On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced $55,000 in fines against Omnibus Express, a commercial passenger bus company based in Houston, for operating buses not accessible to passengers with disabilities.
Omnibus Express was found in violation of passenger carrier accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to the fine, the consent agreement issued by FMCSA and DOJ requires the bus company to upgrade its fleet to meet ADA requirements by July 1, 2011 or have its operating authority revoked.
An extensive investigation conducted by FMCSA uncovered that none of Omnibus Express's fleet of 85 leased buses was equipped with wheelchair lifts. Additionally, in the past 12 months, the bus company leased 22 new buses that were not accessible by individuals with disabilities.
ADA regulations require that at least 50 percent of a carrier's buses be accessible, and all new buses leased or purchased must be accessible by individuals with disabilities.
In February 2009, FMCSA and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice entered into a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the enforcement of commercial passenger buses. The memorandum between the two agencies was included in the Over-the-Road Bus Transportation Accessibility Act of 2007 and is designed to ensure consistent ADA enforcement nationwide.