Monday, November 26, 2007

Amtrak, Segway, and the DOT

Well, here it is, handed down from the powers that be. And I must say, I’m a bit disappointed yet not the least bit surprised. It seems that they think that a Segway, when not manned, is more of a safety hazard than a wheelchair. Please will you tell me please, have any injuries ever been reported that were caused by an unmanned Segway?

I must say though, that the hand-written response was a nice touch. Plus, the handwriting was magnificent.

“Dear John,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the use of Segways on Amtrak. Please find the response from Amtrak’s Office of Government Affairs enclosed. Amtrak has run their guidelines through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s operating administration for guidance and views it as a safety risk to transport the Segway. Although Amtrak will re-visit its policy on Segways, Amtrak has said that for now, this response is the final position.

Please feel free to call me should you require further information. I will communicate any updates regarding this policy as they become known. Thank you again for contacting me.

Joseph I. Lieberman
United States Senator”

Attached was the following response, originally written in response to somebody else’s similar claim, on 3/12/2007.

“Amtrak’s policy on Segways apparently was developed several years ago. Since that time, Amtrak has become aware that, although the manufacturer does not advertise its equipment as an aid for persons with mobility impairments, Amtrak is aware that an increasing number of persons with mobility impairments are beginning to make use of Segways. Amtrak is also aware of the U.S DOT guidance on this issue. Although Amtrak will re-visit its policy on Segways, Amtrak’s current policy requires that Segways be treated as checked baggage. That is because Amtrak trains have no closet or other storage place enough to store safely the large, heavy Segway machines in the passenger compartments of Amtrak trains. Even if, as your consituent seems to suggest, a Segway could be safely parked in the space reserved for passengers using wheelchairs. Segway users do not remain on their Segways during hours-long Amtrak’s intercity rail passenger trips. Thus, the Segway user would be occupying who revenue-producing passenger spaces on board the train. Unfortunately, not all Amtrak trains are equipped with baggage cars. However, at many rail stations Amtrak can assist persons with mobility impairments by wheelchair. I realize that this response is not the one that your constituent would like to receive. However, Amtrak must be guided first and foremost by safety considerations. While I can not give you a time frame as to when our review will be completed, I will be staying in touch with Amtrak officials who are going to revisit this issue and will keep you posted.”

Below, was a hand-written note from the woman who handled this case.

“John, above was response in 3/07 from the Amtrak Director of Government Affairs regarding a similar issue by another CT constituent. I checked with the Senator’s aide in DC who handles transportation issues and she said that there is nothing new. However, she will mention your inquiry to the Amtrak representative when she sees her again. Please feel free to call me if needed. I tried to get your number but found it unpublished.”