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Mr. HENRY. There again, in a small business perspective, if that was an opportunity whereby we could better serve the public and still survive, we would certainly want to look at that.
Mr. PACKARD. Please be aware, I am not offering any Federal monies for that purpose. We certainly don't have any to spare, at least that I am aware of. In your judgment, do you see that there is a difference between public and private transportation in regard to these kinds of requirements?
Mr. BUSSKOHL. Well, I do. Private industry, once again, we are talking about the motor coach industry has survived on a very narrow margin, and we, I believe, pride ourselves in doing that and being able to do that without the government assistance, and within that fabric, we have been able to handle handicapped people at this point.
Now, the most extreme example might not be the best, but it does serve the purpose. So from my standpoint, again, being a free enterpriser from the word go, I believe that the government assistance would be the last thing that I would want to hang my hat on.
Mr. PACKARD. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MINETA. Thank you very much, Mr. Packard.
Mr. Henry, if I might ask, you in your statement said that the capital cost for installation would be anywhere from $20 million to $30 million. Roughly how much additional operating costs would be incurred by the inter-city bus industry in order to implement the ADA bill?
Mr. HENRY. Having no experience in operating this type of equipment, but judging by what our maintenance is on our normal fleet, I would have to take it on a per-bus basis, and I would guesstimate that we would probably allocate in our budget between $1500 to $2500 per year for the maintenance of that vehicle. I have never operated one, so I can't give you an example figure.
Mr. MINETA. I take it that given that kind of additional cost that that would make certain inter-city bus routes unprofitable.
Mr. HENRY. Yes, it would, sir. Mr. MINETA. Now, under the ADA bill, the requirement for wheelchair lifts on all inter-city buses could extend to, let's see, a ten-year replacement cycle, so that would then make these wheelchair lifts on buses take in reality some 15 years to implement the provisions of the ADA bill as passed in the Senate.
What interim policies will the ABA membership implement to provide for individuals with disabilities to get on and off the bus given that kind of a time period for the implementation of the legislation?
Mr. Henry. In interim we would be working, for example, with the five-point study Mr. Currey has mentioned. We would continue doing what we have been doing now and, as I said, we have extensive meetings with the handicapped association trying to make the best of what we have, to provide better service.
Mr. MINETA. On that score, would there be some specifics? What kind of advertising or public relations or outreach program is there to indicate what is going on right now?
Mr. Currey or any of the others might want to respond.
Mr. CURREY. Mr. Chairman, we have taken a very close look at the demand side. The Department of Transportation did a study in 1978 that states that there were 400,000 persons in wheelchairs as of 1978. We have received information from various disability groups that indicates that that figure may be as high as 700,000 now.
We have projected, therefore, usage consistent with the usage of the intercity bus transportation in the population at large to be usage at approximately 1 percent of Americans. That would mean that figure would range between 400,000 and 760,000. We have projected further the utilization of the intercity motor bus for more than one trip a year so that one must use a multiple of 400,000 or 760,000 people if people in wheelchairs traveled with the same proclivity by bus as the population at large.
We believe people in wheelchairs having a proclivity to travel on inter-city buses is a rational assumption because so many people in wheelchairs have specialty vehicles that can get them not simply from the terminal but from origination to destination, from the place where they live to the place where they are going.
Further, we have taken a careful look at Peter Picknelly's results and we believe those results are consistent with those percentages as well when we take a look at the percentage of people who are in wheelchair lifts within the confines of his system. He has a well-defined test because it is Boston to Springfield. So our objective and our five-point program is desired to enhance the existing service that we do have today.
The dollars of advertising we are suggesting in our five-point program, while they don't sound high, could be target marketed with a rifle shot, if you will. We do a lot of specialty advertising of that type to a very focused group, utilizing media that group particularly reads or sees or hears.
So we believe that we can enhance the service that we provide today and can specially advertise that. Further, we believe that tests, very carefully monitored tests-Peter has carefully monitored his but he is not a federal agency-but a very carefully monitored test like Peter's would either bear out my analysis I just gave you, or will not.
Maybe usership is much higher. Maybe it is up at 2 or 3 percent proclivity to travel as opposed to 1 percent nation-wide. Even at a figure like five, there is no way for the accessibility by providing a single wheelchair lift for each vehicle to be cost effective.
Mr. MINETA. When you say you do that kind of focused advertising, is that in terms of attracting a specific group to your service, or you say we have accessibility or other provisions?
Mr. CURREY. Yes. For instance, we spend about $18 million a year on radio network advertising. When I mentioned reducing fares, cleaning up terminals, answering the telephones, we have spent a lot of money on network radio advertising.
We have said to members of the disabled community that we would be pleased to add a tag line on many of our ads saying, "We welcome disabled America”, we do, we do today. We welcome them as an industry and a company.
So we would be pleased to say that as a tag line phrase. But, Mr. Chairman, we cannot pursue the one program if we are under the gun to put lifts on all our buses. If we are under the gun to put lifts on all our buses, what I have to spend my time, money and energy is into reprogramming our route structure so we can survive, so half our customers can have a ride with us, and half of our employees can have jobs, and half our points served can be served.
I have to readjust my thinking. I have to go this afternoon to explain all of this to my bond holders who are looking at the whole process with a very jaundiced eye.
Mr. MINETA. The air carrier rules do not mandate wheelchair access to restrooms on airplanes. Is it fair to mandate them on inter-city buses?
Mr. CURREY. If we are talking full accessibility to the full line service to accommodate a person in the wheelchair, the same type service that you would be giving someone else on that bus, I assume they would have to have accessibility to the restroom.
Mr. MINĒTA. But on the other hand if that exemption were included in it in terms of accessibility to the restroom
Mr. CURREY. If that were excluded obviously it would cut down some of the cost of operating that piece of equipment because you would not have to take out an entire row of seats. It would be an assist but not the answer to the overall problem.
Mr. MINETA. Mr. Busskohl, you referred to 10 to 15 percent in funding the costs of purchasing lifts for your buses and a 30 percent loss of passenger/package carrying capacity. If a lift were available for only 5 percent of the cost of a new over-the-road bus and no loss in cargo capacity, would you still argue that this cost incurred only once in 10 years or so would drive transportation companies out of business?
Mr. BUSSKOHL. Yes, sir. I will give you an example: in the best of years we have made maybe 8 percent profit. In the worst of years, which have come three and four times in a row, we have been minus 3 percent.
So in a minus 3 percent position any additional costs will drive us farther into the road.
Mr. MINETA. You mentioned, Mr. Dipert, NTA members have practiced the goals of equal access for disabled Americans. How do NTA members currently provide equal access for individuals with disabilities?
Mr. DIPERT. There are several. One of the things we have involved in our association, we invite several of the handicapped associations to our conventions and our meetings. One in particular is the Handicapped Travel Association which sends a representative.
Our members offer tours, although they are limited, as to the amount of tours, to handicapped travelers, as one of my colleagues mentioned here earlier. To my knowledge there is no company that is offering both service to handicapped and able bodied at the same time on all the departures of their tours.
Mr. MINETA. There are essentially two packages, a package tour for those with disabilities and "others"?
Mr. DIPERT. Able bodies, yes, sir.
Mr. MINETA. In your 17 years in the motor coach industry and having packaged and promoted thousands of tours all over North America, following up on the question that Mr. Skaggs asked about the fact that you have lack of requests for service, what do you attribute that lack of requests to? In other words, as Mr. Skaggs was saying, that may not be an indicator.
You are not getting a lot of requests, but that may not be an indicator of the potential that is out there. What would you say is the background on the lack of requests itself?
Mr. DIPERT. Mr. Chairman, I don't think anyone on this panel came here today thinking there is not something that needs to be done. We are asking for some relief. We see a problem in our small businesses. I don't know the answer.
Mr. MINETA. We have a call of the House for a vote, so we will recess right now and then come back to resume the questioning.
Following the completion of these witnesses, we will break for lunch and probably have about an hour after the completion of this panel before we resume with the next panel.
We break now for 10 minutes for this vote. (Recess.
Mr. MINETA. The subcommittee will reconvene. This time let me pick up on the questioning.
Mr. Picknelly, let me ask, in your testimony you say that you would guarantee that an accessible bus would be provided for every charter group that requests one. How would this guarantee be implemented, and absent ADA, what recourse would a person with disability have if he or she were denied a charter bus?
Mr. PICKNELLY. That is a hard question to answer, Mr. Chairman. I guess I can answer it only to the extent of the experience that we have had over the last three years in particular, since we have had two buses in our fleet like this.
The requests have been so minimal that we just have not had the problem. Again, we now have seven buses in our fleet because of the Massachusetts program and we have not had any additional calls for seven as opposed to two. So, short term, the problem certainly is not a problem. Mr. MINETA. That availability has been pretty well publicized? Mr. PICKNELLY. Yes, it has. The commonwealth printed a brochure. There have been a lot of newspaper articles and public interest type news releases on the availability of those buses throughout the state, not only on our fleet but other bus companies serving Massachusetts.
Mr. MINETA. Has the state done much to publicize their program that has been extended to the private bus companies in this manner?
Mr. PICKNELLY. Yes, they have, sir.
Mr. MINETA. The private company industry has consistently opposed charter activities by public transit operators. Under the ADA, let me ask, why should you be permitted to lease a liftequipped bus from a transit operator to provide service to the disabled community rather than allow that transit operator to provide the service or purchase lift-equipped buses yourselves?
Mr. PICKNELLY. Again, because of the cost required to purchase a lift-equipped bus. This is a cost we feel that our industry simply cannot afford.
Mr. MINETA. Mr. Currey, how is it that Greyhound has been able to determine that to fully implement the provisions of the Senatepassed ADA, that it would cost approximately, as you say in your testimony, about $40 million a year. How did you arrive at that?