Dakota Transporter
Volume 19, Issue 1Summer 2007

New Proposed Charter Bus Regulations

Picture of Ron BaumgartRon Baumgart, Executive Director
River Cities Public Transit

Kevin Disburg and I had the privilege of serving on the Charter Bus Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee (CBNRAC). This committee was formed as a result of the new SAFETEA-LU legislation with direction from Congress to rewrite the charter bus rules for recipients of FTA funding. CBNRAC consisted of members from the private charter industry and public transit providers. We met in Washington, DC, on six occasions during 2006 for two-day meetings to negotiate the new proposed rule.

The proposed rule was released for comment and individuals had the opportunity to provide input until April 16, 2007. I found some of the comments to be quite interesting. Some indicated that the committee didn't understand real-world situations. I can tell you from being there, the public transit group worked hard to educate the members on the real-world needs for transportation. It is important to understand that before individual issues could become part of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), everyone on the committee needed to agree. This process led us to prioritize the issues we felt were most important to public transit.

The NPRM has several components that I feel are good for rural public transit. The ability to coordinate with all Appendix A agencies, which includes most human service agencies receiving federal dollars for transportation, is great for rural transit operations. This allows us to coordinate with agencies within our service area. We were also able to gain more usage of our vehicles to access training for our employees, even outside of our service area.

I know we all get requests from our local governmental agencies to provide service on an occasional basis. We will now be able to provide a limited amount of service to our local entities. Some of the new rules come with reporting requirements so the charter providers can tell we are providing rides for local entities, or we are part of a coordinated transportation system. I feel the new rule will take some of the gray area out of what is or isn't classified as charter service.

If you have any questions about the process or the new rule, please contact Kevin or myself at River Cities Public Transit (605)945-3166. You can view the proposed rule changes at Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 20 / Tuesday, January 31, 2006 / Proposed Rules; www.apta.com/government_affairs/safetea_lu/documents/federal_register_charter_service_nprm.pdf.

Coordinating Transit Services

Picture of Jon MielkeJon Mielke
Small Urban & Rural Transit Center

Coordinating transit services it's the law, plus it is also the right thing to do. That was the message of a two day tribal transit coordination workshop sponsored by the Small Urban & Rural Transit Center and its sister organization, the Mountain-Plains Consortium of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute.

The workshop was held in Bismarck June 25-26. Speakers included numerous tribal transit operators and representatives of the ND Department of Transportation, the ND Department of Human Services, the Northern Plains Tribal Technical Assistance Program, and SURTC. The twenty five participants included transit operators and social service representatives from many of North Dakota's Indian reservations and surrounding areas.

The workshop opened with a brief review of federal mandates regarding coordination. These mandates apply to all major FTA programs (5310, 5311, 5316, 5317, etc.) and involve not only transit service providers, but also organizations that represent traditional transit users (human service agencies, senior citizen groups, etc.).

Subsequent workshop sessions included discussions on the benefits of coordination, potential coordination partners, initiating coordination, sustaining coordination, the tribal decision making processes. Each session included a presentation on the topic and a panel discussion by knowledgeable agency representatives and transit operators. The attendees were active participants and the resulting dialogues were very informative and enlightening. Participant evaluations were very positive.

Even though the workshop focused on tribal transit, all of the presentations and underlying principles are applicable to off-reservation transit systems. Service operators who would like more information concerning coordination mandates and practical applications are encouraged to contact the Small Urban & Rural Transit Center.

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