The National Disability Rights network has published a report on Amtrak’s accessibility problems. No surprise, the biggest issue is the lack of level-platform boarding:
For decades, Amtrak has stalled and made excuses for its failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Some of the justifications have included: 1) that level boarding is difficult to achieve 2) that it often does not own the stations that it serves and therefore only has a shared obligation to make them accessible; and 3) that it lacks federal funding necessary to make the stations and trains accessible.
Although there may be some challenges to obtaining full accessibility, these are obstacles that Amtrak has had more than two decades to overcome. In fact, Congress recognized these difficulties and that is why Amtrak ended up getting the 20 year compliance extension, the longest of any public service. Amtrak needs to stop making excuses and do the work necessary to come into compliance.
Level-boarding is possible and enhances station usability for everyone.
The problem isn’t a lack of funds. Amtrak received considerable stimulus funding for station renovations, but did little to improve accessibility. The report recommends that Congress include strict accessibility requirements in the next Amtrak re-authorization. I would go further, and recommend that any rail system receiving Federal funds has to comply with accessibility requirements — no exceptions!