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Checking up on Amtrak's (lack of) ADA compliance

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Ashland Train Enthusiast

Service Attendant
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Jul 5, 2010
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182
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Ashland, VA
I left out of ASD today, and grabbed a picture of the progress. They are wrapping up pulling up bricks from the southern half of the current platform and after talking to the foreman, in the next week they'll start breaking ground on widening the footprint for the new platform.

~ATE
 

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neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
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Location
Ithaca, NY
So, update time. Back in 1990, Amtrak was given a 2010 deadline to make all stations accessible. Amtrak still has not even made it possible for persons in wheelchairs to board at all stations.

Amtrak is one of only two public transportation operators in the US who is this severely out of compliance with the ADA. (The other is the NY MTA, which is actually much much worse as it is routinely violating the "make it accessible when you do other construction" rule, a rule which literally everyone else including Amtrak has followed consistently.)

So, update time.

The 2014 report:
https://amtrakoig.gov/report-records/audit-reports/train-operations-and-business-management-addressing-management

At the time, there were 17 totally inaccessible stations ("where passengers who use a wheeled mobility device cannot get on or off the train"). Two (Glenwood Springs and Westerly RI) were listed as accessible on Amtrak.com already but had serious problems.

As of January 2019, Buffalo Exchange Street NY was fixed. So were Windsor CT, Windsor Locks CT, and Windsor - Mt Ascutney VT.
It has been confirmed that Clifton Forge VA, Marshall TX, and Paoli PA are accessible now, along with Exton PA (not on the 2014 list) and Mount Joy PA.

State Senator Dinniman is pushing Amtrak and SEPTA hard regarding Coatesville PA and Parkesburg PA, as well as Downingtown PA (which was not on the 2014 list, but was also determined inaccessible following re-evaluation). The endless mystery delays on these really are inexcusable, as the state funding stream ends in three years.
https://www.delcotimes.com/news/ribbon-cutting-held-for-paoli-train-station-project-dinniman-calls/article_b3a41382-de43-11e9-96ad-7f2e375c72e6.html

Downingtown PA is supposely in "preliminary engineering".
Coatesville PA and Parkesburg PA are supposedly "in design" but delayed for unknown reasons.
Coatseville is finally supposed to start construction this fall, according to late-January news.
https://lancasteronline.com/news/regional/work-on-coatesville-s-new-m-train-station-should-start/article_3e768574-380a-11ea-a490-eb12b1f3acac.html

Ashland VA remains under construction to make the platforms more suitable for the wheelchair lift.
Westerly RI has elevator shafts under construction as of Jan 28, 2020: https://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/westerly/photos-elevator-construction-at-westerly-amtrak-station/article_3a11abf6-4211-11ea-a679-e39b07ec9d69.html

Newark DE has not started platform construction, although it's fully funded. It is supposed to be built between fall 2021 and winter 2022. Track relocation is supposed to happen first, and is supposed to happen this year (2020). https://www.acppubs.com/articles/8407-newark-regional-transportation-center-project-aims-to-revitalize-passenger-rail-in-delaware

The following have no reported progress whatsoever, and belong on a wall of shame:
North Philadelphia (elevators exist but are apparently shuttered and not maintaned due to "vandalism" -- wildly illegal)
Glenwood Springs CO (supposedly accessible, though the route is frightening and requires assistance)
Elko NV
Harpers Ferry WV

I believe there is also still an inaccessible platform (for track 27/28) at Washington Union Station which can be reached only with staff assistance.

Of these, Glenwood Springs and Harpers Ferry have substantial ridership and really should be a much higher priority than they apparently are.

-----

The 2014 report did not include the 25 stations which were then classified as "flag stops", all of which now must also be made accessible. (20 have been reclassified as regular stations already). According to a recent report, 10 of them did not have access from the street to the train; I have not found a list of which ten these are, however. These are the flagstops I've found in the old timetables. Except as noted, they all have access from street to platform and the ones served by high-floor trains have wheelchair lifts.

(Crescent route)
1 Gastonia, NC -- missing wheelchair lift
2 Toccoa, GA
3 Laurel, MS
4 Picayune, MS -- inaccessible platform
5 Slidell, LA
(Pennsylvanian Route)
6 Tyrone, PA -- inaccessible platform
7 Latrobe, PA -- inaccessible platform
(Cardinal Route)
8 Alderson, WV -- inaccessible platform
9 Thurmond, WV -- inaccessible platform
10 Crawfordsville, IN -- missing wheelchair lift
(CONO route -- CN must be causing trouble with flag stop reclassification)
11 Fulton, KY (still a flag stop)
12 Newbern-Dyersburg, TN (still a flag stop)
13 Yazoo City, MS (still a flag stop)
14 Hazlehurst, MS (still a flag stop) -- inaccessible platform
15 McComb, MS (still a flag stop)
(Empire Builder route)
16 Essex, MT
(Texas Eagle route)
17 Malvern, AR
18 Arkadelphia, AR
(Sunset Limited route)
19 Schriever, LA
20 New Iberia, LA
21 Sanderson, TX -- inaccessible platform
22 Deming, NM -- inaccessible platform
23 Lordsburg, NM
24 Benson, AZ

(I'm not sure what #25 was -- the New York State Fair, maybe?)

Anyway, I count 8 with inaccessible platforms and 2 more which need wheelchair lifts installed, so that's 10.
Looking these 10 up, I find that construction is underway at two stations:
Gastonia, NC ( https://www.gastongazette.com/news/20200127/improvements-underway-at-amtrak-station-in-gastonia )
Picayune, MS ( https://www.wdsu.com/article/project-will-make-picayune-train-station-more-accessible/30742659 )

Construction is *hoped* to start by the 3rd quarter of 2020 on Latrobe, PA ( https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/amtrak-latrobe-station-upgrade-could-begin-in-2020/ )

No news on Tyrone, PA; Alderson WV; Thurmond WV; Crawfordsville IN; Hazlehurst, MS; Sanderson TX; or Deming NM.
 

neroden

Conductor
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Ithaca, NY
And coincidentally (?!?) Coatesville and Parkesburg temporarily have no service *at all* as part of coronavirus cutbacks. (Coatesville might not return for Amtrak; SEPTA has promised to expand service to it when the new station opens.)
 

AmtrakBlue

Conductor
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
11,848
Location
Delaware
And coincidentally (?!?) Coatesville and Parkesburg temporarily have no service *at all* as part of coronavirus cutbacks. (Coatesville might not return for Amtrak; SEPTA has promised to expand service to it when the new station opens.)
Most, if not all, stops between Philly & Harrisburg are being skipped as part of the COVID-19 cutbacks, so I don’t think is a coincidence
 

west point

Conductor
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,224
Suspect that money for ADA will have to be put on hold throughout the whole US business once the virus problems are mitigated. No spare money for ADA or any thing except to improve the economy.
 

IndyLions

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
341
Location
Brownsburg IN
There isn't much better at improving the economy than putting money in the hands of hardworking Americans to build things like ADA-compliant projects.
I couldn’t agree more. Kill 2 birds with one stone. And it might encourage some sensible relaxing of some of the red tape that slows some of these projects down.
 

neroden

Conductor
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Feb 23, 2014
Messages
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Ithaca, NY
OK, so in this era where parts of Amtrak's own management are trying to kill Amtrak, this is the ADA update. First, a review of the stations which lacked wheelchair access last time I reported on this:
Ashland VA -- still under construction, supposed to be done this fall
Westerly RI -- elevators under construction last January, no news since then -- anyone visited?
Newark DE -- track relocation was happening, but I have no idea how far they've gotten -- guesses for station accessibility are around 2022 :-(
Coatseville PA -- construction "supposed" to start this fall, no news
Parkesburg PA -- borough council was angry about delays caused by Amtrak as of July. There is a meeting i October to see if Amtrak's asshattery will stop. Revitalization committee to introduce plans for Parkesburg Borough
Downingtown PA -- no news, I presume State Senator Dinniman is still angry
North Philadelphia PA -- lawless criminality, they've locked existing functioning elevators
Glenwood Springs CO -- still requires assistance from an Amtrak agent across bumpy gravel, I believe
Elko NV
Harpers Ferry WV
Gastonia NC -- construction apparently done, still listed as having no wheelchair lift though
Picayune MS -- under construction
Latrobe PA -- no news since last time
Crawfordsville IN -- still listed as having no wheelchair lift -- seriously, that's all it needs
Hazlehurst MS
Sanderson TX
Deming NM

Amtrak has apparently not taken advantage of the 2020 construction season to do anything much on its legal obligations, now a full decade overdue, and is making many Pennsyvlania government officials angry with unnecessary delays and attempts to extort money. I'm not seeing any pattern of host obstruction either; they're delaying work on stations on track owned by Amtrak, CSX, NS, CN, and UP, on stations with joint responsibility and on stations which are Amtrak's sole responsibility, and even on stations which just need a wheelchair lift enclosure. Might be time for another ADA lawsuit.
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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Mar 5, 2016
Messages
1,409
Location
Chicago, Illinois
OK, so in this era where parts of Amtrak's own management are trying to kill Amtrak, this is the ADA update. First, a review of the stations which lacked wheelchair access last time I reported on this:
Ashland VA -- still under construction, supposed to be done this fall
Westerly RI -- elevators under construction last January, no news since then -- anyone visited?
Newark DE -- track relocation was happening, but I have no idea how far they've gotten -- guesses for station accessibility are around 2022 :-(
Coatseville PA -- construction "supposed" to start this fall, no news
Parkesburg PA -- borough council was angry about delays caused by Amtrak as of July. There is a meeting i October to see if Amtrak's asshattery will stop. Revitalization committee to introduce plans for Parkesburg Borough
Downingtown PA -- no news, I presume State Senator Dinniman is still angry
North Philadelphia PA -- lawless criminality, they've locked existing functioning elevators
Glenwood Springs CO -- still requires assistance from an Amtrak agent across bumpy gravel, I believe
Elko NV
Harpers Ferry WV
Gastonia NC -- construction apparently done, still listed as having no wheelchair lift though
Picayune MS -- under construction
Latrobe PA -- no news since last time
Crawfordsville IN -- still listed as having no wheelchair lift -- seriously, that's all it needs
Hazlehurst MS
Sanderson TX
Deming NM

Amtrak has apparently not taken advantage of the 2020 construction season to do anything much on its legal obligations, now a full decade overdue, and is making many Pennsyvlania government officials angry with unnecessary delays and attempts to extort money. I'm not seeing any pattern of host obstruction either; they're delaying work on stations on track owned by Amtrak, CSX, NS, CN, and UP, on stations with joint responsibility and on stations which are Amtrak's sole responsibility, and even on stations which just need a wheelchair lift enclosure. Might be time for another ADA lawsuit.
On the topic of Sanderson specifically, I noticed when passing through on #1 last month that an entirely new platform is under construction, which is somewhat surprising considering how little ridership there is there.
 

bms

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
174
Location
Cleveland
North Philadelphia station is in really deplorable condition. Amtrak needs to fix up that station and staff it. I guess they didn't have the courage to close it, so they kept it open with barely any Amtrak service and zero maintenance.
 

Willbridge

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Mar 30, 2019
Messages
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Location
Denver
Yes...you are also correct, on the Eastward trains....noticed that the local New York/Pittsburgh mid day train, the "Juniata". also went via 30th Street Station. They did not wye them...they rode backwards between New York and Philly. Looking at the Oct 1968 TT's here... Penn Central Railroad Public Timetables
I always wondered if those Pennsy 30th Street deviations were warranted or were a compromise with regulators. There was a similar situation with Jersey City after Penn Station opened, except those trains didn't cross the Hudson.
 

west point

Conductor
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Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,224
1st problem that ADA platforms have to stay away from freight RRs track as the freight trins are wider than passenger cars (clearance plate "H" ). Any new platform work is requiring whole platform to be ADA compliant as happened in Roanoke. So a new station on a freight RR will require either a Gaunlet track ( 2 switch machines, 4 hardened points ) or separate platform track ( 2switch machines, 4 [points , and 2 frogs) Both require signals at each end of tracks, Double that for stations with platforms on both sides of 2 or more main tracks.

2nd Ownership of station platforms not the station itself freight RRs do not want anything to do with the upgrades..( liability issues ? )

3rd costs and permits --- delays everywhere
 

Willbridge

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Denver
This is not an uncommon way to arrange for on-going work that is not presently defined to the point of allowing fixed cost bidding. These types of so-called "blanket" contracts are based on time and material and other unit costs such as mobilization and demobilization. The unit costs for contracts that last more than a year or so may include escalation based on an agreed upon formula. There is usually a floor that gives the contractor knowledge of the minimum volume of work over the life of the contract. As jobs roll out, blanket contractors are assigned and the cost of each job is based on the contract units.

Blanket contracts permit small-scale jobs to go from final plans and approvals to construction very quickly.
My former employer used this purchasing technique on a yearly basis. I think our undefined emergency work was also included - for example, potholes opening up a critical spots.
 

railiner

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Palm Beach County
I always wondered if those Pennsy 30th Street deviations were warranted or were a compromise with regulators. There was a similar situation with Jersey City after Penn Station opened, except those trains didn't cross the Hudson.
I don't know if it was required by regulators, or just volunteered for 'political' reason's....to placate the "pride" of their home town, for example. Otherwise, some media might chastise them for offering thru service to The West from New York, but not from the heart of Philadelphia (gasp!):)
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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Near an Amtrak station
At the time, there were 17 totally inaccessible stations ("where passengers who use a wheeled mobility device cannot get on or off the train"). Two (Glenwood Springs and Westerly RI) were listed as accessible on Amtrak.com already but had serious problems.
Is Amtrak itself the owner of all 17 of these stations?

I also did a quick check, and found that...

1. Existing Facilities.
For existing facilities, Title III of the ADA requires that public accommodations remove "architectural barriers" and "communication barriers" that are structural in nature in existing facilities when it is "readily achievable" to do so.

  • Readily Achievable. Removal is "readily achievable" when it is "easily accomplishable" and able to be carried out "without much difficulty or expense."​
 

Alice

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Mar 6, 2007
Messages
989
Location
California
Neroden would know the history for sure, but I kind of recall Amtrak has lost or settled numerous lawsuits about access. So it is possible they agreed to certain improvements regardless of whether they were readily achievable.
 

neroden

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Ithaca, NY
Is Amtrak itself the owner of all 17 of these stations?

I also did a quick check, and found that...
That's the general ADA rule for construction in general, which is not relevant to this.

There's a specific rule in the ADA requiring ALL intercity train stations except flagstops to be made accessible by a hard deadline of 20 years after the passage of the ADA (a deadline which is now many years ago). You can find it if you look. This was a harsher rule than was applied to anyone else, but Amtrak was well aware of it when the ADA passed.

There's also a very complicated rule about who has legal and financial responsibility for making the ADA improvements: it's generally not the owner who has responsibility, it's the train service provider. The owner is required to cooperate with the train service provider and can be sued by the train service provider if they don't cooperate.

It was quite unforgivable that Amtrak simply ignored the legal requirement for about 18 years, until the 20-year deadline was just about up.
 

neroden

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Ithaca, NY
The relevant provision of the law states:

"All stations in the intercity rail transportation system shall be made readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs, as soon as practicable, but in no event later than 20 years after July 26, 1990."

It's ADA Sec. 12162, paragraph (e)(2)(A)(ii)(I).

Harshest requirement in the transportation section.

Paragraph (e)(2)(A)(ii)(II) relates to commuter rail, and only requires *key* stations be made accessible:

"Key stations in commuter rail transportation systems shall be made readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs, as soon as practicable but in no event later than 3 years after July 26, 1990, except that the time limit may be extended by the Secretary of Transportation up to 20 years after July 26, 1990, in a case where the raising of the entire passenger platform is the only means available of attaining accessibility or where other extraordinarily expensive structural changes are necessary to attain accessibility."

ADA Sec. 12147 applies to subways and similar mass transit systems. Paragraph (b)(2) is again more generous:

"(A) Accessibility
Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, all key stations (as determined under criteria established by the Secretary by regulation] in rapid rail and light rail systems shall be made readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs, as soon as practicable but in no event later than the last day of the 3-year period beginning on July 26, 1990.
(B) Extension for extraordinarily expensive structural changes
The Secretary may extend the 3-year period under subparagraph (A) up to a 30-year period for key stations in a rapid rail or light rail system which stations need extraordinarily expensive structural changes to, or replacement of, existing facilities; except that by the last day of the 20th year following July 26, 1990, at least 2/3 of such key stations must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities."

NY MTA is currently rushing to finish its key stations list on the NYC Subway as fast as possible, despite a cash shortage and suspension of other capital projects, since the 30-year extension period expired on July 26 of this year and they know they're in a legal hole. (Every other urban rail system complied long ago.) The key stations they haven't finished are all currently under construction, so they probably won't get sued over this one.

By contrast, Amtrak is now a solid 10 years overdue for its legal compliance -- a much bigger legal hole. Caused mainly by doing absolutely nothing for the first 18 years of the 20-year period, and starting when there were 2 years left to go.

This is the fault of Graham Claytor (yes, the sainted Claytor), Downs, Warrington, Gunn, Hughes, Kummant, and Crosbie, all of whom acted like the ADA was a suggestion rather than the law; Boardman was the first one to say "Hey, this is actually a legal requirement and we have 2 years remaining to meet it, what is wrong with you people?"
 
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