, 1994

The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. The law requires transit systems to gradually make their buses and rail systems accessible to the disabled, including wheelchair users, and provide alternative transportation to those unable to use the transit systems' fixed-route service. Alternative transportation, called paratransit or door-to-door service, is generally provided by vans, minibuses, or taxis. This report (1) reviews the early experiences of transit agencies in phasing in the act's paratransit requirements and notes challenges to successful implementation; (2) provides information on transit agencies' projections of costs and time periods to implement the act's paratransit requirements; and (3) identifies variables affecting the reliability of projections and the magnitude of potential costs.

GAO found that: (1) transit agencies' challenges in implementing ADA provisions include paratransit eligibility determinations, financing paratransit service and accessible vehicles, and continuing service to non-ADA eligible individuals; (2) ADA impact on transit agencies varies; (3) paratransit service is 10 times more expensive than fixed-route service; (4) by 1996, annual ADA costs are expected to be $700 million for paratransit service, $65 million for fixed-route service, and $130 million for rail service; (5) transit agencies' difficulties in establishing eligibility processes include obtaining agreements with the affected groups on service levels, arranging professional review of eligibility applications, and developing an appeal process; (6) most transit agencies have not implemented their eligibility determination processes; (7) most transit officials believe that doing the required trip-by-trip eligibility determinations is impractical; (8) most agencies will have to expand their paratransit capacity to meet ADA requirements, but budget constraints could limit service to only those meeting ADA eligibility criteria; (9) although total implementation costs cannot be estimated because most of the agencies' plans contain incomplete financial data and projections, costs are expected to double under ADA; (10) 61 percent of the agencies expect to be in compliance before 1996, but requests for compliance extensions will probably increase because of financial burdens; and (11) paratransit cost projections are uncertain because improved service could stimulate demand, social service agencies could discontinue their transportation services, and paratransit riders may not switch to accessible fixed-route service.

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