Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, Alfred H. Harf
Madam Chair and Members of the Board:
I am writing on behalf of the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) to express concerns about the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board’s Draft Revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buses and Vans, published April 11, 2007, at 72 FR 18179.
Before discussing our concerns, it would be instructive to briefly describe the make-up of PRTC, so the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (“the Board”) has more of an appreciation for the circumstances shaping our reaction. PRTC is a Northern Virginia public transportation provider operating long-distance commuter bus and local, demand responsive (“flex-route”) bus services as well as “carpool/vanpool support” services. PRTC also operates commuter rail service (the Virginia Railway Express; VRE) in collaboration with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC). Our service area encompasses over 2,000 square miles, and we carry more than 25,000 daily riders.
I’ll turn now to our four concerns:
- The timing of the proposed changes. No evidence has been presented to substantiate that the specifications for ramp slopes (calling for a maximum slope of 1:8 instead of 1:4) and pathways aboard the bus between the boarding and securement areas (36 inches minimum) need to be changed. Nor has any evidence been presented that necessary technical research has been completed to confirm the feasibility of these changes at this time. Indeed, bus manufacturers reportedly will be advising the Board that these proposed changes are not feasible at present, which the Board seemed to anticipate when it called out this issue in particular for comment. Consequently, PRTC believes these changes are premature.
- The applicability of the proposed changes. As proposed, section 1192.21(a) would render virtually every existing transit bus and van inaccessible. The draft uses the sweeping phrase ‘new, used, or remanufactured’ to describe what buses and vans the new rule will apply to. PRTC strongly urges the Board to substitute the phrase “manufactured after [date]” to explicitly recognize the fact that there is a need to allow a reasonable transition period after the effective date of the regulation to allow the industry to accommodate the final changes. This accommodation includes design changes by bus manufacturers and their suppliers, changes to the manufacturing processes to incorporate those design changes, and modifications to the contractual relationships between bus manufacturers and their public transit agency clients, as well as legally required, costly, and time-consuming ‘Altoona’ testing of changed designs.
PRTC also strongly concurs with the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) suggestion that the selection of be deferred until the Board has sufficient information to set a reasoned, reasonable date, since the facts about time for transitioning are not clear as yet. Deferral of the selection of a “manufactured after [date]” has the added virtue of allowing continued trade-in of used vehicles that have not yet reached the end of their useful lives.
- The proposed abandonment of the current definition of a common wheelchair. PRTC believes this is unwise. While the current definition (30” x 48” and not exceeding 600 lbs including the passenger) may need to be revised, abandoning a definition would compel transit systems like PRTC to make case-by-case determinations of every wheelchair user for each vehicle we operate. This is onerous and a “recipe” for ongoing disputes.
- The requirement that all vehicles longer than 22’ be equipped with an automated stop identification system (including both visual and audio announcements). PRTC is one of many transit providers utilizing vehicles over 22-feet long for the delivery of route deviated service. Automated stop announcement systems would have no value in service situations of this sort (announcing a stop just before the bus deviates off its route). Automated stop announcement systems are expensive, so the proposal to compel transit providers to outfit buses deployed for such service with automated systems (instead of allowing them to continue the practice of oral announcements where they are needed) would be frivolous and a financial hardship. PRTC believes an exemption should apply in such situations, and further believes that the eventual rulemaking should provide a reasonable phase-in period to account for the fact that many systems don’t have global positioning satellite (GPS) capabilities as yet, a prerequisite for automated announcements.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed Draft Revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buses and Vans.
Alfred H. Harf
14700 Potomac Mills Road
Woodbridge, VA 22192-6811
PH: (703) 580-6122
FAX: (703) 583-1377