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We think it is important to develop that chair and provide it. We think that is important. Further, we would support strongly a system where the Department of Transportation and industry at large, like the Massachusetts example, but the Department of Transportation since we are dealing with interstate commerce, would have a fleet available for call up at all major centers across the country, call up for charter, call up for tour, call up for regular route to the inter-city.
Indeed, it is that interchangeability of equipment that we think is important to approach this problem in a capital-responsive fashion.
Mr. MINETA. If we are going to come up with legislation that is a cookie cutter template to apply across the country, that may fit Greyhound, but how does it fit Mr. Dipert, or a two or three bus operation in Missouri or wherever?
Mr. CURREY. They, of course, are ready, willing, and able to speak for themselves but all of us are a network. We terminal with Frank Henry at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His company is our commissioned agent in Wilkes-Barre. We feed one another traffic. You are looking at us, those of us who operate inter-city service, you are looking at us as separate individuals but we are part of the same network.
We feed one another in this network. We are all, in this intercity transportation network, all in the charter and tour business. We don't operate tours directly. We try to induce Dan Dipert and his colleagues in the charter tour business to utilize our bus.
In that case we are competitive with Curvelle, Valley Transit, and all the other providers on the map of Texas. We are colleagues with respect to the exchange of inter-city passengers and competitors in the charter and tour business. That is a generalism. My colleagues may not go along with it.
Mr. DIPERT. Mr. Chairman, my company is a large user of Greyhound equipment. If there were a pool of buses that were available to handicapped, we would use that pool just as when my 14 overthe-road buses are busy with my own programs, I call Greyhound up and lease their coach. I would call up the pool and lease that coach for the need.
Excuse me, Mr. Currey.
Mr. CURREY. I would just like to amplify on one point. Our five point program is designed to give 85 percent accessibility in two years without notice.
Mr. MINETA. But at a reduced number of cities or locations?
Mr. CURREY. Eighty-five percent comes from the fact that there would be 200 locations at which the special chair would be available. Those 200 locations represent 85 percent of our total boardings. The other 15 percent we could provide with either a 24 or 48 hour notice.
Mr. MINETA. So you are saying the community would be covered? The community with disabilities would be covered by communities, in the sense of towns and locations would be reduced?
Mr. CURREY. All communities would be covered. The difference would be notice. The larger communities would be covered when the person in a wheelchair presented themselves to the terminal. Persons in the smaller community would have to give us 24 to 48 hours notice.
Mr. MINETA. Going back to that other chart, the pink and blue and yellow chart, you are talking about curtailment of service to communities because of unprofitable service. So there would be in that sense a reduction in the number of locations that would be served.
Mr. CURREY. No, sir.
Mr. MINETA. You said with 24 or 48 hour service you would still be able to provide it?
Mr. CURREY. Sustain service to those communities. What we are talking about here is whether there is a capital intensive non-revenue producing solution to this problem on the one hand, and what the Senate bill is. Or on the other hand, a non-capital intensive revenue producing answer to this problem, and that is what our five point program is.
Mr. MINETA. If I were a two-bus operator as a member of Dan Dipert's association what would I do?
Mr. CURREY. If you were a two-bus operator, a member of Dan's association, or a member of the ABA?
Mr. MINETA. I can't afford the ABA. But I could afford to be a member of Dan's organization.
Mr. CURREY. Mr. Henry reported total industrial profits of $40 million. We had a loss of $17 last year. I believe you top draw your own conclusions about my smaller friends and their profitability. They are very good business people and they would not be in this business if they were not very good business people.
It is a very cost intensive system. What Dan would do or any other charter carrier would do, should there be a pool of buses in the Dallas/Fort Worth regions, then utilizing the 24 to 48 hours notice that bus could be pulled on stream to be utilized with a lift if a lift-equipped trip were desired.
If the customer desired to go immediately on impulse, as it were, then the customer would utilize one of the special boarding chairs that we would expect to have.
Mr. MINETA. You refer to the public transit operator that would have the 100 percent fleet.
Mr. CURREY. In conjunction with the Department of Transportation. That makes the most economic sense from a public and private sector point of view. Should we have those pools of the type that Peter has in Springfield and Boston then we would observe usage.
We would all observe usage for a period of time. We would do what we have always done in the bus business which is be very demand responsive. When we see a demand, we respond.
Mr. MINETA. If I could play devil's advocate here. You know I don't like to be sitting in a nice 47 passenger parlor car upholstered, swivel seats, maybe reclining back on a tour, but now I am all of a sudden sitting in a 47 passenger Dart which has been pulled out for service on this package tour.
Mr. CURREY. As a former member of the Dart Board I protest, sir. I would propose that it be a non-upholstered, straight back seat, Dart bus. I would propose that the bus companies through a cooperative program with UMTA create a pool of city buses as luxurious as Peter's or Chuck's or ours, which would be available for any inter-city trip within the community at large. That is what I will propose so that you take the Massachusetts example, if you will, and re-replicate it but with a pooled equipment concept as opposed to a specific owned equipment concept.
Mr. MINETA. On the scheduling, you will have to do this, positioning your equipment to where you need it.
Mr. CURREY. Of course, we do, all the time.
Mr. CURREY. Well, it would be a problem to manage but we all have communications systems. We all have a flow of traffic today. Frankly, out in your country often there is a disproportionate flow of traffic from L.A. to San Francisco and sometimes in the other direction, so you are always having to balance the equipment and put it back into place.
We run a lot of deadhead miles to get equipment at the point of demand just like the railroads. That is within our cost structure. It would be a problem to manage, but as a problem, addressing the problem in a non-capital intensive fashion is in everyone's interest. It is certainly in the disabled Americans' interest, because certainly they wish service to be continued to all the rural towns in America they like to go to also.
Mr. MINETA. Would you think the replication of the Massachusetts kind of program modified to deal with it nationally would be, from your experience, a pretty good way to address the issue?
Mr. PICKNELLY. Yes, sir, I believe it would.
First, I would like to ask unanimous consent that we keep the record open in expectation of receiving statements from the American Association of Retired Persons, the American Car Rental Association, and Claude Robinson, the transportation consultant.
I would also like to ask unanimous consent that a statement by Mr. Lightfoot be entered in the record.
Mr. MINETA. Without objection. [The statement of Hon. Jim Lightfoot follows:] STATEMENT OF HON. JIM LIGHTFOOT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM IOWA
Mr. Chairman, I am pleased the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation will continue their hearings examining the transportation provisions included in the Americans With Disabilities Act. As a former member of the subcommittee, I look forward to hearing from our panelists.
I recognize and support efforts to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination. This measure addresses a wide variety of concerns. I am particularly interested in how we can meet the mobility needs of disabled individuals in the most efficient and reliable manner.
As the Senate bill stands, private bus carriers are required to equip all vehicles purchased after a six or seven year period with wheelchair lifts. I have some concerns how this mandate would affect access to services for those individuals who tra. ditionally use private carriers as a mode of transportation: the low-income, elderly, rural and small town residents. Private carriers represent a more cost-efficient means of transportation for these individuals, therefore, any increase in fare would limit access.
It has been my experience most private entities have established policies attempting to meet the needs of its physically challenged community.
Mr. Chairman, I would like permission to submit questions into the hearing record so that our witnesses might provide me with their insight. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to participate at today's hearing.
Mr. SHUSTER. Gentlemen, I want to thank you for your testimony today. I think it has been both rational and well reasoned. I have seldom seen a piece of legislation which under the banner of doing good, does so much harm to low-cost transportation availability, particularly for the poor and senior citizens.
I hope we can fix it because I certainly hope we can have legislation to take to the floor and get to the Congress so we can provide reasonable improvements for the disabled of America.
Mr. Currey, you talked about reducing the number of communities served from about 10,000 to 5,000 communities. Of the 5,000 communities that would no longer get your service, how many would no longer have other public transportation available to them? In other words, where you are now the sole provider?
Mr. CURREY. In the vast majority of those communities, we are the only provider.
Mr. SHUSTER. We are talking about close to 5,000 communities having no public transportation service if the bill as passed by the Senate becomes law.
Mr. CURREY. And in many of those communities, in addition to the passenger business, we are the life blood through the package express distribution system, literally transmitting blood as a very major category to small town hospitals.
Mr. SHUSTER. Let me come back to a subject which the chairman ended on, which is trying to understand how a small charter company will provide service. Let's say a rural charter bus company has somebody in a wheelchair who wants to go on a charter tour, and we have given them some form of exemption, and they do not have the requirement that they have to have lifts on all their buses. They have no lifts on any buses. You are saying that they would pick up the phone and call a city, a public transit facility, and say, “We want to charter a deluxe transit bus with a lift for a 10-day period,” if it is a 10-day charter. What is the requirement, and what is the probability that that public transit system is going to have a bus available and be willing to provide it?
I can see some of my friends in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia not being particularly responsive unless there is some stick that requires them to be. I can see them saying, "Wait a minute, we have that bus out, we are using that bus, we don't have that $200,000 bus sitting there just waiting for a little rural charter company to telephone us once every four months and ask for the bus." How reasonable is it that such a bus would be available?
Mr. CURREY. Well, we think it is quite reasonable should the Department of Transportation establish regulations with respect to the use of such a bus. It is like having a standby vehicle, but a standby vehicle available for use in the community at large as opposed to the capital cost of equipping all the vehicles in the community. So it is not as if that bus would get maximum total usage unless we are all wrong about the demand, in which event we would need more buses.
Mr. SHUSTER. So we could just as easily, instead of giving it to a public transit operator in a city, we could establish a pool of 10 private bus companies and subsidize their having one such bus.
Mr. CURREY. We could. We could. Mr. SHUSTER. So you are saying-I understand where you are coming from. I have difficulty seeing how this is going to work - smoothly, but I appreciate your response.
Let me turn to the Denver lift and your assessment of it. We have had testimony here ranging from its low cost, it works fine, and it is the wave of the future to testimony that it is only a couple of prototypes and we don't know really what it is going to cost, we don't even know if it is going to work.
What is your assessment of the Denver lift?
Mr. CURREY. My assessment of the Denver lift is that, point one, we utilized the suggested cost of the Hubmatic lift provided by Denver RTD in our low-cost estimate, as I have previously testified. However, we went to Stewart & Stevenson Headquarters in Houston, a very, very major distributor of Hubmatic in the United States. Stewart & Stevenson's installed cost ranges from $15,000 to $17,000.
Further, Stewart & Stevenson states that it will require very substantive restructuring of the flooring and package express space, diminishing the place available for luggage or package express by as much as one-half. One-third to one-half are the estimates.
Finally, Stewart & Stevenson has yet to provide us with any estimates about what the maintenance cost is.
Now, I would like, if I could just for one moment, to differentiate that use in inter-city service from use in transit service. Transit service is a hub-spoke service. I worked deeply and for long years in the transit business in a pro bono job. Transit service is a hubspoke service so that equipment sits idle every night between 11:00 to 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., when the big roll-out is the next morning. Our bus leaves New York City, and it is on the road for four days before it gets to San Francisco or LA, or three days before it gets to Miami, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So the ability to sustain and make quality maintenance for the safety of the patrons using the bus is an entirely different proposition.
Further, the pattern of usage of transit buses equipped with wheelchair lifts and those equipped for inter-city purposes is entire ly different, as is borne out by the Peter Pan experience, in that transit passengers establish a pattern. So if there is a lift-equipped bus by the spot every 10 minutes during the period of time of going to and from work, people get into a transit pattern to and from work.
That is not the way inter-city travel is accomplished. It is an entirely different decision pattern of deciding to make a trip by intercity bus. It has to do with the fact that we only handle travel for one percent of all Americans, so to conjure up an example that extrapolates the Denver experience into the inter-city experience is nonsense, sir. It is absolute nonsense, and the cost estimate is nonsense, too, even though we have continued to use it.