Mr. Dennis Cannon
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
Dear Mr. Cannon:
The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) appreciates this opportunity to provide comments on the Access Board’s Draft Revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buses and Vans.
The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, formed in 1917, is the national organization that represents the owners and managers of taxicab, limousine, sedan, airport shuttle, paratransit, and nonemergency medical fleets. TLPA has over 1,000 member companies that operate over 100,000 passenger vehicles. TLPA member companies transport over 2 million passengers each day — more than 900 million passengers annually.
The taxicab, limousine, and paratransit industry is an essential part of public transportation that is vital to this country’s commerce and mobility, to the relief of traffic congestion, and to improving the environment. The private taxicab, limousine, and paratransit industry transports 2 billion passengers annually, compared with the 9 billion passengers transported by public transit; provides half of all the specialized paratransit services furnished to persons with disabilities; serves as a feeder service to major transit stations and airports; and provides about half of its service to transportation disadvantaged people.
Changes in Vehicle Specifications (Section 1192.23(a)(2)) The members of our Association, transportation providers, vehicle manufacturers and conversion companies, believe that the current ADA vehicle specifications applicable to minivans, full-size vans and minibuses have served the disability community well since 1991 and do not need to be changed. If there is a need to revise the specifications, then the Access Board should document the need for, and the quantitative assessment of, each change along with a feasibility study. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
The draft specification states: Sufficient clearance to permit a wheelchair or other mobility aid user to reach securement locations. At least one route to each securement location shall have a clear width of 36 inches minimum measured from floor level to a height of 40 inches and a clear 30 inches above a height of 40 inches.
For a minivan, the clear width of 36 inches is not feasible without a tremendous impact on the structural integrity of the vehicle. In fact, even if the minimum clear width were increased to 32 inches, minivans could not be modified to meet this new standard and thus would not be eligible to provide ADA service. Without the ability to use minivans in ADA paratransit services, the accessible taxicab market and a large portion of the cost effective paratransit service market in the US will disappear. Larger vehicles typically result in longer ride times for the passengers and less flexibility in scheduling trips.
In passing the SAFETEA-LU legislation in August 2005, Congress designed the New Freedom program to provide additional services for people with disabilities that go beyond the ADA requirements, which include funding eligibility for accessible taxicabs. By writing new standards that result in eliminating the availability of smaller vehicles (minivans) for use in accessible service, these proposed standards would end the accessible taxicab option.
If substantive changes are made to vehicle specifications, we urge the Access Board to grandfather in existing accessible vehicles for the life of the vehicles. Failure to grandfather in existing accessible vehicles would create an undue financial burden on private and public transportation providers, which would likely result in an immediate reduction in the quantity of accessible services available to persons with disabilities.
Changes for the Platform Entrance Ramp (Section 1192.23 (b)(8))
The draft guideline states: The entrance ramp, or loading-edge barrier used as a ramp, shall not exceed a slope of 1:8, measured on level ground, for a maximum rise of 3 inches, and the transition from roadway or boarding and alighting area to ramp may be vertical without edge treatment up to 1/4 inch. Thresholds between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch high shall be beveled with a slope no greater than 1:2.
While the current Access Board Guidelines for ramps require that the slope shall not exceed 1:4, vans and minibuses have used a 1:5 slope for their ramps since ADA’s inception in 1991. Not only is a standard that exceeds 1:5 wholly impractical, but also the additional reduction in slope has only a marginal benefit due to the fact that all paratransit providers that use a ramp offer assistance to the wheelchair occupant to enter and exit a vehicle. Also, if the one-to-eight slope would be required, the length of the ramp would be so long, it would not be usable in many sidewalks and streets. Additionally, the length of the ramp would prohibit it from fitting underneath the floor of the vehicle, so it would have to be folded in such a way that it would reduce visibility to the driver and the passengers on the side or rear due to the folded ramp being stored in the vehicle.
The proposed rule abandons the concept of a common wheelchair. TLPA understands that it is ultimately a function of the Justice Department to define a common wheelchair. We believe it incumbent upon the Board to clearly state its goal of accommodating wheelchairs that fit into the 30” by 48” envelope, as discussed in the draft, an envelope that is consistent with the current definition. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
In 1995, a Working Group was formed under the Wheelchair Standards Subcommittee of ANSI/RESNA to develop a voluntary wheelchair standard that addresses design and performance issues of wheelchairs that will offer more suitable and safer seating in motor vehicles. ANSI (American National Standards Institute) is a well-recognized standards-setting organization in the U.S. ANSI also serves as the U.S. representative on committees of the International Standards Organization (ISO), which sets technical standards worldwide. Within the U.S., ANSI has assigned standards development authority for wheelchairs and related equipment to the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA).
The result of efforts by the ANSI/RESNA Standards Committee on Wheelchair Transportation (SOWHAT) is Section 19 ANSI/RESNA WC/Volume 1 Wheelchairs for Use in Motor Vehicles, or simply WC/19, which was completed and approved in May 2000. ANSI/RESNA WC/19 is a fairly comprehensive standard that addresses many issues of wheelchair design and performance. Under WC- 19, the two most important requirements are: 1) that a wheelchair provide four easily accessible securement points (or tiedown points) with very specific geometry and 2) that the wheelchair is successfully crash tested at 30 mph when secured by a four-point strap-type tiedown, and loaded with an appropriate size anthropomorphic test dummy representing the intended size and mass of a wheelchair user. The securement of the mobility device and its passenger is only as safe as the structural strength of the mobility device itself and we call for the Access Board to work with the Department of Transportation and the Justice Department to require that wheelchair manufacturers comply with the WC-19 standard for wheelchairs. There needs to be a clear standard for what is a transportable wheelchair. At the moment, wheelchair manufacturers are designing and marketing wheelchairs with dimensions that cause serious problems for wheelchair occupants to be accommodated.
We believe the definitions in proposed section 1192.3 are deficient. The section does not define ‘van,’ ‘similar vehicle,’ ‘bus rapid transit vehicle,’ or ‘minivan.’ Currently, the Access Board defines its standards based on two classes of vehicles: vehicles in excess of 22 feet in length and vehicles 22 feet in length or less. We believe that there should be specific vehicle classifications incorporated into the guidelines. For example, the Standard Taxi is in the design phase. Members and staff of the Access Board had the opportunity to inspect the Standard Taxi prototype. In many areas where there is a limited demand for wheelchair accessible service, this type of vehicle could fulfill a need and should be accounted for in Access Board Guidelines and definitions. In Canada, there is the D409 standard under the Motor Vehicles for the Transportation of Persons with Physical Disabilities Guidelines. The D409 standard accommodates the dimensional limitations of minivans by having specific guidelines for vehicles under 5940 pounds gross vehicle weight. We urge the Access Board to make similar accommodations in their guidelines. Without a minivan subcategory, the accessible taxicab market and a large part of the private paratransit service in this country will cease to exist.
Implementation Deadline Is Not Addressed By These Draft Guidelines
An important aspect not specifically addressed is the implementation deadline and whether current vehicles acquired in compliance with existing Access Board Guidelines will be grandfathered under the new guidelines. If these guidelines are adopted as currently written, it is important to acknowledge that it will take at least a decade before existing fleet vehicles are completely replaced by vehicles meeting the updated standard. It will also take significant time for the manufacturers to be able to design, test and build according to the updated specifications.
The Cost Implications of the Proposed Guidelines
The cost implications with changing the existing standards to the proposed revisions would result in significant cost being added to the vehicle modifications. Depending on the compromise, the modification of the vehicle will be more expensive, putting more cost pressures on the transportation service provider. With the increasing daily running cost of accessible taxicabs and paratransit vehicles (gasoline, insurance, etc) and reduced public funds available, it could result in a decrease of available service.
Therefore, the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association recommends that the proposed revisions not be accepted “as is”, for that would eliminate minivans and other smaller vehicles from continuing to serve as ADA compliant vehicles available to the taxicab, paratransit and other non-emergency transportation providers.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments on the Access Board’s Draft Revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buses and Vans. If you have any questions regarding the above comments, please feel free to contact Hal Morgan at 301-946-5700 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Executive Vice President
Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association
3849 Farragut Avenue
Kensington, MD 20895