NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority agreed on Feb. 10 to a settlement that requires it to update the city’s transit stops to meet requirements set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The settlement came as a result of a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs Francis Falls, Mitchell Miraglia and Thad Tatum that alleged the city had many stops with broken or missing landing pads or unsafe slopes, according to report on BestOfNewOrleans.com.
“We accepted the case because our clients are guaranteed flat and safe bus-landing pads under the ADA,” Andrew Bizer, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told the Louisiana Record in an email interview. “I represent many disabled people in New Orleans. The three plaintiffs in this case told me about how terrible the bus stops in this city are and asked me to look into it.”
One of Bizer’s first moves for the lawsuit was to complete a public-records request to look into the RTA’s efforts to remain compliant with the ADA.
“That turned up a never before published report by Manning Architects, commissioned by the RTA, that did all our homework for us,” Bizer said. “The report documented all 2,200-plus bus stops and concluded that a whopping 94.3 percent of the bus stops are not compliant. We sent them a second public-records request, asking for all documentation regarding their plans to make the stops compliant. They never responded.”
After the RTA’s failure to respond, the plaintiffs filed their suit in March 2016 in the Eastern District Court of Louisiana, but the two sides reached a settlement within a year, according to a report by the Times-Picayune. The settlement requires all of the noncompliant bus stops to be updated to meet ADA requirements within 14 years.
“My clients are very happy with the results,” Bizer said. “My clients understand that this city has serious budgetary constraints and know that compliance cannot be achieved overnight. Rather than spending unnecessary time and money going to trial and letting the federal district-court judge decide the time frame, my clients agreed to a window that was acceptable.”
Bizer will take part in monitoring the RTA’s progress in updating the stops, and “[t]he court-approved settlement allows for us to come back to the magistrate judge if the modifications are not performed,” he said.
According to the unpublished report Bizer received, the estimated cost of bringing all 2,092 noncompliant stops into compliance with the ADA is roughly $10.7 million to $12.6 million.