$25,000 for Wheelchair Bound Group

1147 views
25 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February 2012
  • 64 posts
$25,000 for Wheelchair Bound Group
Posted by JimJCMO on Sunday, January 19, 2020 6:51 PM

https://www.npr.org/2020/01/17/797355136/amtrak-asks-two-people-in-wheelchairs-to-pay-25-000-for-a-ride

While I don't know much about Amtrak's ADA compliance policies, this article, if it's true as presented, shows an astonishing degree of Tone Deafness.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 10,399 posts
Posted by Overmod on Sunday, January 19, 2020 8:16 PM

This isn't 'tone deafness', it's common sense.

Amtrak has been mandated by Congress to do things at a profit.

You don't remove and put back seats for a $16 charge.  Hence if you expect more than the nominal ADA accommodation provided for large power chairs, expect to pay what it costs to make that space.

Or have Congress make and pass laws that give you that particular accommodation.  That's probably the strategy in use here: fulfil the letter of the law, and let policymakers amend it when the complaints get large enough.  But I'm not sure there's going to be enough lobbying to get major car-knocking modifications (and then seats put back afterward) done free as a 'right'.

Personally, I'd tell them they can ride one to a car, in the accommodations prepared for wheelchair riders.  And if their chairs don't fit, get ones that do if they want to ride the train.

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 6,450 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Sunday, January 19, 2020 9:30 PM

JimJCMO

https://www.npr.org/2020/01/17/797355136/amtrak-asks-two-people-in-wheelchairs-to-pay-25-000-for-a-ride

While I don't know much about Amtrak's ADA compliance policies, this article, if it's true as presented, shows an astonishing degree of Tone Deafness.

 

On a recent AMTRK trip I did observe what appeared to be eqipment designed to get wheelchair bound individuals onto the train (SuperlinerCars(?)). there were devices labeled wheelchair lifts on some of the station platforms; although I never saw one used. Some of the baggage areaswithin the lower level of thos Superliner Cars appeared to have a folding ramp device[ I assumed they were for individuals boarding the train with limited abilities(?).   

It seemed that those with mobility limitationswere specifically seated on the Superliner Cars lower levels( ?).  A passenger with a 'walker' was assisted on and off by individuals and crew on deboarding.  I would assume a large party with limited mobility individuals, would require some special advanced planning, and for certain some sort of 'lift' to board and exit the train.  Possibly, an extra baggage car could somehow be used for their convrnience(?).  For certain, a group requiring boarding assistance, would require extra time on station stops, which would disrupt the published regular schedule.   WhistlingWhistlingMy guess is that AMTRK would probably, not be to anxious to see their trains and empoyee schedules so disrupted.  

 

 


 

  • Member since
    July 2016
  • 705 posts
Posted by Backshop on Sunday, January 19, 2020 9:44 PM

It's a 2 hour drive.  Why would they want to take Amtrak?

  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: At the Crossroads of the West
  • 10,661 posts
Posted by Deggesty on Monday, January 20, 2020 8:03 AM

Sam, the ramps that I have seen in Superliner cars are not folding devices; they are heavy one piece ramps.

I have seen a lift used to raise someone up to a Superliner car--and also used to raise someone up to a single level car.

Johnny

  • Member since
    February 2016
  • From: Texas
  • 1,409 posts
Posted by PJS1 on Monday, January 20, 2020 9:20 AM

Deggesty
 Sam, the ramps that I have seen in Superliner cars are not folding devices; they are heavy one piece ramps.

I have seen a lift used to raise someone up to a Superliner car--and also used to raise someone up to a single level car. 

The central and west Texas stations served by Amtrak that don’t have raised platforms, i.e. Cleburne, McGregor, Taylor, Del Rio, etc., have a portable lift to help handicapped passengers get on and off the train.  For those stations with raised platforms, the one-piece ramp is used.
 
Amtrak is funding the construction of a raised platform at Temple.  According to the construction company foreman, the estimated cost of the project is $1 to $1.5 million. 
 
Taking the time to accommodate handicapped people on the Texas trains is not likely to disrupt their on-time-performance.  The schedules of the Heartland Flyer, Texas Eagle, and Sunset Limited have more padding in them than training boxing gloves. 

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 6,450 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Monday, January 20, 2020 9:41 AM

PJS1

 

 
Deggesty
 Sam, the ramps that I have seen in Superliner cars are not folding devices; they are heavy one piece ramps.

I have seen a lift used to raise someone up to a Superliner car--and also used to raise someone up to a single level car. 

 

The central and west Texas stations served by Amtrak that don’t have raised platforms, i.e. Cleburne, McGregor, Taylor, Del Rio, etc., have a portable lift to help handicapped passengers get on and off the train.  For those stations with raised platforms, the one-piece ramp is used.
 
Amtrak is funding the construction of a raised platform at Temple.  According to the construction company foreman, the estimated cost of the project is $1 to $1.5 million. 
 
Taking the time to accommodate handicapped people on the Texas trains is not likely to disrupt their on-time-performance.  The schedules of the Heartland Flyer, Texas Eagle, and Sunset Limited have more padding in them than training boxing gloves. 
 

 
Johnnie, and PSJ1
My recent ride on AMTRK was specifically, on the Southwest Chief; West #3 and East #4.  Our trip West was pretty much right on 'the advertised'.  Station stops were very quick, I did not time them, but I'd guess at about 5 to 6 minutes(?).
 
    The Albuquerque station platform, was equipped with ramp areas between the station and platform; out on the platform were 'devices' labeled 'wheelchair lift'.     Can't speak to any of the other stops,as to their handicapped assessibility, but my guess is they have some arrangements to accomodate passengers needing those services(?)
 
 Like so many other 'services' mandated by Federal Law[ie; ADA]; If those required services are not present. You can bet that 'activists' and their lawyers are either filing lawsuits or about to. Whistling

 

 


 

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • 56 posts
Posted by AMTRAKKER on Monday, January 20, 2020 9:44 AM

This is a state supported train, paid for by citizens tax dollars from the State of Illinois. These people are citizens of the State of Illinois. 

How exactly is it common sense to take our tax dollars to run the train and not offer a service to the taxpayers are are paying for it? 

And 25 k to remove maybe 3 rows of seats to accomodate paying customers.

By that standard, I should have made about 5k in the time it took to write this post. 

 

 

  • Member since
    July 2016
  • 705 posts
Posted by Backshop on Monday, January 20, 2020 10:25 AM

I have a question...is the cost just for removing and reinstalling the seats or do special locking devices for the wheelchairs also have to be used?

  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Great Plains
  • 1,301 posts
Posted by York1 on Monday, January 20, 2020 10:41 AM

AMTRAKKER
How exactly is it common sense to take our tax dollars to run the train and not offer a service to the taxpayers are are paying for it? 

 

I disagree.  In this case, the requirement would be that a service must be provided -- moving the passenger from one place to another.  For example, Amtrak could hire a handicapped bus service to move the passengers.  Amtrak often provides bus service when a train cannot make a trip.

The deal about not offering a service to taxpayers who are paying for it, the following is from Access Living's website detailing where their funds come from.  It seems the tax dollars are already doing quite a bit.

https://www.accessliving.org/ar2019-2019-annual-report/2019-annual-report-our-funding/

 

Edit:  After rereading my comment, it may sound like I disapprove of this group or their mission.  That is not my intent.  I'm sure they provide a needed service for people who may not be able to advocate for themselves.  My point was about providing services.

John  --  Saints Fan  

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 10,399 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, January 20, 2020 10:51 AM

Backshop
I have a question...is the cost just for removing and reinstalling the seats or do special locking devices for the wheelchairs also have to be used?

I have little doubt that the guides and locking devices are required -- if they are not, they surely should be.  They will likely not be rudimentary tie-down straps or elastic, either.  That being said, I can't imagine they haven't been designed to fit the seat-track anchor locations, so installing or removing them would be comparatively easy.  I have not looked into what special designs for power chairs or 'scooters' might be provided; it is at least theoretically possible that the same programs that pay for provision of these power chairs might also pay for 'bespoke' attachments for transit vehicles (including Amtrak) and for the cost of modifying the vehicles to take them easily.

There is much more involved in making this conversion, though, than just unbolting a couple of rows of seats and putting in anchors.  The seats must be removed from the car, possibly being partly disassembled in the process, and taken to storage.  They would then have to be returned and reassembled.  All at Government-sanctioned union wages.  It would be nice if the location of seat storage and locking devices was all in the same place, together with tools and other required equipment, but that may not be so.

And yes, all that cost is the responsibility of the ones demanding the accommodation, not taxpayers at large.  The Government subsidy is for the transportation service, not reconfiguring trains for groups of special-needs passengers.  There's a reason the ADA is built around reasonable accommodation, and reasonable accommodation for a normal train is what Amtrak provides with the present one-wheelchair-per-car installation.

Now, if I were running Amtrak, I might make a publicity item out of making this accommodation.  I might in turn ask that my carmen and drivers either volunteer or take a reduced wage as their 'share' of the accommodation.  I might set up and contribute to a crowdfunded effort to defray some or all of the cost ... or to establish a nest egg and methodology for future trips by the group.

But on the other hand, I would not provide it free as if it were a required accommodation, at least not until Congress had acted to provide it as an exception from the profitability mandate.

  • Member since
    July 2016
  • 705 posts
Posted by Backshop on Monday, January 20, 2020 11:02 AM

Let me preface this by saying that I'm not familiar with the group in question.  That being said, there are two types of disability advocacy groups--the "doers" and the "talkers".  The "doers" are organizations like Goodwill and Salvation Army.  They put their money where their mouth is.  They actually help disabled people make a better life for themselves.  The "talkers" do nothing themselves; they just always tell others what they need to do.  They even go after the doers, telling them that they're not doing enough or doing it the wrong way.  Every time I read about an advocacy group being slighted, I wonder if it's a setup by a "talker" group.  I don't remember their names, but along with many good "doer" groups, the blind and deaf have especially radical and vocal "talker" groups.

  • Member since
    December 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 9,639 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Monday, January 20, 2020 3:25 PM

Well just heard it on NPR at about 20 minutes past the hour.  This could not be worse.  NPR audiences are much more supportative of Amtrak than the general public !

  • Member since
    September 2014
  • 65 posts
Posted by ROBIN LUETHE on Monday, January 20, 2020 4:16 PM

$25K is about the cost of one employee for three months I suspect.  Somehow I can't think it should take that much time.  The R and D for directions to remove a seat (and storage in the baggage car) shouldn't be that much.  

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 2,933 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, January 20, 2020 8:01 PM

ROBIN LUETHE

$25K is about the cost of one employee for three months I suspect.  Somehow I can't think it should take that much time.  The R and D for directions to remove a seat (and storage in the baggage car) shouldn't be that much.  

 

The person who would move seats gets $100,000 annually?  No wonder Amtrak has such high operating expenses.  That said, this is terrible PR, along the lines of winning the battle but losing the war. 

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,483 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, January 20, 2020 8:29 PM

So on this item I can understand why the Senator is upset because she was told by the past Amtrak administration prior to Andersen that one of Amtrak's valuable reasons to exist was that it carried so many physically challenged people......then this happens under Andersen........makes Amtrak look real idiotic.Indifferent

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,483 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, January 20, 2020 8:31 PM

Backshop
It's a 2 hour drive.  Why would they want to take Amtrak?

Because when you travel as a group on Amtrak you get a group discount.   I believe the threshold is 20 people or more (pretty sure they were not paying full price for the tickets).    Plus you can do work on the trains and socialize on them using them for "pre-meetings".

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 10,399 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, January 20, 2020 8:54 PM

There's a little more to this story, which involves the kind of chairs.  Amtrak notes here that "wheeled mobility device and transfer-accessible seats are limited."  When you look at Amtrak's view of "wheeled mobility devices" you will discover that much of their 'accessibility' arrangement involves collapsible manual chairs rather than fancy all-terrain motorized ones ... and this is where the group in question appears to be finding its "traction".  While it might be necessary to retrack seats to accommodate a pile of folded wheelchairs, the situation looks very different when everyone is in a Hoveround or equivalent ... where they have to stay during the trip.

And it's specious at best to say it's "just two people" -- it's two people more than Amtrak has accommodation space for, on a given train.  I would note with interest that if two of the five 'wheelchair-bound' members of the organization were to travel in collapsible wheelchairs, there would be no issue with the other three, and as Amtrak noted if the group had agreed to 'split' between two trains three hours apart there would have been no issue, and no excess cost, at all.  

No one has mentioned the cost Amtrak mentions of taking a car out of service, switching it to a carman-accessible location (perhaps at Beech Grove), making the seat and latch changes ... then repeating this process after the group has traveled.  If we include the lost number of seat-miles represented here, I'm not surprised we get to a nominal $25,000 in opportunity cost.  This is substantially more involved (although I don't really know if it 'has' to be, based on Amtrak's agreements with the unions concerned) than just pulling a couple of rows of seats, chucking them in a baggage car, and screwing them back at the other end.

I'd dearly love to see what Anderson tells Duckworth when she goes in to bother him and he points out the mandate from "her" organization to Show A Profit Or Else.  Perhaps it will be a teachable moment for her about how actions have consequences.

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 2,933 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 6:29 PM
  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,024 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 8:30 PM

The bigger question is why Amtrak is only configured to handle on wheel chair per rail car.  Do all wheel chair bound patrons travel alone?

At least one car per train should be 'easily' reconfigurable to accept at least 4 wheel chairs.  With a sufficient number of the reconfigurable cars operating out of a terminal area that, with advance notice, even more wheel chair bound patrons can be handled with a minimum of muss and fuss.

This is not rocket science and the ADA wasn't enacted just yesterday.

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,483 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 8:51 PM

BaltACD

The bigger question is why Amtrak is only configured to handle on wheel chair per rail car.  Do all wheel chair bound patrons travel alone?

At least one car per train should be 'easily' reconfigurable to accept at least 4 wheel chairs.  With a sufficient number of the reconfigurable cars operating out of a terminal area that, with advance notice, even more wheel chair bound patrons can be handled with a minimum of muss and fuss.

This is not rocket science and the ADA wasn't enacted just yesterday.

I think they were using the motorized mobility devices which are not collapseable as Overmod stated (hoverrounds).   In which case they have to find space without seats for them to park onboard with the breaks locked.   I would think even with the brakes locked that in a collision they would fly around the passenger compartment unless they are anchored to the floor. 

  • Member since
    February 2016
  • From: Texas
  • 1,409 posts
Posted by PJS1 on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 10:22 AM

Overmod
..... if two of the five 'wheelchair-bound' members of the organization were to travel in collapsible wheelchairs, there would be no issue with the other three, and as Amtrak noted, if the group had agreed to 'split' between two trains three hours apart there would have been no issue, and no excess cost, at all. 

Anderson did the right thing.  He backed down.  He has been an executive long enough to know that once emotionalism kicks in, as it did in this situation, any attempt to discuss the issue rationally is gone.  The best outcome for the corporation is to switch to damage control. 

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 6,450 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 11:30 AM

PJS1
 
Overmod
..... if two of the five 'wheelchair-bound' members of the organization were to travel in collapsible wheelchairs, there would be no issue with the other three, and as Amtrak noted, if the group had agreed to 'split' between two trains three hours apart there would have been no issue, and no excess cost, at all.  
Anderson did the right thing.  He backed down.  He has been an executive long enough to know that once emotionalism kicks in, as it did in this situation, any attempt to discuss the issue rationally is gone.  The best outcome for the corporation is to switch to damage control. 
 

 
    Apparently, the Public Relations folks at AMTRAK have realized they may have stepped on ther own step stools! 
                   As Paul Harvey used to state: "Here is the rest of the story... "Amtrak backs down from $25,000 ticket for disabled riders"
...A story from CBS News by Aimee Picchi : 
Details at linked site.
 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 


 

  • Member since
    October 2014
  • 373 posts
Posted by Gramp on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 9:23 PM

Watched an Amtrak wheelchair passenger onboarded with the portable lift at the Springfield, Il. station a couple years ago.  The lift was pushed from the station platform out onto the adjacent cross-street next to the station.  Automobiles were waiting for the train behind the gates.  From the middle of the street, the passenger was lifted onto the train.  Laughable if it weren't so sad.  

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,024 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 10:12 PM

Appears that Amtrak wants to comply with ADA in the WORST POSSIBLE way, and they are making their compliance as laughable as possible.

  • Member since
    February 2016
  • From: Texas
  • 1,409 posts
Posted by PJS1 on Thursday, January 23, 2020 7:49 PM
According to Amtrak’s Service Line Plans FY20-24, as of FY18 Amtrak had shared or sole ADA responsibilities at 383 stations. 
 
The company has invested more than $51 million in ADA related design and construction projects at more than 100 locations.  Moreover, it is committed to spend more than $50 million from FY20 through FY24 to ensure its stations are ADA compliant, as per Appendix A, Customer Accessibility, Page 37, Amtrak Asset Line Plan FY20-24. 
 
In the case of shared responsibilities, Amtrak’s ADA expenditures are usually matched by the station owner. 
 
As noted Amtrak is constructing a new ADA compliant station platform at Temple, TX.  Amtrak and Temple are splitting the cost, which is estimated to be $1 to $1.5 million.
 
As of FY18 46 percent of Amtrak’s cars were ADA compliant.  Many of the older cars had to be retrofitted to comply with ADA requirements, but the newer cars were built to ADA standards. 
 
Amtrak has spent millions to comply with ADA.  Well, Amtrak hasn’t spent the money; it comes out of the pockets of the farepayers and taxpayers. 
 
For some people, however, especially in light of a one-off stuff up, Amtrak and other common carriers will never measure up to their expectations. 

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy