Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What FTA should have thought about on Charter bus regulation

With greater demand for public transportation, the new FTA charter bus regulation has threatened public transit access to sporting events. The new FTA regulation basically categorized premium fare bus service to any special event as charter service, which transit agencies cannot operate unless certain regulatory criteria have been met.

While it is clear that public transit operators should not be in the business of providing charter service for company outings and weddings, stadium service has not been considered to be a charter service. Unlike typical charter jobs, there is no external sponsor and the passengers pay individual fares for buses to the stadium.

Given that it is in the FTA's interest that the public be served, FTA should have considered when designing the new regulation:

In California, according to state laws, stadium service is not considered charter. Charter bus companies that have TCP (charter) licenses cannot legally charge individual fares on passengers to and from the stadium, which would replicate a service provided by transit agencies. To comply with FTA regulation and state laws, the team or the transit agency will have to hire charter bus companies. This is an extra burden that does not benefit the teams nor the transit operators, and definitely not transit riders.

Historically, the teams were not in the business of arranging transportation for their fans. Even if the teams were able to arrange some type of service, how will the teams get reimbursed from passengers to ensure the teams do not lose money on the service?

For the transit agencies, labor contracts limit or prohibit transit agencies from contracting work to private operators. Even if that's not the case, how will the transit agencies collect fares from individual passengers?

For riders, are they left on their own to form a club and hire a charter bus operator?

Besides the charter bus regulation, the more troubling part is that FTA is considering new regulation on school trippers, which could rule out public transit agencies from providing special trips or route deviations to serve local schools in hopes to boost demand for yellow school bus service. To address community concerns, VTA operates school trippers on lines 76, 82 and 88.

However, with limited education budget in California, forbidding transit agencies from providing service will only hurt both students and parents and will do nothing to address local traffic problems at some high schools.

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