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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;

The State of Paratransit Vehicles