June 4, 2007
Architectural & Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
Dennis Cannon – Office of Technical and Information Services
1331 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004-1111
RE Docket No. 2007-1 / 36 CFR Part 1192
Transit Express is a private passenger transportation carrier operating in southeastern Wisconsin. For the past twenty-eight years we have provided a variety of passenger transportation services. The majority of that service is provided to elderly and handicapped persons. We respectfully submit these comments for consideration.
When the Transit Driver or Rail Conductor announces “ALL ABOARD”, do we really mean that public mass transit services will need to provide services to each and every person, regardless of their needs?
Mass transportation is meant for the masses. This would include the vast majority of persons, including persons with special needs such as those using standard sized wheelchairs and scooters. Extending the concept of Public mass transportation to serve nearly every single potential rider is neither cost effective nor operationally feasible.
Transit Express fully supported the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act throughout its early drafts and upon its implementation back in 1991. We continue to support the ADA provisions in their current form. The act provided for the inclusion of a significant number of individuals in our public transit services. The ADA is completely consistent with our corporate philosophy and mission.
We are on the other hand concerned that the proposed expansion of these regulations will have a negative effect on public transportation systems. If these provisions are codified and become final regulations; Transit Express and other operators will have no alternative other than to become fully compliant. As an organization, Transit Express has always embraced change and will make any transitions far quicker and easier than most other organizations. Nevertheless, these changes will be both significant and expensive.
The simple fact of the matter is that current bus designs will not accommodate many of these proposed changes. On that basis, these regulations will then shift more individuals out of main line transit services and onto paratransit services, which is our primary line of business. Therefore one would expect Transit Express to be in support of these proposed changes since it would mean an increase in demand for our services. Even though an increase in demand is appealing to us; we still believe that these regulations are not in the best interest of the riding public.
The real question in our view is not whether it is possible for bus manufacturers to redesign transit vehicles to comply with these proposed changes in the ADA and related regulations, but rather are these expanded regulations in the best interest of ‘public mass transportation’ ? More importantly, are these expanded regulations in the best interests of the general riding public ?
Bus manufacturers can, with enough time and resources, likely redesign transit vehicles to meet most of the proposed changes. The designs will likely dictate wider buses to allow for 36 inch wide aisles, a reversion to lift equipped buses over the lowered floor/ramp style vehicle to meet the 1 in 8 ramp angle to street level, and a significant loss of seating to accommodate the space provisions in the proposed regulations.
Perhaps the question can be posed in a different fashion. At what point does changing transit specifications to accommodate the last few mobility impaired individuals make good public policy? Persons with abnormally large mobility devices benefiting from these proposed changes would likely take the position that such an expansion is appropriate. What is obvious is that at some point, the expansion of ADA regulations become cost prohibitive and not in the best interests of the public at large.
If one attempts to answer the ‘cost prohibitive’ regulation question, we would first have to attempt to quantify the number of riders that would not other wise be able to travel, except for the changes. This number would not include the total population of individuals with larger mobility devices but rather, of those persons with larger mobility devices, how many would avail themselves of transit systems?
This very basic question should be answered before one can justify an expansion of ADA regulations that would have a significant impact on mass transit and paratransit services throughout the Country. The changes as currently recommended would immediately impact bus and small vehicle manufacturing companies.
One quite possible scenario would be reluctance on the part of bus and small vehicle manufacturers to commit the necessary resources to come into compliance with these regulations. These changes will, without question, require a major redesign of most vehicles. This reluctance to make such an investment will reduce the number of suppliers and in turn this reduced competition will lead to higher vehicle prices.
Of even greater concern is the cost of these changes on existing public transportation systems. Most systems in the country, as well as many municipal budgets are under significant financial strain. Additional costs placed on these systems may well result in reduced service area coverage, longer headways and fare increases. As we all know, these changes in turn will result in reduced ridership. This ripple effect then extends to complementary paratransit services with reductions in service areas and fare increases for these services as well.
For the reasons stated above, we believe the implementation of these changes will result in a reduction in service availability to both the general public as well as the majority of physically challenged public transportation riders. Just the opposite result than I am sure was intended.
For the sake of brevity, let me list the most problematic changes.
especially in light of the fact that ADA permits forward facing lift entry which is contrary to most lift manufacturer’s recommendations
Given the long standing enforcement issues with calling out bus stops and transfer points, we do support the provision requiring automatic GPS driven ‘stop announcement’ requirements. We would suggest that this requirement be implemented only for fleets sizes having in excess of thirty, twenty-two foot or longer buses.
We believe that several courses of action are appropriate at this time.
We also believe that “New Freedom Initiative” funds be expanded and that these funds be utilized to supplement service over and above current ADA requirements for those individuals that cannot currently use ADA service. We would suggest utilization of these funds until such time as a full cost benefit analysis can be developed regarding this draft regulations.
Lastly, we believe that any significant vehicle specifications should have sufficient lead time before implementation (10 years perhaps) and that all existing vehicles in service prior to that time be allowed to remain in service over their useful life.
John V Doherty
Transit Express Inc.
424 W Cherry Street
Milwaukee, Wi 53212-3820
(414) 264-7433 ext 232