Detroit Metro settles disability suit
Advocates for the disabled and elderly today settled a lawsuit against Detroit Metropolitan Airport with an agreement to make it more convenient for the disabled and the elderly to get to the terminal from public buses and vans.
The Wayne County Airport Authority has agreed to modify the Ground Transportation Center with an indoor information counter for the service providers, direct dial phones for passengers who need assistance, better signage and wider lanes for buses.
The agreement was announced in U.S. District Court in Detroit Friday morning after days of negotiations. At issue was the airport’s decision last month to no longer allow public transportation services to pick up and drop off passengers at the McNamara Terminal.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit contended they would be forced to navigate their way to the terminal from a long distance in inclement weather.
The move prompted a flurry of protest letters and a call from Gov. Rick Snyder for both sides to achieve an amicable outcome.
In return for the improvements, the buses for Michigan Flyer-Air Ride agree to continue operating out of the Ground Transportation Center. Passengers who are disabled or elderly will have help getting to and from the transportation center. That will be provided by either a representative of the transit service or a contractor of Delta Airlines, the agreement states.
Michael Harris, one of the two plaintiffs in the case who is involved with the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America, called it a “win-win for everyone involved.”
“We’re really getting what we wanted to get,” Harris said. “We’re getting an airport that people will be able to access in a safe environment. I believe it’s a win for (the airport) because the traveling public, able and disabled, will have an enjoyable flying experience. Both sides were willing to compromise and at the end of the day we have outcome that both sides can live with.”
Airport officials, who had remained silent about the lawsuit, said they are happy with the agreement.
“We are pleased to work in a spirit of cooperation with representatives of the plaintiffs, as well as Michigan Flyer, to reach a consensus we all accept,” said airport authority CEO Thomas Naughton in a statement. “This is a great example of reasonable people working together to create a safer and more customer-friendly environment.”
Jason Turkish, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the disability rights community, said the airport was wrong in thinking that moving the drop-off and pick-up sites to the transportation center promoted safety.
Turkish said the biggest change is the presence of permanent staff in a climate- controlled part of the airport to help monitor when people need help to and from the public transportation buses.
“This is going to allow disabled and non-disabled passengers alike to not have to go wait outside for the bus,” he said. “They are going to be able to stay in the comfort, convenience and safety of a climate controlled environment until the time when the bus is going to arrive.”
Although the walk is still 600 feet from the drop off location to the terminal, the pathway that passengers will walk along will be completely remodeled so it complies to Americans with Disabilities Act, Turkish said.
Naughton, who along with other airport officials contended the move from the increasingly congested McNamara Terminal was needed, was “always about customer safety.”
“We are comfortable that the GTC enhancements, to which we have all agreed, maintain a safe environment for our customers,” he said.