Posts Tagged ‘Americans With Disabilities Act’

Amtrak Settles Discrimination Complaint for $2.25M

December 16, 2020

Amtrak will pay $2.25 million to settle a complaint that it discriminated against disabled passengers by failing to accommodate those passengers at its stations.

As part of the settlement, the passenger carrier agreed to renovate dozens of stations over the next decade to accommodate people in wheelchairs or with limited mobility.

The case stemmed from a U.S. Justice Department investigation into claims dating from 2011, 2012, and 2013 that some stations violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Amtrak said it will complete improvements at 90 stations within the next decade and begin work at another 45.

Amtrak Backs Down on $25,000 Fee for a $16 Ticket

January 22, 2020

What was quoted as a $25,000 fee for a trip that ordinarily costs $16 landed Amtrak a lot of unflattering headlines recently.

And when the dust had settled the passengers got tickets for the regular price while Amtrak wound up with a black eye.

The story involved a group of 10, five of whom use wheelchairs, who wanted to book a trip from Chicago to Normal, Illinois, to attend a conference.

When the passengers, one of them the CEO of Access Living, which news reports described as a Chicago disability service and advocacy center, contacted Amtrak they were told their tickets would incur a $25,000 fee to cover the expense of removing coach seats to accommodate the group.

Amtrak coaches used on Lincoln Service trains have spaces for one wheel chair, which meets the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lincoln Service trains typically have three coaches.

Access Chicago member Adam Ballard told National Public Radio that in the past Amtrak had with advance notice removed seats in a coach or put the group in a café car and charged them a few hundred dollars extra.

The $25,000 price was given to the group by an Amtrak group sales agent.

Amtrak said said the alternate would be for the group to travel on separate trains scheduled three hours apart.

The group said doing that would mean some of its members would arrive at the conference late or would incur the cost of overnight lodging if they had to travel the day before the conference was to begin.

Amtrak initially told NPR that the $25,000 charge reflected a new policy of “an additional fee when any group requires reconfiguration of our railcars.”

After NPR broadcast the story it got picked up by other news outlets and also drew the attention of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois who lost both of her legs while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq after the Blackhawk helicopter who was co-piloting was shot down.

Duckworth called the fee outrageous and demanded a meeting with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson.

She also Tweeted that it was “disappointing that Amtrak leadership appears to have failed to offer a public apology for its initial mistake.”

Duckworth is the ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation.

She said on Twitter that she wanted to discuss with Anderson “eliminating Amtrak’s nationwide policy of refusing to absorb any costs associated with reconfiguring a railcar to accommodate a group of wheelchair users.”

Two senior Amtrak executives later contacted an attorney for Access Chicago and offered to find extra space aboard a train to accommodate the group.

Amtrak also offered to allow two passengers to ride for the regular price of one ticket.

Although Access Living accepted the offer another complication arose when Amtrak learned that another disability group was sending staff to the same conference and had two wheelchair users who wanted to take the same Lincoln Service train.

Amtrak agreed to find space for all of them, apparently by taking one coach out of service and removing some of its seats.

Access Living had contacted Amtrak last month to request accommodations for its group.

When it protested the $25,000 charge, the agent wrote back and said the fee was in line with Amtrak policy about reconfiguring a rail car.

“With the removal of seats, it can be quite costly,” the agent wrote.

The agent acknowledged that in previous years Amtrak had removed seats and absorbed the cost of doing so.

“We understand and appreciate your loyalty with Amtrak,” the agent said. “Going forward, we cannot continue to absorb these fees. These policies have changed nationwide as of 2019.”

Bridget Hayman, a spokeswoman at Access Living said that although her organization appreciates that its members will all be able to ride Amtrak at no additional cost, what is needed is a long-term solution so that Amtrak won’t charge those high fees in the future.

In a statement, Amtrak said it would review its policy and meet with Duckworth.

Amtrak to Renovate Latrobe Station

January 24, 2018

Amtrak will renovate the station in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to improve accessibility for passengers with disabilities.

The passenger carrier will be designing the improvements this year with construction to begin in 2019.

Amtrak will replace the existing boarding platform with one that rises eight inches above the top of the rail.

Also planned are modifications to the parking lot, the stairs to the platform and the passenger waiting area. Signs will be installed that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Latrobe is a stop for the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and served 4,246 passengers and generated $247,569 in fiscal year 2017.

Lawrence May Take Ownership of Amtrak Station

February 14, 2017

The City of Lawrence, Kansas, is taking steps that may result in its purchase of the town’s Amtrak station.

Lawrence may acquire the former Santa Fe station from BNSF and then launch a $1.5 million restoration project.

Amtrak Southwest Chief 2City officials have said the depot has received limited maintenance and if the city buys the station it could use a $1.2 million state grant to pay for the renovations.

It would not cost the city anything to take ownership of the station, which the city would then lease to Amtrak.

The national passenger carrier would then be able to providing funding to bring the station into compliance with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Although no time frame has been established, the city could take control of the depot this summer.

Lawrence is on the route of the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Macomb Leading Way in Amtrak Pilot Program

February 2, 2017

It is not every community that gets personal attention from a member of the Amtrak board of directors.

IllinoisBut then most communities served by Amtrak don’t have a former mayor on the board of directors.

At the urging of Thomas C. Carper, Macomb, Illinois, agreed to become the first city to see its Amtrak station rebuilt to comply with federal ADA standards.

Macomb is participating in a pilot program that may be extended to other stations.

A team from Amtrak inspected the depot last year and offered the city a deal. If the city would hire local companies to do the work, Amtrak would provide reimbursement.

“This pilot is the only one we’re doing,” Carper told Macomb aldermen. “What works in Macomb might be the template for other modifications. We like the idea of local construction rather than hiring one national contractor.”

Carper, who served as Macomb’s mayor between 1991 and 2003, said 511 of Amtrak’s 525 stations need work to become ADA compliant. Amtrak is responsible for the facilities of 380 of those stations.

In Macomb the work will include a new concrete walkway from the parking lot to the platform and to the depot entrances.

Also in the plans are building a sloped concrete walkway and steps to the platform and adding handrails, and then remodeling the train station interior so that entry doors and restrooms are handicapped accessible.

The Macomb city manager has recommend hiring McClure Engineering Associates to draw up construction specifications based on the Amtrak designs for a fee of $4,500.

The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy depot in Macomb was built in 1913 and has been granted historic status.

Therefore, some elements outlined in the plan cannot be altered or must be done so as to appear consistent with the historic look.

Macomb is served by the Chicago-Quincy, Illinois Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr.

Amtrak to Renovate Macomb Station

February 25, 2016

Amtrak plans to renovate its passenger station in Macomb, Illinois, to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Amtrak 4Plans are to add a ramp to the depot from the parking lot on the east side.

Those plans were recently reviewed by the Macomb Historic Preservation Commission although Amtrak does not need the group’s approval.

“Amtrak is not required to apply for a certificate of appropriateness for changes to the historic depot,” said Community Development Coordinator Ray Heitner. “But it wants city reaction as to how the changes might impact the building’s character.”

Macomb is served by four daily Amtrak trains, the Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg. All operate between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois, and are supported by the Illinois Department of Transportation.