COLUMBIA, 9/28/10 (Beat Byte) -- For the City of Columbia, a private business, and patrons who require disability-friendly access, a vintage dinner train proposed to run between Columbia and Centralia poses a "unique problem," Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) director Lorah Steiner told the Columbia Heart Beat.
In receipt of $45,000 from the CVB Tourism Attraction Development Fund, Central States Railroad Company wants to restore vintage dining cars to run on the publicly-owned COLT railroad. Local disability advocates are unhappy that a project receiving public support won't be accessible to all members of the public, including elderly patrons for whom the historic attraction would be especially appealing.
"I understand the concerns of the Disabilities Commission and Services for Independent Living," Steiner said. "But this is a situation that has no true 'win-win' solution."
A disability-modified vintage dining car is unprecedented enough that it might be the nation's first, she
explained. ADA modifications are pricey and "would reduce passenger capacity to about 50% of a non-modified car."
Likening trains to planes, Steiner said that "every plane on which you have ever traveled does not have accessible aisles or restrooms. I assume such modifications would reduce the carrying capacity to such an extent as to make it impossible for the airlines to operate profitably."
On the plus side, Steiner said the dinnner train "would bring about 12 to 15 new jobs to the Columbia, along with hundreds of group tours each year and many hotel overnight stays."
The dinner car's operators are "good folks who would like very much to make an accessible car available," she concluded. "The operators, the CVB and all concerned are trying to find a way to make an accessible car a reality. But it isn't as simple as it might seem."