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Testimony on the ADA
According to the 1987 American Public Transit Association (APTA) fleet survey there were a total of 48,264 fixed route buses of which 13,981 were lift-equipped. This represents 29% accessible vehicles. The survey also indicates that there were 3,171 paratransit vehicles in service during 1987. A total of 1,700, approximately 53%, of these special service buses were equipped with ramps or lifts.
III. Project ACTION initial research
In addition to reviewing the effects of the various federal policy initiatives, we have undertaken a reconnaissance survey of 130 transit authorities to get a better idea of how transportation is being provided around the country. Although the research is not yet complete, I can report that we have identified fifty nine (59) transit systems that have either 100% accessible fleets or a commitment to achieving a 100% accessible fleet. The ADA requires a multi-modal system combining access to fixed route transit as well as providing paratransit for those who can't use fixed route transportation. Many transit systems in the country offer a multi-modal system of transportation similar to that required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (See Attachment "B").
Project ACTION can provide assistance with the
A common theme that has emerged in our survey is that the demand for paratransit services often exceeds the capacity. Because paratransit is so expensive, it imposes untold limitations -- having to call days in advance for a ride, having a limited number of rides per month, small geographic boundaries, and limited hours of service. Many paratransit systems have waiting lists in the hundreds, people who get no transit at all. Cumbersome registration procedures mean a city's disabled visitors generally get no service.
One of our funding priorities for Project ACTION therefore is developing innovative methods of identifying people with disabilities in the community and target marketing efforts at them in order to move individuals who can use fixed route buses from paratransit onto the accessible fixed route system. There are other important areas' where cooperative demonstration projects can improve the way transit services are currently being provided and which can assist in the implementation of the ADA.
1. Lift maintenance
Ten years ago lift maintenance costs were high. With increased usage of access equipment the costs have gone down considerably. We have found that the cost of lift repairs
Testimony on the ADA
are relative to several factors. Proper care and daily maintenance results in minimal breakdowns, repairs, and cost.
This is well exemplified by the Southern California Rapid Transit District (RTD) serving Los Angeles and surrounding counties which has been dedicated to the goal of 100% accessibility since the early 1970's and has a 93% wheelchair equipment reliability average for 1986 (also a year in which their wheelchair boardings increased by 21%).
The RTD Maintenance Department is responsible for maintaining accessible equipment and accomplishes this through daily lift cycling. Each bus is cycled as it leaves the division. If a lift does not cycle properly, the lift is immediately repaired, preventing further malfunctioning. The RTD also developed a computerized tracking system that monitors daily lift boardings. Detailed information is given on specific breakdowns of accessible equipment and precautionary measures are then taken to avoid a repeat malfunction. The system monitors any operator difficulties with wheelchair boardings and rectifies these with additional operator training. The District also monitors the performance of lifts by different manufactures, information that is useful in making decisions on future lift purchases.
A 1986 DOT Regulatory Impact Analysis estimated that annual lift maintenance cost are $650. Added to this is another $150 per lift for insurance, promotion and marketing costs. These estimates were drawn from National Cooperative Highway Research Program report, Planning Transportation Services for Handicapped Persons--User's Guide, September 1983. Many transit systems have reported maintenance costs below this figure and with help from Project ACTION we hope to lower these even more. Programs such the one in Los Angeles will be improved and replicated in other areas of the country by Project ACTION.
Proper operator training in using lift equipment is very important in keeping repair costs to a minimum. Operator training for RTD employees includes specific training on the four types of lifts the District owns along with videos that describe the operation of each lift.
Operators are allowed to maneuver in wheelchairs to develop a sensitivity not only to wheelchair users but also to the lift equipment used. Properly operated lifts have a far lesser chance of breaking down than those that are misused by operators.
Testimony on the ADA
Other forms of training are needed to sensitize drivers to the needs of people with various disabilities. And, training programs are needed to encourage disabled individuals to use public transit. Project ACTION will be working cooperatively with the transit industry and the disability community to implement better training programs.
3. Weather conditions
Weather conditions have been a concern for transit operators when they purchase wheelchair lifts for their buses. A 1987 Accelerated Lift Cycle Testing study conducted in Syracuse,
New York by the Urban Mass Transit Administration simulated conditions a bus lift would be exposed to during a ten-year period, compressing the ten years into nine months by inducing stresses at higher levels than originally designed. Results from this test indicate that in cold weather, the sand and salt used to break up ice on the roads builds up on the wiring and other mechanisms of the lift, rendering them inoperable. Though salt is highly corrosive and causes an accelerated deterioration and the hydraulic oil used in the pumps that elevate the lift freeze in low temperatures, manufacturers are alleviating this problem in several ways. They are now using a lighter oil, plating ferrous surfaces with a protective coating (reducing corrosion), switching to stainless steel, lubricating and priming components more frequently, and adding shielding devices to prevent salt and sand build up.
Those properties that purchased lifts only to meet state laws or federal requirement have not had a positive experience. This is well exemplified by cities such as Milwaukee that discontinued their lift operations because of lift failures. On the other hand, almost without exception, many transit systems report that daily cycling of the lifts is the best preventive maintenance. Denver's Regional Transportation District conducts preventive maintenance service on their lifts every 2,000 miles. This service includes lubrication, function tests, a weight test of 600 pounds, a complete cleaning, and adjustments to any of the leveling sensors and protection devices on the lift itself.
These systems are only a sample of those that are accessible and successful in inclement weather conditions. They show that weather does not pose an insurmountable impediment to the success of an accessible transit system. In fact, Denver's Regional Transportation District boasted that in 1986 99% of their 608 wheelchair lifts were kept operable, during both good and bad weather. Project ACTION will assist
Testimony on the ADA
in improving the reliability of lift equipment through the development and demonstration of new programs.
4. Securement devices Tie down and securement difficulties, especially with three wheeled motorized wheelchairs, has been identified by our initial research as being an area of concern to several transit authorities. Current wheelchair securement devices do not seem to be adequate for the new model of wheelchairs being produced. Although securement devices such as the Q-Straint system do exist that work well with three wheeled motorized wheelchairs, this is an area that is high on the Project ACTION funding priority list so that we can improve and replicate better forms of technology.
There are several other areas where Project ACTION can improve the accessibility of public transportation through a cooperative process. For example, many cities have bus routes that are hilly or have inaccessible bus stops. One innovative program that we have identified is the "red mitt" program instituted by the Southeastern Michigan Area Rapid Transit District (SMART). Persons with disabilities who can get to a bus route merely hold up their hand with a red mitt on and they become a bus stop. It doesn't matter that the bus stop is ten blocks down the street and up a hill or that there are no curb cuts to get to the bus stop. If you can get to the bus route you can ride the bus. Now people can wait at the end of their driveway and be picked up by a SMART bus. This program has been targeted by Project ACTION to be refined and replicated throughout the country. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this historic legislation and I will answer any questions that I can.