Feb 1, 2023 - News

DOJ continues information-gathering on Detroit paratransit

Illustration of a wheelchair on one side of a seesaw with a hand pressing down the other side

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The U.S. Department of Justice is continuing to look into riders' experiences using Detroit's oft-criticized paratransit services.

Driving the news: A DOJ civil rights investigator is trying to contact users of the city's transit program for the elderly and those with disabilities who have complained about inadequate service for "one-on-one interviews," Richard Clay of the National Federation of the Blind's Detroit chapter tells Axios.

  • "They are clearly compiling more information still," says Clay, who was contacted last week to provide the DOJ with contact information for those who spoke at a recent town hall.

What they're saying: It's unclear exactly what the continued inquiry means or where it'll lead, but Clay says it's "huge news to those of us in the community who are affected, because we know that at the least, that means they are still keeping their eye firmly on the (paratransit) system as it develops …"

Catch up quick: A DOJ representative, assistant U.S. attorney Michael El-Zein, attended and documented a December town hall hosted by advocates calling the situation a "unnecessary paratransit crisis."

  • Riders described chronic lateness and missed pickups resulting in missing medical appointments, as well as people in wheelchairs falling because they have not been properly strapped in — plus other stories about inadequate service, according to WXYZ.

Flashback: Mayor Mike Duggan approved temporary paratransit contracts in mid-December to avoid a halt to service after City Council turned down a proposal involving long-maligned contractor Transdev.

  • A gap in providing the federally mandated paratransit service would have meant the city was violating federal law, the FTA told the city in a letter.
  • The DOJ has the "independent authority to investigate failure to comply with (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements," the FTA wrote.

The other side: A Transdev representative at City Council last week said the company was the "target of unwarranted criticism" and has exceeded DDOT's expectations.

Between the lines: A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office-Eastern District of Michigan under the DOJ declined to comment.

Of note: The eastern district has a hotline for those who may have had their civil rights violated, via (313) 226-9151 or [email protected].


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