Forty members of American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT), trapped eight Greyhound buses at San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal on August 8. Protesters from the disability rights organization blockaded the station for nearly three hours, trapping the buses by blocking their entrance and exit with their wheelchairs. Greyhound was forced to offload two buses below the station on Folsom St. After the CHP arrested eight protesters, Greyhound was finally able to resume normal operations. This action was done in solidarity with forty-three other actions, staged across the nation by ADAPT against Greyhound.
The action was to protest Greyhound’s refusal to equip its buses with lifts and make its facilities accessible for persons with disabilities, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For years ADAPT has been pressuring Greyhound and other over-the-road bus (OTRB) lines to comply with the ADA in the same way as municipal buses, such as AC Transit and Muni. Beginning in 1988, ADAPT staged a two-year series of protests and freedom rides against not only Greyhound, but the American Bus Association (ABA) and the United Bus Operators of America (UBOA), the two lobby groups representing OTRBs. Through very powerful lobbying efforts, they convinced Congress and the Department of Transportation (DOT) that putting lifts on their buses was too hard. Both Congress and DOT gave Greyhound until 1996 to comply after the ADA regulations were written in 1990.
Congress formed a committee, composed of bus industry people, disability advocates, and bureaucrats, to study the best means to accommodate disabled people. In 1993 they concluded OTRBs must provide access to disabled riders. They also found lifts to be the easiest, safest, and most cost-effective way to do it, countering Greyhound’s claim. Despite these findings, DOT delayed drafting any new regulations forcing Greyhound to install lifts. DOT also allowed Greyhound to sneak an amendment into the Federal Highway Act not requiring them to buy lift-equipped buses until two years after any regulations came out.
This entire issue has become especially time-critical. Greyhound is now hurriedly replacing its entire fleet with inaccessible buses, in an underhanded attempt to beat any new regulations. These new regulations would not be retroactive to cover any new or existing buses. Since OTRBs have an operational lifetime of twenty years, Greyhound might not be accessible until the next century. Persons with disabilities are unwilling to have their rights to accessible transportation violated well into the twenty-first century.
Also of concern is the large number of disabled living in rural areas who badly need the type of affordable transportation OTRBs could provide. Sixty-eight million (or 23%) of the nation’s population live in rural areas. Fifteen million (22%) of these are disabled. Since disabled people are among the nation’s most impoverished citizens, affordable transportation is crucial. This is especially true for rural disabled who often are scattered and without any way to get to medical care, schools, and other activities necessary for a full, equal life.