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New bus regulations impact companies with routes through Iowa City

BY RISHABH R. JAIN | OCTOBER 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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Starting this month, large bus companies will be required to have all their buses equipped with lifts and other items for people with disabilities and special needs.

Guidelines that were issued to apply the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations to large bus companies required these companies to have half their fleets equipped with lifts by 2006 and now demands all buses to comply.

“People with disabilities have equal rights to purchase a ticket for a ride, and they need to be given the same opportunity as anyone else,” said John Tenpas, a former disability consultant at the Iowa Department of Human Rights.

Tenpas, who has worked with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said that when most city buses are completely accessible, he doesn’t understand why larger bus companies could not comply.

Ryan Ward, transit programs administrator at the Iowa Department of Transportation, said according to the guidelines, big bus companies such as Greyhound and Burlington Trailways will not be allowed to purchase any more buses that are not accessible.

“The guidelines were put in place to increase the number of buses that have lifts,” Ward said. “In order for companies to receive reimbursements from the department, they need to qualify for various packages offered.”

He noted that companies will also be required to keep track of how many times the lift is used to better understand the functionality  of the equipment. 

For smaller companies — ones that make less than $9.3 million a year —  there is no deadline for when their fleet should be 100 percent accessible, but they do have to provide service to people with special needs on a 48-hour advance notice basis, according to the guidelines.

Eugene Hibbs, an independent contractor who runs the Iowa City bus station, said all Burlington Trailways buses that run through Iowa City are equipped with lifts and special seats for people with disabilities.

“I think Burlington Trailways does a terrific job at giving people a quality and on time service,” he said. “They have picked up the slack over the last few years and have scheduled more buses through Iowa City.”

Hibbs added that Burlington now runs four buses from Iowa City to Chicago as opposed to three last year.

Another reason for the increase in number of Burlington buses running through Iowa City is that its main competitor, Greyhound, decided to stop services to the state of Iowa in August.

One media relations manager for Greyhound said this move came after the company’s annual realignment of its services.

“There are many reasons for the realignment,” Timothy Stokes said.  “Ridership is one of them. It could also be the location. I am not the right department to say exactly what they look at, but they look at many things to make decision on where services should be increased or decreased.”

He added that Burlington Trailways has taken over operations in Iowa.

People can still book tickets with Greyhound, but the service will be provided by Burlington Trailways.


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