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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

U.S. Access Board Issues Final Rule Update For ADA Guidelines for Buses and Vans

bus icon and cover of Federal RegisterThe U.S. Access Board has issued a final rule updating sections of its accessibility guidelines for transportation vehicles covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The rule revises provisions in the guidelines that apply to buses and vans to enhance accessibility and to address industry trends and improvements in design and technology. The guidelines, which the Board originally published in 1991, apply to new or remanufactured vehicles (they also include provisions for rail vehicles that the Board will update separately).

The guidelines for buses and vans address boarding access, fare devices, interior circulation, seating and securement, signs, lighting, and announcement systems. The rule reduces the maximum slope for vehicle ramps because low floor buses are now ubiquitous in fixed route systems. New provisions also address level boarding systems and incorporate updated standards for wheelchair securement systems. The rule improves communication access by requiring that buses in fixed route systems with at least 100 buses have automated stop and route announcements that are visual as well as audible. Further, access to over-the-road buses, which are typically used in commuter and long-distance bus lines and charter services, is more comprehensively addressed. In addition to these substantive changes, the rule features a new format and numbering system. An assessment of the costs and benefits is included with the rule.
"The Board is eager to issue this update which will improve usability aboard buses and vans by building upon the significant engineering and technological advancements that have occurred over the years," states Access Board Executive Director David M. Capozzi. "We will now turn our attention to updating the sections on rail vehicles."
The Board previously issued versions of the rule in draft and proposed forms for public comment and has finalized the rule based on the feedback received. At a later date, the Board will propose updates to sections of the guidelines covering vehicles in fixed guideway systems, including rapid, light, commuter, and intercity rail, according to recommendations from an advisory committee it chartered, the Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee, which submitted its report to the Board last year.

The Board's vehicle guidelines serve as the basis for mandatory standards issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) under the ADA. Compliance with the updated requirements for buses and vans will become mandatory once specified by DOT in a future update of its ADA standards.

For further information, visit the Board's website or contact Scott Windley at (202) 272-0025 (voice), (202), 272-0028 (TTY), or windley@access-board.gov.

SOURCE: US Access Board Press Release 12/14/2016
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Federal Register Summary of Significant Changes

The 2016 Non-Rail Vehicle Guidelines are intended to revise and update the Access Board's existing guidelines that provide scoping and technical requirements to ensure that ADA-covered buses, OTRBs, and vans are accessible to, and usable by, passengers with disabilities. Some of the key changes reflected in the final rule (relative to the existing guidelines) include:

  •  New Organization and Format: The 2016 Non-Rail Vehicle Guidelines use a new organizational approach that is modelled after the Access Board's accessibility guidelines for buildings and facilities in 36 CFR part 1191. The new format organizes the revised scoping and technical guidelines for buses, OTRBs, and vans, into seven chapters, all of which are contained in a new appendix to 36 CFR part 1192. Most of the revisions in the final rule are editorial only, and restate current requirements in plain terms that are clear and easier to understand.
  •  Consistent Application of Accessibility Requirements across Different Types of Non-Rail Vehicles: Unlike the vehicle-by-vehicle approach used in the existing guidelines, the 2016 Non-Rail Vehicle Guidelines establish accessibility requirements that, with some exceptions, apply across all covered non-rail vehicles (i.e., buses, OTRBs, and vans), so that accessibility requirements between different types of vehicles are generally similar. The aim is to make these guidelines easier to understand and apply, particularly for regulated parties—such as public transit agencies—that frequently operate different types of non-rail vehicles.
  •  New Requirement for Automated Announcement Systems on Large Fixed Route Buses Operated by Large Transit Entities: Large transit entities are required under the 2016 Non-Rail Vehicle Guidelines to provide automated stop and route announcement systems on all large vehicles operating in fixed route bus service that stop at multiple designated stops. Automated announcement systems must have both audible and visible components. For purposes of this requirement, a “large transit entity” is defined as a provider of public transportation that operates 100 or more buses in annual maximum service for all fixed route bus modes collectively based on required annual data reported to the National Transportation Database, which is maintained by the Federal Transit Administration.
  •  Revised Requirements for Maximum Running Slope of Ramps: The 2016 Non-Rail Vehicle Guidelines revise and simplify the existing guidelines regarding running slope for ramps in non-rail vehicles. The existing guidelines specify a range of maximum running slopes for vehicle ramps depending on nature of deployment (e.g., deployment to sidewalk or 
  • roadway), with 1:4 being the steepest permitted maximum running slope for ramps deployed to the roadway. However, years of field experience and research studies have shown that 1:4 ramps are difficult to use and have resulted in safety concerns for many transit operators and passengers who use wheeled mobility devices. Newer vehicle and ramp designs now make deployment of ramps with lesser slopes feasible. Accordingly, the final rule specifies a maximum running slope of 1:6 for ramps deployed to roadways or curb-height bus stops, and 1:8 for ramps deployed to boarding platforms in level boarding bus systems.
  •  New Accessibility Requirements for OTRBs: Under the 2016 Non-Rail Vehicle Guidelines, OTRBs operating in fixed route service will be newly required to satisfy the following accessibility requirements: Signs for accessible seating and doorways; public address systems; stop request systems; and provision of exterior destination or route signs on the front and boarding sides of vehicles, when exterior signage is provided. These requirements are new only as applied to OTRBs; buses and vans have been covered by similar requirements since 1991.
  •  Other Revisions to Reflect Changes in Technologies and Standards: The 2016 Non-Rail Vehicle Guidelines also reflect other changes, such as establishing accessibility requirements for level boarding bus systems and incorporating updated standards for wheelchair securement systems, which did not exist when the existing guidelines were issued.
  • Discussion of the bases for the key changes embodied in the 2016 Non-Rail Vehicle Guidelines, as well as proposed changes that were not carried forward to the final rule, is provided in this preamble.

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