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a room surrounded by them. This comparability thing on paratransit we have to address.
First of all, comparability does not mean equal. Comparability has been,
essentially, the law since 1982, 1983, when you passed the Surface Transportation Assistance Act Amendments calling for minimum service criteria. The only thing is that DOT copped out, and rather than-they mandated same geographic area, comparable fare, comparable service hours.
But rather than really mandate it, they said, "Spend 3 percent and you don't have to do it.” It is not a new concept. And DOT has known for years, and does APTA. I am surprised to hear them saying this today, that comparable doesn't mean equal. They will never have to duplicate the commuter rail system with 100-mile paratransit trips, nor will they have to have 3-minute headways on paratransit if bus systems have 3-minute headways.
They have always argued that it is specialized service, it costs more to provide, as door-to-door and bus service isn't. There should be some leeway. And the disabled community is practical and only wants to ride. It doesn't want to bankrupt the system. So I don't think anyone expects comparable to mean equal.
I thank you for your time.
Mr. HUDSON. Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee. My name is John Hudson. I am a resident of Montgomery County, Maryland. I am currently employed as a social-work coordinator to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C. I have used Montgomery County paratransit from November, 1985 to the present.
On April 10, 1989, at 6:30 a.m., I was informed that I would no longer be able to use the paratransit bus because my wheel chair could not be secured. Since April 10, I have become acutely aware of the inadequacies, the inaccessibility, and the inability of the paratransit system to meet the needs of the physically disabled in Montgomery County.
I am a person with a physical disability and consider myself handicapped when placed in an environment that I cannot manage, and I am now handicapped.
I would like to review my experience with paratransit. In August of 1987, I relocated in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This was done only after I coordinated my move with the dispatcher of paratransit to make sure that I would be able to get a bus that would be able to take me to the Metro. My home is located within one block of a fixed-route, now.
Here I was picked up at 6:30 a.m., and transported to the Silver Spring Metro for thirteen months. My return trip was to Shady Grove Metro where I was picked up by Barwood taxi, a minivan with a portable ramp, operated by a private company under contract with Montgomery County paratransit. I had the good fortune, immediately, of finding a driver on whom I could depend to show up and to make me aware of his variations in his schedule.
On April 10, 1989, I was faced with an unannounced change. I left the apartment at 6:15 to find no vehicle waiting. At 6:30, when the Office for Paratransit opened, I contacted them and found that I had been transferred to Barwood Taxi for the morning trip, as well.: At this time, I was assured that Barwood was aware of the change.
I contacted Barwood. They had no knowledge of such an arrange ment and I was told that they could not accommodate me that morning. I recontacted paratransit. A vehicle was dispatched and I arrived at Shady Grove Metro at 7:00 a.m., forty-five minutes behind schedule. This meant that I missed my bus at Fort Totten, thus making me approximately an hour and forty-five minutes late for work.
In the evening, I was able to make arrangements with a TaxiPlus driver to transport me both ways in the future. This was necessary because my regular dependable driver was no longer available. The rest of the week, I was picked up and dropped off within fifteen minutes; I am told that this was an allowable amount of time.
On April 18, 1989, no Taxi-Plus arrived. I contacted Barwood. The regular driver was unavailable, but I was reassured that a cab was minutes away. They dispatched another cab which arrived forty-five minutes late. That evening, I was required to wait an hour for a taxi, again after being told the cab was minutes away.
On April 19, the cab was one hour and forty-five minutes late in the morning. In the evening, it was a thirty-minute wait. On April 20, the taxi was fifty-five minutes late in the morning. On April 21, I was transferred to another taxi company. The driver assured me that he wanted the fare in the morning and the evening and would be reliable.
Between April 24 and April 26, the service deteriorated. I began with a thirty-minute wait and culminated with no service, at all, provided on April 26. On April 26, I was transported by Montgomery County paratransit, since neither Barwood nor Montgomery County taxi had available accessible service.
Throughout this time, I have maintained contact with the Paratransit Office. On April 27, at approximately 4:30 p.m., Montgomery County Paratransit contacted me to report that the transportation for the 28th was questionable. Barwood Taxi contacted me that evening at home, at 7:30, to inform me that I could be transported if I could be ready at 5:30 a.m.
This left me unclear if this meant I would be picked up at 6:00, 7:30, 9:00 and if, in fact, the 5:30 time was accurate, I would have to start getting ready at 4 o'clock to meet the 5:30 time. I refused the offer. I was not transported.
Service was, again, begun with Montgomery County Taxi on May 1. The service was, again, unreliable with no service being provided on the first day. The same was true for May 8 and May 11. Not once from April 10 to April 20 was I secured properly in the taxicab, even though this is why I was transferred, because they had adequate tie-down systems. Yet, this was not done. It seems that the drivers did not receive adequate training and they were unfamiliar with the tie-down systems and would use them only at my insistence.
On or about June 1, 1989, the original, dependable, driver returned and my transportation again stabilized. The scars of this ex
perience run deep. My livelihood was threatened, as was my sanity. It was a constant struggle and the memory lingers on.
I am never quite sure that I will arrive on time at work or at home. This is not a healthy way to greet the day. How many ablebodied citizens would tolerate a fixed-route bus system which was this unpredictable? I need equal access if I am able to compete in the work place and to meet my employer's expectations. I need a system that permits recreational outings and permits spontaneity in my life. How many people arrange their leisure outings or shopping outings twenty-four hours in advance?
This means that buses need to be equipped with hardware that can accommodate wheel chairs. It means that a paratransit system would be available to augment the fixed-route system. It means that drivers would be trained and required to use tie-down equipment in their vehicles. This means that transportation would be available to physically disabled individuals at the same times on the same days and for the same reasons as able-bodied people.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Mayer, we will receive your statement for the record. Please proceed.
Mr. MAYER. I am going to summarize this in the interest of time. Mr. MINETA. We appreciate it.
Mr. MAYER. My name is Henry Mayer. I am a resident of the City of Wauwatosa, which is a suburb of the city of Milwaukee. Today, I hope to bring two perspectives to this issue of providing public transportation to the disabled.
I offer you the perspective of a person who has devoted thirty-six years as a career employee of the transit system serving metropolitan Milwaukee, the last sixteen years as operations manager, general manager and managing director of this 600 bus operation carrying some 65 million riders each year.
But of equal importance, I offer the perspective of a disabled citizen. I suffered from necrosis of my two hips. My hips had crumbled. They were replaced by artificial hips in June of 1977 and, thanks to medical science, I am no longer dependent on a wheel chair. But I do believe that my job experience and my disability have made me particularly aware of the needs of the disabled in transportation.
As an aside, I should say one of the problems of myself as a handicapped person was the necessity to park around the corner in my wheelchair while my wife would hail a taxicab at the curb, because a New York cab driver was reluctant to pick me up. So I am somewhat aware-very much aware-of the problems of handicapped people.
There has been a great deal of rhetoric exchanged between the transit providers and the disabled people over the last ten or fifteen years on this subject. It now appears that lift equipped buses may be mandated, rather than the local option that we have been operating under for the last seven years.
Milwaukee has been providing a successful paratransit program for a number of years. In addition, we also had accessible buses for several years. To that extent, Milwaukee can be considered a test case of the two programs. In 1978, the state of Wisconsin made funds available to improve transportation for the elderly and disabled. A committee of public officials, disabled persons and the transit operator was formed to determine the most effective method for accomplishing this end.
The program ultimately agreed upon was a user-side subsidy program for wheel chair users. This is where the existing providers of lift equipment taxicabs were used to provide service for these people. The user-side subsidy program did not, and does not, limit trip making by purpose or frequency, thereby allowing individuals to pursue their own interest in shopping, educational, social or recreational areas rather than rely on group activities sponsored by social agencies.
Initially, each program participant paid a dollar for each one way trip and Milwaukee County paid the remaining cost. By 1981, 15,000 trips each month were being provided under the user-side subsidy program of which some 10,500, or 70 percent, were trips by wheel chair users.
While the user-side subsidy program was developing, the Milwaukee County Transit System, in answer to a court injunction, instituted wheel chair lift-equipped bus service on seven routes in April of 1979. A sixth route was added in May of 1979 with a total bus requirement on those six routes of 59, out of the 100 buses that we had.
In 1980, an additional 150 lift-equipped buses were delivered, and lift service was expanded to 17 routes. At that time, we had a total of 250 lift-equipped buses. Usage of the lift-equipped buses by wheel chair users was minimal. On the other hand, the ridership on the user-side subsidy program grew rapidly and was, clearly, the choice of eligible, disabled individuals.
The fact that usage of a fixed-route transit system requires that an individual must independently transport himself or herself to a bus stop appears to have more to do with the inaccessibility of a transit system than the entrance steps of the bus.
The user-side subsidy program, by providing door-to-door service, even at greater cost per ride to the individuals, was clearly the preferred transportation mode of the mobility-impaired of Milwaukee County. In fact, the total ridership on lift-equipped buses during it's two and three-quarter years of operation was equal to less than four days ridership on the user-side subsidy program.
In a typical month, approximately 60 one-way rides were taken on lift equipped buses by wheel chair users. On the other hand, over 10,000 trips were being taken monthly by wheel chair users in the user-side subsidy program.
Approximately 5,600 persons with disabilities were registered for the user-side subsidy program on which 4,200 were wheelchair users. Based on the origins and destinations by users of accessible buses, it is estimated that fewer than 25 different individuals ever use the accessible buses in almost three years of operations.
The conclusions were apparent. The use of taxis and vans and door-to-door service did, in fact, provide effective mobility for wheelchair users while lift-equipped buses provided only a symbolic accessibility which can be utilized effectively by only a very small number of persons in wheel chairs.
In Milwaukee, the acquisition and the utilization of lift-equipped buses and fixed-route service resulted in significantly increased capital and operating costs while having no real effective impact on the mobility of wheel chair users. Based on the figures that the UMTA representatives gave this morning, to reinstitute lifte: on our buses would involve a capital outlay of approximately $8 million and a maintenance outlay of approximately $1 million each year.
In April, 1982, an agreement was reached with the disability community to discontinue the lift equipped bus operation and to concentrate our efforts on the user-side subsidy program. Today, in 1989, a monthly average of 30,000 disabled riders, of which 80 percent, or 24,000, are wheelchair users, are using the user-side subsidy program
7600 persons are registered to user service of which 6100 are wheel chair users. The average subsidy has been $7.98 per ride so far this year. Cost-wise and service-wise, this program has proven to be an effective means of mobility for the disabled community in Milwaukee.
The annual cost of providing this service, this subsidy, is approximately $3 million, equal to 4 percent of the transit budget. The lifts in the 250 lift-equipped buses had an original cost of $2,500,000. Because of the hostile environment, the lifts which were located in the step wells and exposed to the elements, which is not an insignificant consideration in Milwaukee, there were frequent and chronic maintenance problems.
Maintenance costs per lift are approximated at $2,000 annually and, according to what UMTA said today, that appears to what it is still running. On a per-ride basis, maintenance costs, alone, approximated $1,000. The user-side subsidy program, on the other hand, requires no public capital investment and the public cost, per ride, averages $8.00.
The user-side subsidy program has increased the participation of disabled Milwaukeeans in our community even though the method used may be a separate transit service and not considered mainstreaming
This program, however, to me, represents what may be termed "effective mainstreaming," eliminating those aspects of using a transit system which prevents access to that system but providing the individual with actual mobility so that he or she can be in the mainstream of society and take advantage of the educational, medical, social, shopping and whatever other needs he or she might want to do.
Although improvements have certainly been made in bus-lift technology since the Milwaukee experience, the point is that only a relatively few disabled persons have real effective access to accessible transit vehicles.
The accessible bus provides, bus-stop-to-bus-stop mobility and, perhaps, with experience, technology will overcome the difficulties we had with the lift and a much-improved lift, certainly, is possible. However, the unfortunate truth of the matter is that, however perfect the technology, lift equipped buses cannot provide effective mobility for many or most disabled persons in areas such as Milwaukee County.