Providing Public Transportation
Alternatives for the Greater
Phoenix Metro Area


Download Bus and Light Rail Policies for Passengers with Disabilities in Word format

Passengers with disabilities, bus and light rail operators, those who train transit staff and customer service representatives frequently ask questions about transit policies related to serving passengers with disabilities.

It is the responsibility of transit agencies and providers to ensure that passengers with disabilities receive service comparable to that provided to other passengers and that this service is provided with dignity and respect, without compromising safety or security.

Valley Metro member agencies and the Valley Metro Accessibility Advisory Group have worked together to develop this document based upon the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) FTA Circular 4710.1 issued Nov. 5, 2015. This circular provides guidance to recipients and subrecipients of FTA financial assistance necessary to carry out provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s implementing regulations at 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, 38 and 39.

Announcing Bus Stops

On fixed-route systems, Valley Metro operators shall announce stops as follows:

  • At a minimum, at transfer points with other fixed routes, other major intersections and destination points, as well as intervals along a route sufficient to permit individuals with visual impairments or other disabilities to be oriented to their location. The announcement can be made personally by the vehicle operator or can be made by a recording system. If the vehicle is small enough so that the operator can make himself or herself heard without a public address (PA) system, it is not necessary to use the system.

  • At any stop upon passenger request.

Bare Feet

Valley Metro requires that all passengers, including those who use mobility aids, wear shoes unless a disability either prevents the wearing of shoes or necessitates that the passenger’s feet be bare.

Boarding Assistance for Passengers without Mobility Devices

While some passengers may not require lifts or ramps to board or alight buses, they may still have difficulty in stepping onto or off buses due to a disability. Valley Metro requires operators to use the bus’s kneeling feature or to deploy the bus ramp for ambulatory passengers upon request.

Use of kneelers, combined with pulling as close to the curb as possible (when there is a sidewalk), allows certain passengers greater ability to use fixed-route buses.

Operators shall position the bus to make boarding as easy as possible for everyone, minimize the slope of the ramp, and use the bus kneeling option as needed. When required, bus operators shall provide assistance to passengers to negotiate ramps and/or inclines when boarding or deboarding. Before leaving a stop, operators shall ensure that passengers are safely boarded.

Boarding Order for Passengers with Mobility Devices

Valley Metro has adopted a policy that all passengers using mobility devices shall be boarded and deboarded before additional passengers are boarded. All passengers are encouraged to deboard from the rear of the bus.

Operators must keep securement areas open for their use. This does not mean giving boarding priority to riders with disabilities above other riders. For example, if riders with disabilities are waiting at a bus stop and a bus at full capacity arrives at the stop, drivers do not need to (and are advised not to) compel other riders to get off the bus in order to accommodate waiting riders. Conversely, policies that give lower boarding priority to riders who use mobility aids because they would occupy more space on the vehicle, or for any other reason, would also be discriminatory. This does not preclude passengers from temporarily deboarding to allow the boarding of a mobility aid or requesting passengers to move to another area of the vehicle not designated as a securement area.

Bus Stops

Bus operators must stop at all bus stops with waiting passengers. Valley Metro has adopted a policy requiring that operators always stop at bus stops with waiting passengers and not only when an individual at the stop waves or otherwise signals the operator to stop. Absent such a practice, individuals unable to see and signal the operator to pull over would be denied service.

Valley Metro also requires that operators stop at all bus stops that serve multiple routes to announce the bus route. At busy transit hubs serving multiple bus routes, operators must pull up to their designated route stop and perform the route identification, even if it means waiting for a bus in front to depart the stop.

Operators shall not refuse to permit a passenger who uses a lift to disembark from a vehicle at any designated stop, unless the lift cannot be deployed, the lift will be damaged if it is deployed, or temporary conditions at the stop, not under the control of the operator, preclude the safe use of the stop by all passengers.

Under normal operating conditions, drivers must position vehicles in order to allow riders to use lifts or ramps. This means ensuring that deployment of the lift or ramp is not obstructed by signposts, street furniture, security bollards or parked vehicles. In addition, sufficient clearance must be available to enable riders to use the lift or ramp and to ensure that riders are able to reach the lift or ramp without stepping off a curb.

If the passenger cannot be boarded or deboarded at the bus stop for any of the reasons identified by the above, the operator must communicate the reason to the passenger, notify Operations Control Center (OCC)/radio/dispatch that the board or deboard request cannot be accommodated, and remain at the stop until further instructions have been received and relayed to the passenger.

With the exception of designated “flag stop” zones, or a designated portion of a route where a driver can safely pull over if a passenger is present and “flags down” the bus to request a pick up, passengers should always wait at the designated bus stop to ensure that operators recognize their intent to ride the bus.

Buses at Capacity

The requirement to provide alternative transportation does not apply if the only reason a bus cannot accommodate a rider who needs to use the lift is because the particular bus is full. “Full” can mean:

  • The waiting rider needs to use a securement location, but all securement areas are already occupied by riders who use wheelchairs.
  • The waiting rider needs to use a securement location, but securement areas are already occupied by riders whom the driver has asked to move but are unwilling to do so.
  • The bus is at capacity with no space to accommodate any additional riders.

When there is no space on the bus, operators are required to explain the situation to waiting riders, so they are not left with the perception they are simply being passed by. The operator must communicate the reason to the passenger and notify Operations Control Center (OCC) radio/dispatch that a passenger with a disability could not be boarded due to capacity constraints.

Disruptive Behavior

Valley Metro may refuse to provide service to an individual with disabilities because that individual engages in violent, seriously disruptive or illegal conduct, or represents a direct threat to the health or safety of others. In determining whether an individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, a public entity must make an individualized assessment, based on reasonable judgment, that relies on current medical knowledge or on the best available objective evidence, to ascertain: the nature, duration and severity of the risk; the probability that the potential injury will actually occur, and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures, or the provision of auxiliary aids or services will mitigate the risk.

However, Valley Metro shall not refuse to provide service to an individual with disabilities solely because the individual's disability results in appearance or involuntary behavior that may offend, annoy or inconvenience employees of the entity or other persons. For example, some persons with Tourette’s syndrome may make involuntary profane exclamations. These may be very annoying or offensive to others, but would not be a ground for denial of service. As another example, many agencies have asked for guidance on serving riders with hygiene issues. It would not be appropriate to refuse service if the situation were merely unpleasant to other passengers or drivers. If the situation disrupts the provision of service, however, grounds for refusing service may exist.


Applicants for federal financial assistance under section 5307 of the Federal Transit Laws (49 U.S.C. Chapter 53), must, as a condition to receiving such assistance, give satisfactory assurances that the rates charged elderly and persons with disabilities during non-peak hours for transportation utilizing or involving the facilities and equipment of the project financed with assistance under this section will not exceed one-half of the rates generally applicable to other persons at peak hours, whether the operation of such facilities and equipment is by the applicant or is by another entity under lease or otherwise.

Valley Metro requires that seniors 65 or older provide proof of eligibility for reduced fares, which includes a Valley Metro Reduced Fare Identification Card, driver’s license or state ID card. Persons with disabilities must present either a Medicare card or Valley Metro Reduced Fare Identification Card as proof of eligibility for reduced fares. Proof of identity may be required with the Medicare card.

Valley Metro also allows personal care assistants (PCAs) to ride without paying a fare upon presentation of a Valley Metro Platinum Reduced Fare Pass with the designation ‘PCA OK’. This policy only applies to service on Valley Metro operated routes.

PCAs differ from companions. While both accompany riders with disabilities, PCAs also assist riders with a daily life activity. Appendix D to 49 CFR 37.123 notes, “a companion (e.g., friend or family member) does not count as a personal care attendant unless the eligible individual regularly makes use of a personal care attendant and the companion is actually acting in that capacity.”

Please call (602) 253-5000 or TTY (602) 261-8208 for more information regarding Valley Metro’s fare policy or for information on how to obtain Valley Metro’s Platinum Reduced Fare Pass. Information regarding fares and Valley Metro’s fare policy can also be found at

Forward vs. Backward Wheelchair Loading

Mobility aid users, especially those using electric wheelchairs, often have a preference for entering a lift platform and vehicle in a particular direction (e.g., backing on or going on frontwards). Except where the only way of successfully maneuvering a device onto a vehicle or into its securement area or an overriding safety concern (i.e., a direct threat) requires one way of doing this or another, Valley Metro operators shall respect the passenger’s preference.

Maintenance of Lifts and Ramps

Public and private entities providing transportation services shall maintain in operative condition those features of facilities and vehicles that are required to make the vehicles and facilities readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. These features include, but are not limited to, lifts and other means of access to vehicles, securement devices, elevators, signage and systems to facilitate communications with persons with impaired vision or hearing.

Accessibility features shall be repaired promptly if they are damaged or out of order. When an accessibility feature is out of order, the entity shall take reasonable steps to accommodate individuals with disabilities who would otherwise use the feature.

This section does not prohibit isolated or temporary interruptions in service or access due to maintenance or repairs.

Bus operators must test the lift or ramp during the pre-trip inspection. All breakdowns of accessibility equipment must be reported immediately to OCC/radio/dispatch. Operators shall follow the instructions received upon providing such a report. A vehicle with inoperable lift or ramp is to be removed from service as soon as possible–no later than the next day–and not returned to service until repaired.

Mobility Aid Securement

Mobility aids must be properly secured whenever possible. Bus operators shall use their best efforts to correctly use the appropriate number of securement points.

Valley Metro requires that operators are to do the best they can to secure mobility aids with the available securement systems. While service will not be refused on the grounds that a mobility aid cannot be secured on all points, or the passenger opts to not have their wheelchair restrained by the vehicle’s securement system, doing so will be at the passenger’s own risk.

If a mobility aid is not secured on all securement points, operators are to report this immediately to OCC/radio/dispatch.

Passengers requesting to ride in a specific securement area shall be secured in the area of their choice if that securement area is available and unoccupied by a passenger using a mobility device.

Operator Training

Each transportation provider is to design a training program which suits the needs of its particular operation. Transportation providers are required to ensure that personnel are trained to proficiency, as appropriate to their duties, so that they operate vehicles and equipment safely and properly assist and treat individuals with disabilities who use the service in a respectful and courteous way, with appropriate attention to the difference among individuals with disabilities.

Trained personnel must demonstrate that they are able to consistently and reliably operate accessibility features, provide appropriate assistance to individuals with disabilities, and treat riders in a respectful and courteous way.

Other Mobility Devices

Persons with mobility disabilities may use devices other than wheelchairs to assist with locomotion. Canes, crutches and walkers, for example, are often used by people whose mobility disabilities do not require use of a wheelchair. These devices must be accommodated on the same basis as wheelchairs.

Valley Metro does not accommodate devices that are not primarily designed for use by individuals with mobility impairments. This includes items such as shopping carts, bicycles and skateboards. However, according to the FTA, the definition of wheelchair is not intended to include a class of devices known as “other power-driven mobility devices” (OPMDs). OPMDs are defined in Department of Justice ADA rules as “any mobility device powered by batteries, fuel, or other engines – whether or not designed primarily for use by individuals with mobility disabilities – that is used by individuals with mobility disabilities for the purpose of locomotion, including golf carts, Segway[s]®, or any mobility device designed to operate in areas without defined pedestrian routes, but that is not a wheelchair.”

Other power-driven mobility devices like the Segway®, when used by a person with a disability as a mobility device, is part of the broad class of mobility. In this way, a Segway® occupies a legal position analogous to canes, walkers, etc. In addition, Valley Metro does not permit other types of assistive devices to be used in ways that depart from or exceed their intended uses. For example, Valley Metro does not permit riders who use walkers with built-in seats to ride in securement areas while seated on their walkers, meaning that transit agencies can require these individuals to transfer to a vehicle seat.

Passengers with Open Sores and Wounds

Passengers with disabilities that have open sores and wounds may be transported unless their medical condition presents a direct threat to other passengers. Any passenger, including passengers with disabilities, may be refused access to public transportation if body fluid leakage, drainage or dripping is occurring while at the bus stop. The passenger may also be requested to exit the bus if leakage or dripping occurs after they have boarded. Such leakage or dripping can create a biohazard to other passengers on the bus.

The existence of wounds and sores may limit securement on all securement points. The operator shall secure as many points as possible.

Portable Oxygen Use

Valley Metro operators shall not prohibit an individual with a disability from traveling with a respirator or portable oxygen supply, consistent with applicable Department of Transportation rules on the transportation of hazardous materials. Oxygen supplies must not obstruct the aisle.

Requesting Reasonable Modifications

A reasonable modification is a change in Valley Metro’s service policies and practices in circumstances where established practices may prevent individuals with disabilities from accessing and participating fully in Valley Metro’s programs, services and facilities.

Valley Metro is committed to providing reasonable modification(s) to its fixed-route bus, light rail and/or ADA paratransit operating policies, practices and/or procedures in order to ensure that its services, programs and facilities are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.

Individuals may request reasonable modifications online, by email, in writing or by phone. To facilitate this process, Valley Metro has made this policy and the Reasonable Modifications Request Form available online and in hardcopy upon request.

Valley Metro also will make this policy and the Reasonable Modifications Request Form available in the following alternate formats upon request: large print, braille, audio and electronic (Word or text file formats). This policy and the Reasonable Modifications Request Form is also available in Spanish.

Online: A passenger may complete the online request form and attach any supplemental information required by this policy.

By Email: A passenger may send a completed copy of this form to Valley Metro at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) along with any supplemental information required by this policy.

In Writing: A passenger may complete the online request form and attach any supplemental information required by this policy. The completed form and all attachments should be mailed to: Manager of Accessible Transit Services, 4600 E. Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85034.

By Phone: A passenger may request a Reasonable Modification by contacting Valley Metro at (602) 716-2100, Option 1, during standard Valley Metro business hours. Staff will either email, fax or mail this policy and the Reasonable Modifications Request Form to the passenger. If needed, staff will complete the online form for the passenger based on information provided by the passenger.

Valley Metro (in consultation with those providers involved in a requested modification) will have five (5) business days to review and decide on each request. Valley Metro will have an additional five (5) business days to provide a final response to the passenger.

The response will be provided via email if the request was received by email, and by letter (USPS) if the request was made via telephone or letter. Appropriate alternative formats will be used if requested. Acknowledgement of receipt will be requested for all responses.

If a request is denied, or if an alternate modification is proposed, the response will detail the reasons for the denial. Requestors also will be informed of their right to appeal and how to initiate an appeal.

For more information regarding Valley Metro’s Reasonable Modification Policy, visit Valley Metro’s website at or call Valley Metro at (602) 716-2100.

Rescue Policy

All Valley Metro fixed-route transit providers shall provide an effective rescue system for passengers with disabilities, needing the use of a lift or ramp, that are stranded due to inoperable bus lifts.

In any case in which a vehicle is operating on a fixed route with an inoperative lift, and the headway to the next accessible vehicle on the route exceeds 30 minutes, Valley Metro requires that the transit provider promptly provide alternative transportation to individuals with disabilities who are unable to use the vehicle because its lift does not work.

If a service interruption is the result of bus lift/ramp failure, the bus operator shall stop and call OCC/radio/dispatch for instructions to the passenger before proceeding on the route. If the service interruption will result in the passenger being stranded for more than 30 minutes, a rescue of the passenger shall be conducted. In the months of May through October every effort shall be made by the OCC/radio/dispatch to offer rescue, if possible, to stranded passengers even if the next bus along the route will arrive in less than 30 minutes.

Vehicles that are dispatched for rescue shall meet the stranded passenger within 30 minutes of the request for rescue. Rescue vehicles shall transport the passenger to another location mutually agreed upon by the passenger and transit staff. Every attempt shall be made by transit staff to ensure that the passenger’s trip is completed successfully. In the case of service interruptions not caused by mechanical failure on the bus, (e.g. all mobility aid securement positions are occupied) the operator shall stop the bus, call OCC/radio/dispatch for instructions and relay instructions to the passenger before proceeding on route. OCC/radio/dispatch staff shall determine if rescue is required and feasible.

In all cases, OCC/radio/dispatch staff shall check the status of the next available bus. All Valley Metro transit providers’ staff members shall be trained on the above policy.

Service Animals

Per 49 CFR 37.167(d) service animal means any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items. A service animal must be individually trained to assist passengers with tasks of daily living. Examples include seeing, hearing, standing, balance and seizure detection.

Pets and companion animals (also referred to as comfort animals and therapy animals) are not considered service animals and are not permitted in Valley Metro facilities or on buses and light rail vehicles unless they can be stowed within an enclosed pet carrier that fits on the lap or beneath the seat.

Service animals must:

  • Be under the passenger’s direct physical or verbal control
  • Sit on the floor in front of a passenger’s feet or beneath their seat
  • Not jump or sit on seats
  • Not block aisles or exits
  • Not bark, growl or disturb other passengers or the driver
  • Not soil or damage Valley Metro property

Any individual whose service animal violates this policy may be asked to have the animal exit the bus. A Valley Metro bus operator or fare inspector may ask passengers whether or not the animal is a service animal, and to explain what task (or tasks) the animal is trained to perform.

Caring for a service animal is the responsibility of the passenger or a personal care attendant.

The following guidance also applies to service animals:

  • FTA ADA regulations do not prescribe limits on the number of service animals that accompany riders on a single trip. Different service animals may provide different services to a rider during trips or at the rider’s destination.
  • Other riders’ or transit personnel’s allergies to dogs or other animals would not be grounds for denying service to a person accompanied by a service animal. The regulations explicitly state that service animals must be allowed to accompany individuals on vehicles and in facilities. Encountering a service animal in the transit or other environment is an expected part of being in public.

Transferring to a Seat from a Mobility Device

Passengers using mobility devices may transfer to a vehicle seat if one is available. Passengers using mobility devices are not required to move to a seat due to securement difficulties that raise safety concerns.

Transporting Wheelchairs

The Department of Transportation’s ADA rule defines a “wheelchair” as “a mobility aid belonging to any class of three or four-wheeled vehicles, designed for and used by individuals with mobility impairments.”

Except as provided in this section, individuals using wheelchairs shall be transported in Valley Metro’s vehicles or other conveyances.

With respect to wheelchair/occupant combinations that are larger or heavier than those to which the design standards for vehicles and equipment of refer, bus operators must carry the wheelchair and occupant if the lift and vehicle can accommodate the wheelchair and occupant. An operator may decline to carry a wheelchair/occupant if the combined weight exceeds that of the lift specifications or if carriage of the wheelchair is demonstrated to be inconsistent with legitimate safety requirements.

Valley Metro does not permit riders who use wheelchairs to ride in places other than designated securement locations in the vehicle, where such locations exist.

Wheelchair Brakes

When occupying a lift or securement area, it is recommended that passengers apply the brakes on their mobility aids; however, they are not required to do so. If using power chairs or scooters, it is recommended that the power switch be turned to the “off” position. Again, this is not mandatory.