37.163  Keeping vehicle lifts in operative condition - public entities.

(a) This section applies only to public entities with respect to lifts in non-rail vehicles.
This section applies only to public entities.  Of course, like vehicle acquisition requirements and other provisions applying to public entities, these requirements also apply when private entities "stand in the shoes" of public entities in contracting situations, as provided in §37.23.
(b) The entity shall establish a system of regular and frequent maintenance checks of lifts sufficient to determine if they are operative.
This section's first requirement is that the entity establish a system of regular and frequent maintenance checks of lifts sufficient to determine if they are operative.

Vehicle and equipment maintenance is an important component of successful accessible service.  In particular, an aggressive preventive maintenance program for lifts is essential.  Lifts remain rather delicate pieces of machinery, with many moving parts, which often must operate in a harsh environment of potholes, dust and gravel, variations in temperature, snow, slush, and deicing compounds.  It is not surprising that they sometimes break down.  The point of a preventive maintenance program is to prevent breakdowns, of course.  But it is also important to catch broken lifts as soon as possible, so that they can be repaired promptly.  Especially in a bus system with relatively low lift usage, it is possible that a vehicle could go for a number of days without carrying a passenger who uses the lift.  It is highly undesirable for the next passenger who needs a lift to be the person who discovers that the lift is broken, when a maintenance check by the operator could have discovered the problem days earlier, resulting in its repair.

Therefore, the entity must have a system for regular and frequent checks, sufficient to determine if lifts are actually operative.  This is not a requirement for cycling the lift daily.  (Indeed, it is not, as such, a requirement for lift cycling at all.  If there is another means available of checking the lift, it may be used.) If alternate day checks, for example, are sufficient to determine that lifts are actually working, then they are permitted.  If a lift is used in service on a given day, that may be sufficient to determine that the lift is operative with respect to the next day.  It would be a violation of this part, however, for the entity to neglect to check lifts regularly and frequently, or to exhibit a pattern of lift breakdowns in service resulting in stranded passengers when the lifts had not been checked before the vehicle failed to provide required accessibility to passengers that day.
(c) The entity shall ensure that vehicle operators report to the entity, by the most immediate means available, any failure of a lift to operate in service.
When a lift breaks down in service, the driver must let the entity know about the problem by the most immediate means available.  If the vehicle is equipped with a radio or telephone, the driver must call in the problem on the spot.  If not, then the driver would have to make a phone call at the first opportunity (e.g., from a phone booth during the turnaround time at the end of a run).  It is not sufficient to wait until the end of the day and report the problem when the vehicle returns to the barn.
(d)  Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, when a lift is discovered to be inoperative, the entity shall take the vehicle out of service before the beginning of the vehicle's next service day and ensure that the lift is repaired before the vehicle returns to service.
When a lift is discovered to be inoperative, either because of an in-service failure or as the result of a maintenance check, the entity must take the vehicle out of service before the beginning of its next service day (with the exception discussed below) and repair the lift before the vehicle is put back into service.  In the case of an in-service failure, this means that the vehicle can continue its runs on that day, but cannot start a new service day before the lift is repaired.  If a maintenance check in the evening after completion of a day's runs or in the morning before a day's runs discloses the problem, then the bus would not go into service until the repair had taken place.
(e) If there is no spare vehicle available to take the place of a vehicle with an inoperable lift, such that taking the vehicle out of service will reduce the transportation service the entity is able to provide, the public entity may keep the vehicle in service with an inoperable lift for no more than five days (if the entity serves an area of 50,000 or less population) or three days (if the entity serves an area of over 50,000 population) from the day on which the lift is discovered to be inoperative.  
The Department realizes that, in the years before bus fleets are completely accessible, taking buses with lifts out of service for repairs in this way would probably result in an inaccessible spare bus being used on the route, but at least attention would have to paid quickly to the lift repair, resulting in a quicker return to service of a working accessible bus.

The rule provides an exception for those situations in which there is no spare vehicle (either accessible or inaccessible) available to take the place of the vehicle with an operative lift, such that putting the latter vehicle into the shop would result in a reduction of service to the public (e.g., a scheduled run on a route could not be made).  The Department would emphasize that the exception does not apply when there is any spare vehicle available.

Where the exception does apply, the provider may keep the vehicle with the inoperative lift in service for a maximum of three days (for providers operating in an area of over 50,000 population) or five days (for providers operating in an area of 50,000 population or less).  After these times have elapsed, the vehicle must go into the shop, not to return to service until the lift is repaired.  Even during the three or five-day period, if an accessible spare bus becomes available at any time, it must be used in place of the bus with the inoperative lift or an inaccessible spare that is being used in its place.
(f) In any case in which a vehicle is operating on a fixed route with an inoperative lift, and the headway to the next accessible vehicle on the route exceeds 30 minutes, the entity shall promptly provide alternative transportation to individuals with disabilities who are unable to use the vehicle because its lift does not work.
In a fixed route system, if a bus is operating without a working lift (either on the day when the lift fails in service or as the result of the exception discussed above) and headways between accessible buses on the route on which the vehicle is operating exceed 30 minutes, the entity must accommodate passengers who would otherwise be inconvenienced by the lack of an accessible bus.  This accommodation would be by a paratransit or other special vehicle that would pick up passengers with disabilities who cannot use the regular bus because its lift is inoperative.  Passengers who need lifts in this situation would, in effect, be ADA paratransit eligible under the second eligibility category.  However, since they would have no way of knowing that the bus they sought to catch would not be accessible that day, the transit authority must actively provide alternative service to them.  This could be done, for example, by having a "shadow" accessible service available along the route or having the bus driver call in the minute he saw an accessible passenger he could not pick up (including the original passenger stranded by an in-service lift failure), with a short (i.e., less than 30-minute) response from an accessible vehicle dispatched to pick up the stranded passenger.  To minimize problems in providing such service, when a transit authority is using the "no spare vehicles" exception, the entity could place the vehicle with the inoperative lift on a route with headways between accessible buses shorter than 30 minutes.