Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

Somerville, MA 2012 FHWA #Disability Rights complaint smrdact Feldman


Published on

Disability Rights expert Eileen Feldman submitted complaint to Federal Highway Administration #CivilRights division based on City of Somerville, MA noncompliance with ADA requirements on March 12, 2012. Result: City of Somerville agreed to hire a full time ADA Coordinator, to produce a current ADA Self Evaluation and to develop the subsequent ADA Transition Plan.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

Somerville, MA 2012 FHWA #Disability Rights complaint smrdact Feldman

  1. 1. March 12, 2012 Community Access Project c/o Eileen Feldman, Director (emailed communication requested) Somerville, MA 02143 To: United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Candace Groudine, Director, Office of Civil Rights 1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., 8th Floor E81-314 Washington, DC 20590 Re: Civil Rights complaint against the City of Somerville on the basis of disability discrimination. Dear FHWA Office of Civil Rights, Please accept this summary, six examples of programmatic deficiencies, and three appendices as a formal Civil Rights complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability against the City of Somerville in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Further, the City does not have an up to date transition plan covering public rights of way. This complaint is written and submitted by the Community Access Project, Somerville (CAPS) on behalf of individuals with ambulatory, mobility and sensory disabilities who are living, working and visiting the City of Somerville, Massachusetts. At just over 4.2 square miles (25.7 miles of roadway per square mile) with a population over 75,000 (10.5% are over age 65), Somerville is one of the densest (18,147 people per sq. mile) and ethnically diverse cities in the United States. Given its border with Boston, Somerville is served by an extensive network of bus routes and the Davis Square Red Line station. Soon-to-open is the Assembly Square Orange Line station; plus, the extension of the Green Line, which will add six more subway stops within the decade. This is entirely a Title VI community. With your permission, CAPS would like to further submit, in electronic format within three months, our mapped report of the streetscape survey data and recommendations that CAPS has generated since 2008 and shared with the City of Somerville's Mayor, ADA Coordinator, and members of the public through community blogs, and eventually, State Access Board complaints, throughout the past several years. In addition, CAPS requests that an investigator contact Tom Hopkins, Director of the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (MAAB)1 to gain access to the very large file showing the 130+ streetscape complaints that have been submitted to that agency since 2009, regarding Somerville rights of ways facilities that were constructed or altered after 2004 without adhering to minimal 1 Please contact the State Access Board, Thomas Hopkins, Director, for a complete set of the Community Access Project files from December 2010 to the present. MA Architectural Access Board; Thomas Hopkins, Executive Director; One Ashburton Place, Room 1310; Boston, MA 02108; Phone: 617-727-0660; Fax: 617-727-0665 Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 1/18
  2. 2. architectural accessibility standards; and, often without providing an accessible pedestrian route of travel during construction. Despite a nearly 700 statewide complaint backlog, the MAAB has adjudicated this set of pattern and practice complaints with hearings, plus substantial and detailed correspondence, in an attempt to awaken the City to its obligations; and, even as MAAB is aware that there are an additional 500+ sidewalk and curb cut complaints not yet filed. First Notices were also mailed to the Mayor, Alderman President, Disability Commission President's home address, and State Assistant AG's office, in addition to the usual recipients (who are the Building Inspector, ADA Coordinator and Independent Living Center.) CAPS believes that the City of Somerville's responses to the MAAB between 2011 to the present, constitute sufficient proof that the City of Somerville continues to: demonstrate bad faith efforts in responding to these issues; lacks a comprehensive understanding of the City’s legal obligations to not discriminate against persons with disabilities; and, does not demonstrate a commitment to alter behavior or remedy past civil rights violations. As such, the Community Access Project asks that US DOT / FHWA open a formal investigation against the City of Somerville and initiate a consent decree that imposes clear commitments, timelines and penalties to ensure that Somerville lives up to its civil rights obligations. The Community Access Project, based out of Somerville, MA, is an all-volunteer organization of persons of all ages, living with disAbilities. Per the requests, suggestions and anecdotal reports of low-income community members, we pursue every potential and legitimate opportunity within our capacity in order to raise awareness and lower barriers; and to improve policies and practices to ensure that public facilities and services are made and maintained accessible to, functional for, and safe for use by persons with disAbilities. CAPS’ work is often done in collaboration with the Boston Center for Independent Living and benefits from the excellent technical assistance from staff of the NE ADA Center. CAPS’ hope is that this federal complaint will resolve Somerville's continuing refusal to accept its federally-mandated obligations and responsibilities to provide equal opportunities, services and programs to individuals with disabilities; and that this complaint will allow the City to voluntarily invest local and other funds towards accurately updating its Self Evaluation of all pedestrian and transportation policies, information, programs and facilities. Following this necessary updated Evaluation process, the City of Somerville will need to create a necessary pedestrian accessibility Transition Plan, in a manner that engages the leadership of, and responds in an accountable manner to, all interested community members. Thank you. Sincerely, Eileen Feldman, Director, Community Access Project Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 2/18
  3. 3. TABLE OF CONTENTS page section 4 Summary, patterns and practices of disability discrimination 6 Verifiable Facts about the City of Somerville 6 SIX EXAMPLES OF PROGRAMMATIC DISCRIMINATION 6 A. 2004-present Street reconstruction 8 B. “Somerville Bus Stop Working Group.” November 22, 2006- ~April 2008 10 C. 2006-present. Safe-START, or Safe Sustainable Transportation Assessment Recommendations and implementation 11 D. 2005-present. Shape Up Somerville- Safe Routes to Schools Mapping 12 E. 2009 - present. Complainants submitted over 130 complaints on newly reconstructed pedestrian and transportation facilities to the State Access Board. The City's responses show a pattern of bad faith responses. 14 F. Community Meetings regarding Transportation & Infrastructure projects often held in facilities that are either inaccessible at the door; have no accessible routes approaching facility from any direction; or, both issues are present. 14 Conclusion 15 Appendix I copy of letter sent to Mayor Curtatone 11/22/06. Request for City/MBTA Bus Stop Accessibility initiative 17 Appendix II links to documents and recommendations offered to the City of Somerville by disability and access advocates. Five documents with specific recommendations for citywide pedestrian/transportation accessibility studies, improvements, plus two re: civil rights and accessibility concerns using CDBG funds 18 Appendix III links to online photos and raw data to be mapped and compiled into report Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 3/18
  4. 4. Summary The Community Access Project (CAPS), alleges that the City of Somerville has engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination on the basis of disability class in municipal transportation and pedestrian rights-of-ways facilities, programs and activities. This is evidenced by ! Somerville’s lack of an up to date transition plan covering public rights of way; ! lack of policies regarding requests for Accessible Pedestrian Signals and planning/retro fitting thereof; ! a failure to maintain accessible features with a logical, data-driven approach; ! a practice of resurfacing streets without correcting existing accessibility impediments at intersections, sidewalks and curb cuts; ! a pattern of completing repairs and alterations in a manner that lessens or does not improve existing inaccessible conditions, or, unnecessarily creates separate and longer routes for persons with mobility disabilities ! a lack of adequate inspectional polices and procedures for ensuring that residence and public rights of way curb cut and sidewalk reconstructions, repairs and alterations adhere to standard architectural access regulations; ! a pattern of completing public rights of ways spot repairs that address one sidewalk panel of concrete but ignore similar conditions directly adjacent and 10-50’ away; ! denying persons with disabilities equitable and integrated opportunities to lead and participate as members of planning teams, stakeholder taskforces, community meetings, and design meetings relevant to transportation & infrastructure programs and services; ! ignoring the need to ensure that a continuously accessible pedestrian route shall be one of the completion goals when local-, State- and federal-funded street reconstruction projects are planned and implemented; !Despite a 2011 DOE Civil Rights Resolution Agreement2 , Somerville has not evaluated its “Safe Routes to Schools” programs and maps with regards to accessibility of those routes. ! the ADA Coordinator does not respond in a timely manner to the requests of Blind residents asking for bike racks to be removed or reinstalled where they impede safe and accessible conditions at bus stops and retail locations, despite written policies stating that bike rack installations will be compliant with ADA guidelines. ! Somerville's “Complete Streets Program” does not evaluate or ensure that minimal accessibility standards are met. ! Additionally, the City of Somerville has demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate, a lack of willingness to engage in a good faith response and remedy for issues that persons with disabilities have brought before Somerville’s designated staff in good faith since 2005. The issues include but are not limited to unusable, noncompliant, and hazardous sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks, bus stops, parking areas, driveway crossings, and other streetscape elements, where they affect the safety and mobility of pedestrians as covered by the 2 Boston Globe story: Partial Resolution Agreement between City and DOE: Comprehensive community blog story: youth/somerville-school-district-signs-civil-rights-agreement-with-doe/ Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 4/18
  5. 5. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 28 CFR 35.150(d)(1) , Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504), the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, Title 23, 49 CFR 27.11, ADAAG 1991, ADAAG 2004 and UFAS. Complainants are individuals with sensory and mobility disabilities and members of organizations (CAPS, BCIL) representing families and individuals with disabilities. As a result of citywide and systemic rights of ways deficiencies, complainants are routinely exposed to unsafe and hazardous conditions, including: being forced to walk or roll within roadways; being forced to make travel decisions based on the need to avoid hazardous and ill- placed crosswalks and other unusable rights-of-ways elements which have been constructed, altered, repaired and maintained in a manner that prevents residents from safely using them. These ongoing issues are particularly egregious considering that the City of Somerville is being consistently cited as a "frontier" of sustainable, transit-oriented, smart-growth planning and development3 ; and because the City is receiving millions of Federal and State dollars in transit- oriented and sustainable communities programs.4 For example: Somerville received one of U.S. HHS' Inaugural "Let's Move! Cities and Towns awards in 2011 even though the Shape Up Somerville programs5 , including the Walkability and Safe Routes to Schools programs, Winter Farmer's market, community/school gardens and other affiliated programs and services do not include accessible, functional, safe or inclusive rights of way approaches, accessible routes through, and even accessible entrance ramps- even where such issues have been brought to the Mayor and City staff's attention by the State Access Board. Thus, people of all ages with a broad range of physical disabilities are restricted from, and denied the enjoyment, advantages, benefits and privileges of these recreational, health, social and educational programs, as well as economic opportunities, as are enjoyed by the nondisabled general public, primarily as a result of this local government's systemic refusal to respond to architectural and communications requirements in a manner that respects their ultimate function as foundational civil rights obligations. In consideration of the thousands of hours spent by complainants (CAPS volunteers) documenting existing conditions and attempting to generate a good-faith collaboration with the Mayor and designated City staff , the continued pattern and practice of discrimination on the basis of disability in Somerville, MA is particularly egregious. From 2005-2008, several CAPS members served as volunteer Disability Commission members; in 2008 these individuals joined with other members of the local (and now statewide) disability community to provide independent observations, surveys, documentation and strategies in attempts to address these deficiencies in local government services to people with disabilities of all ages. Since at least 2005, people with disabilities have provided the City of Somerville: 3 2006: advise-somerville-smart-growth-an 4 -October 27, 2010. SOMERVILLE RECEIVES $1.8 MILLION HUD GRANT FOR GREEN LINE PLANNING. 5 Please see description at Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 5/18
  6. 6. 1. Succinct information, surveys photographic evidence and other documentation showing these issues from the user's perspective; 2. ADA/Section 504 and PROWAG-based guidance; and, 3. Formal Recommendations submitted annually for five Somerville CDBG ConPlans in a row, which included specific streetscape issues, concerns, resources and recommendations6 . Verifiable Facts: ! The City of Somerville is a local government entity with over 50 employees and an annual budget in excess of $130 million dollars. !The City of Somerville annually receives millions of Federal Transportation and State dollars, including over $20 million of ARRA funding for Somerville transportation & infrastructure projects FY10-13.7 ! The City of Somerville currently serves as one of the four cities (and three towns) elected to hold membership on the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, which serves 101 cities and towns in Massachusetts. The City’s representative is Thomas Bent. ! The City of Somerville currently maintains approximately 88 bus stop locations shared between 15 bus routes with a combined tally of ~260 bus route stops. SIX EXAMPLES OF PROGRAMMATIC DISCRIMINATION A. 2004-present. Street reconstruction In August, 2004, Somerville’s Mayor Curtatone announced8 that the city would use $1.7 million from the state's Chapter 90 infrastructure funds to pay for repaving and resurfacing 46 roads throughout the city. In July, 2005, Mayor Curtatone announced that 27 more roads will be rebuilt as part of this City's "Street Improvement Campaign."9 By the end of the 2008 Construction season, 107 streets were repaved, resurfaced, and had sidewalk repair work completed as part of this neighborhood improvement effort. These were listed as Street Reconstruction Projects and linked on the City's website (the links listing neighborhood street reconstruction projects by year were removed from public view soon after the MAAB Compliance officer informed the ADA Coordinator that this information allowed the State Access Board to validate jurisdiction on altered streetscape facility complaints.10 6 Please see Appendix I 7 December 1, 2009: BOSTON REGION MPO ADOPTS AMENDMENT, ALLOCATES $20 MILLION FOR SOMERVILLE TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS. amendment-allocates-20-million-somerville-transportation-projects-0 Award breakdown at: 8 Aug 03, 2004. CURTATONE ANNOUNCES CITYWIDE ROAD PROJECT. 9 Jul 22, 2005. Curtatone Says 27 More Roads To Be Rebuilt As Part Of City's Street Improvement Campaign. campaign 10 Mr. Dempsey noted this on September 27, 2011, CAPS research verified that readily available links were removed. Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 6/18
  7. 7. In Summer, 2009, complainants surveyed 79 streets listed as reconstructed since 2004.11 CAPS members have continued to survey these and subsequent street construction as well as city- managed housing and facility development projects since that summer.12 CAPS' survey measurements prove that nearly 100% of these completed projects failed to meet minimal Federal and State accessibility and scoping standards to the maximum extent feasible. The CAPS Surveys noted the following pattern and practice deficiencies: 1. Issues regarding pedestrian accessibility for persons with disabilities were not incorporated as part of the planning and scoping for these projects. Thus, the majority of completed streets did not result in a majority of accessibility-improved sidewalks, curb cuts, intersections or crosswalks. 2. However, at the locations where new curb cuts were added or reconstructed; sidewalk panels replaced and installed; and, crosswalks repainted, or created: CAPS survey measurements proved that less than 20% of that new construction work met minimal State and Federal Accessibility Standards, codes and regulations that were enforceable at the time of design and construction of these streets. 3. Continuously accessible routes were not created on both or either sidewalks, from intersection to intersection, along nearly 100% of the streets surveyed. 4. Driveway crossings intersecting with public rights of ways were not altered or improved to the maximum feasible accessibility standards. This was also true for driveway curb cuts/reconstructions, where such work was completed by the City simultaneous with the reconstruction project; or, such work along these street projects had been completed within the past two decades as a result of resident applications (and payment) for such curb cut/sidewalk reconstructions.13 5. Where sections of sidewalks were reconstructed within 50 feet of bus stop locations, those bus stop locations (which are chosen by the City) were notably omitted from the scope of alterations, leaving multiple bus stops along reconstructed streets without adequate level and wide areas for the deployment of bus lifts,; with unimproved and still- inaccessible waiting areas and shelters if provided; and with continued inaccessible pedestrian approaches from both directions. 6. Where CAPS members met construction in process, an alternate accessible route was not provided, even at locations where public safety officers were stationed to help manage traffic. Where signs had been placed notifying pedestrians that sidewalk was closed, these signs blocked pedestrians from advancing, yet were not located at or near any usable curb cuts. 7. Where recent new and substantial rehab housing construction resulted in damage to abutting sidewalks, and developers were mandated by the City to replace the entire 11 2009 Somerville Streetscape Survey. Raw data and photos online at: 12 Please see Appendix II 13 Please see footnote 19 Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 7/18
  8. 8. sidewalk with concrete, prior to inspection, these new sidewalks are not completed minimally compliant with accessibility standards. Excessive cross slopes are the most common issues measured. In addition, new and altered driveway crossings intersecting with the pedestrian rights of ways at housing rehab and new construction projects throughout the city are not, in general, compliant. In particular, excessive run and cross- slopes, and/or changes in levels at the transition are routinely found. Where driveways also function as curb cuts, excessive transition lips between driveway and gutter line (over ! inch) are commonly noted. B. “Somerville Bus Stop Working Group.” November 22, 2006- ~April 2008. November, 2006. Disability Commission Initiative: In fall, 2006, then-president of the Commission for Persons with Disabilities (currently director of CAPS) wrote a letter14 to Mayor Curtatone, requesting that a stakeholder group be convened to develop and implement strategies to address the following issues: • issues of snow removal, • removal of illegally parked vehicles at bus stops, • signage on public right of ways, • clearly marking bus stops on pavement, • sidewalk accessibility and curb cuts, and • other activities likely to have an adverse affect on accessibility. The letter requested that key City leadership staff and resident stakeholders be gathered to collaborate with Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) leadership to create an action plan designed to ensure that Somerville bus stops are accessible to persons with disabilities. Mayor directs designated staff to contact lawyer instead of Disability Commission: The Mayor responded by not responding to the Disabilities Commission President; and, instead, directed his designated ADA Coordinator to contact only the lawyer cc'd on this letter. February 2007, initial meeting proved Disability Commissioners' interest: An initial meeting was held in February, 200715 at the ADA Coordinator's office and included that lawyer, and five (out of six) Disability Commission members. A series of meetings began in April 2007 with a new ADA Coordinator, the DPW Commissioner, the Director and Traffic Engineer from the Traffic and Parking Department, a member of the Mayor's staff, and several MBTA personnel involved in implementing the MBTA Accessibility Resolution, along with Disability Commissioners and the lawyer. Meetings and communications followed certain protocols with regards to disability stakeholders: ! In all these meetings, the DPW Commissioner only indicated Disabilities Commissioners by pointing his thumb, calling these stakeholders, “the consumers.” ! The new ADA Coordinator declared that she would not survey any bus routes or locations; and that this work should be done by volunteers, perhaps Tufts interns. 14 Appendix I is a copy of this letter. 15 Minutes for this meeting were taken by then-Disability Commission President and are online at Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 8/18
  9. 9. !Disability Commissioners followed up with the ADA coordinator between meetings, by summarizing to-do items, and providing resources, such as the Easter Seals Toolkit for the Assessment of Bus Stop Accessibility and Safety.16 These emails were never acknowledged; and, the to-do items were never done. Meetings Not Treated In a Similar Manner to Other Official City Meetings: ! Unlike the majority of City transportation initiatives, the public was never informed of these meetings through any media, including the city website. ! No publicly available minutes were ever taken or provided by the City staff, nor was any information regarding this effort linked with the Disability Commission website (the current page was written by Commissioners in the fall of 2007) or integrated within Human Rights Commission information. City staff demonstrated a bad-faith approach throughout: City staff were unable to enter into a good faith process with MBTA staff and were extremely rude to them. At one meeting, City ADA Coordinator Campbell summed up the city’s stance with the following words, “YOU (MBTA) were sued, so YOU should be doing this. We didn’t do anything wrong and we don’t have to do anything for you.” No Follow-Up, No Promises Kept, No Results: In April, 2008, the meetings ended, presumably because the ADA Coordinator was unable to find any stipends for interns. During the 9/27/07 meeting she stated that “Tuft students not available at this time, we will try and get students next semester (Jan.) or perhaps in the summer.” Again, in April, 2008, the ADA Coordinator stated that the Tufts students were not available. She also stated that the City had been “unable” to seek or to find outside grants to fund any of this work. Issue of Snow removal not addressed by designated ADA staff; but, continues to be discussed at Human Rights Commission meetings: In response to a 2009 complaint delivered by the MA Office on Disability regarding the City's lack of maintenance of accessible features during winter, the Somerville ADA Coordinator responded to the Ass't. Director of MA Office on Disability (Jeff Dougan) as follows: “In November 2008, Somerville DPW CommissionerKoty stated the following snow removal sequence protocol: 1. Streets for public safety 2. Municipal Buildings 3. The eleven squares throughout the City 4. Bus Stops (this does not include State bus stops and/or bus stops with CEMUSA bus shelters. It is the State and CEMUSA’s responsibility to clear those bus stops.) “ This statement of policy has never been published for the public to review. CAPS members often participate in the Human Rights Commission meetings and snow removal has been an ongoing agenda item. The City's Commission Director17 introduced an “Adopt a spot”18 program in 2011, acknowledging: “When it comes to snow removal, bus stops are in a sort of 16 This link was sent to City ADA Coordinator following the April 2007 meeting: Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 9/18
  10. 10. “gray area”: The City’s ordinance requires property owners to clear a 5 foot, so most bus stops never get thoroughly cleared. The MBTA and the City only clear a handful of stops, and a few others are maintained by a private company.” The city continues to treat this maintenance of accessible features issue as though it does not require any policies, procedures or planning; and the City continues to publish bus stop locations19 without any evaluation or mitigation of access and safety issues. C. 2006-present. Safe-START, or Safe Sustainable Transportation Assessment Recommendations and implementation: In 2006, Mayor Curtatone convened the Safe-START, or Safe Sustainable Transportation Assessment Recommendations Stakeholder Task Force.20 Persons with disAbilities were conspicuously omitted from being invited to serve on this Team (several CAPS members were, at that time, serving the community as volunteer members of the Somerville Commission for Persons with Disabilities). The mission of this team was " to increase safety for all travelers including pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists in order to create conditions on Somerville's streets, intersections, and sidewalks that increase the number of people who walk, bike, and use other sustainable transportation." Populations targeted to benefit from this work were named as (p.9 of report): “youth who cannot drive and seniors who no longer drive.(p.9)” Estimated costs stated (p.7 of report) as : $1.42 million per year over a 5-year period. To date, CAPS has begun or completed surveys for twenty (20) of the twenty-seven (27) Safe-START Priority locations listed in this report , where Safe-START improvements have been stated as accomplishments in city documents and grant applications. 21 To date, over 30 complaints on Safe-START priority locations where new construction has been completed without minimal adherence to state architectural access code at 521CMR are in the pipeline of submissions to the State Board. Surveys show that , in general, Safe-START construction and alterations do not meet minimal accessibility standards, as are required for persons with disabilities of all ages to enjoy maximally feasible access and safety conditions at these locations. The listing of 7 deficiencies found at completed street reconstruction projects (see “A,” above, p. 7) is fully applicable to completed Safe-START work as well. 17 this position staffs the Human Rights commission, the Multicultural commission, the LGBTQ-centric programs, and the Women's Commissions- but not the Disability Commission, which remains dependent upon the ADA Coordinator.. 18 Information regarding this volunteer shoveling program: procedures/important-shoveling-information/volunteer-opportunities 19 Bus stop locations are listed as “Schedule A” in the Somerville Traffic Regulations, May 2006. (no link available-this document is not currently readily available online.) 20 SafeSTART Nov 2006 full report- Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Priority Locations. Assessment & Recommendations 21 google map showing outstanding issues at locations 1, 2, 3,and 5 online at: Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 10/18
  11. 11. CAPS surveys also note that there are many locations where crosswalks were restriped, mid-street pedestrian warning signs were added, and safety reflective sticks were installed; especially at “School Safety Zones.”22 Yet, curb cuts are often missing on both or one end of those “safety” crosswalks. This is true at public school crossings, near municipal open spaces and parks, near and at Recreation Department facilities and programs, and even at the “access entrance” locations for schools and local government facilities.23 D. 2005-present. Shape Up Somerville- Safe Routes to Schools Mapping The Safe Routes to School program, developed first as part of Safe-START, and now overseen by the Shape -Up Somerville Pedestrian/Bike Coordinator, has created Safe Routes to School (SR2S) maps24 "using Geographic Informational System (GIS) for each school within a half-mile distance. The SR2S maps were distributed to all parents of 1st-3rd graders and posted on the School and City's website.25 " These SR2S efforts do not evaluate or include accessibility information on the maps; or, as part of this program. The maps are not readily available in Large Print or Braille. CAPS surveyed the East Somerville Schools SR2S map in the Summer of 2009 and again in Summer, 2011. CAPS discovered that nearly 100% of the East Somerville SR2S intersections contained barriers for persons with disabilities, including: ! excessively sloped curb cuts, ! sidewalks with excessive cross slopes, !crosswalks that lacked curb cuts for both sides26 ; ! crosswalks not located where curb cuts were placed; ! curb cuts located outside the general path of travel and not coordinated with crosswalks; ! crumbled and hazardous transitions at curb cuts; and, !sidewalks that did not provide a continuously wide accessible route from one intersection to the next.27 An example is the newly constructed, LEEDS-certified Capuano Elementary School with adjacent Glen Park recreational field. In 2009, Curb cuts and crosswalks were constructed leading from the 22 The T & P Safety Zones list includes 19 crosswalks and approximately 109 Fire lanes. See Schedule “G,” Somerville Traffic Regulations, May 2006. (no link available-this document is not currently readily available online.) 23 Some patterns and practices of inaccessible pedestrian improvements from the Safe-START work was reported in this November 2011 blog post: wasted-on-deficient-walkability-improvements/ 24 Somerville's Safe Routes to Schools Maps are linked here: department 25 information published on Tufts website: 26 In 2009, a community report was published on this citywide systemic issue. see: 27 CAPS raw data for 2011 Safe Routes to Schools- East Somerville School Survey: In addition, a Community report showing pattern of access & safety violations in E. Somerville SR2S posted at schools/ Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 11/18
  12. 12. parking lot to the School Entrance; yet, this construction was completed without being minimally complaint with enforceable federal and state architectural accessibility standards.28 Recently, the City added a “Complete Streets”29 link to the website. It says, “The School Area Safety Program strives to make streets near Somerville's public and private schools safer for walking, bicycling and public transportation.” To date, however, even minimal accessibility standards have been ignored. E. 2009 - present. Complainants submitted over 130 complaints on newly reconstructed pedestrian and transportation facilities to the State Access Board. The City's responses show a pattern of bad faith responses. Prior to 2009, CAPS did not submit State Architectural Access Board complaints, choosing instead, to notify the City ADA Coordinator and otherwise attempt a collaborative process with other city staff and elected officials. However, due to the continuing inadequate responses to those efforts, which included no timelines for remediation of the issues that had been presented with photo documentation, CAPS sent 28 complaints to the State Board in 2009 focused on the lack of Accessible Route During Construction of Somerville Avenue; and including complaints showing that there was no functional alternate pedestrian route through the nearest parallel street, either; even though it had been reconstructed in 2007 and 2008 (Summer Street). In December 2010, as a result of these ongoing pattern and practice issues, CAPS sent a batch of 114 complaints. About 107 of these complaints involve locations where resurfacing and other alterations beyond ordinary maintenance were completed after 2004; the remaining (~7) locations are along recently altered streets and within 50 feet of new sidewalk construction; where similar hazards were ignored. The City's response to the majority of these complaints is to dispute that the State Architectural Access Board has proper jurisdiction over these locations. The City calls them “pre-existing conditions,” or, measures the location wrong; or does not measure the entire issue. MA AAB's regulations at 521 CMR are currently less stringent than Federal standards; since, 521 CMR does not require that pedestrian accessibility come into compliance simultaneous with roadway repairs. However, MAAB's authority extends back to 1968. The City continues to dispute that the complaints involve recent work, and CAPS must therefore spend duplicate time sending the MAAB documented proof above and beyond the obvious photographic evidence that shows the contrast between old and recent sidewalk panels, curb cuts and crosswalk location. This has necessitated an extraordinary amount of extra correspondence and additional hearings to be facilitated by the MAAB; and much extra time has been added to CAPS's workload as a result of these denials. The City's patterns of response to these complaints proves that federal obligations are ignored: 1. "street reconstruction was just gutter to gutter." This has been stated even though newly constructed (and noncompliant) curb cuts and a patchwork of newly poured sidewalk panels may have been added during these reconstruction projects or recently. 28 A photo with detailed code issues, (per State code 521CMR) is here: 29 Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 12/18
  13. 13. 2. "that was just maintenance (or utilities) work and it would be too costly to bring the sidewalk up to code just for that one panel." This is stated even though CAPS' sidewalk complaints only involve streets where newly constructed sidewalk panels are unsafe and noncompliant for at least 18 feet at a stretch- on both sidewalks- in that area. 3. "that was not within the scope of the project and we request that the complaint be dismissed." This is stated even when the code issues fall well within work done since 2004. 4. "those are pre-existing facilities and we request that the compliant be dismissed." This is the most common response. These State Access Board public hearings combined with the City's written responses provide evidence that Somerville is, as yet, unwilling to acknowledge, or to systematically evaluate and mitigate, ongoing issues of pedestrian and safety. For example: ! Where full compliance may not have been technologically feasible, the City did not document any assessment to explain why the alterations may meet a "maximum extent feasible" test. Nor did the City submit any State Variance applications for such locations. !Where the complaint involved recent construction on resident driveways/curb cut and sidewalk reconstruction30 , the City claims to have no records of such work, and calls it an “existing facility,” or “maintenance work” or “utilities work” and requests dismissal of the complaint. When the City calls it “utilities work,” the City denies having any records for that work, but continues to state that it is only maintenance. ! When responding to complaints on new construction after 2006, where the City acknowledges that it is noncompliant, the City has submitted a Time Variance (on 51 locations), acknowledging these as valid noncompliance issues, yet citing cost as a factor. For example, that blanket Variance requests that 15 locations be remediated per year, using only $100,000 of State funding (only ~10% of annual Chapter 90 funds) to achieve compliance each year. The timeline for this Variance lasts until Spring 2016. !This Time Variance (51 locations) was recently reviewed at a (2/6/12) public hearing. The ADA Coordinator failed to prioritize any of the locations by proximity to government facilities and programs, bus stops, etc. as described at 28 CFR §35.150(d)(2) and 28 CFR §35.150(d)(3); and the City Engineer stated “none of these are public safety problems.” !A more recent (dated 1/23/12) Time Variance application on three noncompliant recently reconstructed or repaired bus stop locations requests that the State grant the city a deferred timeline – 2015 construction season- for corrections at and near a Federally-assisted elderly/ disabled housing development. ! At the February 6, 2012 Hearing, the Access Board asked the City to submit a more detailed report, and seek local and other forms of funding so that the remediation schedule will be facilitated more quickly. This was due on March 6, 2012. 30 Somerville Building Inspection department Application for Curb Cut/Sidewalk Reconstruction is here: The City charges $2000 for curb cuts w/sidewalk reconstruction and $1,000 for alteration to existing curb cut. This process involves a sign-off by the inspector. Even this application process is unusable to persons with disabilities; because, the form is not in accessible, digital format for residents with visual disabilities; and, ISD will not allow residents to apply online or by email. The Inspectional Services Department is also in a wholly inaccessible facility, see photo at: Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 13/18
  14. 14. To date, approximately 60 complaints have been adjudicated, where the City agrees to remediate the location. The city has, so far, remediated approximately 8 locations. However, CAPS surveyed two of these remediated locations and found them to contain ongoing accessibility hazards, including skewed crosswalks leading to apex curb cuts (where parallel or perpendicular curb cuts are feasible); and, curb cuts constructed over 8 feet from the corner, separated from the general public's path of travel (where parallel curb cuts within the path of travel appears feasible); and, those curb cuts are within a private residence's frontage zone. One curb cut interferes with a private way parking spot. F. Public hearings, Design and Community Meetings regarding local Transportation and MPO TIP projects are often held in facilities that are either inaccessible to get to from the public bus stops and public rights of ways; and/or, over 600 feet away from any public bus stops; and/or, have no signage showing where the (usually locked) access entrance is when the front public entrance is inaccessible. Three examples: 1. January 23, 2008. Assembly Square improvements discussed at a community meeting held at the Edgerly School, (cited as inaccessible by DOE in a Resolution Agreement signed January, 2011).31 2. June 16, 2008 through January 26, 2011 (Jan. 26 2011 meeting rescheduled due to a snowstorm, held at same facility in Feb.). East Broadway Streetscape Project - Community input and all Design Meetings held at the Cross Street Youth and Senior Center.32 3. November 21, 2011. 7 p.m. Public Hearing to discuss the proposed Multi Use Path construction project (MA DOT Project File No. 60433) – Design Public Hearing held at the VNA (Visiting Nurses Association) Community Room, 259 Lowell Street, Somerville, MA 02144. The VNA is an accessible facility; however, it is not close to any public transportation (the closest bus stop is over 600 feet away, Highland @ Lowell). Conclusion CAPS believes that the City of Somerville responses to the complaints that have been adjudicated since January 2011 are sufficient proof that the City of Somerville continues to demonstrate bad faith efforts in responding to these issues, lacks a comprehensive understanding of the City’s legal obligations, and does not demonstrate a commitment to alter behavior nor remedy past civil rights violations. As such, the Community Access Project asks that US DOT / FHWA open a formal investigation against the City of Somerville and initiate a consent decree that imposes clear commitments, timelines and penalties to ensure that Somerville lives up to its civil rights obligations. 31 Poster at Photo of Edgerly School's 8 Bonair Street entrance here: The Edgerly School continues a policy of having the “access door” locked; and informational signs at that door are still inaccessible: 32 A sampling of rights of ways conditions approaching this facility is seen in this photo: Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 14/18
  15. 15. Appendix I- copy of letter to Mayor Curtatone requesting a City/MBTA Bus Stop Accessibility initiative- see B, pages 8 – 10 for a summary of how this effort fared. November 22, 2006 Mayor Curtatone City of Somerville 93 Highland Ave. Somerville, MA 02143 Dear Mr. Mayor, In 2002, disability advocates and other consumers of the MBTA filed suit over broken elevators, ineffective wheelchair lifts, inaccessible stations, and various elements of noncompliance, which rendered the public transit system useless to the disabled community. On April 4, 2006, after lengthy negotiations, the MBTA, settled a lawsuit brought by persons with disabilities and their advocates agreeing to spend $310 million to upgrade equipment, provide training to its staff and provide better accessibility for disabled riders. On that day, the Globe quoted MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas: "Certainly for 20 to 30 percent of our customers at the MBTA, we are an essential component in their ability to live their life, enjoy their lives, go to work, go to a movie and to get there in a reliable fashion. Therefore, it merits a substantial investment." While the settlement goes a long way to improving access to public transportation, one significant issue that remains is how to improve access at bus stops for persons with disabilities. This remaining issue gives City of Somerville a wonderful opportunity to address snow removal, parking enforcement, and marking of bus stops. What can be fixed? Paragraph 70 of the agreement states, "The MBTA must develop and implement a plan for collaborating with any governmental or private entities for the purpose of ensuring access to MBTA vehicles and facilities by persons with disabilities. The collaboration plan must specifically address • issues of snow removal, • removal of illegally parked vehicles at bus stops, • signage on public right of ways, • clearly marking bus stops on pavement, • sidewalk accessibility and curb cuts, and • other activities likely to have an adverse affect on accessibility." Somerville can be Number 1 in the State in creating this Action Plan with the MBTA. !So far, the City of Cambridge has stepped up to the plate to create more accessibility on four of its major routes by creating a master plan for snow removal for these routes. In Somerville, we have this chance to improve access at bus stops, and the Davis Square T station- and to do important advance planning to make our new Green Line stops readily usable in an "equal, effective and dignified manner." Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 15/18
  16. 16. The MBTA wishes to gain a reputation as a "model transit system accessible to all." Somerville can be a leader in collaboration with the MBTA on accessible transportation, bus stop safety, snow removal and other local issues! We request that you set up a meeting by December 18, 2006, with all the stakeholders, in order to begin the planning and implementation of this collaborative plan. We suggest that in order to address the range of concerns and issues raised that such a meeting should include, the Chief of Police, representatives from Somerville’s Traffic and Parking Department and the MBTA police department together with Commission members and Todd Kaplan, one of the attorneys who is working on the MBTA case. Perhaps, out of this meeting a smaller group could convene to develop an action plan. Talk about stirring up some holiday cheer! Somerville's citizens with disabilities are discouraged when the bus driver's equipment doesn't work and they are told, "Wait for the next bus." Getting to the doctor, getting to work and other appointments- and joining with their families and friends for the holidays and any other time- becomes an onerous task when faced with discriminating attitudes and actions day after day. You can give Somerville's disabled consumers a reason to have hope, look forward to an encouraging future, and create "good vibes" throughout the City with this work. Please contact me at (617) 625-5648 to discuss this and determine a date for this initial meeting. Our next monthly Commission meeting is December 18. We look forward to your quick reply. Sincerely, Eileen Feldman, President Craig Fletcher, Vice-President, Tom Gilbert, Somerville resident and named Plaintiff in lawsuit settled with MBTA, and the entire Commission for Persons With Disabilities cc: Todd Kaplan, Esq. Richard Tranfaglia, City ADA Coordinator Jeff Dougan, Assistant Director, MA Office on Disability Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 16/18
  17. 17. APPENDIX II- The documents listed below are a sampling of good faith (volunteer) efforts made by complainants since 2005. A. On how residents with disabilities perceive streetscape conditions to be the number one barrier to their comfort and inclusion: Disability Access report. Submitted November, 2007 to Mayor Curtatone, ADA Coordinator Campbell, and all Department Heads. See pages 17, 35, 36, and especially 43-49: B. On how CDBG funding can be used, along with local and other funding, for city-wide streetscape and transportation infrastructure improvements plus Transition Planning: 1. CDBG Recommendations PY06. submitted November 15, 2005. see pages 10, 12: 2. CDBG Recommendations PY07/08. submitted January 1, 2007. see pages 11, 12: ma-200720082009eileen-feldman 3. CDBG Five-year Recommendations PY08-13 "Create A City of Opportunity For All" submitted November 2007. see pages 4, 5: rights-advocate C. On how Somerville residents with disabilities can be engaged, using available local funding, to provide a Community Needs Assessment to City Staff: submitted May, 2006. Disability Commission Budget Request. web D. On how the City of Somerville needs to fulfill TIP requirements during Public Meetings and prior to submitting 100% Design Plans: submitted March, 2011. Somerville Broadway Streetscape Project, CAPS comments to MassDOT, March 2011 caps-comments-to-massdot-march-2011 E. On how the City's HUD ConPlans are failing to provide equitable opportunities for low-income residents with disabilities: 1. Somerville 08-13 CDBG Plan Citizen Comments- Feldman final-08-cdbg-response 2. CDBG-R City of Somerville Comments May 2009 Feldman Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 17/18
  18. 18. Appendix III- flickr sets, online data. CAPS can submit a more complete citywide survey report , using Google street map applications, and using the following data, along with data identified in prior footnotes: !FHWA 193 photos. this data is of locations along reconstructed streets that were not touched despite hazardous and noncompliant issues: !Somerville MA: Wasted... 301 photos this is a compilation of streetscape issues that trigger State complaints and are in the pipeline or not yet submitted. artsnsociety/sets/72157627874266929/ ! Somerville MA: Central St.,... 127 photos. the City threatened to take the Access Board to Superior Court because the AAB voted that the City needed to remediate this location. The City claimed this extremely hazardous location was "not within the scope of the project." ! Ward 7 165 photos. Most of these trigger State complaints and have not yet been written, or require another survey before completing the State complaint. ! June 20, 2011 survey-Wards 2 and 3: ! June 28, 2011 Ward 3 and 5 survey: ! Summer Street 2011 survey: Somerville MA US DOT/FHWA 504/ADA Complaint 18/18