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many riders—a bus stop across a parking lot from their final destination is like being let out on the other side of the earth. Paratransit meets the needs of this constituency.
There are also people who need a combination or a multi-modal approach to transportation. This group would benefit from having access to both fixed route and paratransit. For example, we take a great number of riders from their homes to Metrorail, where they can access the accessible system.
Since I started this service, or was contracted to start this service in the City of Alexandria, I have observed a local phenomenon, and that is the complete integration of the disabled community into everyday life in the City of Alexandria.
When we first started, we would pull a van up to let out, and you couldn't do it because the cars would be blocking every entrance way. Doors were too heavy to open, curb cuts were not there, and there were many other barriers. Sometimes we would go to pick up somebody, there would be three or four steps going up to their door. Four or five years later, there are ramps built into those buildings. There are curb cuts. Electronic doors have been added.
The community has benefited from the economy that the disabled community has brought to the City of Alexandria. One barrier that we have in the city, however, is a lack of interjurisdictional travel. DOT goes up to the boundary, so somebody who lives in the city, for example, and works at Skyline, which is in Fairfax County, cannot ride DOT. They have to rely on the Metro on-call service, and this is just not workable sometimes. So that is one barrier that I must bring forth to you.
The DOT service is an example of government agencies contracting with private paratransit providers. It is very important that provisions of the ADA 1989 allow for transit agencies and public entities to contract for paratransit services.
Furthermore, where private priorities are required to provide comparable levels of service, such as the Super-Shuttle that was brought up, private paratransit providers such as myself should be allowed to contract for these services.
As a small businessman who is also a private transportation provider, I fully endorse the intent and futuristic vision of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1989. However, it is extremely important for the subcommittee to recognize the role that can be played by a small private paratransit operator such as myself. I believe it is the intent of this legislation to provide opportunities and independent living for people with disabilities. Small, private providers like Diamond Transportation Services want to continue being a part of this effort.
I support the ITA's recommendations and improvements to this historic legislation and endorse the broad scope of the Senate bill 933 and the House bill 2733.
Thank you very much.
Ms. Wilson, you mentioned that it is difficult to use the accessible fleets that are operated by CTAA members to feed inter-city fleets, such as Greyhounds, because the Greyhound fleet is not accessible. I am wondering if you could share with the subcommittee
some specific examples of problems that you have encountered in this regard?
Ms. WILSON. I am not sure I understand. In getting people to Greyhound?
Mr. MINETA. That is it.
Ms. WILSON. Well, we have not had very many people in wheelchairs ask us to take them to Greyhound because they know that Greyhound doesn't provide wheelchair service. I think we have heard this earlier, that people know this, and they don't ask us to take them. We have not been able to do transportation for anyone in our transit system to Greyhound who would be able to go on beyond unless someone could take them up on the bus and someone can meet them at the other end.
We have transported a couple of folks who were in wheelchairs who took people along with them to get them on and off the bus. I don't know if that answers your question, but basically the people that we take to the Greyhound bus are people who know that they can get on it and go on to their destination.
Mr. MINETA. Now, Mr. Mundy, airport ground transportation providers operate services in various configurations, as you have mentioned, such as demand responsive, fixed route, and fixed schedule. How does the industry currently provide transportation services to individuals with disabilities?
Mr. MUNDY. I asked the same question of many of our operators. They did not perceive it to be a problem. They were not asked to handle the disabled and wheelchair individuals, which I suppose was a rather naive response. Upon questioning them further and talking with our airport members, there are typically arrangements made. I must admit, these are not the best arrangements because they usually have to be made in advance. There is usually a local public provider who provides that service to their area. Pressed, these local private operators, usually know who to refer that caller to that provides handicapped wheelchair service in their particular area.
As a matter of fact, most of those are provided by 16(b)(2) vehicles. Many are provided by city transit systems. You have an unusual situation where, if they were required as fixed route operators to put wheelchair lifts on their vehicles, they would still probably recommend the alternative service, because it will be much cheaper.
Why would you pay $10 to $15 for a private operator's wheelchair lift and fixed route service when you could get a subsidized public operator for 80 cents? We, in essence, would require lifts on vehicles which would not be used. There have got to be better alternatives and accessibilities thought through than the rather vague references in this bill.
Mr. MINETA. Now, you have raised several concerns about the usage of such terms as “over-the-road coach” and “demand responsive" as used in the Senate passed bill. Can you provide the committee with any clarifying language that would conform with industry practices?
Mr. Mundy. I don't mean to be flippant, but the answer would be no, because we have no standard definitions. The terms are very loose when we refer to over-the-road coach. It could be anything from a minibus operating from one town to the next, or it could be a van which is running on a route maybe 80, 95 miles up into the areas of Connecticut.
For example, one of our largest operators, Connecticut Limousine, runs both buses and stretch limousines. Both vehicles would be considered to be over-the-road vehicles, so it is very difficult to specify over the road when you start talking about a size of vehicle. It is the type of service that it is used in.
There is one piece of legislation from UMTA which tries to specify "demand responsive,” and it refers to demand responsive as a type of vehicle where an individual does not have the premium use of the vehicle. So even past legislative efforts to define these terms have not been entirely successful.
I don't feel that is an academic answer. I apologize. The answer is no, there are no simple terms and definitions that could be provided that try to cover all the areas that this bill is touching. That is one of its major problems. It is a net over a very broad range of services.
Mr. MINETA. Mr. Bruhns, in your testimony on the first page, you ask the committee to ensure that the definition of an automobile for purposes of this Act include standard vans and minivans. Then on page 4, you say amend the bill before you today to ensure that minivans are treated as automobiles. In both instances are you talking about standard vans and minivans?
Mr. BRUHNS. Standard vans and minivans. They are both coming in usage. In our particular case, we have gone to minivans, but there are other operators, one in particular in Orlando, Florida, which is using standard sized vans as taxicabs, and that is because of the groups that come into Orlando to go to Disney World and so forth, vans are more convenient as a taxicab for larger groups.
Mr. MINETA. Families?
Mr. MINETA. Now, in your testimony, you say that a for-hire driver must transport an orderly person unless the driver is other. wise unable or forbidden to do so. Can you give the subcommittee some examples of what you consider to be valid reasons for refusing to transport someone?
Mr. BRUHNS. I think that was in Mr. LaGasse's testimony.
Mr. LAGASSE. That was in my testimony. We are regulated at the municipal level, the taxicab industry, generally speaking. There are a few exceptions, but we are regulated by the City Council typically. They establish the regulations. There could be a provision that the taxicab industry is not allowed to go to a local airport. That happens sometimes because it is an exclusive franchise with someone else, and therefore, we would be prohibited from picking someone up at the airport, no matter who they are.
But generally speaking, we have to transport anyone except a falling down drunk, for example, or if there was an imminent sense of danger, and that is hard to qualify. But certainly a disabled person would meet the orderly person that we would have to transport unless he was carrying a gun or something.
But I mean, generally speaking, we are required by local ordinance, and earlier it was said some of the larger bus fleets are not accountable. I am not sure I accept that, but certainly in our case, where we are regulated at the local municipal level, we have city hearings all the time, we are very accountable to our passengers.
Mr. MINETA. You also stated that in a mixed transportation fleet, vans should not have to be lift equipped if the disabled could be transported alternatively by taxicab. How do our drivers presently handle heavy motorized wheelchairs and how would they handle them under the ADA?
Mr. BRUHNS. Well, on those we have the wheelchair accessible vans. We have 11 of those, and those have ramps on them that they are accessible, and if somebody calls in, in our case, and particularly in Houston and Austin where we have a computerized dispatching system, we can assign attributes We can dispatch a trip to a particular cab, in that case the attribute is wheelchair accessible. So we can send that particular cab to pick up that particular person.
In other cases, where they have a foldup wheelchair and they can get into a cab with assistance from the driver, then we send a regular cab, and in most cases, they call for a regular taxicab, but in the case of a motorized wheelchair, then they do need, would need a wheelchair accessible vehicle.
Mr. MINETA. Thank you. Mr. Hastert Mr. HASTERT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms. Wilson, it was an interesting statement that you made that said that you certainly support the passage of this act, but only if there was financial support, and there needed to be federal dollars that went along with this, and you didn't think it was fair to try to pass the cost of this, increased cost of what this bill would cost, onto riders or onto the transportation companies. Is that what you meant, or would you want to clarify that?
Ms. WILSON. Well, of course, our transportation system, those represented by the Community Transit Association, receive federal, state, and local dollars, and also charge fares, and what has been happening over the last few years,
Mr. HASTERT. What is the mix? Is it 50/50?
Ms. WILSON. I can only answer for my own system. About 40 percent of our income comes from fares.
Mr. HASTERT. The rest of it comes from an assortment of state, local and federal governments? · Ms. WILSON. And that balance has been changing over the last few years, and is increasingly more local money, more state money, less federal money.
Mr. HASTERT. The taxpayers, or the rate payers, or the fare payers pay for this?
Ms. WILSON. Exactly.
Mr. HASTERT. What do you think an estimation-and this might be a big number or maybe you haven't thought it out-but you talked about the tremendous cost of this act on both rail and wheel vehicles? What would be the cost? Do you have any idea? Millions, billions?
Ms. WILSON. That is a good question, and I asked a couple of people about that before I came on to testify, I don't know that I have heard that there are people who would attempt to give that figure, but I don't have any idea. I think it is going to depend on
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each community. If you have a community that has a fixed route bus system that has no accessible vehicles and no paratransit, then that community, according to the way the act is presently written, is going to have to put lifts on their buses, and they are going to have to start a paratransit system. There are probably going to be other costs that are not obvious. If that community doesn't have curb cuts, they are going to have to put in curb cuts. They may have to change all of their bus stops if they have the little bus stop, and they are not accessible.
Each community's expenses are going to differ, and I don't think anyone in this community has done any kind of survey that would tell you the total cost.
Mr. HASTERT. So you think probably the total cost-the Congressional Budget Office declines to make that estimate. So the total cost will be well in the multibillions of dollars?
Ms. WILSON. It could be. It could be. It is not you know, it is not an easy thing to say, because just saying that all you have to do is put a lift on a bus is misleading.
Mr. HASTERT. You said you think that there needs to be a parallel piece of legislation that would tie with this that not only would mandate these types of services and different opportunities, but would also mandate or furnish the price or the cost of the system.
How would you think that would be estimated?
Ms. Wilson. That is a good question. I don't think I can answer that. What I am saying is if Congress is going to mandate something and you know that there is going to be a cost, I think before you mandate it, you find out how much it is going to cost and make sure there is money there to pay for it. Otherwise, it is not going to happen.
Mr. HASTERT. I mean, would you assume that we have to have an appropriations bill for multibillions of dollars—whatever the cost is?
Ms. WILSON. It could be.
Ms. Wilson. The point is, I think if you are going to say that there has to be money, or that there has to be an accessible transportation system in every community that currently has transit, and you don't put any money out, then the entire burden falls on the locality.
Mr. HASTERT. Then you are going to force us into debate where it is going to come out of the trust fund or not. There are a lot of questions here.
Mr. Mundy, you talked about insurance costs, and that prohibition of insurance today forces some people not to provide those services, is that correct?
Mr. MUNDY. That is correct.
Mr. HASTERT. What do you think in percentages? I am not asking you to put real dollars, I am not going to be mean to you like I was to Ms. Wilson, but in percentages of costs, what do you see in increased insurance? If all these services were mandated by everybody, what would they be?
Mr. MUNDY. We have attempted to get insurance companies to give us some figures, to estimate what it would cost if we were to handle individuals with disabilities, severe disabilities. They have