Court denies motion to dismiss in disability discrimination case against MTA

June 21, 2024 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
Access-A-Ride vehicles, part of the MTA's paratransit service, are at the center of a lawsuit seeking equal fare discounts for users with disabilities. Photo: Jeffrey Haderthauer/AP
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The New York Supreme Court denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs Valerie Britt and others against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA). 

The plaintiffs, who are persons with disabilities using the Access-A-Ride paratransit system, allege discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) because the MTA does not offer them the same fare discounts available to subway and bus users.

The plaintiffs argued that the denial of fare discounts to Access-A-Ride users constitutes discrimination based on disability, violating the NYCHRL. The MTA and NYCTA moved to dismiss the complaint, claiming that the plaintiffs’ claims were preempted by federal and state laws regulating paratransit pricing.

“Access-A-Ride users, most of whom are of limited means, rely on Access-A-Ride to travel to their jobs, schools and medical appointments and to visit with friends and family,” says Christopher Schuyler, managing attorney with the Disability Justice Program at NYLPI. “Extending these discounts — the very same discounts available to subway and bus riders — to Access-A-Ride will mean a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities who use Access-A-Ride.”

Judge Richard Tsai ruled that the ADA and DOT regulations do not preempt the NYCHRL, as they set only a maximum fare limit for paratransit services but do not prevent offering discounts. Furthermore, state laws concerning paratransit fare setting do not conflict with the NYCHRL’s anti-discrimination provisions.

This decision allows the plaintiffs’ lawsuit to proceed, potentially leading to changes in how the MTA and NYCTA handle fare discounts for paratransit users. The case will continue with a preliminary conference scheduled for Sept. 19, 2024.

“No one should have to pay higher fares just because they have a disability that prevents them from riding the bus or subway,” said Daniel Ross, a senior staff attorney at Mobilization for Justice Inc. “The MTA can and must stop penalizing New Yorkers for their disabilities.”

The case seeks to reimburse AAR riders for the financial harm suffered due to the unavailability of fare discounts. AAR riders pay $2.90 per trip regardless of the number of trips or eligibility for reduced fares due to disability or age. Many AAR users live on a fixed income, making the exclusion from discount programs more impactful.


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