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Public ground transportation rights for people with disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to public ground transportation providers. Examples of public ground transportation include:

  • Trains
  • Buses
  • Light rail
  • Subways
  • Ferries

A public ground transportation provider can also have an agreement with a private company to operate transportation services for them. For example, a public paratransit provider with limited vehicles may partner with a private taxi company to provide paratransit service. But the public ground transportation provider must make sure the private company follows all the public transportation provider’s ADA requirements. 

If you’re looking for information about how the ADA applies to airport shuttles, hotel shuttles, private buses, and taxis, visit the private ground transportation page.

ADA requirements overview

For public transportation system operators

If you are an operator of a public transportation system, you have requirements under the ADA.

  • You need to provide information on your services in accessible formats like large print, braille, electronic and audio. 
  • Your facilities and equipment need to work well. These can include lifts, ramps, straps for securing wheelchairs, signs, and communication devices. If something is not working, you need to fix it as soon as possible and an accessible alternative has to be offered.
  • You must allow enough time for people with disabilities to get on and off a vehicle.
  • Service animals are allowed in vehicles and in facilities. 

For fixed route providers

If you have fixed routes, your vehicles need to have: 

  • Seats marked as priority seating for people with disabilities
  • Stop announcements at transfer points, major intersections, destination points, and any stop requested by a rider with a disability
  • Destination and route information on the vehicle
  • Locations and devices to secure wheelchairs
  • A lift or ramp so passengers who use wheelchairs or mobility devices can get to the right location on the vehicle
  • Stairs and doorways that have good lighting and slip-resistant surfaces
  • Enough space for wheelchairs to turn and maneuver
  • Accessible handrails and vertical rails
  • A pull cord or stop button within reach of wheelchair areas

Staff training requirements

Your staff must be trained to:

  • Operate vehicles and equipment safely
  • Assist people with disabilities in a respectful way
  • Understand that based on their disability, individuals will need different types of assistance

Paratransit service 

Paratransit service provides door-to-door or curb-to-curb service and must be available where fixed-route service exists. 

Curb-to-curb service means a service that picks up and drops off passengers at the curb or roadside and helps them enter and exit the vehicle. But if a customer needs help because of their disability, a physical barrier, or bad weather, the driver may need to help them to the door.

Minimum requirements

  • Service area within a 3-quarter mile on either side of a fixed route.
  • Same hours and days as the fixed route.
  • Fares can’t be more than twice the fare of a person paying full fare for a fixed-route trip of a similar length and time of day. A personal care attendant is free.
  • Must be provided at a given time and day if service request was made the previous day. The service can offer same day scheduling and pickup, but it’s not required.
  • No limitations because of a trip’s purpose are allowed

What’s not allowed

  • Limits on the number of trips for each eligible person.
  • Waiting lists to use the service.
  • A lot of late pickups.
  • A lot of denied, missed, or trips with excessive trip lengths.

Transit facilities 

The ADA also applies to public transit facilities (such as a bus stop or terminal), rail stations and platforms. They must meet U.S. Department of Transportation accessibility standards [provide link] which covers areas including:

  • Accessible paths of travel
  • Boarding ramps and bridge plates
  • Bus stops and shelters
  • Curb ramps
  • Doors, elevators, escalators, and stairs
  • Emergency alarms
  • Fare collection, gates and turnstiles
  • Parking and passenger drop-off areas
  • Restrooms, signs, public telephones, and water fountains.

Learn more 

Complaints about public ground transportation accessibility 

If you believe you have been discriminated against by a public transit provider, you may file a complaint with the Federal Transit Administration Office of Civil Rights

If the complaint is about a local provider, it’s best to first file a complaint directly with that provider to give them the chance to fix the situation.

Ask us

If you have questions about public ground transportation accessibility, we can help.

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