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Mr. COOK. It is an advocacy organization which is in existence to defend the rights of people with disabilities to be integrated and to be free from discrimination in all aspects of society.
Mr. LUKEN. Are you totally independent or affiliated with any other
Mr. Cook. No, we are independent, Mr. Chairman.
It is a special pleasure as an advocate for people with disabilities to appear here this morning with these distinguished members of the administration. Too often over the past several years we have gone on opposite ends of a courtroom battle or an administrative battle trying to obtain access.
That is changing, and we can see that that is changing, and we are very happy to appear before this committee, along with the administration to urge that the Senate version of the Americans With Disabilities Act be also adopted by the House of Representatives.
As the director of the National Disability Action Center, I have seen firsthand the fundamental importance to people with disabilities of accessible transportation, and part of it is the result of something this Congress did in 1975, 14 years ago, in enacting the education of the Handicap Act.
As a result of that piece of legislation, we now have adults with severe disabilities who have been educated and trained, and they want jobs, they want to be able to use recreational facilities. They want to be able to receive educational programs, but they cannot do it without the ability to get there.
It is a civil rights issue for us as much as it was for those brave people in Montgomery, AL, in the 1950's who boycotted the bus system because they were segregated from that system. But we have today transit systems who are still arguing that they want to be excluded from the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the issue I urge upon you this morning is that that is not the debate anymore.
That is not the question. The only question at this point is not whether transportation systems and all aspects of those systems should be covered, it is how they should be covered. The transit systems are continuing still to ask that they be excluded from the Americans With Disabilities Act and that for that reason the people with disabilities may continue to be excluded from those transportation systems.
The whole thrust of much of the testimony you are going to be hearing later on this morning is that cost must come first, but the whole point of the Americans With Disabilities Act is that providing access to people with disabilities is no longer to be considered an extra, a luxury item, something that may in the transit system's discretion be provided.
The whole thrust of this act is access to people with disabilities, about an essential part of the provision of transportation systems. Now, there are a number of features of the Americans With Disabilities Act that actually makes it less costly and to the disability community constitute a severe compromise.
For one thing it doesn't require the retrofitting of most of the vehicles used by this transit systems. It only requires the retrofitting of at most one vehicle per train, and that is a compromise. The rest of the cars, for as long as they are used by the transit system can remain inaccessible. Only new vehicles must be accessible. Moreover, transit systems are given an enormous length of time to comply with the statute for the structural changes, an additional
People with disabilities have waited a very, very long time to obtain access. Under this act we will still have to wait until the year 2009 before we can fully use accessible train systems where structural changes are required, 2009. The transit systems are coming back and saying that is not even enough for them.
They want the ability to exclude us from those systems even past the year 2009. They want to be able to exclude us forever, and that is unacceptable to the disability community. It is also important to acknowledge that the costs of this bill are diminished by the fact that many new transit systems are currently being proposed and considered, and these new systems are already being built to full accessibility standards as required by other statutes such as the Architectural Barriers Act and section 504 and even State and local building codes.
These are not any additional costs attributable to the Americans With Disabilities Act. Similarly, in terms of alterations of facilities, when a transit system that receives Federal assistance alters their stations, they are already required by separate legislation to make these alterations accessible. There is no additional cost attributable to the ADA there, either.
It is also important to realize that many systems are already in 100 percent full compliance with all the requirements of the ADA. Just let me list a few: the Miami Tri Rail System, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System in northern California. The Washington, DC metro rail, of course, is fully accessible, the Atlanta, GA Subway and Elevated System, Baltimore Metro, the Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose, CA.
Light rail systems all are accessible, as are the Jacksonville, FL; Detroit, MI; Las Vegas, NE People Movers. The Buffalo, Portland, OR and Fort Worth systems are also 100 percent accessible already so there will be no additional costs there under the statute. It is also an important thing to realize that under the Urban Mass Transit Act of 1970, and this has long been the case, 80 percent of the costs of capital expenditures are already covered by the Federal Government, and 50 percent of the operating costs, such as maintenance are already covered by the Federal Government.
So you have an enormous influx of Federal financial assistance here already to assist transit systems in making the changes that are going to be required by the statute. I think it is also reasonable to assume that the millions of people with disabilities who are currently excluded from transit systems will begin using these systems, and this has been the case in study after study, that once you make the system accessible you have an enormous influx of people with disabilities into the system.
These are fair paying customers. It also makes the systems more usable for other people besides people with disabilities. It makes it easier for parents with small children to somewhere an accessible vehicle. It is easier for women here pregnant. It is easier for our elders in society to board an accessible vehicle.
It is easier for someone carrying packages, even, so it is an overall improvement to the system to render that system accessible that will have enormous benefits, not just for people with disabilities. Finally, I wanted to briefly address Mr. Callahan's question on charter services, and I am happy to inform him and the committee that there is already a provision which permits flexibility in the way charter bus systems comply with the ADA.
I believe it is section 304(b)(3) of the Senate-passed version which your talking about demand responsive systems, such as charter bus systems, they do not have to make every bus in their fleet accessible.
It is not an exclusion. They still have to comply with the act, but the act says that if you look at their system in its entirety, as long as they have sufficient vehicles to ensure the service to people with disabilities, they do not have to make their entire fleet accessible, that they can make 5 out of their 20 buses, as Mr. Callahan suggested, accessible, and that meets the demand, and that is sufficient.
In fact, they may have to purchase no accessible buses whatsoever if they have the ability, for instance, to rent an accessible bus when the demand is called for by people with disabilities. I would like to briefly address some of the points that are going to be made on the next panel, specifically two points by the representative from Southern Pennsylvania Transit Assistant Program in Philadelphia.
They have requested a complete exclusion for streetcars, which are often called light rail systems under the statute. There are various means by which light rail systems can be rendered accessible. There is enormous flexibility over all in this act in the ways that vehicles can be made accessible.
For instance, on the streetcars parallel lifts are being developed which will render those streetcars accessible. You can also construct islands in the highways to make it easy for people with disabilities to board and unboard streetcars. It may not even be necessary to make every single station stops accessible.
You could make the key station stops along the streetcar lines accessible without necessarily making 100 percent of the stops along those ways accessible. So because of this enormous flexibility under the act, we believe it is very important that this committee reject the suggestion that light rail systems be excluded from the act.
The same principle generally that applies to Amtrak and the computer rail system applies here, and that is the ADA does not dictate one single method for making systems accessible. It is left to the option of the local transit system to figure out how to do it, as long as they do do it, and these systems, these light rail systems are as critical to people with disabilities as they are to other people.
In many areas of Philadelphia, for instance, the light rail system is the only way for people to get into center city from the outlying suburbs. Ms. Lavoritano also requests that they not be required to provide mobility training because they say they don't have the capability to do that.
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It is interesting that many, many transit systems in this country do provide mobility training to people with disabilities. There is an enormous impact. If I may give an example from the head of the Johnstown, PA Transit System, one of Ms. Lavoritano's colleagues, testified when Johnstown first started making their buses accessible they provided approximately 200 rides a month.
Once they initiated a program of mobility training there to train people with disabilities how to use the accessible buses and, let's face it, many people who aren't disabled are afraid to use public transit, so it is especially important that that sort of training be provided to people with disabilities.
As a result, in Johnstown of providing mobility training, they now serve 36,000 disabled people a month on their bus systems. In terms of Amtrak, I would like to make one critical point here which has been alluded to, and that is that when regulations were issued by the Department of Transportation ten yeas ago in 1979, those regulations required Amtrak to make all of its stations accessible within 10 years.
Here we are in 1989, and under those regulations they are already required to be where the ADA will require them to be 20 years from now. If I would have been Mr. Claytor I would have come to this committee and urged this committee to pass this act as soon as possible. What this act really does is give Amtrak a 20year reprieve from the requirements of the current Department of Transportation regulation, and those regulations appear at volume 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 27, subpart D, and so this act really does Amtrak a major favor by extending by 20 years the time by which it must comply with the accessibility requirements of section 504.
But what are the costs, Mr. Chairman, of not providing access? Mr. LUKEN. I wonder if we could move along.
Mr. Cook. Yes, sir. I wanted to just very briefly outline the costs of not providing access, and I would like to briefly allude to some testimony provided by-
Mr. LUKEN. Well, I think your time has expired. We are going to have some discussion. I believe you are going into a subject that has been covered.
Mr. Cook. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LUKEN. We can all agree fervently on the objectives, but your testimony, Mr. Calkins, Mr. Cook, Mr. Roffe, in your testimony you seem to be lecturing us that we are talking about money and we shouldn't be talking about money. Well, let's look at this now. Does accessibility cost money, Mr. Calkins?
Mr. CALKINS. I think this is something I am really an avid believer in. I honestly believe that in a not too distant future, maybe within the decade, we will see that the Americans With Disabilities Act will pay for itself.
Mr. LUKEN. But could we talk about it in my terms. Then we will allow time to talk about it in your terms. Does it cost money or doesn't it?
Mr. CALKINS. It certainly does cost money. Mr. LUKEN. There is no legislative ledger domain that is going to provide that money. We can't just pass a law or wave a wand to provide that money, right?
Mr. CALKINS. The money to pay for in this case you are talking about Amtrak?
Mr. LUKEN. Amtrak, buses.
Mr. LUKEN. Our transportation system in this country is sustained largely by or significantly by public subsidies.
Mr. CALKINS. Absolutely.
Mr. LUKEN. And you are lecturing us for talking about money. Especially when we say we would want to provide that money. But the administration says it will veto that money when we provide it, and yet you lecture us. You don't mind if I become a little impatient.
Mr. CALKINS. Oh, not at all.
Mr. LUKEN. And you don't help us to get the administration to provide the money. Now, if we didn't provide the money, there wouldn't be any Amtrak. Would that inconvenience or provide any hardships for the disabled?
Mr. CALKINS. It would for me, yes.
Mr. LUKEN. What are you doing about Mr. Bush, who wants to abolish it?
Mr. CALKINS. Well, unfortunately I am not at a level within the Federal Government that I am doing anything with exalted people at that level.
Mr. LUKEN. Well, we didn't support you.
Mr. LUKEN. So what are you doing with Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush to get the money? We are willing to provide it, but they are going to veto it.
Mr. CALKINS. One way that I think you
Mr. LUKEN. We were told yesterday or when was it the Amtrak bill was up? Monday. We were told Mr. Bush is going to veto it. So what are we talking about? If he vetos it, we don't have to worry about any of this.
Mr. CALKINS. One way that you will have more money to appropriate for Amtrak, or anything else that you deem appropriate to appropriate for, is if a significant proportion of those 8 million people who are unemployed and are currently a drain on the Federal Treasury become employed and pay taxes.
Mr. LUKEN. I am sorry, but that is not relevant to the question. Before we get to that question, we must first decide whether we are going to provide Amtrak with money to provide service, and we probably will, and Mr. Bush is going to disagree with that part of it, which is irreconcilable with the administration's position on this bill.
We can't agree to make Amtrak accessible if there is no Amtrak. Your position, I think, is irreconcilable, in conflict, unless you also take a position in support of Mr. Claytor when he says he needs the money and he can't take it out of the money that we give him-relatively a few dollars—to provide cars. We can't upgrade