In 1990 Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Amtrak, in turn, was charged with making 482 stations fully handicap accessible by 2015. Amtrak last updated it’s compliance report in October of 2010, reporting it achieved compliance at 10% of the 482 stations. The ADA requirements include high level platforms stretching the length of the train as well as full compliance in station areas and parking lots. Amtrak’s report details that in 2011, it plans to have work completed, in process, or in final planning at 107 stations. Progress is often hindered at stations due to the concerns of freight railroads with high level platforms liming rail car clearances and municipalities unwilling or unable to fund the improvements. Amtrak currently fulfills its ADA requirements at these stations through the use of ramps, wheel chair lifts, and in some situations mini-high level platforms that process access to a single car.
Amtrak is to be commended for working on solutions for mobility impairment and not fighting the mandate. The ADA’s intent is quite clear that disabilities should not provide be a barrier to life, but the ADA also uses a key word; “reasonable.” The ADA requires reasonable accommodations at the workplace and the same standard should apply here. Is it reasonable for install full length high level platforms at every station, or is a wheel chair lift a perfectly reasonable option at low volume stations. That is the key question.