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Historic Transportation Regulation Means Passengers with Disabilities Will Be Able to Use Intercity Buses

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Historic Transportation Regulation Means Passengers with Disabilities Will Be Able to Use Intercity Buses

U.S. Department of Transportation
September 24, 1998

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 24, 1998
Contact: Bill Adams
Tel.: 202-366-5580
DOT 172-98

Fulfilling a key element of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced a new requirement that passengers with disabilities be able to use over-the-road buses, and that large bus lines be the first to comply.

"Making transportation accessible to people with disabilities not only is good for those individuals and their families, but it also helps them to contribute to a better community and a better America," said President Clinton. "In 1992, I pledged that the Clinton/Gore Administration’s disability policy would be based on three simple principles: inclusion, independence and empowerment. Today’s action by Secretary Slater guaranteeing people with disabilities access to over-the-road buses in the 21st century embodies those three principles."

"President Clinton is committed to the Americans with Disabilities Act which envisioned transportation for all," Secretary Slater said. "As a result of this common sense rule, the transportation system of the 21st century will, indeed, be inclusive in its service."

The regulatory action announced today fulfills Secretary Slater’s commitment last fall to issue a rule by mid-September. Under the rule, large, fixed-route carriers like Greyhound, whose service is the backbone of the intercity bus system, will have to make sure that all new buses they obtain are accessible, with wheelchair lifts and tie-downs that allow passengers to ride in their own wheelchairs. The rule requires fleets to be completely accessible by 2012.

Most smaller fixed-route companies also will acquire accessible new buses, although they do not have a deadline for fleet accessibility. They also can provide equivalent service in lieu of obtaining accessible buses.

Charter and tour companies will have to provide service in an accessible bus on 48 hours’ advance notice. Fixed-route companies must also provide this kind of service on an interim basis until their fleets are completely accessible. The rule makes carriers accountable for providing this advance notice service by requiring them to compensate passengers when they fail to provide the required service on time.

The rule reduces burdens on small businesses in a number of ways. For example, small carriers who provide mostly charter or tour service and also provide a small amount of fixed-route service can meet all requirements through 48-hour advance-reservation service. Small carriers have an extra year to begin complying with the requirements, which apply to them starting in October 2001, compared to October 2000 for large carriers.

Over-the-road buses are an important link in the U.S. transportation system, especially for low income people and rural families. People with disabilities are disproportionately poor and have a 70 percent unemployment rate. Over-the-road buses are typically defined as buses with passenger decks elevated over baggage compartments, thus excluding municipal transit lines.

The department estimated that the cost of compliance would be $22-$30 million annually, and that new passenger traffic would reduce the cost to an estimated net cost of $15-$26 million per year.

Department officials noted that the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorized an average of $4.86 million in federal assistance from fiscal 1999 to 2003 to over-the-road bus companies to help pay for accessible costs. Another TEA-21 program makes available an additional $31.4 million per year over the same period for rural intercity bus service.

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