Understanding Fixed Route Services Under the ADA

Transportation for people with disabilities can sometimes get complicated. In this three-part series, we will share some important things that will help you become more comfortable and a transportation pro. Our first post focuses on making the most of fixed- route services.

Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal civil rights law protecting people with disabilities from discrimination. The law ensures equal treatment of all people, regardless of any disability. The five sections of the ADA dealing with different aspects of public life include:

  • Employment

  • Access to private businesses

  • Telecommunications and public programs like transportation

Title II of the ADA

This section relates to public programs, services and activities provided by a public entity. It protects people with disabilities from discrimination in public transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation issues regulations that define your rights under Title II of the ADA.

Title II of the ADA applies to public transportation services such as city buses, commuter rail, subway stations, Amtrak and paratransit services. Title III of the ADA applies to private transportation services such as hotel shuttles, private buses and vans and taxis.

Fixed-route is one service covered under public transportation. This includes any city’s regular bus system, light rail, or rapid transit routes. We will cover the second service–demand response–in the third post of this series.

The fixed-route system transports individuals by public entities and follows a prescribed route according to a fixed schedule. Under the law, transit entities are required to provide and maintain services and equipment which allow individuals with disabilities to access:

  • Information

  • Communication modes

  • Vehicles

  • Stops and signage 

  • Staff and services

Public entity personnel must understand how the vehicles and equipment operate. They should also know how to appropriately interact with any person, regardless of their disability. Bus drivers need to pay attention to people boarding their vehicles so they can assist people with different disabilities as needed. 

Common accommodations

Here are some accommodations fixed-route drivers should use when needed by someone with a disability.

  • If the system does not use an automated annunciation system, transit drivers must be able to announce transfer points, major intersections, destination points and intervals along the route in a manner sufficient to orient people with visual impairments to their location.

  • Use notepads for communicating with people with hearing or dual sensory losses.

  • Provide adequate time for passengers to board and disembark the vehicle.

  • Drivers are required to help with lifts, ramps, and securement devices. The driver must help you, even if it means leaving his or her seat. 

  • If priority seating areas are occupied by non-disabled people and a passenger with a disability who needs this seating boards, operators must ask that seat to be vacated for that passenger.

Complete complaint procedures vary depending upon the transportation agency. You should contact your local agency’s customer service department to find out how you would file a complaint. 

If you use Omaha’s fixed-route system and need to file a complaint, use Metro’s online comment form. You can also call the customer service line at 402.341.0800 or 402.341.0807 (TDD).

When making a complaint you must provide:

  • Your contact information

  • Location and date of the incident

  • Description of the problem

  • Bus number if available

  • Time of day

  • Employee name or driver ID if known

  • Any other persons involved or witnesses to the event

The National Rural Transit Assistance Program has an excellent Fixed-Route Bus Service Requirements tool kit that covers other topics, such as proper bus stop access.

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