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Accessibility Update

Amtrak Accessibility Update: Q&A (Dec. 2015)

By December 30, 2015 No Comments

Amtrak is Working to Make Rail Stations Accessible to All Passengers

Amtrak is committed to reducing barriers to travel and making the national passenger rail system accessible to all travelers. With input from station owners and members of the disability community, as well as state and federal officials, Amtrak has taken significant steps to improve the travel experience. We continually look for ways to enhance trip planning, ticketing services, stations, equipment and on-board services.

Level boarding platform for wheelchair accessibility to train

Level boarding platforms allow passengers to easily get on and off the train. The platform’s yellow tactile strip warns passengers that they are near the edge.

The more than 500 stations Amtrak serves in 46 states and the District of Columbia are gateways to their communities, and as such they should be welcoming to all. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability, includes provisions that require stations in the intercity rail transportation system to be made accessible to and usable by a person who has a disability.

A person may have a visible or invisible disability. Stations must be able to accommodate travelers who use a wheeled mobility device, who may be blind or have limited vision, who are deaf or have hearing loss or a person who may have any other disability. Accessibility improvements ultimately enhance the travel experience for all passengers, including seniors, families with small children and those with heavy luggage.

“Improving the national intercity passenger rail system so that it is accessible to all travelers closely aligns with the Amtrak strategic goals of safety and security, customer focus and financial excellence,” says Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman. “More than that, however, it’s simply the right thing to do. The company has legal and moral obligations to achieve full accessibility as soon as possible, and it is making progress.”

Amtrak is currently working to bring the stations it serves, and for which it has ADA responsibility, into compliance with requirements in the most timely, integrated and efficient way possible.


Q&A: What to Know About Amtrak’s ADA Work

Please note that all information is accurate as of December 18, 2015, but subject to change as property surveys are completed, circumstances change and new information comes to light.

Woman in wheelchair uses power doors to access elevator

Power doors open automatically with the push of a button.

Q: What kind of ADA work is typically planned for a station?

A: Work areas include station entrances and entry doors, restrooms, waiting rooms, ticket windows, passenger information display systems (PIDS) and signage. We also focus on the platform as well as having accessible pathways between the parking lot, depot and platform.

Q: For how many stations does Amtrak have ADA responsibility?

A: Under ADA legislation, 491 of the more than 500 stations Amtrak serves are required to be made accessible (the ADA excluded “flag stops” where the train stops only if passengers are present, either on the train or station platform, and ticketed to and/or from the station). Determining ownership and ADA responsibility involves analyzing three distinct components: station structure, platform and parking. Amtrak has:

  • Sole ADA Responsibility for 129 stations
  • Shared ADA Responsibility for 236 stations
  • No ADA Responsibility for 126 stations

As noted above, Amtrak has either sole or shared ADA responsibility at 365 stations; these stations constitute the Amtrak ADA Stations Program (ADASP). Amtrak also plans to add the 25 stations classified as “flag stops” to the ADASP and bring the elements for which Amtrak has ADA responsibility into compliance.

Woman standing in front of Passenger Information Display

Passenger Information Display Systems allow for synchronized audio-visual announcements.

Q: How will Amtrak bring stations into ADA compliance over the next few years? Is there a work plan?

A: Amtrak recently submitted its ADA Stations Program Five Year Strategic Plan (FY 2016-FY 2020) to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Clearly defined strategies and tasks guide Amtrak in completing work in the most timely, integrated and efficient way possible. The five year strategic plan consists of survey, ADA assessment, design and construction work at 277 unique stations.

Q: How does the ADASP Five Year Strategic Plan prioritize how ADA work should be completed?

A: Amtrak, in coordination with members from the disability community and the FRA, has developed priorities for the ADASP to address stations with the following known or potential accessibility deficiencies:

1. Stations with known or potential train access deficiencies

There are 14 stations in the Amtrak system (for which Amtrak has ADA responsibility for the platform) with known or potential significant platform and/or path of travel deficiencies. These stations are not currently accessible to persons with a disability who use wheeled mobility devices such as a wheelchair.

2. Stations with known or potential PIDS deficiencies

There are 66 stations in the Amtrak system (for which Amtrak has ADA responsibility) with known or potential Passenger Information Display System (PIDS) deficiencies. Amtrak plans to ensure that PIDS at these stations will allow for synchronized audio-visual announcements.

3. Stations with known or potential station access and/or station amenity deficiencies

There are 47 stations (for which Amtrak has ADA responsibility for the station building) that have known or potential access (entrance/exit) deficiencies and/or deficiencies inside the station building with amenities such as restrooms and ticket counters.

Q: What will be the focus after the first three ADASP priorities have been addressed?

A: The following priorities would then be funded and advanced:

1. Level boarding

There are many stations in the national system where Amtrak intends to alter platforms to provide level boarding. When the platform and train car floor are at the same level, it is easier and faster for passengers to get on and off the train.

2. Addressing stations that are a candidate for a level boarding type solution

There are many stations in the national system where Amtrak intends to provide a level boarding type solution. As part of its Accessible Boarding Technologies Program, Amtrak is currently designing and testing a setback modular platform with an integrated shuttle platform solution that will provide a level boarding type solution at stations with freight traffic adjacent to a platform. This solution features a platform that can move toward the train to bridge any gap.

Amtrak’s Accessible BoardingTechnologies (ABT) Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan

In July 2015, Amtrak unveiled a prototype retractable setback-shuttle platform at the Ann Arbor, Mich., station. The platform mechanically moves toward the train, bridging the gap created when a level-boarding platform is needed.

Q: How much will Amtrak spend on its ADASP Five Year Strategic Plan?

A: The U.S. Congress and FRA have directed that a portion of Amtrak’s annual Capital and Debt Service Grants be used to further the goals of the ADASP. Including project management, Amtrak projects to spend approximately $266 million on the ADASP under the five year strategic plan.

Q: How many ADA station projects were scheduled to enter the construction phase in FY 2015 (Oct. 1, 2014 – Sep. 30, 2015)?

A: Included in the new starts construction phase (which consists of procurement followed by construction work) were the 29 stations in 19 states listed below. The total budgeted cost for these projects was $11.7 million.

FY 2015 funds were also used to advance construction at the Lorton, Va., and Sanford, Fla., stations although these construction projects began in FY 2014.

1 Substantially completed as of December 2015; 2 In design; 3 Entered procurement in FY 2015, but construction has not begun.

Cars parked at Harrisburg, Pa. station

Harrisburg, Pa., station.

Project spotlight: In Harrisburg, Pa., Amtrak installed a new elevator providing access to Track 6/7. The elevator is located within an historic steel and timber train shed that employs Fink roof trusses. The station is served by the Keystone Service (Harrisburg-Philadelphia-New York) and the Pennsylvanian (Pittsburgh-Philadelphia-New York). Construction work was substantially completed in December 2015.

Q: How many stations were scheduled for PIDS deployment and design in FY 2015?

A: PIDS, which provide simultaneous audio and visual messaging, were scheduled for deployment at 12 stations in 10 states in FY 2015. The total budgeted cost for these projects was $10.6 million. PIDS deployment has been completed or is in progress at 10 of the 12 stations; two projects, Seattle and Philadelphia, were funded under the FY 2015 budget, but deployment has been moved to 2016.

PIDS Deployment Completed

PIDS Work in Progress (Dec. 2015)

PIDS Designs Completed

PIDS Designs in Progress (Dec. 2015)

1 Partially completed

Q: At How Many Stations is ADA Construction Work Completed?

A: Construction work has been completed at 25 stations since 2013:

1 Scope of work did not include platform work.

Rensselaer, Ind. station exterior

Rensselaer, Ind., station.

Project spotlight: A new passenger shelter was dedicated in Rensselaer, Ind., in August 2013. The one story red brick building features a bright and airy waiting area with bench seating. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the station also received light standards and a 550-foot long concrete platform with tactile edging. Rensselaer is served by the Cardinal (New York-Chicago) and Hoosier State (Indianapolis-Chicago). Photo courtesy of Donna Cochran, city of Rensselaer.

Q: How does Amtrak work with the disability community?

A: Amtrak works with a wide range of disability community members. While as a community they have common goals, each also has specific needs that are rooted in the disabilities they represent and for which they advocate. Amtrak works with individual groups, such as the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Transportation Task Force, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and National Disability Rights Network, so that we’re sensitive to their concerns, but we also meet with them collectively to share ideas and get the benefit of a wider participation around our ideas and initiatives. This ongoing conversation allows us to gather encouragement and criticism where needed.

Q: When will all ADA-related work be completed?

A: A level of compliance with the ADA can be attained, but in reality our work will never be done. Amtrak should always be looking for ways to improve the travel environment for all passengers, including passengers with disabilities. That includes everything from stations to equipment and how Amtrak plans for future equipment. Amtrak is a partner with the disability community in carrying out the spirit and the intent of the ADA.


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