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Mr. WHITTAKER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to commend you for calling this hearing on pending legislation to enhance the access of disabled Americans to the mainstream of economic and cultural life in this great country. All thinking and caring Americans endorse the goal of providing the means for disabled Americans to become self-supporting and fully participating members of our society.
Under the current jurisdictional division of responsibility for the bill, our subcommittee is empowered to examine the rail transportation aspects of the bill. These address, in a nutshell, passenger access to intercity trains and stations, commuter railroads and facilities, and other rail passenger service open to the general public, notably scenic and excursion operations.
I am sure our subcommittee will benefit from the expert testimony of the public and private sector executives who are here today to give us their evaluations of the bill. Although we are all supportive of preventing discrimination against our disabled citizens, we also have a responsibility to examine the practical aspects of this legislation. In particular, we would be remiss if we did not examine the cost and the availability of resources to cover those costs that are expected to be borne by private businesses, and particularly by our public sector rail enterprises like Amtrak, in a time of fiscal stringency
I hope that based on firm, factual information elicited at today's hearings, we will be better able to evaluate and refine the provisions of the bill that address rail transportation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. McMillan. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am glad we have the opportunity today to explore with our witnesses the possible ramifications for the transportation industry of this country if H.R. 2273 becomes law.
I have long been supportive of efforts to encourage the handicapped and the disabled to return to work as a matter of sound public policy and of proper health policy as well, and have sponsored legislation in that context.
Studies have shown that returning to work has a substantial positive affect on the psychological and emotional health of those disabled individuals who can work, and this hearing today certainly has a direct affect on their ability to get to and from the workplace to earn a living, as well as an affect on their travel needs for every reason.
I am interested particularly as to how we can best achieve the goals of H.R. 2273 without incurring an impossible cost to the transportation sector of the economy which would forestall implementation of that act. This includes the capital investment required, the operating costs that may be associated with it, and even possibly litigation costs that might arise due to some of the ambiguity in the legislative language.
I hope this hearing will shed light on how we can reconcile some of these questions in this subcommittee and in others before it reaches the floor for a vote.
I yield back the balance of my time. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LUKEN. I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Alabama.
Mr. CALLAHAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I certainly will support the concept of H.R. 2273. We are going to ensure that our American disabled have access to trains. I think, though, we ought to be cautious as to how we move in this direction to ensure that, No. 1, we accomplish the goal that the disabled want and that this committee wants and this Congress wants, but at the same time we must recognize that there are some areas that we must investigate.
I have received a call, and I know it is not within our jurisdiction because it involves buses, but I think it will explain my point. I received a call last week from a charter bus company in my district in Mobile, a small company that has 20 charter buses that does not run a regular route. Its purpose is for people to either go to a football game or come to visit us in Washington here. The law as drafted would require that all 20 of his buses be modified.
In my opinion, if that is the case, we ought to find some relief. For instance, he could modify 5 of his 20 buses, and if someone were to order such a bus or to give an indication that there was a need for handicapped access, he could live with modifying 5. But if we enforce upon him the necessity to modify all 20 of his already aging buses, it is going to put him out of business, and therefore, the very citizens that are using these buses to go on these various trips at a very reasonable cost are either going to have to take up that cost factor or either they are not going to have buses available. That doesn't mean that the bill is bad. It just means that we should move very cautiously.
The same thing would apply to trains, Mr. Chairman. Are we going to require that each and every car on an Amtrak train, for example, be accessible or are we going to require that only one or two or a certain percentage of cars be modified to ensure that the disabled have accessibility?
We all are moving in the same direction. We were all moving in the same direction about this time last year when we passed catastrophic insurance. All of us wanted to do something good for our senior citizens, only to wake up and find that we had a nightmare on our hands. So let's don't get in that mode. Let's ensure that we have a goal and that goal is to provide accessibility for the handicapped on all public transportation as well as some areas of the private sector, but let's do it in a responsible manner.
Mr. LUKEN. Thank you, Mr. Callahan.
If there is nothing further in the way of preliminaries to the hearing, we will proceed with Mr. Jeffrey Shane, representing the Department of Transportation.
I believe, Mr. Shane, you wish to represent the Department in this matter; is that right?
Mr. SHANE. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LUKEN. We have a written statement which, without objection, will be received into the report of the subcommittee.
You may proceed in any way you think will be helpful.
STATEMENT OF JEFFREY N. SHANE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR
POLICY AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ACCOMPANIED BY JOHN CLINE, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR BUDGET AND POLICY, URBAN MASS TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION; AND MARK LINDSEY, CHIEF COUN. SEL, FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION
Mr. SHANE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. If I can put the full statement in the record, then I would like to summarize for the benefit of the subcommittee my remarks.
Mr. Chairman, appearing with me today are John Cline on my right, who is the associate administrator for budget and policy of the Urban Mass Transit Administration, one of the Department of Transportation's component administrations.
On my left is Mark Lindsey, the Chief Counsel of the Federal Railroad Administration, and they are here, of course, to assist in answering any questions which the subcommittee may have.
We are pleased, of course, to have this opportunity to appear before you today to present the views of the Department of Transportation on the Americans With Disabilities Act, which the Senate passed on September 7, 1989. As I am sure you know, the administration strongly supports enactment of Federal legislation extending civil rights to Americans With Disabilities.
Despite the considerable efforts of all levels of government and the private sector and the tireless efforts of concerned citizens and advocates everywhere, the fact is that many persons with disabilities in this Nation still lead their lives in a state of isolation and dependence. Although 16 years have gone by since the Rehabilitation Act was passed, persons with disabilities are still too often shut out of the economic and social mainstream of American life. The Americans With Disabilities Act would directly address that problem.
In brief, the purpose of the act is to provide a clear national mandate to end discrimination against individuals with disabilities and to bring persons with disabilities into the economic and social mainstream of American life, to provide enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities; and to ensure that the Federal Government plays a central role in enforcing these standards on behalf of individuals with disabilities.
While the administration fully supports this bill, it would be useful to review the considerable progress made in improving transportation services for persons with disabilities over the last 20 years when the Department of Transportation, under congressional direction, first became involved in this activity.
For example, persons with disabilities can utilize airports today with much less difficulty than was true 20 years ago. Every federally subsidized mass transit system in the country provides some transportation services that can be utilized by persons with disabilities. While the older rapid, commuter, and light rail transit systems' stations and equipment are not as accessible as those utilized for bus transit systems, progress is being made in adding accessibility features during major alterations to these facilities. Intercity systems, and I am talking about Amtrak, are generally accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, but some stations need
major alterations to bring them into conformance with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.
Highway rest area facilities either comply or are in the process of being brought into conformance with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards. Urban streets that are being renovated and altered with Federal financial assistance are being brought into conformance through installation of curb cuts or ramps that accommodate wheelchairs.
Let me now briefly summarize for you some of the key provisions in the Americans With Disabilities Act, as passed by the Senate, affecting transportation. Under that bill: One, public entities must purchase or lease accessible vehicles-bus, rail, and other fixed route vehicles in any solicitation for new vehicles made 30 days of more after enactment of the act. If purchasing or leasing used vehicles, the public entity must make a good faith effort to obtain accessible vehicles. Remanufactured vehicles should, to the maximum extent feasible, be made accessible; Two, DOT may “temporarily relieve” a public entity from pur
lieve" chasing a lift equipped bus if a lift is unavailable and the public entity had made a good faith effort to locate a lift-equipped bus;
Three, a public entity providing fixed route transit service must provide comparable level paratransit service to handicapped individuals who cannot otherwise use the fixed route service. The Department would issue service criteria in this regard. If providing such service presents an "undue financial burden," the Department may allow the public entity to limit its service pursuant to a "flexible numerical formula";
Four, a public entity only providing demand responsive service must buy or lease accessible vehicles unless it can demonstrate that its system provides a level of service to disabled people equivalent to that provided to the general public;
Five, new facilities built by a public entity must be accessible. Existing facilities with major alternations will, to the maximum extent feasible, be made accessible in the altered areas;
Six, regarding rail systems-intercity, rapid, light, and commuter-at least one car per train must be accessible, as soon as practicable, but in no less than 5 years. All newly purchased cars must be accessible. Existing key rapid, communter, and light rail stations must be made accessible within 3 years except that DOT may extend that time to 20 years for "extraordinarily expensive structural changes necessary to achieve accessibility. All intercity rail systems shall be accessible, as soon as practicable, but in no less than 20 years.
Seven, The ADA also extends to public transportation provided by private entities, including terminals used for public transportation. Hotel and airport shuttle services and around-the-mall parking lot vans, when they offer demand-responsive services, would be required to provide adequate levels of service to individuals with disabilities, but they do not need to equip vehicles with lifts; and
Eight, the bill will require substantial changes in private intercity bus operations. Within 7 years, all new buses purchased by small operators must be accessible. A similar requirement will be in effect within 6 years for all other intercity bus operators.
If I may, Mr. Chairman, I would like to turn now to the specific concerns of this committee. In those areas where rail transit is available, in whatever form, it is just as important to provide access for disabled riders to that system as it is to provide access to the fixed route bus system. The ADA thus requires that with respect to new fixed route vehicles that are purchased or leased by public entities 30 days or more after enactment of the act, the vehicles must be readily accessible to and usable by disabled individuals. Provisions designed to encourage acquisition of accessible vehicles are also provided for the purchase of lease of used vehicles and for the remanufactured vehicles.
Moreover, within 5 years, all rail systems must have one car per train that is accessible to disabled riders. This provision of the legislation would apply to vehicles operated by intercity, light, rapid, and commuter rail systems. The report accompanying the Senate passed bill notes that implementing regulations issued by the De partment of Transportation should ensure that the rail car that is accessible stops at an appropriate place in the station that is level with the car and that appropriate signs are used to indicate where such cars will stop.
The Senate-passed bill also provides that new facilities used to provide transportation services must be accessible, and when major alterations are made, the altered area must be accessible to the maximum extent feasible. Further, the bill provides for retrofitting of existing key stations in light, rapid, and commuter rail systems within 3 years of enactment of the act. The transit agencies and members of the disabled community would work together to plan the strategy for key station accessibility. The Senate report accompanying the ADA emphasizes that exactly what will be determined "key” is a decision best left to the local community. The report notes that the pattern of New York and Philadelphia, which already have worked out agreements to retrofit key stations, would serve as an excellent model in this regard for other cities. The ADA, as passed by the Senate, would require no incremental effort by New York and Philadelphia
In New York City, for example, the agreement worked out with the representatives of the disabled community identifies 38 particular stations out of 465 as key stations. A similar agreement arrived at between representatives of individuals with disabilities and SEPTA in Philadelphia identified 11 out of some 53 stations on the high speed line, and 31 out of approximately 172 commuter rail stations were determined to be key stations.
The Senate-passed bill also provides that this 3 year deadline may be extended by the Department of Transportation up to 20 years for extraordinarily expensive changes to, or replacement of existing facilities necessary to achieve accessibility. As with other provisions of the bill, the specific criteria regarding this exception would have to be detailed in regulations issued by the Department of Transportation.
Finally, the Department supports provisions adopted in the Senate-passed bill that appropriately distinguish the obligations of employers with respect to active alcoholics and drug abusers, on the one hand, and those who are no longer using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol, on the other hand. Moreover, these provisions