Disability Law Index - Transportation: Lifts


42 U.S.C. § 12145 - Temporary relief where lifts are unavailable

(a) Granting - With respect to the purchase of new buses, a public entity may apply for, and the Secretary may temporarily relieve such public entity from the obligation under section 12142(a) or 12144 of this title to purchase new buses that are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities if such public entity demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Secretary -

(1) that the initial solicitation for new buses made by the public entity specified that all new buses were to be lift-equipped and were to be otherwise accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities;

(2) the unavailability from any qualified manufacturer of hydraulic, electromechanical, or other lifts for such new buses;

(3) that the public entity seeking temporary relief has made good faith efforts to locate a qualified manufacturer to supply the lifts to the manufacturer of such buses in sufficient time to comply with such solicitation; and

(4) that any further delay in purchasing new buses necessary to obtain such lifts would significantly impair transportation services in the community served by the public entity.

(b) Duration and notice to Congress - Any relief granted under subsection (a) of this section shall be limited in duration by a specified date, and the appropriate committees of Congress shall be notified of any such relief granted.

(c) Fraudulent application - If, at any time, the Secretary has reasonable cause to believe that any relief granted under subsection (a) of this section was fraudulently applied for, the Secretary shall -

(1) cancel such relief if such relief is still in effect; and
(2) take such other action as the Secretary considers appropriate.


49 C.F.R. § 37.163 - Keeping vehicle lifts in operative condition: Public entities

(a) This section applies only to public entities with respect to lifts in non-rail vehicles.

(b) The entity shall establish a system of regular and frequent maintenance checks of lifts sufficient to determine if they are operative.

(c) The entity shall ensure that vehicle operators report to the entity, by the most immediate means available, any failure of a lift to operate in service.

(d) Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, when a lift is discovered to be inoperative, the entity shall take the vehicle out of service before the beginning of the vehicle's next service day and ensure that the lift is repaired before the vehicle returns to service.

(e) If there is no spare vehicle available to take the place of a vehicle with an inoperable lift, such that taking the vehicle out of service will reduce the transportation service the entity is able to provide, the public entity may keep the vehicle in service with an inoperable lift for no more than five days (if the entity serves an area of 50,000 or less population) or three days (if the entity serves an area of over 50,000 population) from the day on which the lift is discovered to be inoperative. (f) In any case in which a vehicle is operating on a fixed route with an inoperative lift, and the headway to the next accessible vehicle on the route exceeds 30 minutes, the entity shall promptly provide alternative transportation to individuals with disabilities who are unable to use the vehicle because its lift does not work.

49 C.F.R. § 37.165 Lift and securement use.

(a) This section applies to public and private entities.

(b) All common wheelchairs and their users shall be transported in the entity's vehicles or other conveyances. The entity is not required to permit wheelchairs to ride in places other than designated securement locations in the vehicle, where such locations exist.

(c)(1) For vehicles complying with part 38 of this title, the entity shall use the securement system to secure wheelchairs as provided in that Part.(2) For other vehicles transporting individuals who use wheelchairs, the entity shall provide and use a securement system to ensure that the wheelchair remains within the securement area.(3) The entity may require that an individual permit his or her wheelchair to be secured.

(d) The entity may not deny transportation to a wheelchair or its user on the ground that the device cannot be secured or restrained satisfactorily by the vehicle's securement system.

(e) The entity may recommend to a user of a wheelchair that the individual transfer to a vehicle seat. The entity may not require the individual to transfer.

(f) Where necessary or upon request, the entity's personnel shall assist individuals with disabilities with the use of securement systems, ramps and lifts. If it is necessary for the personnel to leave their seats to provide this assistance, they shall do so.

(g) The entity shall permit individuals with disabilities who do not use wheelchairs, including standees, to use a vehicle's lift or ramp to enter the vehicle. Provided, that an entity is not required to permit such individuals to use a lift Model 141 manufactured by EEC, Inc. If the entity chooses not to allow such individuals to use such a lift, it
shall clearly notify consumers of this fact by signage on the exterior of the vehicle (adjacent to and of equivalent size with the accessibility symbol).

49 C.F.R. § 38.23 - Mobility aid accessibility (excerpted subsections)

(a) General - All vehicles covered by this subpart shall provide a level-change mechanism or boarding device (e.g., lift or ramp) complying with paragraph (b) or (c) of this section and sufficient clearances to permit a wheelchair or other mobility aid user to reach a securement location. At least two securement locations and devices, complying with paragraph (d) of this section, shall be provided on vehicles in excess of 22 feet in length; at least one securement location and device, complying with paragraph (d) of this section, shall be provided on vehicles 22 feet in length or less.

(b) Vehicle lift-

(1) Design load. The design load of the lift shall be at least 600 pounds. Working parts, such as cables, pulleys, and shafts, which can be expected to wear, and upon which the lift depends for support of the load, shall have a safety factor of at least six, based on the ultimate strength of the material. Nonworking parts, such as platform, frame, and attachment hardware which would not be expected to wear, shall have a safety factor of at least three, based on the ultimate strength of the material.

(2) Controls-

(i) Requirements. The controls shall be interlocked with the vehicle brakes, transmission, or door, or shall provide other appropriate mechanisms or systems, to ensure that the vehicle cannot be moved when the lift is not stowed and so the lift cannot be deployed unless the interlocks or systems are engaged. The lift shall deploy to all levels (i.e., ground, curb, and intermediate positions) normally encountered in the operating environment. Where provided, each control for deploying, lowering, raising, and stowing the lift and lowering the roll-off barrier shall be of a momentary contact type requiring continuous manual pressure by the operator and shall not allow improper lift sequencing when the lift platform is occupied. The controls shall allow reversal of the lift operation sequence, such as raising or lowering a platform that is part way down, without allowing an occupied platform to fold or retract into the stowed position.

(ii) Exception. Where the lift is designed to deploy with its long dimension parallel to the vehicle axis and which pivots into or out of the vehicle while occupied (i.e., ``rotary lift''), the requirements of this paragraph prohibiting the lift from being stowed while occupied shall not apply if the stowed position is within the passenger compartment and the lift is intended to be stowed while occupied.

(3) Emergency operation. The lift shall incorporate an emergency method of deploying, lowering to ground level with a lift occupant, and raising and stowing the empty lift if the power to the lift fails. No emergency method, manual or otherwise, shall be capable of being operated in a manner that could be hazardous to the lift occupant or to the operator when operated according to manufacturer's instructions, and shall not permit the platform to be stowed or folded when occupied, unless the lift is a rotary lift and is intended to be stowed while occupied.

(4) Power or equipment failure. Platforms stowed in a vertical position, and deployed platforms when occupied, shall have provisions to prevent their deploying, falling, or folding any faster than 12 inches/ second or their dropping of an occupant in the event of a single failure of any load carrying component.

(5) Platform barriers. The lift platform shall be equipped with barriers to prevent any of the wheels of a wheelchair or mobility aid from rolling off the platform during its operation. A movable barrier or inherent design feature shall prevent a wheelchair or mobility aid from rolling off the edge closest to the vehicle until the platform is in its fully raised position. Each side of the lift platform which extends beyond the vehicle in its raised position shall have a barrier a minimum 1\1/2\ inches high. Such barriers shall not interfere with maneuvering into or out of the aisle. The loading-edge barrier (outer barrier) which functions as a loading ramp when the lift is at ground level, shall be sufficient when raised or closed, or a supplementary system shall be provided, to prevent a power wheelchair or mobility aid from riding over or defeating it. The outer barrier of the lift shall automatically raise or close, or a supplementary system shall automatically engage, and remain raised, closed, or engaged at all times that the platform is more than 3 inches above the roadway or sidewalk and the platform is occupied. Alternatively, a barrier or system may be raised, lowered, opened, closed, engaged, or disengaged by the lift operator, provided an interlock or inherent design feature prevents the lift from rising unless the barrier is raised or closed or the supplementary system is engaged.

(6) Platform surface. The platform surface shall be free of any protrusions over \1/4\ inch high and shall be slip resistant. The platform shall have a minimum clear width of 28\1/2\ inches at the platform, a minimum clear width of 30 inches measured from 2 inches above the platform surface to 30 inches above the platform, and a minimum clear length of 48 inches measured from 2 inches above the surface of the platform to 30 inches above the surface of the platform. (See Fig. 1)

(7) Platform gaps. Any openings between the platform surface and the raised barriers shall not exceed \5/8\ inch in width. When the platform is at vehicle floor height with the inner barrier (if applicable) down or retracted, gaps between the forward lift platform edge and the vehicle floor shall not exceed \1/2\ inch horizontally and \5/8\ inch vertically. Platforms on semi-automatic lifts may have a hand hold not exceeding 1\1/2\ inches by 4\1/2\ inches located between the edge barriers.

(8) Platform entrance ramp. The entrance ramp, or loading-edge barrier used as a ramp, shall not exceed a slope of 1:8, measured on level ground, for a maximum rise of 3 inches, and the transition from roadway or sidewalk to ramp may be vertical without edge treatment up to \1/4\ inch. Thresholds between \1/4\ inch and \1/2\ inch high shall be beveled with a slope no greater than 1:2.

(9) Platform deflection. The lift platform (not including the entrance ramp) shall not deflect more than 3 degrees (exclusive of vehicle roll or pitch) in any direction between its unloaded position and its position when loaded with 600 pounds applied through a 26 inch by 26 inch test pallet at the centroid of the platform.

(10) Platform movement. No part of the platform shall move at a rate exceeding 6 inches/second during lowering and lifting an occupant, and shall not exceed 12 inches/second during deploying or stowing. This requirement does not apply to the deployment or stowage cycles of lifts that are manually deployed or stowed. The maximum platform horizontal and vertical acceleration when occupied shall be 0.3g.

(11) Boarding direction. The lift shall permit both inboard and outboard facing of wheelchair and mobility aid users.

(12) Use by standees. Lifts shall accommodate persons using walkers, crutches, canes or braces or who otherwise have difficulty using steps. The platform may be marked to indicate a preferred standing position.

(13) Handrails. Platforms on lifts shall be equipped with handrails on two sides, which move in tandem with the lift, and which shall be graspable and provide support to standees throughout the entire lift operation. Handrails shall have a usable component at least 8 inches long with the lowest portion a minimum 30 inches above the platform and the highest portion a maximum 38 inches above the platform. The handrails shall be capable of withstanding a force of 100 pounds concentrated at any point on the handrail without permanent deformation of the rail or its supporting structure. The handrail shall have a cross-sectional diameter between 1\1/4\ inches and 1\1/2\ inches or shall provide an equivalent grasping surface, and have eased edges with corner radii of not less than \1/8\ inch. Handrails shall be placed to provide a minimum 1\1/2\ inches knuckle clearance from the nearest adjacent surface. Handrails shall not interfere with wheelchair or mobility aid maneuverability when entering or leaving the vehicle.

Case Law:

Midgett v. Tri-County Metro Transp. Dist., 254 F.3d 846 (2001).

  • Several frustrating, but isolated, instances of malfunctioning lift service do not establish a violation of the ADA.

Martin v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, 225 F.Supp.2d 1362 (N.D.Ga.,2002).

  • The Court is persuaded that the Plaintiffs' evidence demonstrates a pattern of lift breakdowns in service resulting in stranded passengers due to failure to inspect the lifts, or failure to repair them in a timely fashion, or failure to provide alternative transportation. Although MARTA has policies in effect to address the problem, it is evident that those policies are not working. MARTA's witnesses concede that maintaining the wheelchair lifts on the older buses is a problem. Part of the problem is that MARTA does not have an adequate system of investigating and following up on complaints from customers, particularly complaints implicating ADA requirements. MARTA has not presented evidence of any bus operator being disciplined for failure to report an inoperable lift. MARTA's current policies are not working, and Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits as to violation of the ADA due to a widespread and systemic problem of inoperable wheelchair lifts on Marta's fixed route bus system.


Assessment of Fixed Route Bus Wheelchair Lift Maintenance & Reliability
This assessment tool is designed to assist transit agencies and the Federal Transit Administration in determining if accessibility equipment, particularly wheelchair lifts, on fixed route bus systems are operating reliably.  It also is meant to assist in assessing lift cycling and maintenance, and related service policies.  Guidance is provided on getting input in the review process from local disability organizations and customers, on selecting vehicles to be reviewed, and on conducting actual on-street observations of lift cycling, operation, and maintenance practices.  Guidance is also provided on administrative follow-up issues related to promoting and implementing a policy for successful lift maintenance and operation.