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Americans With Disabilities Act: Proposed Circular Chapter, Vehicle Acquisition

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Buses American Government

Americans With Disabilities Act: Proposed Circular Chapter, Vehicle Acquisition

Peter Rogoff
Federal Transit Administration
October 2, 2012

[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 191 (Tuesday, October 2, 2012)]
[Pages 60170-60172]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-24185]



Federal Transit Administration

[Docket No. FTA-2012-0045]

Americans With Disabilities Act: Proposed Circular Chapter, 
Vehicle Acquisition

AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration (FTA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of availability of proposed circular chapter and request 
for comments.


SUMMARY: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has placed in the 
docket and on its Web site proposed guidance in the form of a circular 
chapter to help transportation providers

[[Page 60171]]

ensure that the buses and rail cars they acquire meet the requirements 
of the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Americans with 
Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. This proposed chapter on vehicle 
acquisition is the first in a series of approximately 12 chapters that 
will compose a complete ADA circular. By public notice, FTA invites 
public comment on this proposed circular chapter and suggestions for 
specific issues to cover in future chapters.

DATES: Comments must be submitted by December 3, 2012. Late-filed 
comments will be considered to the extent practicable.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments to Docket No. FTA-2012-0045 by any 
of the following methods:
    Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov and follow 
the online instructions for submitting comments.
    Mail: Docket Management Facility: U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building, Ground 
Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
    Hand Delivery or Courier: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time, 
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
    Fax: (202) 493-2251.
    Instructions: You must include the agency name (Federal Transit 
Administration) and Docket number FTA-2012-0045 for this notice at the 
beginning of your comments. You should submit two copies of your 
comments if you submit them by mail. If you wish to receive 
confirmation that FTA received your comments, you must include a self-
addressed stamped postcard. Note that all comments received will be 
posted without change to www.regulations.gov including any personal 
information provided and will be available to Internet users. You may 
review DOT's complete Privacy Act Statement published in the Federal 
Register on April 11, 2000 (65 FR 19477). Docket: For access to the 
docket to read background documents and comments received, go to 
www.regulations.gov at any time or to the U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Docket Operations, M-30, 
West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590 between 
9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For program questions, Dawn Sweet, 
Office of Civil Rights, Federal Transit Administration, 1200 New Jersey 
Avenue SE, Room E54-437, Washington, DC 20590, phone: (202) 366-4018, 
or email, dawn.sweet@dot.gov. For legal questions, Bonnie Graves, 
Office of Chief Counsel, same address, Room E56-306, phone: (202) 366-
4011, or email, bonnie.graves@dot.gov.


I. Introduction

    The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issues regulations 
implementing the transportation and related provisions of the Americans 
with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. The regulations at 49 CFR parts 
27, 37, 38, and 39 set specific requirements transportation providers 
must follow to ensure their services, vehicles, and facilities are 
accessible to and useable by people with disabilities. The body of 
regulations is vast, covering multiple modes of public transportation, 
including fixed route bus and rail (e.g., rapid, commuter, and light 
rail); ADA complementary paratransit; general public demand responsive 
service; and ferry service. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), 
as an agency within DOT, is charged with ensuring that providers of 
public transportation comply with the regulations.
    In 2010, FTA initiated a comprehensive management review of the 
agency's core guidance to transit grantees on ADA and other civil 
rights requirements. A primary goal of the review was to assess whether 
FTA was providing sufficient, proactive assistance to grantees in 
meeting civil rights requirements, as opposed to reacting to 
allegations of failure to comply with the requirements. Based on the 
review, FTA identified the need to develop an ADA circular similar to 
the circulars long in place for other programs. The current body of 
statutes and regulations in the ADA area can be imposing, and in some 
cases, extremely technical. FTA recognized value to the transit 
industry and other stakeholders in compiling and organizing information 
by topic into a plain English, easy-to-use format. A circular does not 
alter, amend, or otherwise affect the DOT ADA regulations themselves or 
replace or reduce the need for detailed information in the regulations. 
Its format, however, can provide a helpful outline of basic 
requirements with references to the applicable regulatory sections, 
along with examples of practices used by transit providers to meet the 
requirements. Simply stated, a circular can be a starting point for 
understanding ADA requirements in the transit environment.
    Therefore, FTA is proposing the phased development of a new 
circular, FTA C 4710.1, with the initial chapter focused on vehicle 
acquisition. This notice provides a summary of the proposed chapter. 
The chapter does not contain any new requirements, policies, or 
directives. The chapter itself is not included in this notice; an 
electronic version may be found on FTA's Web site, at www.fta.dot.gov. 
Paper copies of the circular may be obtained by contacting FTA's 
Administrative Services Help Desk, at (202) 366-4865. After the summary 
of the current chapter, this notice describes FTA's approach for 
publishing subsequent chapters and seeks suggestions on specific issues 
to address in those chapters. FTA encourages stakeholders to provide 
comments on the content of the initial chapter on vehicle acquisition 
and suggestions for future chapters.

II. Summary of Current Chapter

    The ``Vehicle Acquisition'' chapter begins with an introductory 
section that provides a brief background on the purpose of the circular 
and this chapter specifically. The chapter is designed to be a 
reference document for public entities acquiring vehicles to ensure 
these vehicles meet the requirements of the DOT ADA regulations in 49 
CFR part 37, subpart D, and 49 CFR part 38. Importantly, this section 
also states what this circular project is not intended to accomplish--
the circular is not a substitute for the DOT ADA regulations; public 
transportation providers are advised in this section to use this 
circular in addition to (not in lieu of) the regulations. The section 
then introduces in broad terms the DOT ADA regulations applicable to 
vehicle acquisition, explaining that 49 CFR part 38 sets the technical 
design specifications for accessible vehicles, while Part 37 defines 
the conditions under which vehicles must be purchased as accessible or 
made accessible. The section ends by emphasizing that although a public 
entity may use a contractor to provide service, it cannot contract away 
its ADA responsibility; the contractor ``stands in the shoes'' of the 
public entity and must meet the same requirements that would apply if 
the public entity were acquiring or remanufacturing its own vehicles.
    After the introductory section, the chapter moves onto Section 2, 
``Acquisition Requirements for Public Entities.'' This section explains 
how the acquisition requirements vary in Part 37 depending upon the 
following factors: (1) Vehicle type (rail and non-rail); (2)

[[Page 60172]]

service type (fixed route bus, light or rapid rail, commuter rail, and 
demand responsive); and (3) vehicle condition (new, used, or 
remanufactured). In table and narrative format, the section explains 
that all new fixed route buses and all new light, rapid, and commuter 
rail cars must be accessible; that is, they must meet all the 
applicable specifications in Part 38. Certain exceptions to acquiring 
an accessible vehicle apply to used and remanufactured buses and rail 
cars, as well as to new buses and vans operating in a general public 
demand responsive system. These exceptions are likewise outlined in the 
    Section 3 is titled ``The Main Elements of Accessible Vehicles'' 
and summarizes the required design specifications in Part 38 by vehicle 
type. The section begins by emphasizing that an accessible bus or rail 
car involves much more than features for boarding and alighting 
individuals who use wheelchairs, which is how accessibility is commonly 
envisioned. Handrails, slip-resistant flooring, public address systems, 
and sufficient lighting, for example, are all part of an accessible 
vehicle, in addition to lifts, ramps, and securement systems. The 
section does not attempt to restate all of the Part 38 specifications 
but rather highlights the main points by vehicle type with accompanying 
photographs and diagrams, and refers the reader to the appropriate part 
of the regulations for more detail. For rail cars, the section 
highlights four areas that have been of particular interest to transit 
systems and members of the public: The platform gap, mobility aid 
accessibility, priority seating, and between-car barriers.
    Section 4, ``Ensuring that Vehicles Are Compliant,'' addresses ways 
a transportation provider can ensure that the vehicles it plans to 
acquire are accessible under Part 38 and useable to individuals with 
disabilities. Strategies presented include ensuring that bid packages 
spell out specific accessibility requirements in detail, seeking public 
input to ensure that the solicited vehicles can be used by as many 
persons with disabilities as possible, and inspecting the vehicles at 
the appropriate time in the procurement cycle.
    Complementing Section 4 is an attachment titled ``Sample Bus and 
Van Specification Checklist'' that lists the design elements in Part 38 
applicable to non-rail vehicles. It is a document FTA uses in its 
compliance reviews when assessing whether a transportation provider's 
buses comply with Part 38. The checklist is provided here as an example 
of a tool a transportation provider could replicate to use in its 
factory inspections to ensure the vehicles it plans to acquire are 
compliant long before delivery. A grantee may decide to develop similar 
checklists to inspect rail cars.
    The chapter ends with a list of definitions taken from the DOT ADA 
regulations, a list of statutory and regulatory authorities, and a 
reference list.

III. Publication Approach

    The Vehicle Acquisition chapter is the first in approximately 12 
chapters that will compose FTA's ADA circular. Because of the breadth 
of the ADA, FTA is developing this circular in segments. The next 
chapter currently under development is ``Equivalent Facilitation,'' 
which will outline how a grantee can depart from the regulations by 
demonstrating to FTA that an alternative design or technology provides 
individuals with disabilities equivalent or greater access to a vehicle 
or facility. FTA anticipates that the topics of subsequent chapters 
will largely mirror the major provisions in the DOT ADA regulations, 
for example: General nondiscrimination requirements, facility 
construction and alteration, fixed route bus and rail service, ADA 
complementary paratransit (eligibility and service delivery), general 
public demand responsive service, and ferries and other modes.
    When issued in its final form, the circular is intended to provide 
guidance specifically for recipients of FTA financial assistance that 
provide public transit. As such, requirements found in the DOT ADA 
regulations, for example, related to intercity rail (i.e., Amtrak), 
private motor coach service (e.g., Greyhound), taxi service, and 
airport transportation will not be covered in the circular.
    Going forward, it is anticipated that the chapters will be issued 
in groups. All chapters will be announced in the Federal Register for 
public notice and comment.

IV. Conclusion

    FTA seeks comments on the scope and content of the first chapter of 
the circular, ``Vehicle Acquisition,'' specifically as to whether there 
are areas that need more clarification or explanation or topics that 
were overlooked. The chapter includes a section on practices a transit 
provider can use to help ensure the vehicles it acquires are compliant 
and useable. FTA seeks comment on whether there are other practices 
that have proven effective that would be worth describing in the 
    FTA also seeks suggestions on specific issues to cover in future 
chapters and which topics should be a priority to cover early on in the 
process of developing the ADA circular. For example, FTA seeks comments 
on which issues within the broad topic areas mentioned above (e.g., 
general nondiscrimination, facility construction and alterations, fixed 
route services, and ADA complementary paratransit) are most challenging 
to address by the industry. Further, FTA is interested in knowing in 
what areas guidance would be the most valuable to transportation 

    Issued in Washington, DC, this 25th day of September 2012.
Peter Rogoff,
[FR Doc. 2012-24185 Filed 10-1-12; 8:45 am]

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