37.137 Paratransit plan development.

(a) Survey of existing services.  Each submitting entity shall survey the area to be covered by the plan to identify any person or entity (public or private) which provides a paratransit or other special transportation service for ADA paratransit eligible individuals in the service area to which the plan applies.
Section 35.137 establishes three principal requirements in the development of paratransit plans.  First is the requirement to survey existing paratransit services within the service area.  This is required by section 223(c)(8) of the ADA..  While the ADA falls short of explicitly requiring coordination, clearly this is one of the goals.  The purpose of the survey is to determine what is being provided already, so that a transit provider can accurately assess what additional service is needed to meet the service criteria for comparable paratransit service.  The plan does not have to discuss private paratransit providers whose services will not be used to help meet paratransit requirements under this rule.  However, the public entity will need to know specifically what services are being provided by whom if the entity is to count the transportation toward the overall need. Since the public entity is required to provide paratransit to all ADA paratransit eligible individuals, there is some concern that currently provided service may be cut back or eliminated.  It is possible that this may happen and such action would have a negative effect on transportation provided to persons with disabilities in general.  The Department urges each entity required to submit a plan to work with current providers of transportation, not only to determine what transportation services they provide, but also to continue to provide service into the foreseeable future.
(b) Public participation.

Each submitting entity shall ensure public participation in the development of its paratransit plan, including at least the following:
  1. Outreach.  Each submitting entity shall solicit participation in the development of its plan by the widest range of persons anticipated to use its paratransit service.  Each entity shall develop contacts, mailing lists and  other appropriate means for notification of opportunities to participate in the development of the paratransit plan.
  2. Consultation with individuals with disabilities.  Each entity shall contact individuals with disabilities and groups representing them in the community.  Consultation shall begin at an early stage in the plan development and should involve persons with disabilities in all phases of plan development.  All documents and other information concerning the planning procedure and the provision of service shall be available, upon request, to members of the pubic, except where disclosure would be  an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
  3. Opportunity for public comment.  The submitting entity shall make its plan available for review before the plan is finalized.  In making the plan available for public review, the entity shall ensure that the plan is available upon request in accessible formats.
  4. Public hearing.  The entity shall sponsor at a minimum one public hearing and shall provide adequate notice of the hearing, including advertisement in appropriate media, such as newspapers of general and special interest circulation and radio announcements; and
  5. Special requirements.  If the entity intends to phase-in its paratransit service over a multi-year period, or request a waiver based on undue financial burden, the public hearing shall afford the opportunity for interested citizens to express their views concerning the phase-in, the request, and which service criteria may be delayed in implementation.
Second, §37.137 specifies requirements for public participation.  First, the entity must perform outreach, to ensure that a wide range of persons anticipated to use the paratransit service know about and have the opportunity to participate in the development of the plan.  Not only must the entity identify who these individuals or groups are, the entity also must contact the people at an early stage in the development process.

The other public participation requirements are straightforward.  There must be a public hearing and an opportunity to comment.  The hearing must be accessible to those with disabilities, and notice of the hearing must be accessible as well.  There is a special efforts test identified in this paragraph for comments concerning a multi-year phase-in of a paratransit plan.
(c) Ongoing requirement.  The entity shall create an ongoing mechanism for the participation of individuals with disabilities in the continued development and assessment of services to persons with disabilities.  This includes, but is not limited to, the development of the initial plan, any request for an undue financial burden waiver, and each annual submission.
The final general requirement of the section specifies that efforts at public participation must be made permanent through some mechanism that provides for participation in all phases of paratransit plan development and submission.  The Department is not requiring that there be an advisory committee established, although this is one method of institutionalizing participation.  The Department is not as interested in the specific structure used to ensure public participation as we are interested in the effectiveness of the effort.  The Department believes that public participation is a key element in the effective implementation of the ADA.  The ADA is an opportunity to develop programs that will ensure the integration of all persons into not just the transportation system of America, but all of the opportunities transportation makes possible.  This opportunity is not without tremendous challenges to the transit providers.  It is only through dialogue, over the long term, that usable, possible plans can be developed and implemented.