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And third, a clarifying amendment that would make sure that Amtrak is included in the-as a public transportation agency for purposes of this act.
Now, there is one other thing that I want to mention. I want to emphasize the practical importance to Amtrak of continuing the regulation that exists under the Rehabilitation Act that requires individuals needing special transportation service to give Amtrak advance notice of this.
There has been some criticism of this, that this is discrimination of some sort against handicapped people. In a nationwide system that includes all kinds of manned and unmanned facilities, it is absolutely essential for us to get notice if someone wants special service that they are going to go.
We require that they notify us in advance and tell us what train they were on and what station they are going to get on, what station they are going to get off. Then we can take care of them. If that is not done, particularly when they are going to a small station that is unmanned or only partly manned, they won't get the service that they are entitled to.
I think this is a reasonable provision. It is in the regulation now, and nothing ought to be done to cancel that out. We think if we are going to really give the handicapped people the service that we want to give them, we need notice about this so as to make sure that they are taken care of.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, we urge the adoption of the Senate bill's provisions on drug and alcohol users. Amtrak has been a leader in the railroad industry in establishing employee assistance programs, and this option is always available to a drug or alcohol user at Amtrak.
Any limitation on our right to take action against drug or alcohol abuse by our employees with the EAP option always available to them, in my opinion, would be disastrous. For safety and other reasons, we try to have a workplace free of drug and alcohol abuse. The Senate bill takes care of this, and we accordingly urge its adoption in this area.
Mr. Chairman, I would be delighted to try to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement and attachments of Mr. Claytor follow:] PREPARED STATEMENT OF W. GRAHAM CLAYTOR, JR., PRESIDENT AND CHAIRMAN OF
THE BOARD, NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION My name is W. Graham Claytor, Jr. I am President and Chairman of the Board of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). I should note that I also serve as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C. I am pleased to be here today to discuss the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and to describe to the subcommittee the steps Amtrak has taken to improve access to intercity rail passenger service by individuals with disabilities. References in my testimony to the ADĂ refer to the proposal as recently passed by the Senate.
Amtrak applauds the effort to provide a comprehensive policy against discrimination on the basis of disability. As the nation's
only intercity rail passenger carrier, we have strived to eliminate barriers to the use of our trains and stations by individuals with disabilities and I believe that we provide many disabled persons an increasingly important means of transportation. We provide special reduced fares for disabled passengers and operate a Special Services Bureau seven days a week that assists special needs passengers with ticketing and transportation. Indeed. more than 120,000 mobility-impaired and other disabled individuals sought the assistance
of our Special Services Bureau last year and many tens of thousands of other disabled persons traveled on Amtrak unassisted. Our toll free reservation system can be accessed by the hearing_impaired through use of a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf, known as a TTD. In addition, Amtrak works each year with a number of organizations on large, special moves of disabled passengers,
Amtrak strongly believes that all persons seeking to travel by rail—including mobility impaired and other disabled individuals, as well as the elderly-should be accommodated and it is our intention, regardless of whether the ADA is enacted, to take the steps within our means to continue improving access to intercity rail passenger service. In this regard, I am pleased to state that practically all Amtrak trains presently meet the accessibility requirements of the ADA, and we offer accessible sleeping accommodations for disabled persons on all of our overnight trains. Amtrak's Viewliner prototype sleeper, our low-level car of the future, includes a handicapped-accessible bedroom with shower, aš do all of our Superliner sleeping cars.
Accordingly, it already is our intention that all new sleeping cars to be purchased in the future, as well as new Superliner coaches, will be accessible to individuals with disabilities. However, I strongly believe that it is neither necessary nor feasible for all single-level coaches to be so equipped. In addition to the substantial capital cost of building accessible toilet and seating facilities into each of these relatively small, limited-capacity cars, the inclusion of these special facilities reduces the capacity of each coach by five seats, substantially reducing our revenues on trains that frequently are sold out or on which there is standing-room only. On a standard Metroliner train with five or six coaches, this can amount to a loss of some 30 premium revenue seats; some of our trains include as many as eight to ten coaches. The loss of this revenue undermines the economics of new cars and will result in an increase in our need for federal operating assistance at a time when our primary goal is to continue to reduce this federal subsidy. Amtrak accordingly requests that the ADA be amended to require that new coaches be made accessible only to the extent necessary to ensure that all trains have one or more readily accessible coaches, thereby meeting the standard set forth in the ADA. We are satisfied that requiring 20 percent of new coaches to be accessible to individuals with disabilities would more than meet this requirement. I accordingly have attached as Attachment 1 a proposed amendment to make this change.
It must be emphasized that Amtrak has been forced to spend much of the past decade simply fighting for corporate survival. I believe that we finally have turned the corner and that serious efforts to eliminate all federal support for Amtrak have ended, but this in turn is dependent on our ability to continue to cover more and more of our operating costs with our own revenue. In addition, severe budgetary cutbacks have left Amtrak a capital-starved corporation. Each year we are able to fund only a fraction of our most pressing capital needs, many of which are safetyrelated or must be undertaken simply to keep the trains operating. In fiscal year 1981, Amtrak was appropriated $221 million for capital projects. This shrunk to just $2 million in fiscal year 1986 and has been approximately $25 to $30 million since. Amtrak is suffering a serious equipment shortage that is forcing us to turn away millions of passengers each year. This in turn undermines our primary objective of reducing Amtrak's need for federal operating support. The cold reality of Amtrak's capital budget is that priority must be placed on projects that keep our operations safe and reliable. We simply have not had, nor do we presently have, the appropriated capital required to fund the costs of achieving full station accessibility throughout our national system.
Enactment of the ADA will impose significant capital costs on Amtrak, primarily to make the stations we use fully accessible. I support making these improvements, since they will enhance our service not only for individuals with disabilities, but for elderly and other mobility-impaired passenger as well. Nonetheless, Amtrak's ability to make steady progress toward the improvements required by the ADA will depend on the appropriation from year to year of sufficient capital for this specific purpose, over and above the capital required for our most critical safety and operating concerns, as well as on our ability to continue to increase our revenues. Amtrak cannot survive if capital needed for safe and reliable operations is diverted to station improvements required by the ADA.
Given these capital needs, Amtrak urges that compliance with the Act's intercity station accessibility requirements be made subject to the appropriation of funds spe cifically authorized for that purpose. In this way, Amtrak would submit a separate request in its yearly budget justification for the funds required for accessibility related projects during the next fiscal year. Funds then appropriated for those projects thus would not compete with Amtrak's capital budget. As discussed more fully later in this testimony, I have attached as Attachment 2 a proposal authorizing $52 million in federal support for Amtrak to be used over the next twenty years to fund modifications required to comply with the ADA.
I now would like to address three areas of the ADA which significantly impact Amtrak. The first more fully discusses the provision of the ADA requiring that all intercity stations be made completely accessible to individuals with disabilities. The second concerns the importance of advance notice to Amtrak by travelers requiring special services. The last relates to deficiencies in the House bill regarding the current use of drugs or alcohol by employees.
Amtrak is the nation's only intercity rail passenger service provider. We carry some 22 million passengers annually in 44 states. Although Amtrak serves 499 stations nationwide, it actually owns or partially owns only 81 of them. Local communities or third parties own a small number of the others, but the vast majority of the stations Amtrak serves are owned by the private freight railroads. Many of these stations are aging relics that are used for only one or two trains a day.
Most stations used by Amtrak presently are accessible from curbside to the plat. form. Thus, mobility-impaired passengers have access to and can board our trains at most locations. Many of our unmanned stations, which may only consist of a simple shelter, also are accessible. However, at those stations that include ticket counters, bathrooms and other comfort facilities, Amtrak has been able to fund complete accessibility only where the station has been newly constructed or where major renovations have been made. Over 400 stations will require at least some modification in order to comply with the ADA's requirement that all intercity rail passenger stations be fully accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Some modifications will be relatively simple and inexpensive-lowering a ticket counter or making a toilet accessible; others will require complex and expensive design changes.
Under section 303(g)(3) of H.R. 2273, these modifications would have to be completed within three years of enactment, except for extraordinarily expensive structural changes, which must be completed within 20 years of enactment. The Senate changed this provision to require that all intercity rail passenger stations be made accessible as soon as practicable but at least within 20 years of enactment. Despite the significant number of stations which will require at least some modification to be fully accessible, Amtrak believes that it can meet a 20 year deadline, provided funds for the necessary modifications are made available. Amtrak could not possibly comply with the three-year time frame presently included in the House bill, and we urge the subcommittee to adopt the Senate's provision. In this regard, the Report on this bill should make clear that the time frame for station accessibility in the ADA overrides shorter time frames under the Rehabilitation Act and regulations there under.
In this regard, because Amtrak by law is not an agency, entity or instrumentality of the federal government, Amtrak urges that sections 301 and 302 of the House bill (sections 201 and 202 of the Senate-passed bill) be clarified to specifically include Amtrak as a public transportation system subject to the Act, along with departments, agencies, special purpose districts, and instrumentalities of a state or local Government. The Senate chose to clarify this issue in the Report accompanying S. 393 (at page 46). A statutory clarification is preferable, and I have attached as Attachment 2 an amendment making this change.
With respect to the cost of modifying the stations Amtrak uses in intercity rail passenger service, we estimate a total cost in current dollars of up to $34 million. This amount will escalate to $52 million in inflated dollars over a 20 year period (assuming a 4 percent rate of inflation) and Amtrak has included this amount in Attachment 3 as the amount to be authorized for this purpose. Our estimate is based on the modifications necessary to comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), and would provide access for mobility-impaired passengers from curbside to station to platform to train, as well as access to such comfort facilities as are available to any passenger within the station. Because of the excessive cost of installing high-level platforms, and because such platforms are incompatible with our Superliner equipment, our cost estimate includes the acquisition of additional mechanized or manually operated lifts at stations with low platforms rather than the installation of new piatforms.
Assuming adequate funding, Amtrak stands ready and able to undertake the modifications necessary to comply with the ADA over the next twenty years. We have assigned a senior Amtrak management employee to oversee and coordinate compliance with existing law and with the ADA when enacted. We would anticipate modification of 20 to 30 stations each year for the next 20 years if Congress author izes and appropriates specific funding for this purpose. In addition, Amtrak has started a new training program for all on-board service employees and operating crews on assisting customers with disabilities. The training program has been devel. oped with assistance from many of the major disability organizations and will be fully implemented later this year.
Two points should be mentioned with regard to station accessibility. First, the House and Senate bills require that "key stations” used by “commuter rail, rapid rail or light rail” operators be made accessible within three years of enactment. Where Amtrak shares the use of such “key" stations with other operators, we believe that the cost of making the station accessible generally should be borne by the primary user of the station.
Second, Amtrak believes strongly that local and state governments should assist the federal government in the cost of station improvements. The ADA will require costly modifications at many Amtrak stations. At our Denver station, for example, the ramp leading to the platforms, while presently used by our disabled passengers, is too steep to technically comply with UFAS standards. Installation of an elevator to correct this deficiency will cost several hundred thousand dollars. Other stations requiring modifications serve as few as five passengers each day. In some cases, the cost of the modifications may even exceed the revenue generated by the station, in which case it may make economic sense simply to close the station. In any event, we believe that it may be appropriate to require local assistance in financing modifications required by the ADA.
Regulations promulgated by the Department of Transportation in 1979 under the Rehabilitation Act require individuals needing special transportation services to provide advance notice of 12 hours or more, and of at least 24 hours where the serve ices of an attendant are required. As noted, Amtrak has a fully staffed Special Services Bureau, open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, to handle requests for special services by mobility-impaired, other disabled, and elderly passengers. At the present time, when not all Amtrak stations are fully accessible and many stations are unmanned, advance notice is essential to ensure that Amtrak can coordinate and provide the special services desired.
Concern was raised by some disability organizations in hearings before the Senate that the requirement for advance notice was discriminatory and denied persons with disabilities equal treatment. We take strong exception to this. In many, if not most cases, Amtrak can serve the special needs of its disabled and elder passengers only if it has advance notice of the services required by the passenger and the train on which the passenger intends to travel. Only in this way can we can ensure that wheelchairs, lifts or other services are properly manned at the right place at the right time. We strongly urge Congress to permit the retention of existing regulations requiring advance notice.
Amtrak is very concerned with provisions included in H.R. 2273 that could deem discriminatory the actions that an employer might take against an employee currently using drugs or alcohol. The bill passed by the Senate significantly altered this provision and we urge similar changes to the House bill.
Strenuous efforts are underway in the railroad industry to curb use of alcohol and drugs by employees. Most railroads, including Amtrak, prescreen job applicants for drug or alcohol use. Railroads also test employees for drug or alcohol use where there is cause to suspect current use, as well as for periodic and return-to-work physical examinations. In addition, the Department of Transportation has issued mandatory random drug-testing rules that go into effect in January 1990 and require the random testing for drug usage of certain employees involved in safety-sensitive jobs.
Currently, Amtrak and other employers generally are free to refuse employment to current users of drugs or alcohol abusers. In addition, Amtrak can take disciplinary action against an employee who use such substances in the work place, subject to the employee's right to voluntarily participate in Amtrak's Employee Assistance Program. However, the House bill provides that an employer cannot take action against current drug or alcohol use by a drug-abuser or alcoholic unless such use poses a direct threat to property or to the safety of others in the work place. More over, the House bill apparently would prohibit tests, such as preemployment drug and alcohol screening, that identify use of alcohol or drugs unless the test is substantially related to the ability of the individual to perform the essential functions of his or her job.
We strongly believe that current drug or alcohol abuse must be eliminated in the work place, even where such current use does not pose a specific threat to safety. It is Amtrak's position that current use of alcohol or drugs seriously undermines the ability of any individual to perform his or her job on the railroad, regardless of the individual's position.
The Senate bill addresses most of these concerns. It makes clear that preemployment screening is permissible provided all new employees are screened. In addition, the Senate bill states that an employer may prohibit the use of alcohol or "illegal" drugs at the work place. However, the term “illegal" drug fails to include the misuse of prescription and other drugs that can impact an employee's performance, and we strongly urge that the House make clear triat an employer can prohibit the abuse of any such drugs.
The Senate-passed bill further specifies that an employer may require employees to conform their behavior to requirements established pursuant to the Drug-Free Workplace Act and may require transportation employees to meet requirements established by DOT. Amtrak strongly supports this change and urges the House to incorporate these changes made in the Senate-passed bill
, together with a broader definition of drugs that can be prohibited at the work place.
Amtrak is proud of the services it has been able to provide to our disabled passengers and recognizes the importance of completing modifications to the stations we use to make them accessible to and usable by all travelers. With adequate designated capital resources and a reasonable time frame for compliance, we are ready and eager to take the steps needed to comply fully with the ADA, consistent with our overriding mandate to further reduce our need for federal support. Amtrak urges the House to incorporate the three specific recommendations we have proposed, as well as to include provisions incorporated in the Senate-passed bill extending the time frame for completing modifications to our stations and ensuring that the goals of the ADA do not undermine the equally important goal of protecting the public safety through an alcohol and drug-free work place.
ATTACHMENT 1 Section 303(b)' is amended by deleting the period at the end of the section and adding: “, except that in the case of new intercity rail passenger coaches acquired by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, only 20 percent of said new coaches need be made readily accessible.”
ATTACHMENT 2 A. Section 301 ? is amended by deleting the period at the end of the section and inserting: “, or the National Railroad Passenger Corporation."
B. Section 302 3 is amended by deleting the period at the end of the section and inserting: “, or the National Railroad Passenger Corporation."
ATTACHMENT 3 Section 601(b) of the Rail Passenger service Act (45 U.S.C. 601(b)) is amended by adding the following new paragraph (6): “(6) There are authorized to be appropri. ated to the Secretary for the benefit of the Corporation for costs incurred in complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act not to exceed $52 million."
Mr. LUKEN. Thank you, Mr. Claytor.
As usual, you have made your testimony very clear and, there fore, it is equally clear that it is not totally consistent with the Administration testimony which preceded yours. You are suggesting logically that if these obligations are placed upon Amtrak, that it can't be taken out of the relatively small amount of appropriations allocated for capital improvements, which you are finally getting, in order to advance the kind of service that Amtrak is providing and to improve that service.
The Administration rather clearly said that it would oppose such a suggestion. You heard that, did you not?
Mr. CLAYTOR. I think they didn't favor it. I don't think they violently oppose it, from what they said. I would hope after reconsideration, they would realize that imposing additional costs on us
Section 203(b) of the Senate-passed bill. 2 Section 201 of the Senate-passed bill. 3 Section 202 of the Senate-passed bill.