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Official BUSRide Roundtable:

The State of Paratransit Vehicles Sponsored by



Table of Contents Official BUSRide Roundtable Discussion: The state of paratransit vehicles


About REV Group


About TransitWorks



Official BUSRide Roundtable Discussion:

THE STATE OF PARATRANSIT VEHICLES BUSRide spoke with a select group of thought leaders, representing OEMs in the small bus and paratransit industry for a roundtable discussion on the issues, trends and practices affecting the state of paratransit operations today. This high-level discussion featured the following panelists: John Walsh, president, REV Bus Group Ken Richards, business manager, TransitWorks

What would you list as key points in a “State of Paratransit Address”? What issues are most affecting the current state of paratransit, and where should agencies try to go from here? John Walsh: For transit agencies and authorities, funding for vehicles is always an issue. The capital fee is an 80/20 split so they get a lot of money to buy the bus ... but what they don’t get is money to operate the bus. Our job at the manufacturing level is to produce the highest quality product that we can, and a product that is very affordable for purchase. It’s got to be a dependable bus that they don’t have to spend a lot of money trying to maintain. That’s probably the biggest concern, but I think the current state of the industry is very healthy. I believe the demand for paratransit is higher than the service that’s available. Ken Richards: I would say that funding is still the top issue that agencies face. Trying to get the funds to be able to purchase the equipment needed to run paratransit operations is a costly endeavor. A dollar can only go so far. The federal government put a lot of money into transit a few years ago, but not much of it trickled down to paratransit operations. There was a lot of money spent on buses and trains. I think, financially, that’s the biggest hardship agencies have – the 4


availability of vehicles and products is at an all-time high. There are a large number of options for agencies, but whether they can afford those options is the real question. Paratransit has improved immeasurably in recent years, but why was there such a long gap between the passing of ADA and those improvements? What factors contributed? Walsh: It was a huge gap. This will blow you away – we used to sell buses with wheelchair locations that sat users sideways. With tiedowns, riders would back their wheelchairs into a wall and the seat claps would grab the wheels. I’m surprised more people didn’t get sued because of injuries. So there was a lot of thought that went into, “How do we properly position everyone and still make room?” I think it’s a question of, why does anything take long with the federal government? Once you get the regulation, things just get better and better over time. Richards: I think the initial thought was accessibility and getting somebody into a place rather than getting them to that place. A lot of initial money was spent on making buildings and parking lots more accessible. Even though the ADA has been around for a number of years, I think the focus was more so on how a person gets into a building;

how a person is going to get from a bottom floor to the 10th floor; or whether all the restrooms were accessible on each one of the floors in a federal building. Since then the focus has come to, how are wheelchair users going to get to a doctor’s office, or get to a hospital, or get to their appointments? The process went from large, urban agencies to smaller agencies getting involved. It wasn’t necessarily ignored; it just needed some time to come around. What new features can operators expect to see in your pursuit of the “ultimate” paratransit vehicle?

TransitWorks developed its Ford Transit Small Bus Ambulette in response to requests from the public transit and wheelchair transport industries.

Walsh: The “ultimate” paratransit vehicle is going to be a bus that is very low cost to operate. Operation cost is the biggest problem for transit authorities. It’s not the cost of the vehicles. It’s the cost of operation. So, we’re looking at higher fueleconomy vehicles. What if you had an electric shuttle bus with ramped equipped that only cost $80,000? That’s the sort of vehicle I’m talking about. We need something that’s fuel efficient because of the cost of operation. We need something that’s ramp equipped. No stairs, no steps. We certainly don’t want to have to use lifts. That’s for sure. And the purchase price has got to be affordable up front. It could be propane, electric or something else, but we’re a country that’s stuck in the past and big diesel buses are expensive to operate.

The Champion Bus LF Transport by REV Bus Group has met a strict set of quality-assurance standards and passed rigorous safety and performance tests

Richards: The ultimate paratransit vehicle offers 100 percent safety for passengers with or without wheelchairs. There are innovations coming down the line that will enable each wheelchair passenger, no matter where they’re sitting, to have full backrest head support – just like someone sitting in a seat. A lot of wheelchairs currently have backs that only come up to below the shoulders, and in the event of an impact the head and upper-back are moving freely and susceptible to whiplash.

The future will see increase of versatile, multi-use vehicles. Instead of a vehicle dedicated to one purpose, the newer multi-use bus is coming out. Owner-operators are no longer tied down to a wheelchair van being used strictly for wheelchairs. This will allow drivers and companies to maximize their effectiveness, and maximize the number of passengers they can take on any route. | BUSRIDE




What do school, shuttle, luxury and transit buses all have in common? Purpose. Each are called to perform duties that impact lives. We never lose sight of that responsibility and place it into every vehicle we make. We are REV and we make eight of the hardest working, most reliable, bus brands on the road.

Finance Through REV Group - Flexible term vehicle loans with competitive rates and TRAC/Split TRAC/FMV leasing options available.


REV is a leading manufacturer of motor vehicles for bus, emergency, specialty and recreation markets worldwide. Our companies innovate, design and build products that connect and protect thousands of people every day. REV’s lineup of products includes ambulances, fire trucks, shuttle buses, transit buses, terminal trucks, street sweepers, luxury motorhomes and wheelchair accessible vans. REV owns 26 brands, employs more than 6,000 people in 16 different plants in the U.S. and produces more than 20,000 specialty vehicles annually.

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Easy to maneuver on city streets, through traďŹƒc and parking lots, comfortable to drive, and sips fuel like a car. Plus with our exclusive SmartFloor, you can move, add and remove seats as you need—change seating layouts in minutes, even multiple times per day. Remote operates bus door from inside or outside the bus. Wheelchair accessible options available.

Call Today for Information 855-337-9578


TransitWorks A History of Quality & Leadership TransitWorks is the country’s leading builder of commercial shuttles, transporters, mobility vans and small buses. With three manufacturing facilities in Ohio and Kansas, TransitWorks is building and shipping innovative transit vehicles throughout North America. We are a pool for Ford and Ram, a Ford QVM builder, and a Mercedes-Benz Master Upfitter. Every Vehicle Safety Tested TransitWorks has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in crash tests, seat pull tests, and other safety testing to ensure the safety and security of our customers and their customers. • Vehicles are compliant with FMVSS, OEM and ADA standards • Upfits come with a 3-year/36,000 mile warranty Innovative Solutions for Moving People Bringing the most innovative solutions to the Transit industry to create safer, more flexible, more efficient and more cost effective vehicles. • SmartFloor – exclusive and patented flooring system allows easy movement of seats practically anywhere in the vehicle, and gives over 1,000 potential seating configurations. • Bus Doors – walk-in bus door entries save money on upfit and fuel economy over traditional cutaways. • Dedicated Product Development Staff constantly working on new products and solutions • Ship thru on Ford Transit can save thousands on shipping costs • Dedicated Fleet and Bid Departments to meet your needs | BUSRIDE


The State of Paratransit Vehicles