McKeon & Gusciora Bill to Reaffirm the Right of Individuals with Guide/Service Dogs to Ride on NJ Transit Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon and Reed Gusciora that would prohibit NJ Transit from denying individuals who use a guide or service dog access to any of its transportation modes was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

NJ Transit previously had a policy that excluded guide dogs on sedans, including its Access Link fleet, which serves the disabled population. NJ Transit later changed its policy.

This bill would codify those changes.

“These individuals already have a tougher time because of their disabilities. There is no need to turn routine tasks like boarding a bus or a train into a predicament,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “This bill ensures that any individual who relies on a guide or service dog to help with a disability is able to use public transportation without worry of being turned away and denied service.”

“These dogs provide a tremendous service to individuals who are limited by a disability,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “It is a good thing that NJ Transit saw fit to change that discriminatory policy. This bill reinforces this by making it adamantly clear that an individual who uses a guard or a service dog because of a disability cannot be denied access to public transportation.”

The bill (A-2524) allows any person with a disability who uses a guide or service dog, or any guide or service dog trainer with a guide or service dog to ride on any bus, train or other form of transportation operated by NJ Transit with the dog. The dog must be appropriately controlled.

The bill also prohibits NJ Transit from denying to any person use of or entry to any vehicle used for public transportation services or any vehicle used for providing transportation to persons with disabilities because the person is accompanied by an appropriately controlled guide or service dog.

The bill requires NJ Transit to designate an Access Link Customer Service Group to handle complaints regarding Access Link service and to establish procedures by which complaints must be processed and resolved. Access Link passengers must be given notice of the complaint procedures.

Lastly, the bill requires the NJ Transit Director of ADA Services to report semi-annually to the NJ Transit board, and send a copy of that report to the Division on Civil Rights in the Department of Law and Public Safety, Disability Rights New Jersey, and the Community Health Law Project.

The bill was released by the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee.