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New Rule Strengthens Protections for Americans with Disabilities at Rail Stations

New Rule Strengthens Protections for Americans with Disabilities at Rail Stations

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that individuals with disabilities will have greater access to intercity, commuter and high-speed train travel as a result of a new rule requiring new station platform construction or significant renovation to enable those with disabilities to get on and off any car on a train.

“This will help give passengers with disabilities better access to rail travel across the country,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “By putting this protection in place, passengers with disabilities will be able to get on and off any accessible car that is available to passengers at a new or altered station platform.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is amending its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to require intercity, commuter and high-speed passenger railroads to ensure, at new and significantly renovated station platforms, that passengers with disabilities can get on and off any accessible car of the train.  Passenger railroads must provide level-entry boarding at new or altered stations in which no track passing through the station and adjacent to platforms is shared with existing freight rail operations.

For new or altered stations in which track shared with existing freight rail operations precludes compliance, passenger railroads will be able to choose among a variety of means to meet a performance standard to ensure that passengers with disabilities can access each accessible train car that other passengers can board at the station. These options include providing car-borne lifts, station-based lifts, or mini-high platforms.

The Department will review a railroad’s proposed method to ensure that it provides reliable and safe services to individuals with disabilities in an integrated manner.

The rule also requires that transit providers carry a wheelchair and occupant if the lift and vehicle can physically accommodate them, unless doing so is inconsistent with legitimate safety requirements.  In addition, it codifies the existing DOT mechanism for issuing ADA guidance and makes minor technical changes to the Department’s ADA rules.

Thursday, September 15, 2011