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dition, a comparable paratransit service be provided. So there is no allowance for either/or or combinations.
Mr. PAYNE. In the bill as it is currently written and passed by the Senate?
Mr. CLINE. The Senate bill that we support.
Mr. PAYNE. So the undue financial burdens, and so forth, would be exclusively in the paratransit area, perhaps in those areas that don't have a paratransit system that would have difficulty implementing such a system?
Mr. ČLINE. No. The undue financial burden would apply to all those who, even currently have a paratransit system in place. It is a measurement of determining to what extent service would be provided.
Mr. PAYNE. The criteria, then, is comparable service?
Mr. CLINE. Right. As I mentioned, the report language has some suggestions of the type of criteria that would be used to develop or determine that level of comparability.
Mr. PAYNE. Does the department have any concerns about this question of affordability as it relates to the various entities across the country that will be required to expend funds to be able to come into compliance with this legislation?
Mr. Mross. Do we have any concerns?
Mr. MROss. I think there is a concern that has been expressed here this morning during the hearing. But I made the statement earlier that we feel that this is the direction that public transit has been moving. Once the priorities become clearly established, we will be able to accommodate those costs within the budgets, essentially, that we have operating now.
I mention that there will be additional costs for the lifts. But, again, this is the direction that public transit has been going and I think it will be accommodated within local budgets.
Mr. PAYNE. I understand the criteria that you have used, or that you base that upon, is that some 35 percent of all buses now already have the lifts and that the cost, per bus, is between $10,000 and $15,000? Is that a correct assumption?
Mr. Cline. That's correct. For public transit systems, the average cost of a lift, itself, is roughly $10,000 to $15,000.
Mr. PAYNE. Given that, do you feel that that could be-in the existing system, those kinds of costs could be accommodated satisfactorily?
Mr. CLINE. Yes, we do. We recognize that these are substantial costs, but that it is important to achieve the civil rights intention of the bill.
Mr. PAYNE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Those are all the questions I have.
Mr. MINETA. Any other questions? Second round?
Mr. SHUSTER. The-Budget Office was unable to determine the cost of the paratransit requirements of the Senate bill because of the uncertainties in the language of the bill and its potential demand for service. Do you agree that these costs cannot be calculated, and what factors contribute to the uncertainty of the language?
Mr. CLINE. Yes; we would agree that today we could not compute a solid number. The things that contribute to the-
Mr. SHUSTER. Could you compute a squishy number?
Mr. CLINE. I suppose, probably, anybody could. Do we have a rough estimate, Don, or a range?
Mr. TRILLING. It is, really, very squishy. It is just full of assumptions that we do not know whether
Mr. SHUSTER. One of those assumptions is that the need for paratransit will decline as lift equipped buses are put into service under the terms of this bill. Do you agree with that assessment?
Mr. CLINE. That is one of the difficult parts. We are not, currently, able to determine what, exactly, will happen with the demand for paratransit.
Mr. SHUSTER. So that is an assumption we cannot make, is what you are saying?
Mr. CLINE. Today, no.
Mr. SHUSTER. The bill would mandate both lift requirement and a comparable paratransit requirement on public transit entities. Do you believe the transit authorities will be able to absorb the extra costs of providing essentially duplicative services without increased Federal funding or increased fares?
Mr. MROSS. We think that the costs are going to be marginal. The undue burden of financial hardship would apply in the case of paratransit.
Mr. SHUSTER. What does that mean, the cost will be marginal? A few moments ago, we calculated that the total cost of maintenance, on the lifts alone, will be $100 million a year. 35 percent of that cost is now being absorbed, $35 million a year. So that is another $65 million a year. Is that marginal?
Mr. CLINE. It is based on the reality that for example, many transit systems are moving in the direction, of lift-equipping their fixed-route buses.
Mr. SHUSTER. Yes; you have already testified they are going to from 35 percent to 50 percent.
Mr. CLINE. Right; and beyond the 50 percent. The 50 percent would be attained within the next year or two absent any action on this bill, and we would anticipate that it would even go beyond the 50 percent.
Mr. SHUSTER. So if it goes to 60 percent, we are still looking at $40 million a year or more on maintenance. Let me ask my question again. Do you believe that transit authorities will be able to absorb the extra costs, or I guess you call them marginal costs, of providing essentially duplicative services without increasing Federal funding or increasing fares?
Mr. CLINE. That would be a difficult question to answer in terms of the fares without Federal funding. Yes, we do.
Mr. SHUSTER. Yes, you do believe that the local facilities can absorb these costs?
Mr. CLINE. The cost of the fixed-route lift equipped
Mr. SHUSTER. So you are testifying that these costs can be absorbed by the local transit authorities; therefore, this Congress should not entertain any consideration of increasing Federal transit funding to cover these costs because it is your testimony that these costs will be covered by local transit authorities? I thank you.
Let me go further. It is likely that the existing service might have to be cut to accommodate these costs?
Mr. CLINE. Once again, I would say that this all comes back to the local decision-making process in terms of what the locality determines is important in the area of public transit.
Mr. SHUSTER. What is your estimate as our experts in Washington on transit?
Mr. CLINE. Whether service will be reduced as a result of action on this bill?
Mr. SHUSTER. Yes. You are shaking your head no. I presume that means you don't know.
Mr. CLINE. Frankly, Congressman, I really couldn't say.
Mr. SHUSTER. It may and it may not. We have heard from several cities who have experimented with lift-equipped buses and found them to be unsatisfactory in serving the needs of the disabled communities in their area in some of those cities, particularly those in northern climates. Many of these cities have answered the needs of their disabled population through extensive paratransit services. Isn't this flexibility important in order for transit authorities to best meet the needs of their disabled passengers in light of local factors?
Mr. CLINE. As you are aware, currently, there is flexibility in the current 504 Regulations.
Mr. SHUSTER. I am not talking about current. We are talking about this new legislation.
Mr. CLINE. Correct; I am just referring to the fact that that flexibility currently exists.
Mr. SHUSTER. We are going to take that away. We are going to mandate lifts on every bus.
Mr. CLINE. Right. The arguments that we have heard in support of mandating the lifts on every bus is that each local area has continued to have a great deal of conflict over this issue of liftequipped buses versus paratransit. After going back and forth for many years on that issue, the Department and the Administration
Mr. SHUSTER. I am not asking what arguments you have heard. I have heard the arguments, too. I am asking what your expert opinion is.
Mr. CLINE. Our opinion whether the lifts would accomplish the same goals that they currently do now?
Mr. SHUSTER. Isn't the flexibility needed to let local transit authorities make the decisions as to what kind of response they provide for the disabled? You are nodding your head yes. Does that mean yes?
Mr. Cline. I will have to stop moving my head. Clearly, the Administration's policy that we have gone forward on in this area is that the local flexibility has not served and met the needs of the disabled community in the recent past.
Mr. SHUSTER. So you are opposed the current local flexibility? Mr. CLINE. Correct.
Mr. SHUSTER. The Senate bill contains a provision that the public entity could be relieved of the comparable transit requirement if it presents an undue economic burden which would be defined by you, by regulation. How do you presume to come up with such a flexible numerical formula that could be applied to all transit entities fairly?
Mr. CLINE. We have not had a chance, yet, to examine that through the regulatory process, but that will be the debate that ensues.
Mr. SHUSTER. You have already been asked about the air carrier comparability. What about the competitive problem of holding the bus industry to a standard more stringent than the airline industry. Whatever standard we pass in terms of accessibility of the disabled, why shouldn't that same standard be applied to both the bus industry and the airline industry?
Mr. TRILLING. All the standards should be fair, of course. I assume what you mean by the same standard is the loss of revenue seats which is addressed in the Air Carrier Access Act but has not yet been addressed in any regulations written about the inter-city bus.
Mr. SHUSTER. Shouldn't we have the same standards?
Mr. TRILLING. I would think, in that particular context, that would be a rule that should hold. The differences between, as I said before, what the regulations are in the Air Carrier Act and what they would be under inter-city buses is a matter of the physical restraints on the equipment that is being used.
It is very much more difficult to put in accessible lavs in a small commuter plane than it is on a bus. On the other hand, the bus has limitations by regulation for how big and how long they may be. Some review of that has to be done, also.
Mr. SHUSTER. My last question. With regard to service cuts that might result from intercity bus requirements-for example, there are 10,000 communities that Greyhound serves. 9,000 of them are not served by any other form of intercity transportation. What if, as a result of these increased costs, which we have described here, Greyhound decides not to serve, or to reduce service to, 10 percent of its communities—“only" 10 percent of its communities.
That is 1,000 communities. Since we have had regulatory reform with the bus industry, what is to stop Greyhound from doing this? Nothing; right?
Mr. CLINE. Obviously, no, we do not have any control over Greyhound's business plan decision.
Mr. SHUSTER. Do you think it is reasonable to assume that if you increase a company's operating cost it is going to try to find ways to reduce those costs, and one way is to cut service to those marginally-profitable service areas? Isn't that a rather classic economic business decision that gets made?
Mr. CLINE. Let me start out by saying that the Department is very sensitive and fully recognizes the nature of the intercity transit system and the fact that it is a fragile industry. We would look to the study that is to be conducted on this issue to find those answers that
Mr. SHUSTER. You are talking about a law that mandates requirements on the industry before the study is completed. Does that make sense, to have a study after we mandate the require ments?
Mr. TRILLING. There is a lead time between when the study is completed and when the requirements go into effect.
Mr. SHUSTER. But they will be in the law. They will already be in the law.
Mr. TRILLING. But there is a postponement provision in the law as well that if the President sees that intercity service will deteriorate, he may postpone that requirement.
Mr. SHUSTER. Why shouldn't we simply not put these particular provisions in the law until the study comes out and then, based on the study, make a decision?
Mr. TRILLING. As you point out, the intercity buses are a very vital component of the national transportation system. Another goal and objective that we are seeking is full accessibility for those with disabilities. The Administration, at least, feels that the full accessibility goal is one that they wanted to support in this particular context.
Mr. SHUSTER. Let me close by telling you a story. A member of Congress with the President last week. He said to the President, “Mr. President, in my little town there is a little charter bus company. It has five buses. Do you realize this law is going to require that charter bus company to put lifts on all those buses?”
The President said, “Oh, no, no. That is not required in the law." He said, “Mr. President, you'd better go back and read the law.”
The President said, “Well, if it is, I guess we better fix it.” So my suggestion to you, gentlemen, is you better go back and fix it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Mross, Mr. Cline and Mr. Trilling, I think you have a good feel for what we are going to be facing in terms of some of the other unanswered questions about the Americans With Disabilities Act. I think there are, clearly, concerns that have been expressed. As Mr. Shuster has just said, maybe in some respects you are going to have to make sure that we have the kinds of fine tuning on this bill that will make it possible to get support and get it passed through the Committee and onto the House floor.
So, again, thank you very much for your being here, Mr. Mross, for your first time before this subcommittee in your new capacity. Congratulations on being the deputy. We will look forward to working with you in the future.
Thank you very much.