ARCHITECTURAL AND TRANSPORTATION BARRIERS COMPLIANCE BOARD
Docket No. 2007-1
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles
COMMENTS OF GREYHOUND LINES, INC. ON DRAFT REVISIONS TO GUIDELINES
May 25, 2007
Greyhound Lines, Inc. (Greyhound) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board’s (Access Board) draft revisions to the accessibility guidelines for buses, vans, and similar vehicles under subparts A and B of 36 C.F.R. part 1192. Although Greyhound’s over-the-road buses (OTRBs) are covered under subpart G, there are several general issues raised by these draft revisions that are potentially applicable to subpart G. Greyhound believes that it is important to address those issues now.
First, and perhaps most important, is a matter that is not addressed in either the current guidelines or the draft revisions, but that Greyhound believes should be addressed. That is the lack of any requirement, or standards, for the “manual” opening/unlocking of the wheelchair lift door in an emergency.
Although there is a requirement for an emergency method of deploying the lift if the power to the lift fails (36 C.F.R. 1192.23(b)(3)), there is no requirement that there be a manual or mechanical method of opening the lift door, nor any standards for such mechanism. Since there is no such requirement, OTRB manufacturers have not installed a mechanism for manually opening the lift door when the power fails, nor is such mechanism included in any retrofit packages.
Lift doors on OTRBs are powered either by electricity or air pressure. When an accident or fire causes loss of electric power and/or air pressure, there is no mechanism to manually unlock and open the lift door. This means that wheelchair using passengers must be evacuated through the front door or through the “pop out” windows and that other passengers cannot use the wheelchair lift door as a means of emergency evacuation.
Greyhound strongly believes that the Access Board, in conjunction with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), should require that all new OTRBs have a mechanism installed inside and outside the vehicle that enables a person to open the lift door manually when the power to the door fails. This requirement should include standards that make the emergency mechanism difficult for a person to reach in a non-emergency situation, but reasonably accessible and usable in a timely manner during an emergency.
Greyhound has several other concerns about the Access Board’s changes. First, we do not agree with the proposal to remove the definition of “common wheelchairs and mobility aids” from section 1192.3. It seems to us that an integral part of “accessibility guidelines” has to be a definition of the mobility aids which accessible vehicles are intended to accommodate. Such definition is as basic to the guidelines as the definition of the vehicles themselves.
In that regard, we note that, without explanation, the definition of “over-the-road bus” is eliminated from the draft guidelines. This may have been inadvertent. Clearly, OTRBs must be defined. The definition in the current guidelines is appropriate and should be retained.
On a practical level, we are concerned that the removal of this definition will open the door to possible requirements to provide access to “non-traditional” potential mobility aids such as the two-wheel Segway scooters. The entire system of mobility aid access and securement on buses has been built around the definition of common wheelchairs and mobility aids. Segways and similar devices have not been included in that definition and simply cannot be secured safely with this system. We understand that the nature of mobility aids may change over time, but this should be reflected in carefully considered modifications of the basic definition and accessibility guidelines, which take into account all relevant factors and which are implemented in a thoughtful and appropriate manner.
Second, we have concerns about raising the design load of the lift from 600 lbs. to 660 lbs.. OTRB lifts are designed to meet the 600 lb. standard. We are not aware of a public demand to raise the design load of OTRB lifts above that limit. Obviously, increasing the weight limit will increase the axle weight of the bus, which will create additional legal and regulatory issues (see our general discussion about the need to avoid increasing axle weights at page 4 below). Furthermore, increasing the weight limit will increase the costs of the lift. We do not believe that increased vehicle weights and increased costs should be mandated without a clear showing of need. We note that the primary stated reason for the change with regard to transit buses is to bring the lift weight limit into line with the weight limit on some ramps. Since ramps are not used on OTRBs, there would appear to be no justification for lifting the weight limit for OTRB lifts.
Third, we are concerned generally about changes in the accessibility guidelines that add more weight to buses, both transit and OTRB. Largely because of existing accessibility requirements, buses are already very close to, if not over, the 20,000 lb. single axle weight limit when fully loaded. Congress provided a temporary, limited bus exemption from the single axle weight limit (See Public Law 109-115 (TTHUD Appropriations Act), Section 115). However, maintaining that exemption will be increasingly difficult if new accessibility requirements add even more weight to the bus. Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Access Board should not modify its bus guidelines in any way that is likely to increase the axle weight of buses.
Fourth, based on our experience in operating these accessibility devices on a daily basis, we believe additional regulatory guidance to manufacturers to better integrate the design and functionality of the lift and related equipment is needed. For example, requirements for bus manufacturers to better engineer their bus frames to specifically accommodate these devices and to add manual door releases to expedite emergency evacuations of all passengers (including mobility-impaired passengers) when designing the wheelchair access door and its location on the bus should be included. Such standards are critically important not only for the comfort of disabled passengers, but for the safety of all passengers in emergency situations.
Fifth, we note that the Access Board does not propose to change the width requirements of 28.5 and 30 inches for platform width. Our experience is that the current platforms just barely allow the wheels of a standard wheelchair to fit. They are not wide enough to safely accommodate a passenger’s hand on the outer portion of the wheel. The Board may want to consider increasing the platform width somewhat.
There are various other specific issues that may arise with regard to the OTRB guidelines when the Access Board starts its review of those guidelines, but we thought it was important to raise these matters of general applicability now. Greyhound appreciates the Access Board’s willingness to engage interested members of the public in a dialogue about these potential changes at an early stage, and we look forward to participating actively with the Access Board when it starts its review of the OTRB guidelines.
Government Affairs Representative
Greyhound Lines, Inc.
Phone (202) 638-3490