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Class action: Inadequate call center for paratransit programs violates ADA

Danny Jacobs//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer//January 16, 2015

Class action: Inadequate call center for paratransit programs violates ADA

By Danny Jacobs

//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

//January 16, 2015

Telephone and call center operations at the Maryland Transit Administration’s paratransit system are so inadequate that the system is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a class-action lawsuit filed Friday.

The complaint, filed by the Maryland Disability Law Center, alleges problems with the system have left many of its 32,000 riders unable to schedule rides or report late rides, and cause patrons to lose “untold hours of time” waiting to speak to an operator.

“Defendants’ operational patterns and practices illegally exclude Plaintiffs from equal participation and meaningful access to the benefits of public transportation services,” the complaint states.

The state’s Mobility/Paratransit programs are “origin-to-destination” services for people with disabilities unable to ride on regular public transportation routes. Riders must apply and be certified to use the service, which operates primarily in Baltimore city and select parts of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges the paratransit program’s call center does not have enough capacity to answer the volume of calls it receives, resulting in “constant” busy signals or dropped calls. In August, the Federal Transit Administration found the call center operations violated the ADA, according to the lawsuit. The program’s operators have claimed periodically since 2012 that they would install a new phone system with greater capacity, but it has not yet been done, the complaint says.

The MDLC and several riders wrote to Transportation Secretary James T. Smith Jr. to share their concerns in November 2013, according to the complaint. Responses to the letters have indicated the problems are being addressed “but to the extent any actions have been taken, they have been ineffective and unsuccessful,” the complaint states.

The call center staff was changed from part-time to full-time in July but the program has “struggled” to stay fully staffed, the plaintiffs allege.

The lawsuit names as defendants Smith, MTA Administrator Robert L. Smith and Daniel O’Reilly, director of MTA’s paratransit services.

The plaintiffs, in addition to asking a judge to declare the defendants violated the ADA, are seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions requiring an upgrade to the call center and the creation of a remedial plan to end the “unlawful patterns and practices.”

Erin Henson, a spokeswoman for Maryland Department of Transportation, said the agency could not comment on the lawsuit because it had received the complaint late Friday afternoon and had not reviewed the allegations. A spokesman for MTA did not return calls seeking comment. The case is Freeman et al v Smith et al., 1:15-cv-00149-CCB.


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