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my written testimony be submitted as written into the record and I will give a condensation of the remarks.
Mr. MINETA. Without objection, the statement will be made part of the record.
Mr. BUSSKOHL. This bill, by requiring full accessibility on all buses would weaken, if not kill, the bus industry. Jeopardizing the industry's economic survival threatens to leave as many as 10,000 communities without any intercity transportation service.
Estimates of lift costs are dangerous to offer. Two seem to be available. MCI lifts in Massachusetts cost about $35,000 and consume one-third of the package express area as well as two to four seats. The Hubmatic lift from Denver costs about $200,000 to $300,000 but has never been used on a coach with a bath area.
There are two seats needed, two for restroom expansion, regulators and that could lead to three across seating rather than four across seating, costing that many more seats.
This bill demands an unnecessarily stringent remedy to achieve full accessibility. The bill requires that every bus must be accessible, every bus, when a simple advance notice principle would be sufficient to meet the needs.
The nature of intercity charter and tour travel states that advance notice does not place an undue and unusual burden on those requiring lift services.
The bill allows virtually every other affected business to escape compliance in a finding of undue burden. Even municipal systems which pay only 20 percent have no concern for profit but the bill declares it discriminatory to purchase a non-accessible bus. So we are discriminated against in the very passage of this act.
The Senate-passed version of ADA, S. 933, contains study language. The three-year study by the OTA as an advisory board will look into the means of achieving full accessibility.
The Senate bill requires mandatory accessibility by two years but is not linked to the study results. It would take another act of Congress to overturn the mandatory compliance even if the study shows 100 percent accessibility to be needed. UBUA and myself urge that Senate ADA study language be adopted and the compliance mandate be dropped from both bills. It should be linked to regulatory action to meet the need and maintain this industry's economic viability.
Thank you very much.
Mr. DIPERT. Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the committee, I am Dan Dipert. I am president and owner of Dan Dipert Tours, the largest independent motor coach tour operator in Texas. In addition, I am a bus owner. This year I serve as President of National Tour Association, NTA. This association represents the group travel industry in America with more than 3,500 members. Equal access to all disabled Americans is a goal that has long been embraced and practiced by NTA members for many years.
Today I reaffirm NTA's commitment to this goal as embodied in H.R. 2273. Further, I will state some basic questions and concerns for the mandate of S. 933 as passed by the Senate. Before I do, however, let me provide you with an outlined insight into our association. NTA's backbone is 550 tour operators who develop, package and sell group tours to destinations in the United States, Canada and other locations around the world.
NTA also represents 2,500 tour suppliers, hotels, restaurants, motor coach companies and airlines. We also represent destination marketing organizations whose members represent local, regional, state and provincial travel promotion offices. Because our unique structure covers every facet of group travel, NTA has certainly in part been a spokesman for the entire tour and travel industry.
This summer the National Tourist Association Board of Directors reaffirmed our traditional support for the right of every American to equal access to all forms of public transportation. H.R. 2273 implements the integration of America's disabled into the mainstream of American life and society and we support that.
However, our association would be remiss if we did not have some basic questions and concerns about some transportation provisions in the legislation that could provide extreme financial hardship and possibly could lead to the termination of service of thousands of rural travelers and hundreds of travelers in those communities.
Tour operators and coach operators have made substantial efforts to accommodate the needs of the disabled when asked to travel by motor coach-often far above the demonstrated need. We, however, know from experience that for our organization to survive in the marketplace we must be very efficient managers to be able to use the resources that are available to us.
This legislation, if implemented, will place an unfair burden of economic compliance upon the obviously limited capital of the nation's private bus owners that supply the motor coaches for our association's operators. Only one third of our operators own their own equipment.
You have been told that “There should not be a price tag consideration when instituting a basic civil right." In principle this is desirable. In fact, there is no free lunch. Is the price of compliance reasonable?
Industry estimates show that it will take between $30,000 and $50,000 to install a lift and restructure the seats and restrooms on board the motor coach. These figures are higher than those reported by the Denver official who said the amount was closer to $8,000.
Don't compare apples with oranges. While city buses have no restrooms and no baggage space under the aisles, with seats facing the center aisle on city buses, the motor coaches we use as tour operators have full luggage bins, fully equipped restrooms and forward facing seats.
In the motor coach that tour operators use, a passenger must be risen as much as five feet to clear the level for the luggage compartment.
All these things will take away the seating capacity that the motor coach tour operator uses with a loss of 15 to 17 seats per motor coach, lowering our revenues by one-third and raising cost by at least that much.
This spring a study was released by a long-time Washington, D.C. based firm, Robert Nathan. They found the transportation buses were the least supported mode of transportation by the Federal Government. Airlines average 70 cents per passenger trip. Amtrak has $33.45 per passenger trip, while the intercity bus system received a pittance of eight cents of federal subsidies per passenger
The tour industry in the form of tours offered to the public is a low margin peak period business that does not operate on fixed routes.
The average return on investment is 9 percent. The slim margin of profit would be lost when the bus owners pass on the cost of mandated lifts to the leasing tour operators. This and the competition of our operators when we face non-profit organizations in our communities who offer discounted tour and travel opportunities means that each month some tour operators will be virtually forced out of business.
The tour industry has always been responsive to the needs of the disabled traveler. We will continue in this effort. I am absolutely confident that all the national tour operators are capable of providing the same demand-response tour for the disabled persons that we have provided for the able bodied.
In most cases, it takes six months to a year to plan, organize and conduct a tour. That time frame will give every operator the ability to lease a lift-equipped coach to accommodate the request of the disabled travelers. Our operators are willing and able to meet the equal access mandate of H.R. 2273 and S. 933.
In my 17 years in the motor coach industry I have packaged and promoted thousands of tours all over North America and beyond. In all those years I have had only approximately 15 requests for service for disabled customers. If I had been required to completely re-equip all the motor coaches I use with expensive and unused lifts and other requirements that may yet be determined by this bill, resulting in fewer seats to sell to my customers, then I may not have been able to remain in business long enough to testify today.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be with you today and express the concerns of our industry. Mr. MINETA. Thank you, Mr. Dipert.
I will now call on Mr. Picknelly. Your statement will be made a part of the record. You may proceed in your own fashion.
Mr. PICKNELLY. Thank you.
My name is Peter Picknelly, chairman of the Peter Pan Bus Lines and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Bus Association. Peter Pan is a class I motor carrier headquartered in Springfield, MA. We provide regularly scheduled inter-city bus service over routes in Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire and Connecticut.
We have a coach service originated in New England to various points in the United States in our tour service. We have 146 coaches with a seating capacity of between 47 and 49 passengers.
Peter Pan is one of the few privately owned motor coach companies in the country that has experience in lift equipped buses. We installed a lift in a bus we used in the charter service.
The availability of the wheelchair-accessible bus was widely advertised by our company and we received favorable public relations for the installation of the lift. Unfortunately, there was really no demand for the bus as a wheelchair-accessible bus. After about three years we removed the bus from service and converted it back to a conventional bus.
In 1985 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts initiated a program to purchase buses for private carriers operating regular route bus service within the state for the purpose of upgrading regular route service within the commonwealth.
They originally purchased 25 buses and six had wheelchair lifts, two of which were leased to Peter Pan. In this year, 1989, Massachusetts expanded its program to include somewhere around 25 additional buses, all of which have wheelchair lifts.
At the present time there are probably somewhere around 30 to 35 intercity buses in Massachusetts that are wheelchair accessible of which Peter Pan operates seven. The lifts were developed by Motor Coach Industries and installed at MCI at the cost of approximately $35,000 per bus. About half the cargo space was sacrificed for the installation of the lift. The transportation of one passenger in a wheelchair results in the loss of four revenue seats depending on the interior configuration of the bus.
When the bus is leased to Peter Pan the wheelchair passengers have no accessibility to the restroom. The ridership on these buses has been negligible. During the period of time we had two buses like this, each bus was used less than once every two months.
Except for the support of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we could not have afforded to own the buses. Peter Pan pays the Commonwealth of Massachusetts $675 per bus per month which is designed to recover the cost of the bus less the cost of the wheelchair installation. The disabled person must give 24 hours notice of his or her intent to use the bus. The purpose of that restriction is to enable the bus operator to position the limited number of accessible buses and have them available.
No such restriction would be available in the Senate bill.
Peter Pan derives approximately 50 percent of its operating revenue from charter and tour services. Even if the arguments advanced for installing lifts on all buses were sound, they would not apply to buses used exclusively on charter and special operations.
These bus charters are planned far enough in advance to allow accessible buses to be available. We are required to guarantee that an accessible bus will be available for all who request one. To require Peter Pan to install lifts on its entire bus fleet would not benefit any disabled person but would cripple Peter Pan.
Now I would like to call on Mr. Fred G. Currey, chairman and CEO, Greyhound Lines. Your statement will be made a part of the record. You may proceed in your own fashion.
Mr. CURREY. Thank you. It is an honor to be invited to comment on the most important piece of legislation that has impacted the intercity bus business in a large number of years. I appreciate your accepting the written statement for the record.
I wish to make three points in summary of that statement. First, the bill as proposed by the Senate discriminates against inter-city bus companies. I know that is not a very popular thing to say, nevertheless, it is true as my statement shows.
Why it is true is the real question. The Senate bill is a mass of compromises; airlines are excluded, two-story buildings are excluded, movie houses must make only some seats, not all, accessible. Every private entity except the inter-city bus industry gets to take into account good faith, technology, cost, and undue hardship.
For some reason that we cannot determine, the sponsors of this bill seem to believe the entire movement turns on what happens in the inter-city industry. If we are required to be 100 percent accessible, even if it ruins the industry and makes bus transportation no longer available for the poor, somehow the program succeeds.
Considering the fact that the intercity industry carries only 1.5 percent of all intercity passengers, that makes it a real puzzle.
A second major summary point: This bill will initiate and conclude with the collapse of our rural service at Greyhound. Now first I understand the forum that we are in and I understand that business people have a problem in this forum with respect to the credibility of their numbers.
Frankly, there is a very severe penalty for submitting false numbers to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Here are the numbers we have submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission contained in these documents submitted to the committee.
I am not about to come before Congress this morning, and our bond holders this afternoon that I will appear before, with a different set of numbers. We cannot stay in business as long as we have and do things like that.
Third, I would like to say to those who challenge our numbers to submit theirs and let you decide.
Now in the issue of the collapse of rural service we are not talking about theory. In the last 15 years this industry was cut in half by a retrenchment that touched every single state. The study by Nathan Associates using DOT information found that 20,000 locations were served by intercity buses in 1976 and today we are down to 10,000.
We have been down, at Greyhound and Trailways, this road of cutbacks and lay offs before. We know what happens when the system begins to unravel. Today 32 percent of the miles we operate are operated at a loss.
In the parlance of regulated days, that means that we cross-subsidize 32 percent of our route miles with revenue from positive route miles. Under ADA, as a result of the increased costs, 51 percent of our route miles would become unprofitable. That is a 60 percent increase in the percentage of route miles that become unprofitable.
Obviously, no company can exist with more than half of its routes in the red. We also know from bitter experience and from a lot of non-bitter experience over the past two and a half years of lowering prices, we also know that we cannot raise prices. The poor, old, urban and rural disadvantaged are our core customers.
Fifty percent of our customers are below the average poverty level of $15,000. So to raise prices to pay for the system is not in the public interest. That leaves us with no alternative except to cut unprofitable service, mainly in rural areas. Today we serve 10,000