SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A new lawsuit accuses a San Francisco Bay Area metro system of discriminating against disabled people by failing to maintain escalators and elevators that allow them to access trains.
The lawsuit filed in San Francisco on Wednesday by disability rights groups and two disabled people alleges elevators at Bay Area Rapid Transit stations are regularly soiled with feces or urine or broken and escalators are routinely out of service. The lawsuit says the result is that people with disabilities are unable to access BART in violation of federal and state disability laws.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court seeks a court order requiring BART to quickly address problems that limit access to the disabled and submit to an independent monitor to ensure compliance.
BART has released the following statement:
“The Disability Rights Advocates’ lawsuit filed today touches on issues that go directly to the heart of BART’s core mission statement: to provide seamless mobility for people—those with disabilities and otherwise—across the Bay Area. We share in their endeavor to ensure accessible public services, and understand as both users and operators of the system the hardships that can occur within and around stations.
As such, the quality-of-life and maintenance matters outlined in the plaintiff’s complaint are areas of concern subject to ongoing action at BART. Currently, the District in the midst of executing an aggressive $16.3 million escalator and elevator improvement agenda, with each project designed to address these issues common to high-traffic, urban transit systems. We agree with the call to prioritize these investments, and have earmarked an additional $190 million in access improvements for the downtown San Francisco stations as part of the recently-passed Measure RR.
The primary reason for recent elevator outages is floor replacement (a project to be completed by May 2017) which, while time-consuming, results in a much more sanitary environment and prolongs the period of time between outages and major overhauls.
To help communicate with customers during these outages, we have a wide variety of resources available to both proactively get maintenance messages out and respond to inquiries. We have a phone service (510 834-LIFT or 888 235-3828), in-train and in-station audio announcements from the Operations Control Center, on-demand text message updates (text BART elevator to 468311), a website dedicated to real-time outages (bart.gov/elevators), bart.gov homepage updates, email alerts, dedicated full-time accessibility staff with publicly available contact information, and paper passenger bulletins dropped in-station prior to planned outages. At the beginning of this year, we completed a systemwide audit of our in-station call boxes—all of which were working save one, which was repaired. Moreover, if the Station Agent is not available to take an in-station call, the caller is immediately forwarded to the Operations Control Center for assistance.
During an outage, BART contracts with an elevator outage mitigation shuttle service that transports affected passengers to a nearby station—either on-demand or pre-planned.
However, despite these efforts, BART’s staff are cleaning up after the homeless. We’ve hired more crews and offered overtime to help keep affected areas clean and functioning, but riders and employees continue to unacceptably experience the impact of the homeless crisis. We are working with local agencies to help address the complexities involving homeless people in our stations, and are one of the only transit systems in the country with a full-time Crisis Intervention Training Coordinator and Community Outreach Liaison.
We share the frustration of the Disability Rights Advocates legal group, but are disappointed our program of capital improvement is being met with litigation. Nonetheless, we hope to again work together in the future as we value the perspective of people with disabilities both from within our own employee community and the cities we serve.”