Cap Metro Disability-Service Cuts on Hold

The Texas Civil Rights Project has been given more time to fight Cap Metro's changes to services for the disabled

TCRP argued that without subscription taxi rides – vouchers for regular trips such as work, doctor appointments, and dialysis – Cap Metro's Special Transit Services aren't efficient and flexible enough to meet the comparability requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The ADA requires that a federally funded transit agency provide services for people with disabilities that are parallel to the fixed-route service in terms of wait times and service area.

The lack of same-day scheduling coupled with the proposed elimination of open returns, TCRP argued, can mean long delays for riders who have to change their schedules unexpectedly. Also, Cap Metro's addition of more stringent penalties for no-shows means that those who repeatedly miss rides because of last-minute schedule changes could lose their eligibility altogether. "If someone riding on a fixed-route bus needs to stay late, they can," said Jody Barton, a lawyer for TCRP. "Taxi vouchers allow those with disabilities to do the same."

TCRP also argued that the changes are discriminatory because their intent as a whole is to bump eligible riders off the STS rolls. Cap Metro is planning an in-person screening of all of its STS riders to determine if they are capable of riding a fixed bus. Barton said that many who need paratransit services won't show, because they can't make it to the interview or they don't want to divulge private health information to someone other than their doctor. Barton added that no one would voluntarily use STS instead of the more efficient fixed-route bus system if it weren't absolutely necessary. "It's not like people are clamoring to ride STS."

Bob Heath, attorney for Cap Metro, argued that the agency is well within its rights to implement these changes. He told the judge that Cap Metro's plan for paratransit services was found to be compliant with the ADA by the Federal Transit Administration during the last triannual review in 2006. Cap Metro contends that it's only making changes to the way the plan is implemented, not the plan itself, so as far as the law is concerned, it is still in compliance. Not so, says TCRP Direc­tor Jim Harrington, who noted that the original plan included subscription taxi vouchers.

Yeakel instructed lawyers to submit a brief before July 16, but in the meantime, he has asked them to enter into mediation in an attempt to work out a satisfactory solution.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Capital Metro Special Transit Services, Texas Civil Rights Project, Americans With Disabilities Act, Lee Yeakel, Jody Barton, Federal Transit Administration

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