This section contains amendments from November 30, 1993.

37.51  Key stations for commuter rail systems.

(a) The responsible person(s) shall make key stations on its system readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs. This requirement is separate from and in addition to requirements set forth in 37.43 of this Part.

(b)  Each commuter authority shall determine which stations on its system are key stations.  The commuter authority shall identify key stations, using the planning and public participation process set forth in  paragraph (d) of this section, and taking into consideration the following criteria:
  1. Stations where passenger boardings exceed average station passenger boardings on the rail system by at least fifteen percent, unless such a station is close to another accessible station;
  2. Transfer stations on a rail line or between rail lines;
  3. Major interchange points with other transportation modes, including stations connecting with major parking facilities, bus terminals, intercity or commuter rail stations, passenger vessel terminals, or airports;
  4. End stations, unless an end station is close to another accessible station; and
  5. Stations serving major activity centers, such as employment or government centers, institutions of higher education, hospitals or other major health care facilities, or other facilities that are major trip generators for individuals with disabilities.
What is a key station? A key station is one designated as such by the commuter authority or light/rapid rail operator, through the planning process and public participation process set forth in this section.  The five criteria listed in the regulation are intended to guide the selection process but, while the entity must take these criteria into account (and this consideration must be reflected in the planning process and documents), they are not mandatory selection standards.  That is, it is not required that every station that meets one of the criteria be designated as a key station.  Since the criteria are not mandatory selection standards, the understanding of their terms is also a matter appropriately left to the planning process.  A tight, legalistic definition is not necessary in the context of factors intended for consideration.  For instance, what constitutes a major activity center or how close a station needs to be to another station to not be designated as key depend largely on local factors that it would not be reasonable to specify in this rule.

Given the wide discretion permitted to rail operators in identifying key stations, there would be no objection to identifying as a key station a new (presumably accessible) station now under construction.  Doing so would involve consideration of the key station criteria and would be subject to the planning/public participation process.

If an extension to a rail system (e.g., a commuter system) is made, such that the system comes to include existing inaccessible stations that have not previously been part of the system, the Department construes the ADA to require application of key station accessibility in such a situation.  The same would be true for a new start commuter rail system that began operations using existing stations.  Key station planning, designation of key stations, and with consistent with the ADA would be required.  The Department would work with the commuter authority involved on a case-by-case basis to determine applicable time limits for accessibility, consistent with the time frames of the ADA.
  1. Except as provided in this paragraph, the responsible person(s) shall achieve accessibility of key stations as soon as possible, but in no case later than July 26, 1993, except that an entity is not required to complete installation of detectable warnings required by section 10.3.2(2) of appendix A to this part until July 26, 1994.
  2. The UMTA Administrator may grant an extension of this deadline for key station accessibility for a period up to July 26, 2010.  Extensions may be granted as provided in paragraph (e) of this section.
These sections require that key stations in light, rapid, and commuter rail systems be made accessible as soon as practicable, but no later than July 26, 1993.  Being made accessible, for this purpose, means complying with the applicable provisions of Appendix A to this Part.  "As soon as practicable" means that, if modifications can be made before July 26, 1993, they must be.  A rail operator that failed to make a station accessible by July 1993 would be in noncompliance with the ADA and this rule, except in a case where an extension of time had been granted.
(d) The commuter authority and responsible person(s) for stations involved shall develop a plan for compliance for this section. This plan shall be completed and submitted to UMTA by July 26, 1992.
  1. The commuter authority and responsible person(s) shall consult with individuals with disabilities affected by the plan.  The commuter authority and responsible person(s) also shall hold at least one public hearing on the plan and solicit comments on it.  The plan shall document this public participation, including summaries of the consultation with individuals with disabilities and the comments received at the hearing and during the comment period.  The plan also shall summarize the responsible person(s) responses to the comments and consultation.
  2. The plan shall establish milestones for the achievement of required accessibility of key stations, consistent with the requirements of this section.
  3. The commuter authority and responsible person(s) of each key station identified in the plan shall, by mutual agreement, designate a project manager for the purpose of undertaking the work of making the key station accessible.
The entity must develop a compliance plan, subject to the public participation and planning process set forth in paragraph (d) of each of these sections.  Note that this plan must be completed by July 26, 1992, not January 26, 1992, as in the case of paratransit plans.  The key station plans must be submitted to UMTA at that time.  (The statute does not require UMTA approval of the plans, however.)
(e) Any commuter authority and/or responsible person(s) wishing to apply for an extension of the July 26, 1993, deadline for key station accessibility shall include a request for extension with its plan submitted to under paragraph (d) of this section.  Extensions may be granted only in a case where raising the entire passenger platform is the only means available of attaining accessibility or where other extraordinarily expensive structural changes (e.g., installations of elevators, or alterations of magnitude and cost similar to installing an elevator or raising the entire passenger platform) are necessary to attain accessibility. Requests for extensions shall provide for completion of key station accessibility within the time limits set forth in paragraph (c) of this section.  The UMTA Administrator may approve, approve with conditions, modify, or disapprove any request for an extension.
A rail operator may request an extension of the July 1993 completion deadline for accessibility modifications to one or more key stations.  The extension for light and rapid rail stations can be up to July 2020, though two thirds of the key stations (per the legislative history of the statute, selected in a way to maximize accessibility to the whole system) must be accessible by July 2010.Commuter rail stations can be extended up to July 2010.

Requests for extension of time must be submitted by July 26, 1992.  UMTA will review the requests on a station-by-station basis according to the statutory criterion, which is whether making the station accessible requires extraordinarily expensive alterations.  An extraordinarily expensive alteration is raising the entire platform, installing an elevator, or making another alteration of similar cost and magnitude.  If another means of making a station accessible (e.g., installation of a mini-high platform in a station where it is not necessary to install an elevator for to provide access to the platform for wheelchair users), then an extension can be granted only if the rail operator shows that the cost and magnitude of the alteration is similar in to that of an elevator installation or platform raising.

The rule does not include a specific deadline for UMTA consideration of an extension request.  However, since we are aware that, in the absence of an extension request, accessibility must be completed by July 1993, we will endeavor to complete review of plans as soon as possible, to give as much lead time as possible to local planning and implementation efforts.

Once an extension is granted, the extension applies to all accessibility modifications in the station.  However, the rail operator should not delay non-extraordinarily expensive modifications to the station.  The key station plan and any extension request should include a schedule for phasing in non-extraordinarily expensive modifications to the station.  For example, even if a key station is not going to be accessible to wheelchair users for 15 years, pending the installation of an elevator, the rail operator can improve its accessibility to persons with visual impairments by installing tactile strips.

An extension cannot be granted except for a particular station which needs an extraordinarily expensive modification.  An extension cannot be granted non-extraordinarily expensive changes to Station B because the extraordinarily expensive changes to Station A will absorb many resources.  Non-extraordinarily expensive changes, however costly considered collectively for a system, are not, under the statute, grounds for granting an extension to one or more stations or the whole system.  Only particular stations where an extraordinarily expensive modification must be made qualify for extensions.

The UMTA Administrator can approve, modify, or disapprove any request for an extension.  For example, it is not a forgone conclusion that a situation for which an extension is granted will have the maximum possible extension granted.  If it appears that the rail operator can make some stations accessible sooner, UMTA can grant an extension for a shorter period (e.g., 2005 for a particular station rather than 2010).