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full accessibility requirement if the system, when viewed in its entirety, provides an equivalent level of service to those with disabilities.
The major difference between the two bills is that the Senate bill contains a potential loophole to the supplemental paratransit provision. Whether the House adopts the loophole or not, we urge this committee to adopt the six service criteria outlined in the Senate report which outlines what constitutes service to people with disabilities.
Both bills prohibit discrimination by public accommodations that provide transportation to their customers, guests, visitors and employees. These public accommodations will include hotels that provide shuttle service to the airport, major corporations providing van pool service, or retirement and nursing homes that provide transportation to the shopping malls.
The Senate bill exempts any vehicle carrying 16 or fewer passengers from the accessibility requirement. We urge the House to adopt the 16 or fewer passenger exception for public accommodation and private sector providers of public transportation service. Public accommodation providers are serious competitors to our industry and we believe that Congress should treat us equally.
The final category is private sector providers. Both bills permit the automobile to be exempt. We urge the committee to adopt a definition which states that any vehicle that carries 16 or fewer passengers be considered an automobile. This would provide for equal treatment of all private providers and it would recognize the real world situation that any vehicle that carries 16 or fewer passengers can be licensed as a taxicab and will be operated as a sedan.
Also, both bills provide an equivalent level of service exception to the full accessibility requirement for general public demand-responsive services to the public sector. The Senate bill provides this same exception to private operator providers of general public demand-response services. We urge this committee to accept the equivalent level of service exception for private providers.
Assuming your concurrence, we ask the committee to clarify the following three points under the term “equivalent level of service.” One, equivalent level of service should not require service by the same type of vehicle. For example, if a company owns 10 sedan taxicabs and two minibuses and neither minibus is wheelchair accessible, it should be able to satisfy its requirements in the taxicabs.
Two, the equivalent of service can be achieved by one company making arrangements with another public transportation provider who has wheelchair accessible vehicles. Ms. Golden in her remarks says this is permitted. We have studied the bill and that is not clear.
Three, service delays to passengers with disabilities must take into consideration temporary service disruptions caused by extraordinary events such as extreme weather, wrecked equipment or even a convention of disabled persons in town. There are customers who are not disabled who often suffer disruptions of service due to extraordinary service disruptoins and we believe this should be taken into consideration along with our customers who may have disabilities.
Contracted services. We believe no organization, public or private, can contract away its responsibility under this act. We expect that public and private organizations will continue to contract with our industry for their transportation needs. However, we believe it should be made clear to those organizations that the responsibility for complying with the act is theirs alone.
In conclusion, the ITA believes that our recommendations will benefit both individuals with disabilities and the public transportation industry. We support an amended H.R. 2273 and we look forward to continuing our role as a major provider of transportation service to individuals who have disabilities.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to introduce two members of the International Taxicab Association who are here to tell you firsthand how they meet the needs of their passengers with disabilities and how they see this bill impacting their private, for-hire, demand-responsive companies.
On my right is Mr. Rudolph H. Bruhns. He is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Yellow Cab Service Corporation, which owns four taxicab companies, one of which is Yellow Cab of Houston. Yellow Cab of Houston is the third largest taxicab company in North America, operating 1,205 demand-responsive vehicles. They have recently begun to convert their fleet from fourdoor sedans to minivans. The company also operates 10 wheelchairaccessible vans to meet the transportation needs of its passengers who use wheelchairs.
On my left is Mr. Robert M. Werth. He is President of Diamond Transportation, Inc., which operates 11 wheelchair-accessible vans, five non-wheelchair-accessible vans and one wheelchair-accessible school bus. Mr. Werth's company is affiliated with both the Yellow Cab and Diamond Cab Companies in Alexandria, Virginia. Yellow Cab operates 166 taxicabs and Diamond operates 132 taxicabs. Mr. Werth is very committed to providing high quality, fully accessible public transportation service directly to the general public and through contracts with public agencies and private companies.
Following Mr. Bruhns' and Mr. Werth's brief statements, we would be happy to answer any questions the Members of the committee might have.
Thank you for the opportunity to address this important bill, and we hope that you will call on us for assistance.
Mr. BRUHNS. Mr. Chairman and Members of the subcommittee, I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify this afternoon. As Mr. LaGasse said, my name is Rudolph Bruhns, Executive Vice President of Yellow Cab Service Corporation, headquartered in Houston, Texas.
Like the International Taxicab Association, Yellow Cab Service Corporation supports this legislation. We firmly believe that disabled Americans must have the same opportunities for employment and transportation that are available to all other Americans. At the same time, we are very concerned that this legislation not impose unnecessary costs on private providers of transportation for disabled persons that will raise the price of transportation for all, including the disabled.
I am here for one purpose, and one purpose only: to ask this committee to ensure that the definition of an automobile, for purposes of this act, includes standard vans and minivans which are now being introduced into taxicab service across the United States. The companies owned by Yellow Cab Service Corporation provide a good example of this trend.
Yellow Cab Service Corporation is a holding company that operates taxicab companies in Houston and Austin, Texas; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Charlotte, North Carolina. The largest of these companies, Houston Yellow Cab, transports nearly 6 million passengers a year, including dispatch trips, airport trips, and passengers picked up on the street. Included in this number are over 100,000 trips made by elderly and handicapped passengers subsidized by the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority. Over 14,000 of those subsidized trips were wheelchair trips, some of which were transported in one of ten wheelchair-accessible minivans operated by Houston Yellow Cab. The remainder of the wheelchair trips were transported in regular sedan taxicabs.
For many years, Houston Yellow Cab has used full-size sedans manufactured by the Chrysler Corporation, the Plymouth Gran Fury model. In November 1988, Chrysler Corporation built the last Gran Fury. After investigating the remaining two full-size vehicles available, the Chevrolet Caprice and the Ford Crown Victoria, incidentally there is no assurance that these two vehicles will continue to be produced by the manufacturers, and observing what other companies were doing with minivans, Yellow Cab Service Corporation decided to adopt the minivan as its taxicab vehicle for the future. As a result of that decision, we have already purchased 125 1989 Plymouth Voyager minivans that seat six passengers. By 1994, we expect to be operating 1,650 Plymouth Voyager minivans depending upon this legislation.
Why has Yellow Cab Service Corporation, and other taxicab companies across the country, begun to adopt minivans? There are six reasons why minivans are as good as or better than a regular sedan.
One, capacity. Minivans carry as many passengers as full-size taxicab sedans-usually six passengers including the driver.
Accessibility. Minivans wheelchair-accessible. · Houston Yellow Cab presently operates 10 minivans with lifts for wheelchairs. However, the expense of installing a wheelchair lift, nearly $6,000 per van, is 50 percent of the cost of the vehicle and makes it prohibitive to do so in every case. Ninety percent of our vehicles are owned by the drivers or are being purchased by the drivers.
Operating minivan conversion is also unnecessary in many cases, for the taxi drivers operating minivans are capable of lifting wheelchair users into the van in the same manner as they now lift wheelchair users into taxicab sedans. Thus, we do not expect any loss of quality of service for the disabled.
Increased passenger space. If General Motors or Ford discontinues building full-sized vehicles, if we don't have minivans, our only alternative will be to downsize the vehicles we are using, thus making it more inconvenient for the disabled. Minivans provide more leg and head room for the passengers, thus increasing the comfort of disabled passengers.
Increase luggage space. Minivans provide more luggage space than taxicab sedans, enabling disabled travelers to travel with more luggage and still accommodate their wheelchairs.
Safety. In operation, minivans appear to have 30 percent fewer accidents than taxicab sedans. We believe this is due to better visibility for the driver and the increased vehicle stability resulting from the front wheel drive configuration.
And very important, fuel economy. Minivans used by Houston Yellow Cab currently average 19 miles per gallon, compared to 15 miles per gallon for Gran Fury sedans. Assuming the average fleet mileage of Yellow Cab Service Corporation's four fleets, which is 100 million miles per year, this four-per-gallon difference would save approximately 1.4 million gallons of gasoline each year.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the subcommittee, for these reasons we ask that you amend the bill before you today to ensure that minivans are treated as automobiles, and are not subject to the requirement that they be equipped with wheelchair lifts. Houston Yellow Cab and the Yellow Cab Corporation are committed to providing accessible transportation for every disabled person that needs it. We believe that with a mix of standard and wheelchairaccessible minivans, we can do this conveniently, safely, and efficiently. We would ask your help to make it possible.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Mr. MINETA. Thank you, Mr. Bruhns.
Mr. WERTH. My name is Robert Werth. I am the President of Diamond Transportation Services, Inc., which is located in Alexandria, Virginia.
I would like to thank the committee for having me before you today. My comments reflect experiences of a private paratransit operator. However, I am also the Vice President of the Virginia Taxicab Association which represents many small taxicab operators, as well as large ones, throughout the State of Virginia.
Our company's mission is fully consistent with the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1989: to provide a transportation system that permits the disabled persons to fully and inde pendently participate in the economic and social life of this country.
It is my experience that privately operated taxicab and paratransit companies can and must play an important role in that system if this nation is to provide efficient, effective transportation to the disabled in a cost-efficient manner. I operate a lot of different services in Northern Virginia for children who are handicapped, beginning at age two-and-a-half up to the elderly disabled.
One of the services that we operate within the City of Alexandria whose population is 130,000, square mileage of 10, is called DOT, a specialized transportation service.
Mr. WERTH. This service began when the city decided to incorporate their own bus system, called DASH, and thus, DOT-that is the only meaning of DOT. The city worked through its local option with the Alexandria Commission on Disabled to come up with a demand-responsive door-to-door service to meet the needs of the disabled.
It is my feeling that DOT is a model specialized transportation service offering both taxicab and van services for trips wholly within the City of Alexandria. DOT operates seven days a week, during the same hours as the DASH bus service, 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m, Monday through Friday, and the hours vary slightly on the weekend.
Any person living or visiting the City of Alexandria who has a disability preventing him or her from using the DASH bus service and who is certified for DOT transportation may use the service. Certification is obtained by applying and submitting a doctor's statement, which is included in a pamphlet concerning the disability.
Certification, I might add, can be made on a same day basis through the Alexandria Office of Transit Service, so there is no 30day waiting period like many paratransit-services.
In addition, companions may ride with a disabled traveler at no cost. DOT service provides a two-tier level of service-bus stop to bus stop or bus stop to rail station for 65 cents, which is the same price as a bus, or a door-to-door service for a dollar and a quarter per trip.
Trips may be scheduled in advance, reservation, or on call. The on-call service just started through negotiations with the Alexandria Commission on Disabled, July 10th of this year, and this we feel removed another barrier to the provision of independent living for the disabled. Capacity has been added to accommodate increased demand without suppressing ridership, and new patrons have never been placed on an eligibility waiting list.
DOT is subsidized by the City of Alexandria, on a per-trip basis. Because the service is provided by Diamond Transportation and Alexandria Diamond Cab through a contract with the city, the city has to make the capital investment requirement in equipment and pays only for the service they actually use. The average cost to the city is about $7 per trip.
We began in November of 1984. The first month I had two wheelchair trips. Last month I think we did close to 800—789. Taxicab trips ranged in about the 1,300 range last month. Last year we did 20,000 total trips in the City of Alexandria for the disabled community, a total cost to the city of $140,000.
My personal experience is that there is a need for balance in the provision of transportation services to the disabled population. In order to provide complete independent living to all sections of the disabled community, transportation must be provided in the form of both lift buses and fixed routes and paratransit.
A large number of our DOT riders could not access fixed route buses if every bus had a lift. This population includes the severely disabled, dialysis patients, and an increasing number of elderly disabled. On the other hand, a great number of disabled are in need of the fixed bus accessibility. This group is fully capable of using fixed route, accessible transportation, as was previously evidenced by the panel that preceded us.
In speaking with a number of our DOT patrons, it becomes quite evident that some of the riders would used fixed route transportation if the routes were made accessible. On the other hand, many severely disabled riders can only use the door-to-door service. To