1255 Imperial Avenue, Suite 1000
San Diego, CA 92101-7490
619.231.1466 FAX 619.234.3407
AG210.2, SRTP 880
June 11, 2007
Office of Technical and Informational Services
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
RE: Comments to Access Board Docket Number 2007-1
Madam Chair and Members of the Board:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the referenced Draft Revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buses and Vans. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) provides fixed route transportation and paratransit pursuant to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 (“ADA”). These comments have been crafted to address our operational concerns regarding the proposed ADA changes related to access policies and definitions.
Permitting use of lift platforms, ramps, and lifts by wheelchairs and their occupants with combined weights that exceed the manufactured standard places individuals in danger and creates a liability issue for transit operators. The draft revisions propose to remove the definition of a “common wheelchair” used as the industry standard for the production of access devices on transit vehicles. These products have been designed for a 600 pound lift capacity under the current definition, and all of MTS’s 720 buses have been equipped to handle this weight. The proposal places MTS in the untenable position of providing access to wheelchairs that it cannot safely accommodate. We ask that the Board provide more detail regarding transition of existing fleets and operations during transition. We also ask that the Board provide analysis of the cost associated with retrofitting existing fleets to accommodate the new standard.
Any attempt to increase the weight bearing capacities should be developed with component manufacturers and at a minimum be implemented with a “grandfather” clause for all existing equipment and an implementation date years in advance to accommodate the design and manufacturing process. It is not clear from the draft guidelines that the manufacturability of lifts and other equipment has been adequately researched or considered, and we would welcome more detail as to industry input, availability of all necessary components, and other technical issues associated with increasing the lift capability requirements for transit vehicles. We also ask the Board to comment on the recourse for transit operators in the event that manufacturers cannot accommodate the new standards.
Furthermore, we respectfully ask for clarification regarding our responsibility under these proposed guidelines if a wheelchair could navigate onto some of our buses but not all, given that it would be impossible to change the entire fleet for many years. The “common wheelchair” definition ensured that any chair conforming to that standard could be accommodated by any vehicle arriving at a bus stop. As a transit operator with nine subfleets in our large transit vehicles, five subfleets in our smaller bus operations and four subfleets in our paratransit operation, the ability to transfer mobility devices from one type of vehicle to another is essential for providing satisfactory service. We support the retention of the current definition of a “common wheelchair” since we would bear the responsibility to provide service at any time to a “stranded” wheelchair passenger due to a mismatch of their specific mobility device and the bus or cutaway vehicle assigned to that route.
With regards to Section 1192.3, the proposal modifies the existing definition of a Fixed Route from simply a “vehicle operated along a prescribed route according to a fixed schedule” to “…along a prescribed route according to a fixed schedule or having a general frequency or headway, which may vary according to time of day.” A literal interpretation of this statement might conclude that tripper service with limited peak service would now be classified as “fixed route”. Would agencies now have the responsibility to operate ADA demand response service in these areas if now defined as “fixed route service”? Heretofore, all tripper only service has been exempt from the provision of ADA demand response. We respectfully request clarification of the Board’s intent.
Furthermore, does “…having a general frequency or headway, which may vary according to time of day” include or exclude any route designs from incorporation into the required ¾ mile complementary ADA Paratransit service area? The word “general” and phrase “may vary” are vague and could lead to ongoing interpretation that ultimately could increase service area coverage and cost to operators. Consideration of a specific definition of “fixed route” is essential to our budgeting forecasts due to its impact on ADA Paratransit service requirements. The definition of fixed route is the primary factor for determining the ADA Paratransit “service area”, and we ask that this definition be more clearly explained.
Overall, the proposed changes require further technical research to support their implementation. Research should demonstrate that changes are required, examine the feasibility of such changes, and determine the cost impact of each change. For example, while the draft revisions propose changing ramp slope requirements to 1:8, there is no information regarding why the current 1:4 slope is no longer adequate, and no technical support for how this can be implemented. Our own study has determined that such a change would result in a need for an extension of the ramps to 90 inches. This is clearly infeasible.
Following are some more specific comments regarding the guidelines:
1. 1192.23 (c) (2) Surface – The definition appears to have changed by omission. This language defining “surface” is minus the qualifier which measures this area from a height 2” above the level of the platform. Please clarify if this omission was intentional.
2. 1192.23 (d) (3) Mobility Aids Accommodated – The proposed removal of the common wheelchair definition may prompt situations where the chair or mobility device can enter our vehicle but the securement straps are unable to secure the device. This situation might occur with semi-recumbent styled wheelchairs. We also have a subfleet of vehicles with floor mounted mechanical wheel locks with a limited range of motion – these existing devices may be incapable of properly securing a wheelchair in excess of the specifications of a “common wheelchair”.
3. 1192.29 (c) Interior Handrails – The proposed language adds a requirement for vehicles in excess of 22 feet to furnish “handholds adjacent to the aisle on the back of each forward or rear facing seat”. While we would support the intent of the proposed language to improve passenger safety, this is another proposal that needs to be “grandfathered” for existing equipment and written as a future requirement with a sufficient lead time to agency procurement and manufacture.
4. 1192.35 Public Information System (a) – The proposal places a significant burden on transit providers to secure the software and hardware necessary to provide an automated stop announcement system. What provision would be made for existing vehicles and when would the proposed language be introduced?
5. 1192.35 Public Information System (b) – The proposal places a significant burden on transit providers to secure the software and hardware necessary to provide automated stop announcements in a visual format. What provision would be made for existing vehicles and when would the proposed language be introduced?
An automated system with sophisticated audio and visual formats would diminish much of the utility of community based fixed route operations. Such services are a middle ground between “big bus” fixed route and dial-a-ride and are most cost effectively operated with Type III or VII cutaways (i.e., larger than 22 feet, but significantly less capital and operating costs). These vehicles are specified for significantly less miles and service life, which along with a capital cost that is 1/3rd – 1/7th that of a mid-size or large transit coach tend to preclude the justification for expensive technological enhancements. Under current funding circumstances, installation of such systems on our smaller community based services would inevitably lead to service reductions (i.e., “Big Bus Routes,” Demand Response Service, and nothing in between).
We appreciate the opportunity to participate in the discovery and evaluation process for the proposed guideline revisions. MTS requests consideration of the aforementioned issues prior to issuance of the Notice of Proposed Rule Making.
Chief Executive Officer
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System