Public Transit:

FTA's Process for Overseeing Compliance with Federal Civil Rights Requirements Incorporates Key Federal Practices

GAO-13-697R: Published: Jul 25, 2013. Publicly Released: Jul 25, 2013.

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David J. Wise
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What GAO Found

GAO identified four methods the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), within the U.S. Department of Transportation, uses to assure that recipients of federal transit funding comply with civil rights requirements: 1) requiring recipients to self-certify that they assure compliance with applicable civil rights requirements; 2) issuing guidance to inform recipients of their responsibilities; 3) administering a complaints process; and 4) conducting oversight reviews of funding recipients' compliance with laws and requirements. GAO found that FTA's policies and procedures for processing civil rights complaints incorporate nine key federal practices based on an analysis of U.S. Department of Justice guidance: 1) ensure a timely complaint process; 2) provide a complaint process that is accessible to the public; 3) acknowledge receipt of complaint to complainant; 4) document complaint allegations to be resolved; 5) document the results of any complaint investigations; 6) use informal method to resolve complaints when possible; 7) provide a formal or an informal appeals process for the results of complaints investigations; 8) after a complaint investigation is completed, monitor the recipient based on the issues involved in the complaint; and 9) oversee an effective program of compliance reviews for recipients and subrecipients. Additionally, GAO found that FTA's average times for resolving complaints greatly decreased from 2009 through 2012, and that few FTA investigations of complaints resulted in findings of violations.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) mandated GAO to study FTA's oversight of federal transit funding recipients' compliance with public transportation-related civil rights requirements and its process for handling complaints alleging violations of such civil rights. FTA is responsible for assuring that recipients of federal transit funding comply with a variety of federal requirements, including laws, regulations, and other requirements related to civil rights. GAO reviewed 1) the methods FTA uses to oversee federal transit funding recipients' compliance with federal civil rights requirements, and 2) the extent to which FTA's process for handling civil rights complaints is consistent with key federal practices for addressing complaints of discrimination. We focused on FTA's oversight of recipients' compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended, and disability-related provisions in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), as amended.

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