The requirements of the ADA apply regardless of whether a particular entity or activity uses federal funding. Vehicles, services, buildings, and facilities must all comply whether they are federally-funded or not.
This section of the toolkit provides information on funding that can be used to comply with ADA requirements and enhance the accessibility of rural transit services. Although the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) does not provide funding dedicated to meeting ADA requirements, many FTA grant programs can be used to support ADA-related expenses. State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) may also provide state funding for ADA-related expenses. Many rural transit agencies have contracts to operate human services transportation in coordination with public transportation, and this can be an important way to fund transportation for people with disabilities. Medicaid funding for non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) may cover a portion of the cost to provide ADA complementary paratransit to and from medical appointments for individuals who are eligible for both ADA complementary paratransit and Medicaid. Transit agencies can make more efficient and effective use of resources by coordinating with other organizations. Transit agencies that operate fixed route service can reduce the need to provide ADA complementary paratransit by making the fixed route service as accessible and user-friendly as possible.
This section of the ADA Toolkit covers:
The following programs are commonly used to support accessible rural public transportation and specialized transportation services. For more information about these and other potential funding sources, see the Budgeting and Finance 101 section of the Transit Manager’s Toolkit, under Potential Funding Sources for Rural Public Transportation.
Section 5311—Formula Grants for Rural Areas
Section 5311—Formula Grants for Rural Areas is the FTA program specifically intended for rural public transportation, providing funding for operating, administrative, planning, and capital projects.
Operating projects can include provision of ADA complementary paratransit, with a maximum federal share of 50 percent of net operating deficit.
Capital projects that are allowable under federal program include (but are not limited to):
- Purchase of accessible vehicles
- Accessibility equipment on vehicles
- Construction or rehabilitation of transit facilities (including accessibility improvements)
- Mobility management projects (which can include travel training and coordination projects)
- Preventive maintenance (which can include maintenance of lifts and ramps)
The federal Section 5311 program also allows for up to 10 percent of a recipient’s (state’s) annual Section 5311 apportionment to be spent on ADA complementary paratransit, but only for programs which are in full compliance with the ADA requirements. The maximum federal share for Section 5311 capital projects is generally 80 percent. The maximum federal share for vehicles that comply with 49 CFR Part 38 is 85 percent, and 90 percent for project costs for acquiring vehicle-related equipment (on or attached to the vehicle) or facilities that are required by the ADA.
For more information about project eligibility, review Chapter III, Section 3 of FTA Circular 9040.1G, Formula Grants for Rural Areas: Program Guidance and Application Instructions (Section 5311), and check with the State DOT about eligible projects and funding matching ratios in that state’s Section 5311 program. State RTAP Managers can also provide technical assistance. National RTAP provides a Directory of State RTAP Managers.
Section 5310—Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities
Section 5310—Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities provides funding to assist in meeting the transportation needs of older adults and people with disabilities. Rural public transit systems may be eligible for Section 5310 funding through the State DOT depending upon the state program specifics and the types of organizations the state funds under its Section 5310 program. Projects funded under the Section 5310 program must be included within a locally-developed, coordinated public transit-human services transportation plan.
At least 55 percent (55%) of a State DOT’s Section 5310 program must be for “traditional” Section 5310 projects, defined as public transportation capital projects planned, designed, and carried out to meet the specific needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities when public transportation is insufficient, unavailable, or inappropriate.
Included among the eligible projects under this category are:
- Purchase of vehicles
- Purchase of service operations
- Preventive maintenance
- Vehicle wheelchair lifts, ramps, and securement devices
- Purchase and installation of passenger amenities such as benches and shelters
- Dispatch technology
- Mobility management and coordination programs
- The capital cost of contracting for the provision of transit services for seniors and individuals with disabilities and other specialized shared-ride transportation services
Up to 45 percent (45%) of each state’s Section 5310 program may be used for additional public transportation projects that:
- Exceed the ADA minimum requirements,
- Improve access to fixed route service and decrease reliance by individuals with disabilities on ADA complementary paratransit service, or
- Provide alternatives to public transportation that assist seniors and individuals with disabilities with transportation.
These projects must be designed to meet the transportation needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities. They may, however, be used by the general public, and FTA encourages projects that are open to the public as a means of avoiding unnecessary segregation of services.
Examples of public transportation projects that exceed the requirements of the ADA include:
- Enhancing paratransit beyond minimum ADA requirements, such as:
- going beyond the minimum geographic area or days and hours of service
- providing same day service
- providing door-to-door service to all passengers
- providing a higher level of passenger assistance than required (such as escort service)
- purchasing vehicles that accommodate larger and heavier mobility devices or with additional securement locations than the minimum specifications under 49 CFR Part 38
- Providing accessible “feeder” transit service to commuter rail, commuter bus, intercity rail, and intercity bus stations, for which complementary paratransit service is not required under the ADA
Examples of public transportation projects that improve fixed route accessibility include:
- Making accessibility improvements to transit and intermodal stations not designated as “key stations.” For rural transit agencies, this could include building an accessible path to a bus stop that is currently inaccessible, improving signage or wayfinding technology, or technology improvements to enhance accessibility for people with disabilities.
- Travel training programs to help individuals learn to ride fixed route and increase their awareness of transportation options.
Examples of public transportation alternatives that assist seniors and individuals with disabilities with transportation include:
- Purchasing vehicles to support accessible taxi, ride-sharing, and/or vanpooling programs
- Supporting the administration and expenses related to voucher programs for transportation services offered by human service providers
- Supporting volunteer driver and aide programs
Maximum federal match levels for Section 5310 are comparable to those under Section 5311. For more information about eligible projects under Section 5310, see Chapter III, Sections 13 through 16 of FTA Circular 9070.1G and ask the State DOT.
Section 5339 - Bus and Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program
The Section 5339 - Bus & Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program provides funding for capital bus and bus-related projects that will support the continuation and expansion of public transportation services. States determine how Section 5339 funds are distributed among rural subrecipients. Eligible projects that could support ADA compliance include vehicles (including paratransit vehicles), facilities, passenger amenities, technology, and capital cost of contracting.
Maximum federal match levels for Section 5339 are comparable to those under Section 5311. For more information about eligible projects under Section 5339, see Chapter III, Sections 5 and 8 of FTA Circular 5100.1 and ask the State DOT.
Other FTA Funding Programs that Can Be Used in Rural Areas
FTA periodically provides other types of grants that could be used to help enhance or expand transportation for individuals with disabilities, often through mobility management and coordination initiatives. As discussed in the Coordination and Mobility Management section of the Transit Manager’s Toolkit under FTA Funding for Mobility Management, recent grant opportunities have included Access and Mobility Partnership Grants, the Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Program, the Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI) Demonstration Program, the Mobility for All Pilot Program, and more. A good source of information about future grant opportunities is the National Center for Mobility Management (NCMM).
FTA Funding and ADA Requirements
The U.S. DOT ADA requirements are not limited to FTA funding recipients. There are requirements that apply to all public entities as well as requirements that apply to private entities. However, it should be emphasized that compliance with ADA requirements is a condition of eligibility for receipt of Federal funding.
Importantly, FTA-funded public transportation services are subject to the ADA requirements for public entities, even if the organization operating the service is private. As explained in Appendix D to 49 CFR Part 37, under Section 37.23, private entities are considered to be “standing in the shoes” of a public entity that contracts for the service. Additionally, as stated in Section 1.3.2 of the FTA ADA Circular, the stand-in-the shoes requirements apply to private entities that receive Section 5311 funding through subgrant agreements directly with state agencies, or through subrecipients who then enter into agreements with private contractors for service.
Section 1.3.2 of the ADA Circular (page 1-7, under “Private Entities Receiving Section 5310 Funding”) also notes that Section 5310-funded service that is open to the public is subject to the requirements for public entities. However, private nonprofit organizations that receive Section 5310 funding and provide closed-door service to their own clientele (i.e., not open to the general public) do not stand in the shoes of the public entity for the closed-door service. Instead, these organizations are subject to the ADA requirements that apply to private entities (which are beyond the scope of this toolkit).
Recipients and subrecipients of FTA funding that do not comply with ADA requirements could jeopardize their FTA funding. Under 49 CFR Section 37.11(a) and Subpart C (Enforcement) of 49 CFR Part 27, FTA is charged with ensuring FTA grantees do not discriminate against individuals with disabilities, and each grantee agrees to comply with federal law when signing the FTA Master Agreement as well as the certifications and assurances submitted with each grant application (discussed in the Grant Compliance Requirements section of the Transit Manager’s Toolkit under Introduction).
As discussed in the FTA ADA Circular, FTA processes ADA complaints filed against transit providers by members of the public alleging noncompliance. FTA’s process includes an investigation with an opportunity for the transit provider to respond. If the transit provider is found not to be in compliance, FTA advises them of corrective actions needed.
The FTA conducts periodic State Management Reviews and requires states to conduct compliance oversight of their subrecipients, as described in the Grant Compliance Requirements section of the Transit Manager’s Toolkit under Ensuring Compliance.
FTA also conducts specialized reviews of selected recipients to verify their compliance with ADA requirements for fixed route and paratransit requirements.
If FTA cannot work with an agency to resolve apparent ADA violations by voluntary means, enforcement provisions can include referral to U.S. DOJ for enforcement or suspension or termination of grant funding.
Many rural transit agencies have contracts to operate human services transportation in coordination with public transportation, and this can be an important way to fund transportation for people with disabilities. For example, Medicaid funding for non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) may cover a portion of the cost to provide ADA complementary paratransit to and from medical appointments for individuals who are eligible for both ADA complementary paratransit and Medicaid. The extent to which such costs can be funded by Medicaid vary in each state, depending the state’s approach to administering Medicaid NEMT and the specific contract executed with each transportation provider. Under the federal Medicaid regulations in 42 CFR Part 440 [specifically in Section 440.170(a)(4)(ii)(B)(4)(iii)], under specific circumstances in states that have established NEMT brokerages, the NEMT brokers are permitted to pay for public paratransit services for as much as (but no more than) the rate charged to other state human services agencies for comparable services. Other funding programs that support individuals with disabilities may also be used to cover ADA complementary paratransit costs or to provide other transportation support.
Transit agencies can make more efficient and effective use of resources by coordinating public transit and specialized transportation services and by coordinating with other organizations to address different types of needs. For example, coordinated dispatching and scheduling can increase productivity on demand response and paratransit services. Productivity is key to making the most efficient use of operating funding and reducing the average cost per passenger trip. Mobility management programs help match consumers to the services that can meet their needs, and can also provide other functions, such as eligibility determination for ADA complementary paratransit and other transportation programs.
Private Sector Partner Sponsorships
Transit agencies may be able to garner financial support from the private sector for ADA complementary paratransit. The Paris Metro system in the rural city of Paris, Texas is an example. Historically, Paris was served by general public demand response transit service, provided by the Ark-Tex Council of Governments Rural Transit District as part of its regional TRAX rural transit service. In 2016, to more effectively serve city residents, TRAX replaced the Paris demand response service with fixed route transit together with ADA complementary paratransit. TRAX used assistance of a consultant to develop a sponsorship program to generate revenue for the service prior to implementing this change. In return, TRAX allows advertising and promotional and other benefits for sponsors. United Way of Lamar County was the first sponsorship partner, and, working with TRAX, soon got the Paris Regional Medical Center and Texas Oncology on board. Several other sponsors came on board as well. In return, the sponsoring businesses get advertising space on the Paris Metro buses and other promotional opportunities.
Updated June 2, 2020