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taken long flights, international flights, some of us use various medical devices; others use means that I will not describe, but, you know, it is not a new problem to us. And again, while we really appreciate Mr. Currey's insistence that access means rest rooms, which sort of helps out his cost figures, it makes them bigger, access to us doesn't mean rest rooms in this case, at least right away, and we reject any cost estimates that count them in. It is a distortion of the requirements.
I would like to rebut this morning's testimony of both common carriers, some of the smaller carriers, as well as Greyhound and the charter services, who say they have served people with disabilities. We have numerous reports, and I will not take up your time, but I could document them easily, of massive amounts of discrimination. Just the other night we had a story of a charter company where a young disabled adult was blanketly refused to be carried, even if they could get themselves on, even if they could get their friends to carry them on. The charter company said, “No, we will not carry you, I am sorry, it is against our insurance regulations.”
Now perhaps that charter company is not in the charter company association that was represented this morning, but I don't think it is fair for the association to deny the fact that discrimination exists. We can give you all the documentation and anecdotal evidence that you want, that it does exist.
I want to clear up something about the Hubmatics in Denver. The Hubmatics' cost isn't necessarily $17,000. The future generation of Hubmatics, as Mr. Herman will testify, could be easily $7,000 to $9,000. It is another issue where cost estimates really have to be taken with a grain of salt. We do think there is a certain amount of hysteria, despite the documentation that was given this morning. We have experienced this before.
Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, before it was passed, was accompanied by humongous cost estimates by medical providers and universities that never panned out to be true. You all know that the New York subways are having key stations rehabilitated now for access. The actual cost estimates are known because of the working drawings which are being done. Before the New York rehabbing, there was never an example of actual rail rehab for access. Now we have an example of when it has actually been done, and lo and behold, the wild, early scare-tactic cost projections for the New York system were fully ten times what the actual costs are going to prove to be, and I wouldn't be surprised if the cost estimates we heard this morning would turn out to be similarly inflated, not in a deliberate sense.
I am sure they are not being deliberately inflated, but I think that when a mandate is passed, when the reasonableness of it is realized, the industry finds a way to do it that can be accommodated because at that point it is in their interest to do so. I am sure Greyhound will be able to do that.
Advance notice was raised this morning as a possible way to accommodate people with disabilities. As was testified last week in relation to public transit systems, publicly funded transit systems, advance notice has never worked. It completely rules out spontaneous travel, family emergencies, business travel. We have to remember that there is still, without regulation, quite a bit of discrimina
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tion on the airlines, and people with disabilities may look to buses for their business travel. It is a very seriously second-class alternative at best.
We also reject the idea very much of having a study without a mandate, and also the metaphor that it is—I think it was termedready-fire-aim. I can see how it would be termed that, but I don't think that is a fair analysis. We face a situation in which a study without a mandate would produce probably quite a bit of basically foot dragging.
We think it would seriously weaken the bill. If the mandate were removed, the interim years would expectably be used by over-theroad bus providers to contest the feasibility of accessible service or to pretend that a second-class way of providing it is really a decent way rather than really getting ready to deliver accessible service.
I want to remind everyone involved that the aim of the legislation is to facilitate accessibility, not to create incentives for resisting it.
I also want to address the issue of ridership figures, and some of the members of the committee addressed them as well. It is really silly to count requests on systems that have no access. It is a little bit like the futile gesture concept, in affirmative action employment. The courts have ruled in those situations that discrimination has been committed even in situations where, say, people of ethnic minorities don't even apply for jobs in situations where it has been so clear that discrimination is rampant that it would be a futile gesture to apply.
Similarly, it is a futile gesture for disabled people to complain to Greyhound. They are a private company, they are not accountable. To count the complaints is not an accurate measure of demand. Our figures in California have indicated a much different number of wheelchair users across the State than Mr. Currey estimated. I would estimate more like 1,700,000, and I think that they will ride at least as often as the rest of the public. Some of them have the specialized vehicles Mr. Currey mentioned, but many, many more cannot drive and are very much dependent on public transit, or cannot afford vehicles. I think the demand will be very great.
The other thing to remember about ridership is that you can't ride a half-accessible system, as other disabled testifiers will testify today. As happened in the case of Peter Pan, you can't really expect a high ridership when you can go somewhere and then when you get there, there is no way to get past the bus station or into town. Ridership has been shown to go up in Denver, in Seattle, in New York City in terms of buses, in cities where total access is provided so that you can connect to other places, and where the systems function well enough so that disabled people's confidence in the system goes up.
You know, I don't think members of the committee themselves would have a lot of confidence in some of the half accessible or poorly maintained systems that exist today. We do have cities where ridership has gone up very strongly, and Mr. Herman will testify to his high figures. We reject the analogy that our demand is not great because there is only two or a handful of organizations that provide disabled groups with tours.
annotized vehicles Mr. rest of the public think that they im
We reject the notion that we travel in groups or packs. Disabled people are individuals first, and disabled second. We want to travel with our families, with our friends who could be amongst anyone, we want to travel alone. We don't necessarily want to be in a herd with other disabled people, and, you know, some disabled people use those group tours because they want to go somewhere and they can't get there any other way, and I empathize with them and may do it some day myself, though my own brand of travel has been to strike out in unfamiliar territory on my own and somehow make it.
But people have different levels of bravery on that situation, and the demand really cannot be measured by the number of disability tour companies.
I think it is interesting that Mr. Currey termed the inter-city transit industry as the one that is being discriminated against by how the ADA is set up. In a sense they are a discriminated group against the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was his first statement, because actually the ADA, in my opinion, is the most generous with the inter-city transit industry. No other feature of the bill takes six or, in the case of small providers, seven years to click into effect other than extraordinarily expensive structural modifications to rail systems, which is 20 years. But with the exception of that feature, every single other aspect of the ADA clicks into effect either after 30 days or 18 months, two years, three years, or five years. I think that actually the ADA treats the intercity transit industry very, very generously.
A few other responses. Mr. Packard had a concern about a number of kinds of specialized vehicles, including San Francisco's trolleys and cable cars and other recreational vehicles and doubledecker buses. A lot of these specialized vehicles really wouldn't necessarily be covered by the bill
. The ones that were covered, because they are light rail vehicles, I think the disabled community would quickly agree could be dealt with as special circumstances under regulation.
It is certainly not a high concern in our mind that those particular situations have the immediate accommodation that we do see as much more urgent for the forms of transit that we must rely on just for our basic transit needs, buses and rail.
It was mentioned that possibly the White House did not-it seemed a little strange to me—but it was contested the White House may not fully understand what was required and may be willing to renege on the requirements for, say, small charter companies and small common carrier providers in terms of an exemption or a further weakening of the requirements.
I am not sure that that is true. I think really intense negotiations went on during the Senate compromise. We were very, very pleased that the Bush Administration very well understood and supported the compromise that emerged which includes, again, access and charter companies and other demand response systems only when viewed in their entirety and of small common carriers on a vehicle by vehicle basis when vehicles are new.
I was also pleased that Congressman Shuster pointed out how some of Greyhound's proposals to share vehicles would probably be unworkable. He took the lead on pointing out an objection that was strong in my mind when Greyhound was detailing this morning,
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for the first time I knew about, that it would be very difficult and unworkable to have a pool where there would be a great lack of availability when the need arose.
That was a concern of mine too. Though of course it would be fine for the OTA assessment to look at it. That concludes the points I wanted to address from this morning.
In summarizing my prepared testimony, in disability advocacy I have been pleased to work with transit providers, and many were like Mr. Herman of Denver Rapid Transit who calls himself a convert, a transit operator who thought fully accessible transit was a physical impossibility but when he tried it, he came an ardent booster.
I think once these others see the feasibility, they will likewise become boosters. I will leave to Mr. Herman the defense of the Denver lift. It is not necessary to take up seats and occupy baggage space, plus the factor that six years of delay in the lift industry basically represents three generations of lift technology, three generations of lift technology in the public transit arena has meant enormous improvements in how well lifts function.
Lifts are like any other piece of basic technology. When there is a high demand, they will get cheaper and more available. Anyone who doubts this is ignoring America's historic ingenuity. You know the lift companies outside of Denver are not real eager to make Stevenson make all the money. Lift companies may benefit from the ADA but they don't need the ADA to benefit, because lifts are the trend, both inter and intra city. They are tripping all over themselves to develop better lifts of every kind.
A six-year extension before the inner-city transit industry has to comply with the act is very, very generous.
I want to mention a couple of other requirements of the ADA that I think will be mentioned by the next panel. You may hear it is infeasible for airport shuttles to provide access, but there are examples where they do, in the San Francisco Bay area where I live, and in L.A., a company called Super Shuttle has been providing demand response service for years.
In a couple of cases they contract for the accessible vehicles rather than owning them, and this too is permitted by the ADA. The same is true for charter companies and all the demand response providers.
One other concept on lifts: though they are not always required, I want to put the cost issue into perspective when they are, for public and private transit.
Lifts in general add about 5 percent to a new bus' cost. This means when 21 buses would have been purchased, now only 20 could be. It means when $200,000 of financing would have been necessary to add one vehicle to the fleet of a small provider, now a whopping $210,000 of financing will be necessary.
Yes, it is a little more. This cost must be weighed against the desperate need for integration into society by millions of potentially productive Americans. The weighing of these factors is in your hands, reasonable cost versus the integration or lack thereof of millions of potentially productive Americans. Your assistance is urgently needed to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1989.
Mr. MINETA. Thank you. Mr. Herman. Mr. HERMAN. My name is George A. Herman, general superintendent of maintenance, Denver, Colorado. Originally I was from Pennsylvania, born and raised there, and in the transit business. Then I spent four years in Texas in the transportation business and now four and one-half years in Denver.
So I am not sure if I have you surrounded or you have me surrounded at this point. We have been providing since January 20, 1989 accessible inner-city type transit service. I agree with Marilyn that I am a convert. I recall 14 or 15 years ago when 504 regulations went through, I thought lifts on buses were the craziest thing I ever heard about.
Having been in Denver now for some time I can see where an accessible system that has lifts that work, works. In 1977 the RTD Board of Directors instructed the staff that the RTD system operating throughout the Denver area would be made accessible to the handicapped on fixed-line route service. Included along with this decision, was to equip the 1986 inter-city buses being ordered from Neoplan USA with the capability of providing wheelchair accessibility. The mechanical staff at RTD in Denver was given this task to complete. It was not an easy task. We do use our baggage compartments a lot. We run airport service through Boulder, Colorado through the same terminals that the inter-city carriers operate and our luggage carriers are too small.
We started with a lift that actually took about one-third of the luggage compartment and ended up with a story I will not go into on how we discovered the lift out of Germany. Was the price restrictive? The answer is that the lift is compact and as a result, very low in price. We are estimating the cost of the lift on normal application to be somewhere between $7,000 and $9,000 total. That is installation on a new coach not a retrofit. There is a big difference. We recently installed a lift in an MCI coach, used in intercity bus service. The total cost of the engineering, modification to the lift, door and all auxiliary parts was $15,000. That includes engineering costs.
The next question we had to ask was, is the lift reliable. I have all the costs on all 608 buses which are lift equipped with every device known to man and you can compare that along with the testimony that I presented.
We have had no failures with the lift. In fact, I believe our total cost for the first seven or eight months of service was something around $85 which includes the maintenance program
The lift is now manufactured in this country through Stewart & Stevenson, rather than order it from Germany, we had to pay the costs to get it in. The ink is not quite dry on their brochure. I am not their representative but they were the company that did, through my request, incorporate and build the lift in this country so it would be more available.
How many seats are lost? That is always a big question. I can understand charter and tour companies, having been in that business for 16 years, realizing what they would lose. Due to RTD Denver's commitment to the handicapped community, and due to the length of time it has taken to provide a lift that was satisfactory