Septa: Judge's Ruling Is No Problem

Posted: January 06, 1988

SEPTA officials believe that unless they have underestimated the need for handicapped services, a federal judge's ruling this week will not cost the transit authority more money.

"I don't see this ruling having an adverse impact on SEPTA at this time," Robert Corressel, SEPTA's manager of special services, said yesterday.

"The potential problem for us is if we have miscalculated the demand for

paratransit service and it turns out to be a lot more than we projected. We would be required to go back and spend more money to satisfy the demand."

SEPTA's paratransit service provides door-to-door transportation for handicapped people.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Marvin Katz declared unconstitutional a federal regulation allowing public transit agencies to limit spending on the handicapped to only 3 percent of their operating budgets.

Despite Corressel's optimism, an attorney for the groups that successfully challenged the spending limit said yesterday that Katz's ruling means SEPTA will have to spend more on the handicapped.

Timothy Cook, of the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia, said he believes that the judge, in his ruling, declared that transit agencies receiving federal money must spend whatever is needed to provide services for handicapped people.

Although he added that "the expense is not that burdensome," Cook said SEPTA was not spending nearly enough on the handicapped, and would have to increase its services in that area.

Katz declared that transit agencies receiving federal money, such as SEPTA, ''may be permitted to take the least expensive or most cost-effective route toward providing services to the their disabled patrons, but those services must in fact be provided."

Under a five-year plan tentatively approved by the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration, SEPTA would increase service to the handicapped by 60 percent and increase spending from $6.8 million this year to $11.3 million in 1992, roughly 2.4 percent of its operating budget.

SEPTA would increase from 30 to 40 percent the number of buses with wheelchair lifts. Also, the paratransit van services would expand into eastern and southern Delaware County and Montgomery County.

"The fly in the ointment is that SEPTA's five-year plan won't nearly meet the real need," said Cook.

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