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45 Years of Impact Spotlight

Ensuring Effective Paratransit Access

Over the years, Disability Rights Pennsylvania has fought to increase access to fixed-route transportation and paratransit services for people with mobility disabilities to enable them to get to work, to get to medical appointments, to visit with family and friends, and to have full and equal access to their communities.

In 1994 DRP and private co-counsel filed Richman v. SEPTA, a class action lawsuit alleging that SEPTA violated the paratransit provisions of Title II of the ADA by routinely arriving late to pick up passengers, missed trips entirely, providing excessively lengthy trips, and failing to provide next-day scheduling.  The parties entered into a comprehensive consent decree that required SEPTA to:  (1) purchase and install a new, computerized scheduling system; (2) ensure that it provided next-day scheduling; (3) to ensure that it scheduled trips within a two-hour window requested by the rider; (4) give priority to paratransit riders who use wheelchairs in scheduling rides on lift-equipped vehicles; and (5) provide a compensation system for persons who experienced paratransit performance problems. To address SEPTA’s non-compliance with the original consent decree, a supplemental settlement was reached wherein SEPTA agreed to retain a monitor to conduct a statistically sound survey to assess SEPTA’s paratransit performance.  Ultimately, after further monitoring, SEPTA achieved acceptable paratransit on-time performance and trip-length.

In 1994, DRP filed Raver v. Capitol Area Transit to similarly address the lack of compliance by the Capital Area Transit (“CAT”) system (which serves the Harrisburg area) with the ADA’s on-time paratransit and scheduling require­ments.  The parties entered a settlement agreement whereby CAT agreed to take steps to improve its paratransit on-time performance and ensure scheduling of next day service.

In 2001, DRP and private co-counsel achieved a significant victory in Liberty Resources, Inc. v. SEPTA when the court agreed that SEPTA violated Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by failing to provide next-day paratransit service and by imposing capacity constraints that significantly limit paratransit service, including requests for next-day service.  SEPTA was ordered to ensure no more than five trip denials daily, to pay fines for any excess trip denials, and to develop a voucher back-up system for individuals who are denied trips.