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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Buses American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater


U.S. Department of Transportation
March 20, 1998

Friday, March 20, 1998
Contact: Bill Adams
Tel.: (202) 366-5580
DOT 50-98

Acting to fulfill a key element of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today proposed federal rules requiring over-the-road buses to be fully accessible to passengers with disabilities.

"The Americans with Disabilities Act envisioned transportation which is accessible for all citizens," said Secretary Slater. "Under this proposal, the words ‘now boarding’ will truly mean, ‘Now boarding everyone.’"

Over-the-road buses are an important link to our national transportation system. This is especially true for those of low income or living in rural areas. These buses include inter-city local, regional and national lines, such as Greyhound, and charter and tour operators; but not municipal transit lines.

The department proposes that wheelchair lifts and securement locations be installed on a common-sense phased-in schedule.

All new buses obtained for fixed-route services -- which includes regularly scheduled intercity, regional and local service -- would have to be accessible beginning in 2000. Fixed-route carriers with $5 million or more in annual revenue would have to make sure that half of their buses were accessible by 2006 and that all were accessible by 2012. Until all buses were accessible, carriers would have to provide interim service that would make accessible buses available on 48 hours’ advance notice. However, used buses would not have to be made accessible, and no one would have to retrofit existing buses.

Charter and tour companies, which typically schedule their service well in advance, also are covered by the proposed rule. By 2002, accessible buses would have to make up at least 10 percent of their fleets. By the same deadline, all charter and tour operators would have to make accessible bus service available on 48 hours’ advance notice.

Taking into account revenues from new travel by persons with disabilities, the department estimates that the net cost of implementing the proposed rule would be $19-25 million per year for the entire industry. For inter-city buses, cost per passenger trip amounts to about 38 cents. For comparison purposes, the average per passenger ticket price is $33. The proposed rule includes provisions to reduce cost impacts on small operators.

While there are less expensive alternatives, the department is concerned that they could have disadvantages for passengers with disabilities. Relying on station-based lifts, for example, would not give passengers the opportunity to ride in their own wheelchairs. Providing on-call fixed-route service with an advance notice requirement does not provide the same opportunities to people with disabilities that other passengers have, since other passengers can simply go to the station on short notice and get a ride.

The department will accept public comment on the proposed rule for 60 days, and said that it is open to all suggestions for providing accessible, nondiscriminatory OTRB service to passengers with disabilities. After the comment period is over, DOT will review the comments and prepare a final rule, which it expects to complete this fall.


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