Jan 13, 2022 - Economy & Business

Amtrak pays $2.25M to passengers with disabilities over station access

An Amtrak passenger waits for his train at Penn Station April 2, 2004 in New York City

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Amtrak paid $2.25 million to more than 1,500 people as part of a disability discrimination lawsuit settlement, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The big picture: The train operator and the DOJ reached a deal in December 2020 over Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) violations — which saw people with disabilities encounter "significant accessibility issues" at 78 stations across the U.S., the settlement states.

  • "Amtrak failed to make its stations readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities ... with respect to parking, routes from accessible parking to buildings, building entrances, waiting areas, elevators, toilet rooms, signs, routes from buildings to passenger platforms, passenger platforms, passenger platform heights, and track crossings," per a complaint.
  • The agreement requires Amtrak to make its intercity rail system accessible, prioritizing stations with the most significant barriers to access, and to train staff on necessary requirements and handling complaints, according to a Justice Department statement.

By the numbers: Amtrak operates some 500 stations in 46 states and the District of Columbia and is "responsible for the accessibility aspects of over 400 of the approximately 514 stations it serves," the DOJ notes.

  • "In the next nine years, Amtrak is required to complete designs to make at least 135 of its existing stations accessible, complete construction at 90 of those stations, and begin construction at 45 more," the Justice Department said in its statement.

Driving the news: The DOJ opened an investigation following a 2013 report by the advocacy group National Disability Rights Network found the railroad had "'lagged far behind' other transportation providers in providing accessible services" and after receiving complaints about inaccessible train stations, the New York Times reports.

  • DOJ assistant attorney Kristen Clarke said in a statement the payments, "as well as Amtrak's ongoing efforts to make rail stations accessible pursuant to our settlement agreement, bring both Amtrak and our nation one step closer to realizing the ADA's promise of equal opportunity for people with disabilities."

What they're saying: National Disability Rights Network executive director Curt Decker said in a statement that inaccessible train stations "are more than just an inconvenience."

  • "Transportation is the linchpin of community integration," Decker added.
  • An Amtrak spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company had "made significant progress in bringing numerous facilities into higher levels of accessibility. "
  • Amtrak plans to "spend more than $143 million in 2022 on accessibility planning and construction to more than 43 additional stations," the spokesperson added.

Editor's note: This post has been updated with a comment from Amtrak.

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