January 20, 2009
Mr. Dennis Cannon
Office of Technical and Informational Services
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
RE: Comments to Access Board Docket Number 2007-1
Dear Mr. Cannon:
The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) appreciates this opportunity to provide comments on the Access Board’s Second Draft of Revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles.
The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, formed in 1917, is the national organization that represents the owners and managers of taxicab, limousine, sedan, airport shuttle, paratransit, and nonemergency medical fleets. TLPA has over 1,000 member companies that operate over 100,000 passenger vehicles. TLPA member companies transport over 2 million passengers each day — more than 900 million passengers annually.
The taxicab, limousine, and paratransit industry is an essential part of public transportation that is vital to this country’s commerce and mobility, to the relief of traffic congestion, and to improving the environment. The private taxicab, limousine, and paratransit industry transports 2 billion passengers annually, compared with the 10 billion passengers transported by public transit; provides half of all the specialized paratransit services furnished to persons with disabilities; serves as a feeder service to major transit stations and airports; and provides about half of its service to transportation disadvantaged people.
Chapter T4 Wheelchair Spaces and Securement
In reading the draft revisions to the Guidelines, our association’s key concern is with Chapter T-4 with regards to wheelchair spaces. We firmly state that the logic in which you require 36 inches of floor space for a rear-entry minivan is inaccurate and clearly not developed by a knowledgeable engineer. We know this because of practical in-use history. The rear entry minivan has been in service for 20 years, even before the ADA came out with its guidelines. The standard wheelchair is 27 inches wide not 30 inches wide. There are some oversized wheelchairs, but 98% of wheelchairs currently in use are ADA
compliant (less than 30 inches in width). In fact, 98% of all power wheelchairs are also ADA compliant
(less than 30 inches wide). We have never heard of a documented situation where a wheelchair was
unable to exit a rear entry vehicle because its casters got stuck. All of the wheelchair manufacturers build a 31 inch-wide securement area, which has always proven to be more than enough space to enter and exit a vehicle with an ADA-compliant wheelchair
Your logic appears wrong in the sense that the casters on a wheelchair are inset from the outside of the wheelchair. Not one single wheelchair that is manufactured has the casters placed at 30 inches wide. The casters are always placed inside of the rear wheels, to allow for this very issue. For example, the largest caster for a wheelchair is 8 inches. The post of the 8 inch caster (point where is connects with the wheelchair) is halfway between the center of the wheel and the rim (not including the rubber, which accounts for 1 inch on either side), this means that the center is a maximum of 5.5 inches off center at the farthest point, on the largest caster for wheelchairs. The caster is installed on the frame of the wheelchair to support the weight of the person in the chair. The widest part of a wheelchair is the rear wheels, where on a manual chair includes the chair rails. These wheels are mounted on the frame of the wheelchair, the same as the front casters. The rear wheels stick out 5 inches from the frame, leaving a maximum overhang of 0.5" on the front wheel that is turning away from the direction of the turn.
What one also has to realize is that while one side of the wheelchair has a caster that has the long side facing out a maximum of 4.5 inches from the frame of the chair, the other side is the opposite, only sticking out a maximum of 2.5 inches from the frame of the chair. So where you lose 0.5" of travel on one side, you gain 2.5 inches on the other. This is why there would never be an issue turning the front wheels when trying to back up in a 30 inch-wide area. With the rear wheels at a maximum of 30 inches (current ADA regulation) the front wheels would never reach more than 28 inches with both front wheels perpendicular to the rear wheels.
There is no logical reason to require 3 inches on either side of a wheelchair for turning around. In 20 years, there has been no practical reason either. Manufacturers, who make their floor width 31 inches, which is the maximum available without compromising the frame of the minivan, provides an additional 1inch clearance on top of the 2 inches that the wheelchair itself provides. This proposed change would not help anyone — it would actually hurt an entire industry. This is because it would cost tens of millions of dollars to replace all the minivans on the market with full-size vans (since it is impossible to allow for 36 inches in width in a minivan (rear or side entry). Requiring this change would cause most taxicab companies to stop offering the accessible services because it is highly impractical to operate a full size van in most situations (a 50% larger vehicle with 50% higher gas mileage and higher maintenance costs on the lifts). In short, it would kill the 20 years of progress the members of this association have made to improve the lives of the disabled.
Currently, the Access Board defines its standards based on two classes of vehicles: vehicles in excess of 22 feet in length and vehicles 22 feet in length or less. We believe that there should be specific vehicle classifications incorporated into the guidelines. In Canada, there is the D409 standard under the Motor Vehicles for the Transportation of Persons with Physical Disabilities Guidelines. The D409 standard accommodates the dimensional limitations of minivans by having specific guidelines for vehicles under 5940 pounds gross vehicle weight. We urge the Access Board to make similar accommodations in their guidelines. Without a minivan subcategory, the accessible taxicab market and a large part of the private paratransit service in this country will cease to exist.
Implementation Deadline Is Not Addressed By These Draft Guidelines
An important aspect not specifically addressed is the implementation deadline and whether current vehicles acquired in compliance with existing Access Board Guidelines will be grandfathered under the new guidelines. If these guidelines are adopted as currently written, it is important to acknowledge that it will take at least a decade before existing fleet vehicles are completely replaced by vehicles meeting the updated standard. It will also take significant time for the manufacturers to be able to design, test and build according to the updated specifications.
The Cost Implications of the Proposed Guidelines
The cost implications with changing the existing standards to the proposed revisions would result in significant cost being added to the vehicle modifications. The increase to 36 inches for the floor width of the rear-entry minivan conversion would eliminate the OEM structural beams and would therefore weaken the originally designed structural integrity of the vehicle. The structural redesign would add considerable cost to the rear-entry conversion, which would mean that the transportation provider would experience a 20-25% increase in the conversion cost. Also, the technical complexity of the structural redesign would eliminate smaller manufacturers and vehicle conversion specialists, therefore significantly reducing competitive product and model available to the transportation industry. Depending on the compromise, the modification of the vehicle will be more expensive, putting more cost pressures on the transportation service provider. With the increasing daily running cost of accessible taxicabs and paratransit vehicles (gasoline, insurance, etc) and reduced public funds available, it could result in a decrease of available service.
Therefore, the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association recommends that the proposed revisions not be accepted “as is” for that would eliminate minivans and other smaller vehicles from continuing to serve as ADA compliant vehicles available to the taxicab, paratransit and other non-emergency transportation providers.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments on the Access Board’s Second Draft Revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles. If you have any questions regarding the above comments, please feel free to contact me at 301-984-5700 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harold E. Morgan
Executive Vice President
Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association
3200 Tower Oaks Boulevard, Suite 220
Rockville, MD 20852
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