Judge: Amtrak Can Charge More of Disabled Riders

A federal judge ruled that Amtrak (search) can charge a group of wheelchair users extra to ride in the same car together.

The wheelchair users, members of Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania (search), travel to Washington regularly to lobby. They sued after Amtrak told them that they could ride together on a Philadelphia-to-Washington train but that some of them would have to pay $200 more than the usual ticket price to cover the cost of removing seats.

The group sued, saying the policy violated the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (search).

U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III said Friday that under federal law, Amtrak must have one space to park a wheelchair and one space to store an unoccupied chair per passenger coach. It can charge extra for anything beyond that, Bartle ruled.

About three-quarters of those who were to go on the February trip are on fixed incomes of about $600 a month, the group said. Executive director Nancy Salandra said the charge on top of the $90 round-trip ticket price was too much for them to bear.

"If you and your family and friends and sisters and brothers and cousins, more than 20, wanted to travel to Washington, you would get a discount as a group," said Stephen Gold, an attorney for the group.

Amtrak spokeswoman Marcie Golgoski said the policy of charging for the removal of seats does not apply to just the disabled. If people wanted to have party on a train and seats had to be removed, they would be assessed the fee, too, she said.