The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.
DENYING THE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES; DISMISSING THE CASE
This matter comes before the court on the plaintiffs' motion to recover
attorneys' fees. The plaintiffs, the American Council of the Blind, et
al. ("the plaintiffs" or "ACB") seek attorneys' fees and costs from the
Federal Transit Administration ("the FTA"), the Department of
Transportation ("DOT") (collectively the "Federal Defendants"), and the
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"). The plaintiffs
contend that because they prevailed in the underlying litigation, they
are entitled to reimbursement of their legal fees and costs from the
Federal Defendants under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"),
28 U.S.C. § 2412, and from WMATA under the Americans with
Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12205. Specifically, the
plaintiffs claim that their lawsuit led to the defendants' rejection of
the Infrared Integration Indicating System ("IRIIS") and the installation
of truncated domes in all key and new metro stations in Washington, D.C.
Consequently, the plaintiffs allege, they are a "prevailing party" under
the EAJA and the ADA for the purposes of recovering attorneys' fees.
For the reasons that follow, the court holds that the plaintiffs are
not a "prevailing party." Accordingly, the court will deny the
plaintiffs' motion to recover attorneys' fees.
In 1991, the Access Board issued the Americans with Disabilities Act
Accessibility Guidelines ("ADAAG"), which set forth the accessibility
standards for platform edges in train stations. The DOT adopted the
ADAAG. See 49 C.F.R. pt. 37. The ADAAG required that "[p]latform edges
bordering a drop-off and not protected by platform screens or guard rails
shall have a detectable warning. Such detectable warnings shall comply
with 4.29.2 and shall be 24 inches wide running the full length of the
platform drop-off." 49 C.F.R. pt. 37, App. A, § 10.3.1(8). The
regulations also require that the detectable warning be comprised of
"truncated domes," which are small, raised rounded surfaces. The domes
also must be of contrasting color and texture from the platform, and the
warning must differ from the platform in both resiliency and
"sound-on-cane" contact when used in interior applications. See
49 C.F.R. pt. 37, App. A, §§ 10.3.2(2), 10.3.1(8), 4.29.2.
Despite the explicit specifications for detectable warnings promulgated
by the Access Board, a transit authority could be excused from installing
the domes by applying for, and receiving, a grant of "equivalent
facilitation." The FTA Administrator may grant an equivalent facilitation
if the alternative design or technology that the rail operator seeks
provides "substantially equivalent or greater access to and usability of
the facility" as would be provided by the truncated domes. See
49 C.F.R. § 37.9, 49 C.F.R. pt. 37, App. A § 2.2.
The ADA required that public transportation facilities comply with the
ADA's regulations no later than July 26, 1993. See 42 U.S.C. § 12147
(b)(2)(B). On September 3, 1992, WMATA requested a finding of equivalent
facilitation for its existing platform edge. Since 1976, every WMATA rail
station has utilized an edge detection system consisting of a platform
floor covered with red paver tiles that contrast in both color and
texture with an 18-inch edge of flame-finished granite. Within the
granite edge, embedded flashing lights signal the approach of a train.
See Federal Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Recover
Attorneys' Fees ("Fed. Defs.' Opp'n"). Alternatively, WMATA asked the FTA
to grandfather the existing platform edge. On December 9, 1992, the FTA
denied WMATA's request to be grandfathered. See Fed. Defs.' Opp'n at 4.
In February 1993, the FTA rejected WMATA's request for equivalent
facilitation on the ground that the request contained insufficient
information. Moreover, the FTA rejected WMATA's request for an extension
of time in which to submit additional information. See Fed. Defs.' Opp'n
On March 4, 1993, WMATA submitted another request for equivalent
facilitation, supplemented with additional statistical information
regarding the existing edge's accessibility. See Compl. at 21-22. Before
the FTA responded to the second equivalent-facilitation request, WMATA
asked the FTA to suspend the detectable-warning requirement pending
further study of the existing edge. See Fed. Defs.' Opp'n at 4. On
December 17, 1993, the FTA denied WMATA's second equivalent-facilitation
request. See Fed. Defs.' Opp'n at 5.
On April 6, 1994, WMATA General Manager Lawrence Reuter wrote to
Transportation Secretary Federico Peña proposing four options: (1)
a new rule; (2) a regulatory exemption based on WMATA's safety record
with existing edges and system uniformity; (3) a voluntary-compliance
agreement to give WMATA additional time to conduct testing; and (4) the
addition of eight inches to the existing platform to provide a 26-inch
— wide warning strip. See Fed. Defs.' Opp'n at 5. On May 30, 1994,
Secretary Peña rejected all four of WMATA's proposals. See id.
In June 1994, WMATA applied for another time extension so it could
conduct a study to determine whether its current platform edge detection
system provided the visually impaired with orientation information
equivalent to that provided by other edge detection systems. See Compl.
at 23. On July 7, 1994, Secretary Pena granted WMATA a temporary
exemption to study alternatives to truncated domes. See Fed. Defs.' Opp'n
On March 22, 1995, WMATA submitted a third equivalent-facilitation
request, supplemented with additional research indicating the
detectability of its existing platform edge. During the course of
preparing the third equivalent-facilitation request, WMATA consulted with
another advocacy group for persons with visual impairments, the National
Federation of the Blind ("NFB"). According to the plaintiffs, the NFB has
historically been more opposed to ADA accommodations than the
plaintiffs. See Compl. at 4. Specifically, the plaintiffs feel that the
NFB believes that many ADA accommodations are paternalistic. See id.
In addition to the existing platform edge, WMATA proposed developing an
electronic edge warning system that would alert visually impaired
passengers of the proximity of the platform edge. This proposed system
became known as the Infrared Integration Indicating System, or IRIIS.
See Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion
to Recover Attorneys' Fees ("Pls.' Mem.") at 7. The FTA granted this
request on April 24, 1995. The FTA required not only the existing
platform edge, however, but also insisted that WMATA install its proposed
IRIIS system in at least 10 metro stations by April 30, 1996, and
throughout the entire metro system by May 31, 1997. See Fed. Defs.' Opp'n
On March 19, 1996, citing supply problems, WMATA sought a six-month
extension on installation of IRIIS in the first 10 rail stations. The FTA
granted this request on April 29, 1996, and extended the deadline for the
initial installation to October 31, 1996. The FTA, however, expressly
refused to ...