Democratic senator knocks Amtrak over $25,000 price quote for disabled passengers

Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, the first disabled woman elected to Congress, hit Amtrak following a report it wanted to charge a pair of passengers in wheelchairs $25,000 for a one-way ticket and called for a meeting with its CEO. 

Duckworth said it is “outrageous” for Amtrak to ask the two customers to fork over $25,000 for the trip from Chicago to Bloomington, Illinois, which typically costs $16 per person. Details of the price quote were reported by NPR on Friday.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act has been the law of the land for 30 years. Yet in 2020, @Amtrak believes it would be an unreasonable burden to remove architectural barriers that would enable a group with five wheelchair users to travel together,” Duckworth wrote in a series of tweets.

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The Illinois senator added that it is “disappointing that @Amtrak leadership appears to have failed to offer a public apology for its initial mistake” and said she is requesting a meeting with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson. Duckworth is the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety.

According to NPR, an Amtrak agent told Chicago-based Access Living, a disability advocacy group, in December the trip for two passengers in wheelchairs would cost more than $25,000 because additional seats had to be removed from the train. The train to Bloomington had three spaces for wheelchairs, but five people in wheelchairs with Access Living planned to make the trip.

The agent told the group that while in the past, Amtrak absorbed the cost of the seat removal, it changed its policies nationwide last year, NPR reported.

Amtrak told NPR in a statement that the cost stemmed from its policy to charge riders “an additional fee when any group requires reconfiguration of our railcars.” It also suggested that Access Living could avoid the higher fee by taking two separate trains, with each train “separated by about three hours and having three spaces for wheelchairs without any reconfiguration.”

The company did not immediately return CBS News’ request for comment.

Duckworth said she wants to discuss this policy change with Anderson.

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