HUDSON RIVER CRUISES, INC.
5 Field Court
Kingston , NY 12401
Office of Technical and Information Services
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington , DC 20004-1111
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Hudson River Cruises, Inc., a member of the Passenger Vessel Association, submits these comments regarding your efforts to develop accessibility guidelines for passenger vessels, as published in the Federal Register of November 26, 2004. Please include these comments in the official record of both your dockets as well as the corresponding U.S. Department of Transportation Docket.
Hudson River Cruises operates a single 388 passenger vessel from May 1 through October 31, from a leased dock located at Rondout Landing, Kingston , NY . We offer sightseeing cruises, music cruises and charter cruises. The vessel operates on a closed loop between Kingston and Hyde Park , NY , and does not normally visit other dock locations. The Company is privately owned, has four year round employees and about 15 seasonal employees. We carry about 30,000 passengers a year.
The MV Rip Van Winkle is 125 feet long and has a beam of 28 feet. It has an enclosed main deck area and a partially covered open upper (2 nd ) deck. Access to the upper deck from the main deck is by two stairways. The vessel was constructed in 1980 and is steel. The main deck has a snack bar and beverage bar. The heads are also located on the main deck. The vessel was originally built as an off shore supply vessel and later converted for passenger use.
The dock is leased from New York State . It is located under a bridge and no permanent structures can be erected. It is 100 feet long and about 25 feet deep.
The Rondout Creek (location of the Dock) and the Hudson River are tidal. There are usually two high tides and two low tides daily. The tide range is usually 4 to 4 1/2 feet. On any given day the level of the main deck could be four feet below the surface of the dock or two feet above.
Normal procedure is to board passengers on the main deck during mid and high tides. Passengers are boarded on the upper deck using a gangway when the tide drops below a certain level.
Our brochure states that, “Handicapped accessibility is limited. Please call for information”. This is primarily for those who are confined to wheel chairs. The office will supply information on tides and the best time to schedule a cruise. On arrival the guests will be assisted by lifting to the main deck. We normally assist 4 to 5 wheel chair confined passengers per week. Overall, probably 5% of our passengers are from adult group homes or senior assisted living homes.
The heads could be modified to be completely accessible, but it would involve removing approximately 10” of steel bulkhead.
The biggest problem we would face is “unaided access”, and vertical access between decks. With the configuration of the dock and vessel any device used to assist those confined to wheel chairs would require assistance of a crew member. This would be a lift lowering the passenger from the level of the dock onto the main deck. A lift of this type would also pose a problem relative to the low overhead.
Vertical access between decks could only be accomplished by a stair lift which would pose an obstacle problem. The vessel could not be modified to accommodate an elevator.
I am aware that the Passenger Vessel Association has been in frequent contact the Access Board regarding this rulemaking, including testifying at public hearings three times in 2005. I support the following points that PVA has stressed in its comments:
Thank you for this opportunity to participate in your rulemaking process.
Very truly yours:
Jeffrey M. Whitaker, Capt/Operations Manager