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the disabled, so that they can share the convenience of public transportation that is shared by many other non-disabled individuals.
Through greater access to transportation, the disabled can have the same access to their workplace that is now enjoyed by others. That will enable many disabled workers to put their skills to work for America's businesses and other employers.
Mr. MINETA. At this time, I would like to call together our first panel: Mr. Roland Mross, Deputy Administrator, Urban Mass Transportation Administration, Department of Transportation, accompanied by John Cline, the Associate Administrator for Budget and Policy of UMTA as well as Don Trilling, the Deputy Director of the Office of Transportation Regulatory Affairs of the Department of Transportation.
If you would please come forward to the table.
TESTIMONY OF ROLAND MROSS, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR, URBAN MASS TRANSPORTATION ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ACCOMPANIED BY JOHN CLINE, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR BUDGET AND POLICY, URBAN MASS TRANSPORTATION ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, AND BY DON TRILLING, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF TRANSPORTATION REGULATORY AF. FAIRS. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Mr. MINETA. Mr. Mross, your full statement will be made a part of the record. So you may go ahead and proceed in your own fashion, sir.
Mr. MROSS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee. My name is Roland J. Mross. I am the Deputy Administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation of the U.S. Department of Transportation. I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today to present the views of the Department of Transportation on the Americans with Disabilities Act which the Senate passed on September 7, 1989. As I am sure you know, the Administration strongly supports enactment of Federal legislation extending civil rights to Americans with disabilities.
Appearing with me today to discuss this bill are John Cline, the Associate Administrator for Budget and Policy in the Urban Mass Transportation and Mr. Donald Trilling, Director, Office of Transportation Regulatory Affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs.
Despite the best efforts of all levels of government and the private sector, and the tireless efforts of concerned citizens and advocates everywhere, many persons with disabilities in this nation still lead lives in a state of isolation and dependence.
Sixteen years have gone by since the Rehabilitation Act was passed. In that time the doors of educational opportunity have been opened to persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, persons with disabilities are still, too often, shut out of the economic and social mainstream of American life. The Americans With Disabilities Act would directly address this problem.
In brief, the purpose of the Act is to provide a clear national mandate to end discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and to bring persons with disabilities into the economic and social mainstream of American life, to provide enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities and to
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insure that the Federal government plays a central role in enforcing these standards on behalf of individuals with disabilities.
Let me, now, briefly summarize for you some of the key provisions in the Americans With Disabilities Act as passed by the Senate and which affect transportation. Under that bill, public entities must purchase or lease accessible vehicles—bus, [NAIL) and other fixed-route vehicles—in any solicitation made thirty days after the enactment of the Act.
The Department of Transportation may temporarily relieve a public entity from purchasing a lift-equipped bus if a lift is unavailable and the public entity has made a good-faith effort to locate a lift-equipped bus.
A public entity providing fixed-route transit service must provide a comparable level of paratransit service to handicapped individuals who cannot use the fixed-route service. The Department would issue service criteria in this regard. If providing such service presents an undue financial burden, the Department may allow the public entity to limit its service pursuant to a flexible numerical formula.
A public entity only providing demand-responsive service must buy or lease accessible vehicles unless it can demonstrate that its system provides a level of service to disabled people equivalent to that provided the general public. New facilities built by a public entity must be accessible. Existing facilities with major alterations will, to the maximum extent feasible, be made accessible in the altered areas.
Regarding rail systems, at least one car per train must be accessible as soon as practical, but in no less than five years. Existing key rail stations must be made accessible within three years, except that the Department may extend that time to twenty years for extraordinarily expensive structural changes necessary to achieve accessibility.
The proposal that public transit agencies purchase only liftequipped buses is necessary to accomplish the goal of the legislation to provide civil rights to individuals with disabilities; that is, to mainstream them into daily American life. For disabled people who lead, or who want to lead, independent lives and to be integrated into their communities, the availability of lift-equipped buses provides the broadest and most immediate benefits.
Such accessibility can be accomplished relatively easily since more than 35 percent of public transit buses already are liftequipped. We estimate that it would take ten to twelve years for all public transportation buses to be lift-equipped. Disabled persons want to use lift-equipped vehicles once they become widely available. This demand should lower costs and advance the technology and the reliability of the lifts. Regarding current costs, adding lifts to buses costs approximately $10,000 to $15,000 per bus and adds annual maintenance costs, per bus, of approximately $2,000.
The ADA legislation would also require that paratransit buses be made available to those individuals who cannot use accessible, fixed-route transit. The Senate-passed legislation recognizes, however, that in some cases the provision of unlimited paratransit service may be an undue financial burden on the transit provider. The Senate-passed bill thus would allow the use of a flexible numerical
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formula that incorporates appropriate local characteristics such as population, interim degree of accessible bus service, and residential patterns to determine when provision of paratransit reaches a level of undue financial burden and limits the provider's required paratransit to that level.
If the bill is enacted, the Department would look forward to working with the disabled community, and providers of transit services, through the regulatory process to establish a workable formula in this regard. It is important to note, moreover, that if another entity in the area provides paratransit services that meet the requirements of the ADA, the local transit authority would not be required to duplicate that service.
In those urban areas where rail transit is available, it is just as important to provide access for the disabled to that system as it is to provide access to the fixed-route bus system. The ADA requires that, within five years, all rail systems have one car per train that is accessible to the disabled. New construction of transit facilities would be made accessible. The bill also provides for retrofitting of existing key stations in light-rapid and commuter rail systems.
The transit agencies and members of the disabled community would work together to plan the strategy for key station accessibility. The pattern of New York and Philadelphia, which already have worked out agreements to retrofit key stations, would serve as an excellent model in this regard for other cities. The ADA, as passed by the Senate, would require no incremental effort by the cities of New York and Philadelphia.
Entities that operate only demand-responsive systems for the general public are, for the most part, small rural communities. Therefore, it is appropriate that in those areas a new vehicle need not be lift-equipped if the entity can demonstrate that its system, when viewed in its entirety, provides a level of service to individuals with disabilities equivalent to the level of service provided to the general public.
The ADA also extends to transportation provided by private entities. Hotel and airport shuttle services and around-the-mall parking lot vans, when they offer demand-responsive services, would be required to provide adequate levels of service to individuals with disabilities and need not equip all vehicles with lifts.
Private intercity bus companies, clearly, provide an important transportation service. They are a transportation safety net providing service to regions not otherwise serviced by other modes of transportation and to people who do not generally have other transportation options available to them. Therefore, the Senatepassed legislation would require these operations to be made accessible within seven years for small operators and six years for all others.
The Department must issue regulations within a year of enactment to implement these requirements. This legislation also calls for a three-year study of how best to achieve this accessibility for intercity carriers. The rule promulgated by the Secretary will, thus, be available to serve as a baseline against which other approaches can be compared.
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This study required by the bill should indicate cost-effective methods for making over-the-road buses accessible within the statutory time period.
Finally, the Department supports provisions adopted in the Senate-passed bill that appropriately distinguish the obligations of employers with respect to active alcoholics and drug abusers, on the one hand, and those who are no longer using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol, on the other hand. Moreover, these provisions would allow an employer to prohibit the use of illegal drugs by an employee and prohibit the use of alcohol at the work place.
Mr. Chairman, twenty-five years ago Congress and the President were finalizing enactment of the Civil. Rights Act of 1964, one of the most comprehensive civil rights legislation ever passed. We now have the chance to extend the nation's civil-rights guarantees to the disabled community. The Department and the Administration are pleased to support this landmark legislation.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my remarks and we would be pleased to respond to any questions that you might have.
Mr. MINETA. Thank you very much, Mr. Mross. Either Mr. Cline or Mr. Trilling, do you have statements to submit for the record or
any comithank you first of allity?
If not, thank you very much, Mr. Mross, for your very fine statement. Let me ask, first of all, what is the Department's current policy as it relates to accessibility?
Mr. CLINE. Currently, the Department is abiding by the regulations that were issued under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As you may be aware, there was a court decision of the Third Circuit which may have an impact upon that. But we are still operating under the original 504 Regulations.
Mr. MINETA. Plus any requirements from the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982. Are there any provisions in that Act that deal, also, with accessibility or had it generally been Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act?
Mr. CLINE. Those requirements are reflected in the regulations, also.
Mr. MINETA. The recent court decision in the Third Circuit did affect the Department's accessibility regulations, did they not?
Mr. CLINE. Yes. Mr. MINETA. Could you, briefly, describe what that impact is from that Third Circuit's decision?
Mr. CLINE. My recollection of the initial decision was that the 3 percent cost cap that was used for paratransit was overruled by the court, as was the local option, which refers to the choice of either lifts on buses or paratransit.
Upon the en bank review by the full court, however, the local option was restored but regarding the 3 percent cap, the court maintained the position that that was to be changed.
Mr. MINETA. Do I assume that, regardless of whether the Third Circuit Court had ruled this way or not, as it relates to the 3 percent accessibility or as to whether or not agencies were meeting their obligation to provide accessibility, that because of the Third Circuit Court decision, the Department would have revisited this whole issue regardless of this ADA bill or not?
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Mr. CLINE. Assuming that we receive the order from the court as we anticipate we will, we would have begun to engage in a regulatory process based upon that order.
Mr. MINETA. In Mr. Mross' statement, the figure of 35 percent of the national fleet is, currently, lift-equipped. That is mentioned, but what percentage of buses bought last year, if we have that figure, Mr. Mross, were lift-equipped? First of all, how many buses were purchased last year and, of those that were purchased last year, how many were lift-equipped?
Mr. CLINE. There has been a trend over the last few years that approximately 3,000 to 3,700 buses are purchased each year using UMTA Federal assistance. Of those buses that were purchased last year, we do not have a figure as to how many were lift-equipped, but I would venture to say that it was substantially higher than previous years.
Mr. MINETA. Higher than that 35 percent that you say are equipped right now?
Mr. CLINE. Yes. It is hard to commit a specific number, but because so many major transit systems have elected to purchase with lift-equipped buses there has been a higher percentage. Exactly what that percentage would be, I really can't say.
Mr. MINETA. The cost of this lift-equipment is, as I understand it, roughly $10,000 to $15,000 per lift. What is the average cost of a transit bus?
Mr. MROSS. $155,000. Mr. MINETA. As I understand it, we are now in the fourth or fifth generation of lift technology in this country. From your experience within UMTA, what would you say is the reliability of these lift mechanisms?
Mr. CLINE. We do not have specific statistics that indicate the failure rates of lifts. From my personal experience with several transit systems that are lift-equipped, though, there was a higher than acceptable rate of failures on the lifts. Many of those were due to poor maintenance at times or just pure mechanical failures-pinched hydraulic hoses, computer command function failures, and the like.
But I would say that it was higher than acceptable.
Mr. MINETA. Would you say that, with each generation of improvement of lift technology, at least to some degree, that there have been improvements in the reliability of the lifts, even though it may be a little higher than what you would like to see?
Mr. CLINE. Yes. I think that there have been some improvements. They have not been as quick as, I think, the industry would like to have seen, but compared to some of the original lifts that were coming out ten or fifteen years ago, there has been a marked improvement.
Mr. MROSS. If I might, Mr. Chairman, our expectation also is that with the wider utilization of lift equipment, the technology ought to improve and reliability ought to improve, as well as the cost go down.
Mr. MINETA. We have had estimates, I guess, from articles and other testimony indicating that the cost of annual lift maintenance is roughly $2,000. In fact, I think that is what is included in your testimony. At the same time, we have had other estimates given to