The Federal Transit Administration has cited PATCO and the Delaware River Port Authority for failing to keep PATCO's elevators and escalators operating properly.
The "deficiency" findings by the FTA come as PATCO passengers continue to encounter broken escalators at many commuter rail stations, after months of apologies and unsuccessful repair efforts by PATCO and its parent, the DRPA.
On Monday, seven of PATCO's 14 escalators were out of service. One elevator was broken.
The FTA's investigation of the broken equipment, prompted by a customer's complaint, examined whether PATCO was meeting federal requirements that its trains be accessible to customers with disabilities.
The FTA said PATCO failed "to keep federally funded equipment in good operating order."
PATCO must now submit to FTA monthly maintenance reports on the availability of elevators and escalators, including reasons for any failures, corrective actions and schedules, until PATCO documents three consecutive months of service with 97 percent availability of elevators and 90 percent availability of escalators.
The FTA also asked PATCO to submit by Jan. 31 a better plan for accommodating handicapped customers when any elevator is broken. Such a plan must demonstrate that its procedures are effective and reasonable, and ensure that customers will not be stranded.
The FTA said it was "concerned that the apparent lack of accommodation is ineffective and may leave customers stranded at stations or lead them to avoid taking DRPA/PATCO altogether for fear of being stranded."
The FTA said escalators are not required by the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. New or renovated stations must have elevators or ramps, but for rail systems that existed before the 1990 law was passed, such as PATCO, only "key" stations must be equipped with elevators.
Five PATCO stations (at 15th-16th and Locust, 8th and Market, Broadway, Woodcrest, and Lindenwold) are designated as "key" stations. Two other stations, at 9th-10th and Locust and Ferry Avenue, have recently been equipped with elevators, and the DRPA says all 13 stations will have elevators by 2017.
PATCO officials last month hired SEPTA to fix its broken escalators, after a $1.39 million maintenance contract approved in September fell through.
A previous maintenance contract was allowed to lapse last July, leaving PATCO without repair services.
DRPA spokesman Tim Ireland said Monday, "We understand the importance of serving all of our customers, particularly those with mobility challenges. We work every day to maintain compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act."
Ireland said PATCO's plans for elevators at all stations by 2017 "take us beyond compliance."