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Rail News: Amtrak
Amtrak gains riders with disabilities in first half, acknowledges need for more accessibility improvements

Amtrak's ridership among passengers with disabilities increased 20 percent in the fiscal year through June compared with the same FY2012 period.

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in July 1990, Amtrak has taken "significant steps" to improve the travel experience for riders with disabilities, from trip planning to purchasing tickets to stations to equipment and onboard services, Amtrak officials said in a press release.

In addition, over the past four years, Amtrak has improved accessibility at more than 200 stations, including repairs and upgrades to platforms, ramps and sidewalks, and renovated entrance ways and restrooms.

Other Amtrak accommodations for passengers with disabilities include accessible seating and restrooms, and bedrooms in all long-distance trains. Also, Amtrak is the only mode of intercity transportation that provides a discount to passengers with disabilities and their companions, railroad officials said.

While recognizing those efforts, Amtrak officials acknowledge that the railroad still has a ways to go before it is fully ADA compliant.

"Passengers with disabilities represent a large and growing share of Amtrak ridership and we are proud of our role as an important means of transportation providing for independent and dignified travel," said President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman. "However, we are not satisfied with our pace of progress on accessibility issues at the stations we serve."

Boardman said Amtrak is taking action to advance a station accessibility improvement program, such as conducting property surveys and ADA compliance assessments, coordinating and negotiating agreements with station owners, seeking approvals from federal, state and local oversight agencies, and completing design plans and construction work.

To make more progress, Amtrak has to overcome the length of time it takes to work through station ownership issues.

"We are confident that we can build on the progress made to date and plan to advance a robust program of station accessibility improvements in FY2014 if sufficient federal funding continues to be available," Boardman said.

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