Chariot commuter shuttle service pays fine after disabled access investigation

- Only two weeks after a commuter shuttle service was shut down over the failure of safety inspections by the state of California, Chariot Transit has agreed to pay a fine over a federal investigation into its accessibility for its disabled riders.

Chariot has settled a federal investigation with agreement to pay the United States $50,000- as a penalty to the allegation that the company violated Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against customers with disabilities, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release on Monday. 

The San Francisco-based company provides commuter transportation services throughout the Bay Area, New York City, and Austin, Texas, where customers can request rides via the Chariot smartphone app. 

Federal investigators found that from July 2015 to November 2016, Chariot leased a minimum of 161 new 14-passenger vehicles in the San Francisco and Austin areas, where none of the vehicles were easily accessible, if at all, to people with disabilities.

Chariot will pay the $50,000 civil penalty to the United States and will make certain changes to make sure the company is able to accommodate all customers, according to the terms of the settlement.

The changes include operating accessible vehicles in all of the markets to guarantee people with disabilities receive equal service, not requiring passengers with disabilities to book a Chariot trip differently than any other passenger, and “ensure the Chariot smartphone application requests all relevant information from passengers such that a separate phone call or message with Chariot staff will not be required for passengers with disabilities.”

Chariot officials said that they want to cater to and provide reliable service for all riders. “In each market Chariot services, we have agreed to operate a number of wheelchair accessible vehicles to ensure commuter customers needing this access have equivalent service, and will also track response times to ensure equivalent service is indeed being provided,” the company wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

In mid-October, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered Chariot to temporarily stop its Bay Area service because it failed three safety inspections. The specific violation was that some Chariot drivers did not have commercial licenses. Chariot resumed full service within a few days.

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