Cost Estimates for Automated Stop and Route Announcements

July 2010

Executive Summary

This report estimates the costs of a proposed change to the Access Board’s transportation vehicle accessibility guidelines regarding stop and route announcements.  The guidelines currently require buses that are more than 22 feet in length and operate in fixed route systems to provide a public address system for announcing stops.  The Department of Transportation adopted the guidelines as enforceable accessibility standards and requires stops and routes to be announced on vehicles that operate in fixed route systems.  Transit agencies can use vehicle operators or automated announcements to comply with the current regulatory requirements.  Failure of vehicle operators to announce stops and routes has been a frequent source of complaints to the Department of Transportation and lawsuits against transit agencies.

The Access Board proposes to change the guidelines to require transit agencies that are public entities (i.e., State or local government units) and operate 100 or more buses in annual maximum service in fixed route systems, as reported in the National Transit Database, to provide automated stop and route announcements on buses that are more than 22 feet in length and operate in fixed route systems.  The Department of Transportation will establish the effective date for this requirement when it adopts the revised guidelines as the updated accessibility standards for transportation vehicles.  The requirement will apply when buses are purchased, leased, or remanufactured.  Buses currently in service do not have to be retrofitted to meet the requirement.

According to the National Transit Database, 87 transit agencies that are public entities operate 100 or more buses in annual maximum service in fixed route systems and will be affected by the proposed change to the guidelines.  More than 90 percent of these transit agencies currently provide automated stop and route announcements on buses.  The report assumes that transit agencies that currently provide automated announcements on buses will continue to do so in the future and will not incur any additional costs as a result of the proposed change to the guidelines.  Transit agencies are requested to comment on this assumption.  Based on the comments received, this report may be revised at the final rule stage.

Only 7 transit agencies that are public entities and operate 100 or more buses in annual maximum service in fixed route systems do not currently provide automated stop and route announcements on buses.  The total costs of the proposed change to the guidelines for these 7 transit agencies are presented below.

CostsPresent Value (3%)*Present Value (7%)*
* Present value is based on discount rates in OMB Circular No. A-94.
Low Cost Scenario
Total Costs Over 12 Year Bus Replacement Cycle $9,548,280 $8,027,897 $6,534,112
Annualized Costs $795,690 $668,991 $544,509
High Cost Scenario
Total Costs Over 12 Year Bus Replacement Cycle $19,678,022 $16,809,905 $13,970,121
Annualized Costs $1,639,835 $1,400,825 $1,164,767

The cost estimates include one-time costs to equip new buses and to set-up backend systems for implementing automated announcements, and on-going maintenance and operation costs for the bus equipment and backend systems.  The low cost and high cost scenarios account for variables that can affect costs.

Forty (40) of the transit agencies that are public entities and operate 100 or more buses in annual maximum service in fixed route systems contract with private entities to operate some or all of the buses. The Department of Transportation regulations require a private entity that acquires vehicles to operate in a fixed route system under contract with a public entity to comply with the accessibility standards applicable to the public entity. The report identifies the private entities that contract with the 40 transit agencies to operate buses in their fixed route systems. These private entities would be affected by the proposed change to the guidelines if they acquire buses to operate in fixed route systems under contract with the transit agencies. These private entities would not be affected by the proposed change to the guidelines if the transit agencies provide the buses to the private entities to operate, of if the private entities deploy buses from their existing fleets to operate in the fixed route systems under contract with the transit agencies. Information is not available on whether any of the private entities that contract with the transit agencies acquire buses to operate in fixed route systems under contract with the transit agencies. Private entities that acquire buses to operate in fixed route systems under contract with the transit agencies are requested to provide information on the number of buses acquired on an annual basis for operation under contract with the transit agencies, and whether the buses provide automated stop and route announcements. Based on the information provided, this report may be revised at the final rule stage.