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Accessibility Update

Amtrak Accessibility Update: January 2017

By January 13, 2017 No Comments

ADA Stations Program Progress

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 511 of the 516 stations Amtrak serves in the United States are required to be made accessible. Amtrak recently decided to reclassify all 25 of its flag stops as regular station stops, to the greatest extent possible, and thereby make them subject to ADA requirements. Amtrak is determining ADA responsibility for the various flag stop station components (structure, platform and parking) following completion of property surveys.

Determining ADA responsibility involves analyzing ownership of three distinct components: station structure, platform and parking. As of the date hereof, Amtrak has:

  • Sole ADA Responsibility for 139 stations
  • Shared ADA Responsibility for 245 stations
  • No ADA Responsibility for 127 stations

As noted above, Amtrak has either sole or shared ADA responsibility at 384 stations; these stations constitute the Amtrak ADA Stations Program (ADASP).

Stations Work Completed to Date

  • Land Survey: 368
  • ADA Assessment: 296
  • Design: 91
  • Construction Awarded: 78
  • Construction Complete: 55*

*Not all scopes of work included platform work. Some stations may require additional work at a later date to bring platforms into compliance with the ADA.

Amtrak also identified 80 stations in its national system for which it had ADA responsibility for Passenger Information Display Systems (PIDS) with known or potential deficiencies. A number of these stations have an audible public address (PA) system but do not have a messaging component that communicates that same information visually. In addition, there are stations with legacy PIDS that have both PA and electronic signage but that are not ADA compliant because there is no visual message functionality that would enable synchronized dual-mode announcements.

Passenger Information Display Systems Work Completed to Date

  • Design Task Order: 33
  • Design Completed: 30
  • Deployment Task Order: 24
  • Deployment Go Live: 21


Project Spotlight: Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Tuscaloosa station platform prior to accessibility enhancements.

The Tuscaloosa station platform prior to accessibility enhancements.

The Tuscaloosa station, served twice daily by the Crescent (New York-Atlanta-New Orleans), was refurbished in the latter half of 2016 to include a number of accessibility enhancements benefitting Amtrak customers. Outside, crews added accessible parking stalls and an accessible pathway from the parking area to the station’s entry doors and the platform. An enclosure was installed on the platform for the station-based lift, which is used to convey customers – particularly those using a wheeled mobility device – between the platform and train car.

New exterior ramp and stairs at Tuscaloosa, Ala.

New stairs (l) and a ramp (r) lead from the platform to the waiting room entry. Beyond the ramp, new accessible parking stalls are visible.

Men’s and women’s restrooms were renovated and are now fully accessible. The construction crew modified the ticket and baggage counters and the train brochure rack to meet ADA requirements. A drinking fountain and clock were also installed. New signage in and around the building is at appropriate heights and easy to read, while new city identifier signs line the platform.

Installation of a new Passenger Information Display System means that train information and general announcements are simultaneously broadcast over a public address system and visible on a monitor.

New platform PIDS at Tuscaloosa, Ala.

A new PIDS on the platform provides synchronized audio and visual messaging.

The one story brick depot, located about a mile south of downtown Tuscaloosa, was built in 1911 for the Southern Railway as a replacement for an earlier structure. Trackside, it features a romantic castle-like bay with deep corbelling and a conical roof topped by a finial.

Tuscaloosa sits on the shores of the Black Warrior River, whose shoals provided a reliable ford that made the area a natural convergence point for early trails. From 1826 to 1846, the city served as the state capital, and the University of Alabama was established there in 1831. A system of locks built on the river in the 1890s opened up an inexpensive means of transport to Mobile and the Gulf of Mexico, stimulating mining and metallurgical industries in the region.

More than 10,500 customers began or ended their journey at the Tuscaloosa station in 2016.


Fiscal Year 2017 ADA Stations Plan Approved

The Federal Railroad Administration recently approved Amtrak’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 ADA Stations Plan. Amtrak expects to spend not less than $50 million of its FY 2017 capital funds on ADA improvements.

Station Priorities

The FY 2017 Plan focuses on stations where Amtrak has an unfulfilled obligation to remediate ADA deficiencies and prioritizes improvements that can most quickly provide the greatest accessibility improvements to passengers with disabilities. Many of the tasks are a continuation of planning and design work completed in prior fiscal years. Station priorities include the following:

  • Stations with known or potential train access deficiencies: These stations are not accessible to persons with a disability who use wheeled mobility devices and such persons cannot purchase a ticket, or may have significant difficulties when attempting to board/de-board a train.
  • Stations with known or potential PIDS deficiencies: Amtrak has a number of stations that have public address (PA) systems but no visual component. In addition, there are stations with legacy PIDS that have both PA and electronic signage but are not ADA compliant because there is no visual messaging functionality to deliver synchronized dual-mode announcements.
  • Stations with known or potential station building deficiencies: Stations that have known or potential entrance/exit deficiencies and/or deficiencies inside the station buildings with other key amenities such as restrooms and ticket counters.

Amtrak intends to progress toward removing barriers and making each station accessible, so that a person with a disability will be able to purchase a ticket, board/de-board a train, enter the station building, use the restroom and other key amenities and receive pertinent public information.

Station Projects Budgeted Under FY 2017

Amtrak’s FY 2017 Plan consists of planning, design and construction work at 81 unique stations:

37 Station Assessments: Amtrak will perform ADA assessments of the station components for which it has ADA responsibility. Results of the assessments will be used in future project phases to develop scopes of work for design documents and construction activities to make those areas accessible. Under the FY 2017 funding grant, $555,000 has been budgeted for station assessments.

19 Station Designs*: Amtrak will undertake design activities to address the non-ADA compliant station components for which it has ADA responsibility. Design activities include developing construction documents that adhere to Amtrak’s standard design practices and guidelines, applicable laws, regulations, codes, Department of Transportation Accessibility Standards (DOTAS), et cetera. Under the FY 2017 funding grant, $1.7 million has been budgeted for station design work.

26 Station Construction Projects*: Amtrak will perform construction necessary to ensure that the approved accessible designs are implemented. Under the FY 2017 funding grant, $21.2 million has been budgeted for station construction projects in 18 states:

*In some cases, platform work is being deferred until a later date. As a result, some stations may require additional work to bring platforms into compliance with the ADA. Also, at some stations the FY 2017 work does not include all ADA work to be done; additional ADA work will be done under separate projects.

Amtrak will also conduct post-construction assessments at 56 stations. This includes assessments of all station components –for which Amtrak has ADA responsibility – that were constructed and/or modified as part of construction projects in order to verify that all elements are accessible. Under the FY 2017 funding grant, $644,000 has been budgeted for this work.

 PIDS Projects Budgeted Under FY 2017

PIDS provide Amtrak customers with integrated audio-visual messaging regarding train service and general announcements. ADA compliance requires that passenger messaging be delivered audibly and visually, synchronized and in parallel. Although it is independently managed, the PIDS program aims to stay in sync with the larger ADASP, with PIDS designs and deployments typically undertaken in the same timeframe as other stations work.

Amtrak’s FY 2017 Plan consists of PIDS planning and deployment at 21 unique stations:

10 PIDS Designs: The design is based on the passenger flow through the station, architectural and engineering characteristics of the space, Amtrak design specifications and ADA guidelines. Under the FY 2017 funding grant, $1.2 million has been budgeted for this work.

11 PIDS Deployments: Amtrak will perform construction on all ADA non-compliant PIDS issues identified in the design documents. Amtrak has contracts in place to handle all phases of PIDS implementation at stations, including design, deployment (installation and integration) and commissioning. Under the FY 2017 funding grant, nearly $6.8 million has been budgeted for construction projects in 10 states:

 Accessible Boarding Technologies Program

Work continues on the Amtrak Accessible Boarding Technologies (ABT) Program, which is part of the ADASP. At many stations, Amtrak uses movable, onboard ramps or bridge plates to assist customers with a mobility disability to board and de-board trains. They span both the vertical and horizontal gaps that exist between the train car floor and the surface or edge of the platform.

Testing a new carbon fiber ramp.

Testing a new carbon fiber ramp.

The ABT team analyzed existing onboard ramps and bridge plates and suggested significant improvements to their design to add length, reduce slope, integrate handrails and incorporate durable, lightweight materials that would significantly reduce their weight as well as lessen the possibility of employee injury during use.

A small number of “production intent” carbon fiber bridge plates was produced in FY 2016, which included those used for Acela Express, Northeast Regional and Downeaster trains. One ramp was also produced for use with bi-level Superliner cars. In FY 2017, Amtrak plans to select a manufacturer for a limited production run of Acela and Northeast Regional bridge plates, and ramps, that will be deployed across the system. Additional production in future fiscal years will be necessary to fulfill required quantities.

Under the FY 2017 Plan, Amtrak also continues to monitor the performance of the prototype setback shuttle platform at the Ann Arbor, Mich., station.

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