Chapter 1. Background

1.1 Introduction

The Access Board prepared this report to estimate the costs of a proposed change to the transportation vehicle accessibility guidelines regarding stop and route announcements.  The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center produced the data presented in the tables and appendices under interagency agreement with the Access Board.

1.2 Current Regulatory Requirements

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires the Access Board to issue guidelines for transportation vehicles that are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.1  The guidelines establish minimum requirements for enforceable accessibility standards issued by the Department of Transportation that apply to the acquisition of new, used, and remanufactured transportation vehicles, and the remanufacture of existing transportation vehicles covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.2

The Access Board issued transportation vehicle accessibility guidelines in 1991.3  The guidelines 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.4  The Department of Transportation issued regulations in 1991 that adopted the guidelines as enforceable accessibility standards.5  The Department of Transportation regulations require stops and routes to be announced on vehicles that operate in fixed route systems.6

1.3 Compliance with Current Regulatory Requirements

Transit agencies can use vehicle operators or automated announcements to comply with the current regulatory requirements.  Transit agencies that use vehicle operators to announce stops and routes have to systematically monitor vehicle operators and enforce disciplinary procedures to ensure compliance.7  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.8  Compliance reviews conducted by the Department of Transportation show that vehicle operator compliance with the current regulatory requirements is rarely above 50 percent.9  Individuals with disabilities continue to identify failure of vehicle operators to announce stops and routes as a major problem.10

1.4 Proposed Change to Guidelines

Many transit agencies have deployed intelligent transportation system technologies during the past decade that can be used to provide automated stop and route announcements.  The number of buses that provide automated announcements has increased from 10 percent in 2001 to 45 percent in 2008.11  Automated announcements provide standardized messages, and lessen the need to rely on vehicle operators for compliance.12

The Access Board made available for public review draft revisions to the transportation vehicle accessibility guidelines.13  The draft revisions considered requiring buses that are more than 22 feet in length and operate in fixed route systems to provide automated stop and route announcements. The American Public Transportation Association commented that the cost of providing automated announcements would pose a hardship for small transit agencies, and recommended that transit agencies operating fewer than 100 buses in peak service periods be exempted from the requirement.  Based on the comments, the Access Board proposes to change the transportation vehicle accessibility 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 amends its regulations to adopt the revised guidelines as the updated accessibility standards for transportation vehicles.  The requirement will apply when buses are purchased, leased, or remanufactured.14  Buses currently in service do not have to be retrofitted to meet the requirement.