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due to be released in December of this year, but already the company doing the study has indicated they believe access is achievable.
They are now looking at how to provide that access.
Mr. MINETA. Do you believe that the inter-city bus capital assistance program in Massachusetts is an appropriate model for the nation in acquiring lift-equipped buses?
Mr. WINSKE. Thank you. I was kicking myself for the last 15 minutes for forgetting to put that into my testimony. I think it is. If you look at Massachusetts right now, I believe that the companies are lending their buses for between $750 and $850 for a bus per month, which is far below what it will cost them to go out and buy a bus on their own.
Now, granted at that rate they are not paying back the interest, they are merely paying back the capital over a seven-year period, so I think, you know, obviously Congress, given its dire financial state nationally, may need to look at recouping the interest at a lower rate over the seven or eight years of the bus. But I think that it is a model you should look at because, again, you can buy thousands of buses at a time, and certainly if you had a model such as Ibcap nationally, and you went out looking for 15,000 or 10,000 buses at a time, or maybe 5,000, I can't believe a manufacturer wouldn't find a way to retool his factory in a hurry, so I think it is a good model that you should look at.
Mr. MINETA. Mr. Markward, you mentioned in your testimony that you have been denied transportation on inter-city buses. I am wondering if you could elaborate on those experiences for the subcommittee.
Mr. MARKWARD. Because New Mexico enjoys a large tourism trade, we have many tours coming to New Mexico. I have not been denied passage on a tour, because none of the tour buses have lifts on. There is no way that I can get on a tour bus, so why would I even attempt to get passage on a tour?
It is just simply impossible to ride on a tour bus in the State of New Mexico.
Mr. MINETA. What about an inter-city bus?
Mr. MARKWARD. I haven't tried inter-state buses because the same thing exists. There is no inter-state bus travel available for a person in a wheelchair, and I haven't been able to find anybody that wants to carry me up the bus steps.
Mr. MINETA. All right. Let me thank this very, very fine panel for being with us and looking at these issues in a very real way. Again, I want to thank all of you for taking time from your own busy schedules to be before us. Thank you very, very much.
[The prepared statements of Ms. Golden, Mr. Herman, Mr. Winske and Mr. Markward follow:
TESTIMONY, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PUBLIC WORKS
AND TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE
ON THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
SEPTEMBER 26, 1989
My name is Marilyn Golden. I am Policy Analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, or DREDF, our country's foremost guardian of disability civil rights for the last decade. Before DREDF, I directed an organization called Access California for nine years, and coordinated two other organizations, the September Alliance for Accessible Transit and the Disabled International Support Effort.
In ten years of disability advocacy, I've worked with many "converts" like George Herman of Denver Rapid Transit District, who testified before you this morning, transit operators who, at one point, thought fully accessible transit was a nice dream but a fiscal impossibility; operators who then provided access and became ardent boosters of accessibility mandates. In this testimony I will give a brief overview of the private transit issue and demonstrate why we believe the Americans with Disabilities Act presents very necessary and reasonable requirements,
The need for access to private transit is enormous. I could cite studies, documentation, and anecdotal evidence all day. Suffice to say, bus travel is the only travel available to poor Americans, and disabled Americans are three times more likely to fall below the federal poverty line than non-disabled Americans. Bus travel is also the only avenue available to rural Americans, and disabled Americans live in rural areas in higher concentrations than the non-disabled. Most transportation-disabled people can't afford cars or can't drive cars. Without private transit, hundreds of thousands are prisoners in their own homes.
The need doesn't stop there. Disabled businesspeople can't get an airport shuttle for business trips because they're not accessible. We learned the other night of a private charter company which patently refused access to a young disabled adult. Access is needed to all forms of private transit.
Let's look first at long-distance bus travel. The Act already allows private intercity transit providers a special exemption. Large providers have fully six years before new bus purchases have to be accessible, and small providers have seven years. Some providers, particularly Greyhound, have responded by raising the specter of financial ruination and service cutbacks, near to the point of hysteria. But these concerns do not hold up to the light of reason.
It is true that many of the accessible over the road coaches in use today cost an additional $35,000, using a lift that occupies a third of the available baggage space and eliminates some seats. But this particular design is far from the only available one. In fact, this design wasn't even originated for over the road use, yet it is being blamed with every complaint by the over-the-road industry. This coach was originally designed for Golden Gate Transit of Marin County, California, for intracity use.
Much more instructive is the experience of Denver, where seventeen accessible over the road coaches are in use currently, rain, shine, or snow, providing lift-boardings in excess of 42,000+ in a year. The Hubmatic lift used in Denver, originally of German manufacture, is now handled domestically, and is already available. The lift occupies ZERO baggage space, will remove only ONE seat, and added only $11,000 to the cost of each bus, comparable to the low 5% additional cost of regular city buses. This price, by the way, can only be expected to fall, with mass production and high market demand. It's been virtually maintenance-free despite climactic conditions. And contrary to what has been alleged, these coaches put in continuous rough snowy mountainous use, comparable to the roughest of over-the-road conditions.
Denver's experience demonstrates the bursting of a myth which we must look at very plainly here. The mechanics of lifts, what they cost, and when they work, has become very mysterious in these discussions. But bus lifts are very un-mysterious. They are simple devices, far simpler than an engine, the way, than the air conditioning. Lifts are like any other piece of basic technology. When there's a high demand, they'll work better, get cheaper, and become available quickly. Anyone who doubts this is ignoring the basic operation of our free market economy and America's historic ingenuity. And in the case of lifts, we don't have to wait for ingenuity. They're available now, and will be more so. Lift companies outside of Denver aren't so eager to let Stuart and Stevenson, who've got the patent on the Hubmatic, make all the money. And lift companies may benefit from the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they don't need it to benefit. The fact is, lifts are the trend, intracity and intercity alike. Lift companies are tripping all over each other developing better lifts of every kind, and quickly, while we sit here and deliberate. Given these conditions, a six-year extension before the intercity transit industry has to comply with this Act, is very generous indeed.
This is further evidenced by a 1988 Canadian study which showed that lifts on intercity buses provided the trips more cheaply than other methods by a factor of four.
During the first three years after enactment, a study is to take place which will help providers find the best method for providing access. The Act has been attacked by those who call for a study only, with no accompanying mandate for access. This would seriously weaken the bill. IE the mandate were removed, these interim years would expectably be used by the over-the-road bus providers to contest the feasibility of accessible service, rather than getting ready to deliver it. The aim of the legislation is to facilitate accessibility, not to create incentives for resisting it.
Another myth which must be laid to rest, once and for all, is about restrooms. The Americans with disabilities Act does not mandate wheelchair-accessible restrooms in over-the-road coaches, despite all the bally-hoo that's been made. The Senate report appropriately keeps open the possibility of regulations addressing this point as technology becomes available. But great loss of revenue due to great loss of seats due to restroom access is not a fair argument, since it's not required.
The Act's other requirements for private transportation can be just as easily accommodated. It's important to look where providers have had successes. You may hear today, for example, that airporters can't possibly provide accessible service. Yet in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, Super Shuttle has been providing accessible demand-response service for years: not with EVERY vehicle, but with only a couple of vehicles; their service is accessible WHEN VIEWED IN ITS ENTIRETY, as they Act would require. The same is true for charter companies and other private demand-response providers.
So keep in mind that lifts aren't always required. And when they are, let's put the requirements in perspective. Lifts, in general, add about. 5% to the cost of a new bus. What does this mean? When twenty-one buses would have been purchased, only twenty can be. Where $200,000 in financing would have been necessary to add one vehicle to the fleet of a small provider, now $210,000 in financing will be needed. Yes, it is a little more. This cost must be weighed against the desparate need for integration into society by millions of potentially productive Americans.
I want to close with the story of John and Joy Winsky. Their story is the human element to the story of Peter Pan, a small provider in Massachusetts, who will be testifying today as well. Peter Pan has a few accessible intercity over-the-road coaches, and has complained of low ridership. Their low ridership stems from a complete lack of publicizing the program, and a tew other factors, such as the fact that their cross-state run is so long, that a disabled rider has to stay overnight, even if they only travel twenty miles, because the accessible bus won't come back until the next day. Not to mention that a lack of inter-city cooperative agreements meant, until recently, that a disabled person couldn't use the paratransit in the city they're visiting, once they got there, to go anywhere from the bus station.
But despite these barriers, Peter Pan had some faithful riders for a couple of years. John Winsky, who lived in Boston, met his future wife, Joy, who lived forty-five miles away in Fitchburg. Both use wheelchairs, and thank god for Peter Pan, they could see each other. They commuted often for over a year, despite the fact that Joy had to walk a mile through the snow to John's house once she got to the bus station, due to the classic paratransit problem I Page 4
described already. They took over sixty round trips on Peter Pan, and the paratransit costs to transport them would have been astronomical, paying for the lifts they used many times over. And their marriage points to the societal value of access that cannot be measured in dollars.
The weighing of these factors is in your hands. Reasonable costs, versus the integration, or lack thereof, of millions of potentially productive Americans. Your leadership is urgently needed, to pass the Americans with disabilities Act of 1989.