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Most Capital Metro stops unprepared for disabled passengers

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 by Mark Richardson

More than two-thirds of Capital Metro’s 3,020 bus stops do not meet the minimum access standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the agency’s own staff. Figures released by Cap Metro Monday, show it will cost some $15 million over the next five years to bring all of the transportation agency’s current stops into compliance.

 

Capital Metro Board Members asked for the report several months ago after a loud and contentious demonstration by members of ADAPT of Texas, a handicapped rights advocacy group. At that time, some board members expressed disbelief at ADAPT’s claim that more than half of the city’s bus stops did not comply. Board members instructed staff to identify the number of stops not in compliance and to develop a plan to bring them up to ADA standards.

 

Jennifer McPhail, a member of ADAPT of Texas, told the board that the lack of proper bus stops means some wheelchair-bound customers must risk their lives to get to the bus stop.

 

“Two-thirds of Capital Metro’s bus stops are not accessible,” said McPhail. “They have to ride in the street because there is no other access to the stop. That’s not my definition of equity.”

 

She said Capital Metro attempts to get wheelchair riders to use handicapped-equipped buses instead of Special Transit Services – which is much more expensive — are not working.

 

“When it is so difficult to get to a regular bus, that is just scaring people back to using STS that much more,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

 

To its credit, McPhail noted, Capital Metro was the first transit system to have all of its buses equipped to handle wheelchairs. All the more reason to have bus stops they can all use, she said.

 

The ADA – under a federal regulations update in November 2006 –requires

that newly constructed or improved bus stops must include a passenger boarding and debarking pad which incorporates a firm and stable surface, includes minimum dimensions of 5 feet parallel to a road and 8 feet perpendicular to a road, maximum 2 percent slope, and connects to a sidewalk.

 

The staff report listed three main categories which its survey found 69 percent of bus stops to be out of ADA compliance:

 

  • Level 1 –  1,439 stops (48 percent) lacked a 5- by 8-foot pad;
  • Level 2 –232 stops (8 percent) lacked a 5- by 8- foot pad and proper connectivity (sidewalk, etc.); and
  • Level 3 – 119 stops (4 percent) lacks a 5- by 8-foot pad, proper connectivity, and requires significant construction of features such as sidewalk, drainage and curb/gutter.

 

A small number of other sites (295, or 10 percent) had other problems, such as Right-of-Way limitations, or just needed minor adjustments (benches, trash cans moved) to be brought into compliance.

 

The staff estimated that it would cost Capital Metro $9,743,000 to bring the 1,790 Level 1, 2 and 3 stops into compliance, with $5,257,000 additional funds needed for contingency, engineering and program support. That is calculated in 2008 dollars, with staff recommending an inflation clause over the recommended five-year duration of the program.

 

The report suggested prioritizing the stops to be refurbished in the order of those with known accessibility problems, those which can be repaired by moving benches or trash cans, those with the highest ridership, and those on the highest ridership transit corridors.

 

Board members took no action on the report but instructed staff members to include the costs of bringing the stops up to ADA standards in the agency’s budget proposals for 2009.

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