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.
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